News Flash – 19 December 2017

National News



12 workers charred to death in Andheri Farsan-making unit

Ramesh Bhanusali, who operated the Farsan unit, said the workers who died in the blaze were like family members.



MUMBAI: Twelve workers were charred to death in the early hours of Monday after fire broke out in a Farsan manufacturing unit in Saki Naka, Andheri (East). They could perhaps have been saved had the fire brigade not been misled to believe that all occupants of the unit had escaped to safety. The state government has ordered an inquiry into the incident, relief and rehabilitation minister Chandrakant Patil said in the assembly. The fire erupted around 4.15am. The fire brigade was given a call within a couple of minutes and reached the spot by 4.30am. It was only over three hours later that the first body was spotted. By then the entire structure had crashed down. The unit, Bhanu Farsan at Khairani Compound, started operating 18 months ago. Its owner Ramesh Bhanusali was arrested later on Monday. When the fire brigade and the police reached the spot, they saw eight people escaping from the unit. “Some of them said there was nobody else inside. This made us all focus only on fighting the fire, which had jumped almost 40 feet high by then,” said an on-duty cop. The fire spread rapidly because of combustible material like diesel, LPG, and other fuel. An official said deaths could have been caused by suffocation or also because the loft on which the workers were asleep had crashed down, trapping them. Prima facie, the cause of the fire was said to be short circuit (some of the survivors said they first saw smoke in the unit’s wiring). Once the fire broke out, it caused a cylinder blast, sealing the fate of the unit.


Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said most of the deceased workers were found towards the toilet, which was towards the rear of the unit. “It appears they tried to douse the flames by bringing out water from the washroom. But the speed at which the flames spread was too high”. Ramesh Bhanusali, who operated the Farsan unit, said the workers who died in the blaze were like family members. “People are spreading negative talk about the incident. I have all documents for running the business”. The workers were mostly from Uttar Pradesh. A fire officer said, “Those who escaped were probably under the impression that everyone else did so as well”. Dr Vidya Thakur, medical superintendent of Rajawadi Hospital, where the bodies were taken, said only one person was brought alive. “All had suffered 60-100% burns. Some were charred to such an extent that even gender identification was difficult. Personal belongings like burnt watches, rings and clothes helped relatives and friends identify the bodies,” she said. An inquiry has been ordered by BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta. A deputy municipal commissioner (DMC) has been asked to check if the unit had the requisite licenses. “If not, responsibility will be fixed on the officers concerned,” Mehta told TOI. Police surgeon Dr S M Patil said DNA samples of five deceased have been preserved for identification. “Three bodies have not been identified at all. Two were doubtfully identified. Their blood and skin samples have been kept for DNA analysis. Autopsies were carried out at Rajawadi Hospital. “Death was caused by shock due to superficial to deep burns,” Dr Patil said.



Maharashtra records 6,800 dengue, 7,100 malaria cases this year



Public health and family welfare minister Dr Deepak Sawant said on Monday that the state government recorded over 6,800 dengue cases and 7,100 malaria cases till November end. No deaths due to dengue were reported in Vidarbha, while 11 patients died due to malaria. In other parts of states, 34 succumbed to dengue. “The state has 38 laboratories, of which 10 are in Vidarbha. The areas where dengue cases are found in more numbers, more labs would be opened there.



Alarm goes off in bank, burglar takes to heels before cops arrive


HYDERABAD: The blaring of the alarm at the right time helped in foiling a burglary at the State Bank of India (SBI) branch, located in Shamirpet, in the wee hours of Sunday. Shamirpet police said that it was around 3 am, the burglary attempt was made and by the time police rushed to the spot, the assailant made his escape good. The burglar gained entry into the bank by breaking the grill of bathroom ventilator. He slipped into the bank through the ventilator. In less than 10 minutes after he entered the bank premises, the alarm was set off and the burglar took to his heels. The burglar took certain precautions like putting tape on the CCTV cameras and snapping the wires before he turned his attention to his main job. But what he did not know was that there were several alarms in the bike.


With the blaring of the alarm, Shamirpet police became alert. A system has been in place to alert the local police station in the event of the entry of intruders in the bank. A police patrol reached the bank and found that the grill of the bathroom ventilator was open. The way the grill was removed indicated the employment of a sophisticated cutting machine and the hand of an accomplished burglar. When the CCTV footage was verified, the accused was wearing a mask, gloves and carrying some tools. There was only one person who entered the bank and there was no presence of anybody anywhere inside or outside the bank. Surprisingly, the bank did not have a security guard. Police registered a case and investigation is being done based on the CCTV footage and other evidences collected from the scene of offence.



Clamour for security pushes up sale of surveillance cameras


KOLKATA: A scramble to increase surveillance in schools after a diktat by the CISCE two weeks ago has pushed up the sale of CCTV cameras in the city. Vedant Kedia of Kedia Electronics in Chandni Chowk said he has already received several queries from schools in the vicinity. “We are on the verge of sealing the deal with at least one school. We will be installing around 24 cameras on the whole campus,” he said. More and more educational institutions in the city have turned to CCTV surveillance to maintain discipline and security on campus. Principal of a school in central Kolkata, which installed CCTV cameras on campus last year for Rs 5 lakh, said: “The step irked a few teachers, but it has been beneficial for the institution. In case of any indiscipline, we now have evidence to help us take disciplinary action”. Last week, after the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University was injured in a scuffle between two factions of the students’ union, it was decided to install CCTV cameras in and around the VC’s office to add to the security.


Senior teachers TOI spoke to said they could never imagine an atmosphere where they were being constantly watched while teaching. “Those were different times where trust existed between the students, teachers and the management. In this age of professionalism, nobody wants to leave anything to chance,” said a senior teacher of a south Kolkata English medium school. But the use of CCTV cameras is not limited to educational institutions. From hospitals to hospitality, from malls to multiplexes, from police to airports, these have become a critical tool. “The CCTV cameras are helping us solve hit-and-run cases, as well as homicides,” said an officer in a central Kolkata police station. On the other hand, misuse of the cameras was a drawback that institutions have had to face. An educational institution of national repute was forced to draft a CCTV policy to limit access to the footage after female students alleged they were being harassed by some male staffers who had unrestricted access to the footage of CCTV cameras installed on campus.



International News



Amtrak train on new route derails in Washington state, kills 3


DUPONT: An Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster new route hurtled off an overpass south of Seattle on Monday and spilled some of its cars onto the highway below, killing at least three people, injuring more than 100 and crushing two vehicles, authorities said. Attention quickly turned to the train’s speed. A website that maps location and speed using data from Amtrak’s train tracker app showed the train was going 81.1 mph (129 kph) about a quarter of a mile from the point where it derailed, where the speed limit is significantly lower. Seventy-seven passengers and seven crew members were aboard when the train derailed and pulled 13 cars off the tracks. Authorities said there were three confirmed deaths and more than a dozen people with critical or serious injuries. About two hours after the accident, a US official who with others was briefed on the investigation said he was told at least six people were killed. No additional briefings were provided by late afternoon, and the official said he had no new information to explain the discrepancy in the numbers. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A track chart prepared by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows the maximum speed drops from 79 mph (127 kph) to 30 mph (48 kph) for passenger trains just before the tracks curve to cross Interstate 5, which is where the train went off the tracks. The chart, dated Feb. 7, 2017, was submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration in anticipation of the start of passenger service along a new bypass route that shaves 10 minutes off the trip between Seattle and Portland. It was not clear how fast the train was moving at the precise moment when it derailed.


Kimberly Reason with Sound Transit, the Seattle-area transit agency that owns the tracks, confirmed to the AP that the speed limit at the point where the train derailed is 30 mph (48 kph). Speed signs are posted two miles before the speed zone and just before the speed zone approaching the curve, she said. Positive train control — the technology that can slow or stop a speeding train — wasn’t in use on this stretch of track, according to Amtrak President Richard Anderson. He spoke on a conference call with reporters, said he was “deeply saddened by all that has happened today”. In a radio transmission immediately after the accident, the conductor can be heard saying the train was coming around a corner and was crossing a bridge that passed over Interstate 5 when it derailed. Dispatch audio also indicated that the engineer survived with bleeding from the head and both eyes swollen shut. “I’m still figuring that out. We’ve got cars everywhere and down onto the highway,” he tells the dispatcher, who asks if everyone is OK. Alexander Kristiansen, a 24-year-old exchange student at the University of Washington from Copenhagen, was going to Portland to visit the city for the day. “I was just coming out of the bathroom when the accident happened. My car just started shaking really, really badly. Things were falling off the shelf. Right away, you knew that this was not something minor,” he said. The back of his train car was wide open because it had separated from the rest of the train, so he and others were able to jump out to safety. He was at about the middle of the train, either the sixth or seventh car, he said, and was “one of the lucky ones”.


Emma Schafer was headed home to Vancouver, Washington, on winter break from the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and was napping when the crash occurred. She awoke to find her body at a 45-degree angle and her train car dangling from the overpass. Someone behind her was pinned by the legs, she said, and she and others who could walk exited the train by crawling onto a car underneath theirs that had been crushed. “It felt oddly silent after the actual crashing. There was a lot of metal, a lot of screeching, a lot of being thrown around. It was very quiet. Then there was people screaming,” Schafer said. “I don’t know if I actually heard the sirens, but they were there. A guy was like, ‘Hey, I’m Robert. We’ll get you out of here”. Dr. Nathan Selden, a neurosurgeon at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said he and his son drove through the accident scene while traveling north to visit Seattle. The doctor asked if he could help and was ushered to a medical triage tent in the highway median. The most seriously injured had already been whisked away, but the patients he helped appeared to have open head wounds and skull, pelvic or leg fractures, as well as small cuts and neck sprains, he said. He called it a miracle that an infant child he saw from the scene appeared completely unharmed. President Donald Trump used the deadly derailment to call for more infrastructure spending in a tweet sent about three hours after the accident. He said the wreck shows “more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly.” The accident happened on a newly completed bypass.


The train was making the inaugural run on the new route as part of a $180.7 million project designed to speed up service by removing passenger trains from a route along Puget Sound that’s bogged down by curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic. The Amtrak Cascades service that runs from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon, is jointly owned by the Washington and Oregon transportation departments. Amtrak operates the service for the two states as a contractor and is responsible for day-to-day operations. The Amtrak schedule called for the train to leave Seattle around 6 a.m. and arrive in Portland about 3 1/2 hours later. The new bypass was built on an existing inland rail line that runs along Interstate 5 from Tacoma to DuPont, near where Train 501 derailed. Track testing began in January and February in advance of Monday’s launch and continued through at least July, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The tracks, known as the Point Defiance Bypass, were previously owned by BNSF and were used for occasional freight and military transport. The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a city along the new route, predicted a deadly crash — but one involving a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a grade-crossing, not a train tumbling off an overpass. At a recent public meeting, he called on state planners to build overpass-like rail structures instead of having trains cross busy streets.



Power restored to Atlanta airport after daylong outage paralyses travel


ATLANTA: One of the heaviest travel weeks of the year began with the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights on Sunday at the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, where a power outage that lasted nearly 11 hours left passengers stranded in darkened terminals or in aircraft idling on tarmacs. The early afternoon outage paralyzed operations at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport before power was finally restored at 11.45pm Sunday EST for flight operations, wreaking havoc on holiday travel plans for thousands of people hit by airline cancellations extending into Monday. Delta said it was cancelling about 300 flights on Monday, on top of the 900 Sunday cancellations as a result of the Atlanta outage. United Air Lines also warned on social media that travel on Monday may be affected. The incident on Sunday led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground flights bound for Atlanta. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines were also among the major carriers that suspended operations at the airport on Sunday. Southwest cancelled 70 departures on Sunday. Georgia Power, the utility that provides electricity to the sprawling airport, said the failure was linked to a fire in an underground facility that damaged substations serving Hartsfield. The blaze, possibly started when a piece of gear failed, damaged access to a backup system, the company said.


All passengers had safely disembarked from aircraft by approximately 10 p.m., or nine hours after the outage began, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said on Twitter. Photo and videos posted on social media showed passengers huddled in partial darkness inside crowded terminals. Some said they sat on planes for hours. “Stuck on a plane at Atlanta Airport as the power is out there … bedlam inside and boredom out here!” Jack Harris wrote on Twitter. The FAA said earlier that it was staffed to handle the expected resumption of commercial traffic on Monday. Some stranded passengers found lodging in local hotels, and the city was providing shelter at the Georgia International Convention Center. By early Monday, airport officials said on social media that they had served more than 5,000 meals for passengers. “We’re just focusing on the comfort of our passengers,” Reed told a news conference on Sunday. “We know they have had a very, very long and difficult day. Delta, hit hard because of its hub in Atlanta, said customers flying to or from the airport could make a one-time change to travel plans within certain guidelines. Other airlines also offered waiver for flight changes. Delta said its flight schedule in Atlanta was expected to return to normal by Monday afternoon. For all carriers, more than 1,170 flights in or out of Hartsfield were scratched Sunday, airline tracking service Flight Aware said. The airport serves on average about 275,000 passengers each day, according to its website.

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