News Flash – 19 February 2020

National News



Blaze at ‘High-Risk’ Dombivli MIDC Unit


Kalyan: A major fire broke out at a chemical unit in Dombivli MIDC on Tuesday afternoon, the latest among several such emergencies over the years requiring evacuation of people from the high-density residential areas situated dangerously close to the industrial area. There were no reports of injuries. The affected unit, Metropolitan Eximchem Pvt Ltd in MIDC Phase 2, was on the list of five “very dangerous” manufacturers that locals want shifted elsewhere. Over 100 explosions took place and the sound could be heard up to 2 km away, reminding people of the Probace factory blast of 2016 that killed a dozen people and damaged over 2,000 homes in a 2-km radius. “The detailed report sought by CM Uddhav Thackeray on companies violating norms is likely to be submitted on February 21 and I have instructed officials to add details about the company which has caught fire today,” Thane district collector Rajesh Narvekar said. The Metropolitan Eximchem fire was still raging at the time of going to press. In recent years, there have been a series of fires and blasts in MIDC areas in the region, raising concerns about ageing infrastructure and outdated safety practices.



The staff at Metropolitan Eximchem said over 500 people were at work there when the fire began in the storage unit at 12.30 pm. The unit occupying around 4,000 square metres produces over 100 products, among them intermediates for dyes, pigments, pharmaceuticals and plastics. Neighbouring companies and a school were given a holiday. The police vacated residential buildings within 500 metres. Some staff members activated a siren to alert others, saving several lives. “We tried to control the fire but when a drum with a chemical started exploding, the fire spread and we went outside, alerting other staff using the siren bell,” a worker said. Senior staff said the first fire brigade vehicle arrived in 15 minutes but the next one took 45 minutes, during which time the fire had spread to the entire unit. Kalyan-Dombivli chief fire officer Dilip Gund said fire teams were also called from Ambernath, Thane and Mumbai. “We used 12 fire brigade vehicles and many water tankers, and 10,000 litres of foam,” he said. Besides the collector, additional commissioner of police Dattatreya Karale and MPCB, MIDC and municipal officers visited the spot.



GPS to Rescue, ATM Robbers Locked Out of Stolen SUV



New Delhi: This is one burglary in which the key to success was locked, quite literally. Buoyed by their success in stealing an ATM in south Delhi on Friday, a gang dared to strike again on Sunday night. They stole an SUV from Naraina, uprooted an ATM of a government bank, put it in the vehicle and sped away. It took the robbers barely 7-10 minutes to steal the car and uproot the ATM, which had Rs 20 lakh in it. What they didn’t realise that the vehicle was fitted with a GPS device. When the owner was informed that his SUV had been stolen, he remotely switched off the engine. The puzzled thieves tried every trick in the book to switch on the ignition, but failed. They then abandoned the vehicle in RK Puram and fled. Harmender Singh (61), a transporter who lives in Rajouri Garden, was informed by his security guard that his white Bolero had been stolen from outside his office in Naraina. He told TOI, “I got the call around 2.20am. My son and I switched on the GPS and the vehicle was seen going towards Mayapuri. We informed police and told them we were going to follow the SUV”.



The SUV was found going towards Delhi Cantonment from where it turned towards Dhaula Kuan. “When we started, we were 12 minutes away from my vehicle. By the time we crossed Moti Bagh, the time difference was just eight minutes. My employees then remotely switched off the SUV’s engine. We found it abandoned in Sector 13 RK Puram”. The father-son duo didn’t find anyone near the SUV. “We soon spotted something inside the boot. I called my driver to ask if he had kept anything there, but he replied in the negative. We then found the ATM along with ropes and spray paint. Soon, police reached and took over,” said Singh. In the meanwhile, police were informed that an ATM near a guesthouse in Naraina had been stolen. A guesthouse employee told police that when they stepped out after hearing noises, the robbers threatened to fire at them. “A case has been registered and teams have been formed to nab the accused,” said DCP (West) Deepak Purohit.



Fire Breaks Out in Bengaluru-Bound GoAir Engine during Takeoff



Bengaluru: Fire broke out on Bengaluru-bound GoAir flight G8-802 during takeoff from Ahmedabad due to a bird-hit on Tuesday. As many as 174 passengers, including three infants on board, had to be deplaned. The right engine of the aircraft caught fire, following which the plane was towed off the runway and the flames doused. The aircraft was inspected by GoAir’s engineering team. While the airline initially said the aircraft had suffered from what it called a foreign object damage, it later confirmed the engine fire was caused by a bird-hit. The flight was scheduled to leave Ahmedabad at 9.20am and reach Bengaluru at 11.25am. However, another flight took off at 1.26pm and landed after 3.40pm. The incident impacted movement of four in-bound flights and departure of six other flights at Ahmedabad. “There is total chaos at Ahmedabad airport, Go Air flight to Bangalore broke down and passengers are suffering for no reason, it’s strange to see that in India still passengers suffer for no reason! Ridiculous,” (sic) tweeted @gauravmbhargava, one of the passengers in the flight. “The right engine of GoAir flight G8-802 from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru is suspected to have suffered from a foreign object damage (FOD) while on take-off roll. The suspected FOD resulted in a small fire which has been doused. All passengers and crew are safe and no emergency evacuation was deemed necessary,” a GoAir spokesperson said soon after the incident.



International News



China Sees Fall in Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Urges Caution

Visitors walk along Singapore’s Marina Bay. Singapore unveiled $4.6 billion in financial packages on Tuesday to deal with the impact of the outbreak, which has battered the city-state’s economy.



Beijing\Shanghai: China reported its fewest new coronavirus infections since January on Tuesday and its lowest daily death toll for a week, but the World Health Organization said data suggesting the epidemic had slowed should still be viewed with caution. Illustrating the economic impact of the outbreak, European shares dropped on Tuesday after Apple Inc. issued a revenue warning due to the disruption the disease is causing to global supply chains. Nikkei Asian Review reported on Tuesday that Apple Inc. will likely miss its schedule for mass producing a more affordable iPhone that it had planned to release this spring. Mass production of the model was expected to start by the end of February, but it could now be delayed until sometime in March, the Nikkei reported. Chinese officials reported 1,886 new cases — the first time the daily figure has fallen below 2,000 since January 30 bringing the mainland China total to 72,436. A figure of 98 new deaths marked the first time the daily toll in China had fallen below 100 since February 11, bringing the total to 1,868. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Chinese data “appears to show a decline in new cases” but any apparent trend “must be interpreted very cautiously”. Outside China, there have been 827 cases of the disease, known as COVID-19, and five deaths, according to a Reuters count. More than half of those cases have been on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan.



Tedros said there had been 92 cases of human-to-human transmission in 12 countries outside China but the WHO did not have the data to make meaningful comparisons to what was going on in China. China says figures indicating a slowdown in new cases in recent days show that aggressive steps it has taken to curb travel and commerce are slowing the spread of the disease beyond central Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan. Despite global concerns about the economic impact of the disease, China’s ambassador to the EU said on Tuesday this would be “limited, short term and manageable”. Chinese state television quoted President Xi Jinping as saying China could still meet its economic growth target for 2020 despite the epidemic. Economists are warning of potential mass layoffs in China later this year if the virus is not contained soon. “The employment situation is OK in the first quarter, but if the virus is not contained by End-March, then from the second quarter, we’ll see a big round of layoffs,” said Dan Wang, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Job losses could run as high as 4.5 million, he forecast. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the economy there was in an emergency situation and required stimulus as the epidemic had disrupted demand for South Korean goods. Singapore announced a $4.5 billion financial package to help contain the outbreak in the city-state and weather its economic impact. Singapore Airlines Ltd said it would temporarily cut flights in the three months to May, as the epidemic hits demand for services. In Japan, epidemic has created fears of recession.



Thieves Steal 6,000 Surgical Masks in Japan



Japan: Thieves in Japan have made off with some 6,000 surgical masks from a hospital, with the country facing a mass shortage and a huge price hike online due to the coronavirus. Four boxes containing the face masks disappeared from a locked storage facility at the Japanese Red Cross hospital in Kobe city, an official said on Tuesday. “We still have a large number of masks enough to continue our daily operations at the hospital, but this is so deplorable,” the official said. Police have launched an investigation as they suspect the thieves intend to resell the masks. Masks have sold out at many stores as the number of infections have increased in Japan.



Mysterious Toxic Gas Kills 14 in Karachi



Islamabad: Pakistan has so far not succeeded in identifying the source of a toxic gas leak that killed 14 people and affected more than 500 others in the last three days in the coastal residential area of Karachi. Authorities said they became aware of the incident after people in Karachi’s Kiamari neighbourhood, close to the main port, suddenly started rushing to hospitals with severe breathing problems on Sunday night. Iftikhar Shallwani, Karachi’s commissioner, said at a news conference on Tuesday that while multiple theories were being considered, the source of the mysterious gas leak and its nature remains unclear. He said chemical and nuclear experts from the armed forces are also part of the ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, fear and panic has gripped the area with residents wearing face masks, while many families are moving away from the place.

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