News Flash – 2 September 2017

National News



Swine flu killed 1,100 so far this year, reveals health ministry data



NEW DELHI: With states witnessing an unprecedented spurt in swine flu cases and nearly 1,100 people succumbing to the virus attack so far this year, the country seems to be in the grip of a major outbreak. With a toll of 488, Maharashtra remains the worst-affected, followed by Gujarat, with 343 deaths. According to health ministry data, 22,186 cases of swine flu have been reported across India, with experts attributing the increased incidence to a “change in the virus’s strain”. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and AIIMS in Delhi and Pune’s National Institute of Virology have found that the H1N1 strain in circulation this year is different from that seen in previous years. “The virus this year is of the Michigan strain. Earlier, it was mostly the California strain,” NCDC director Dr. A C Dhariwal told TOI. He said, however, the role of the new strain is yet to be proved scientifically. India saw its most crippling outbreak of the H1N1 influenza, also called swine flu because initially the transmission occurred through infected pigs, in 2009 and 2010, when it claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people. This year, Maharashtra has contributed to more than 45% of all H1N1 casualties and one-fourth of the confirmed cases since January. The state’s H1N1 toll for all of 2016 was 25. Most deaths were in the working age group of 25-50 years. “It simply emphasizes the importance of self-isolation when suffering from an air-borne disease like influenza,” said Dr. Satish Pawar, head of Maharashtra’s directorate of health services. Gujarat has recorded 4,741 cases this year, with a mortality rate of 7.23%. Nearly 152 deaths in the past fortnight alone have triggered panic even as the government declared “seasonal flu” to be the cause. Casualties this year have shot up five times compared to 2016.


Uttar Pradesh is experiencing an even more dire H1N1 onslaught than 2009, according to state health department data. A total of 2,798 H1N1 cases have been reported in UP so far, against 871 in 2009. There have been 64 deaths, compared to 17 in 2009. Punjab has reported 31 fatalities, and Himachal Pradesh 27. In Madhya Pradesh, there have been 23 deaths and over 550 cases this year. State health minister Sharad Jain said, “Only god can be blamed for H1N1 deaths”. Rajasthan has seen 910 cases and 86 deaths so far. In 2016, the number of swine flu cases in Telangana was 173; by August 28 this year, the number had already reached 1,704. Even the summer months saw a high number of cases in the state this year, which is unprecedented, experts say. Kerala saw 74 of 1,308 cases registered till August 30 resulting in death; 2017 marks the third time since 2011 when the state has reported over 1,000 cases. Tamil Nadu has recorded around 3,000 H1N1 cases and 15 deaths since January. “Health centres reported these cases mostly in February and March,” director of public health Dr. K Kolandaisamy said. In Goa, more than 190 persons contracted swine flu, of which 19 died. Four of Assam’s 200 patients have died. There have been five deaths in West Bengal.



64 Bhendi Bazar buildings declared ‘dangerous’ in 2016, got demolition nod


Mumbai: In May 2016, the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) obtained permission from the state housing authority to demolish 64 buildings which it identified as ‘dangerous’ in Bhendi Bazar. But a day after the collapse of Husaini Building, one of the 64, there was no information on how many of these were actually evacuated or demolished. Abbas Master, chief executive officer, SBUT, did not respond to TOI’s queries on whether SBUT had evacuated and demolished any of these buildings identified as dangerous by the Trust. In an email reply the Trust said, “SBUT moved 216 commercials and 1,129 residential tenants from clusters other than 1 and 3. More pertinently, we have moved over 71 tenants from the cluster Husaini Manzil was in. There is no question of SBUT not moving families in dilapidated buildings because they were not in priority clusters. This has also been confirmed by tenants from Husaini Manzil; more than 50% of whom had been moved out”. The Bhendi Bazaar cluster is spread over 16.5 acres, so it was sub-divided into nine clusters, to be developed in phases. In 2015, after the government lifted its stay on the cluster housing policy, SBUT took up clusters 1 and 3 for redevelopment.


“In 2011, a BMC high-powered committee granted a letter of intent to SBUT to carry out the cluster redevelopment,” said Sumant Bhange, chief officer, Mumbai Repair Board. A civic official said the Trust identified 64 buildings as dangerous and sought a No-Objection Certificate from Mhada for their demolition. “This was granted in May 2016,” said the official. However, residents of buildings in Bhendi Bazaar alleged the Trust has been insensitive and even refused to repair buildings. Siraz Shaikh, resident of Haroon Manzil on Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, said for three years they were following up with the Trust and the repair board to repair their building. “They would not even give us permission to carry out repairs. Last year, at our expense we repaired our building,” said Shaikh. Hassan Sayyed, resident of Pradhan Building, said complaints of leakages and need for repairs fell on deaf ears. “They simply keep telling us to give consent for redevelopment. They do not show us the master plan nor are they giving us in writing when we shall return,” he said. Bhange said the Trust informed the government it would take at least 10-15 years to complete the project.



Two killed as 50 tonnes of waste hurtles down Ghazipur landfill


NEW DELHI: Fifty tonnes of garbage came crashing down the 16-storey-high mountain of waste at east Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill site in a deadly ‘avalanche’ that swept away a car and three two-wheelers, killing two people and injuring five on Friday afternoon. Heaps of garbage dropped into the Kondli canal running alongside the landfill around 2pm, creating a giant wave of slushy water that hit the road next to the canal. It washed away the four vehicles -an Accent car, a scooty and two bikes -which fell into a drain on the other side of the road. Fire officials, divers, police and NDRF teams searched the drain for three hours to rescue people who were swept into it and fish out the two bodies. Police suspect more people working at the landfill site could be trapped under the debris. Officers said rag pickers from the area usually climbed up the mound searching for things to pick up. The dead were identified as Rajkumari, 30, who was on the scooty along with two others, and a 20-year-old youth, Abhishek. Those rescued from the drain include Ayub Ansari (driver of the Accent), Pankaj and Karan (who were on the scooty), Deepak (riding the bike on which Abhishek was sitting) and Amit, who was on another bike. They are being treated at different hospitals. Eyewitnesses said the disastrous sequence of events lasted just a few seconds. “I could not believe my eyes when I saw the mountain falling. Initially, I thought many more people had died as the water and garbage struck the vehicles with immense force,” said Asghar, resident of Khoda colony in the area. Many other commuters had a narrow escape as their vehicles stopped at the edge of the canal. Locals said the garbage landslide bent a high tension pole that came in its way. Initial investigations point to an explosion in the garbage due to a build-up of gases which loosened the solid waste and triggered the slide.


Experts said the weight of the landfill had increased due to rainwater accumulated during Thursday’s heavy showers. Locals had also been complaining about the roads around the landfill site sinking gradually, possibly due to the weight of the mountain of garbage. Around 6pm, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, deputy CM Manish Sisodia and local MP Maheish Giri reached the spot and promised compensation to the dead and the injured. EDMC officials admitted that work on releasing the trapped gases inside the massive mound was pending for the past few months, which could have led to the accident. The 50-metre high landfill at Ghazipur is one of the four primary garbage dumping sites in the city. It is estimated to be holding 2,200 tonnes of refuse. According to sources, cops will write to DDA and MCD for a report on the incident as well as the functioning of the landfill site. Senior officers confirmed that they will probe whether the government had asked the MCD to stop dumping waste at the site. However, police are waiting for the experts to give a final report on what may have caused the disaster. Major stretches around Ghazipur, NH 24 and Anand Vihar areas witnessed heavy jams due to the slide. The stretch is used by residents of Vaishali, Indirapuram, Kaushambi, Vasundhara and many other areas in NCR. The bodies have been sent for postmortem to the Lal Ba for postmortem to the Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital. Police have registered an FIR under section 304 A (causing death due to negligence) and causing hurt against unknown persons. “We have pulled out five persons from the drain. Two of them died. We are probing if there was any negligence involved,” said Ravindra Yadav, joint commissioner (eastern range).



Post-thefts, CCTV cameras to be installed on Rajdhani



MUMBAI: In view of the recent theft of cash and valuables from passengers travelling by premium trains like Rajdhani Express from Mumbai, the Western Railway (WR) has decided to install CCTV cameras in every coach—including the pantry car—of the train. This means at least 40 cameras per train, and with Western Railway planning surveillance systems on all the five rakes, the total cost could be a maximum Rs 4 crore, sources said. WR general manager A K Gupta, told media persons the first rake with CCTV surveillance system could be ready in two months, tentatively by Diwali. “It will ensure we keep a hawk eye on thieves and unscrupulous elements on the train. This will not just act as a deterrent to criminals, but will also help solve crimes,” he said. Gupta further stated that four more rakes (including stand-by rakes), which are used to run the Rajdhani Express and the August Kranti Rajdhani Express from the city to Delhi, will be fitted with the surveillance systems by December end. “The objective is to ensure our passengers feel safe while travelling,” he stated. Sources said apart from thefts, passengers have complained that unscrupulous elements, in cahoots with railway staffers, enter the train. “We have also received complaints against ticket checkers for allowing such people to enter the coaches and we will be sending decoys to trap such officials,” said a senior official.


Sources said the railways might opt for night vision cameras as most thefts have taken place at night. “We are still discussing whether to go for a single camera per coach or have two cameras on either sides of the coach,” said an official, requesting anonymity. The CCTV cameras, which have a capacity to record video clips for 72 hours, will be used to verify the complaints lodged by passengers against official’s/ticket checkers. If any official is found guilty, stringent departmental action will be taken, sources said. The Railway police can also use the camera footage as evidence to nail culprits in theft cases, especially if the crime is an ‘inside job’. Sources said there will also be a camera in the pantry car to keep tabs on staffers. At present, the cost of a CCTV camera installed on Humsafar or Tejas class train is Rs 2.5 lakh per coach, sources said. Passengers demanded that the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express should also be upgraded in terms of services such as Wi-Fi, infotainment screens, coffee vending machines, etc.



Bengaluru: Foam from Bellandur lake threatens to spill over once again

Following Thursday night’s rainfall, the foam from Bellandur lake threatened to spill over once again.



BENGALURU: Following Thursday night’s rainfall, the foam from Bellandur lake threatened to spill over once again. “Ahead of the NGT hearing on September 8, Bellandur Lake threatens to spill over. None of the ad hoc measures taken by the BBMP, BDA or BWSSB are working. Those in charge must implement the Lakes Expert Committees recommendations” said Sonali Singh, a resident of Bellandur. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) responded to Independence days record rainfall, by installing sprinklers in the area to bring down the froth. They later claimed that this brought down 80% of the froth, however, these measures were slammed by residents for being ‘short-term’ and an eye-wash. Whenever there is heavy rainfall, the froth starts to float away from the lake, and lands up in people’s houses and on roads. “The foaming is under control, and the froth has not broken the barriers and landed on the roads. We have installed a 106 sprinklers to diffuse the foam, and these are functioning well” said PN Nayak, Engineer- Member, BDA.



Tank buried to create zoo: Now flood threat for animals, locals



Hyderabad: Visitors to the Nehru Zoological Park are oblivious to the fact that the area that now has enclosures for primates, pachyderms and other animals was once a water major body – Singoh Lake. The lake was filled up with earth for land reclamation during the formation of the zoo in 1963. Singoh Lake used to receive flood overflow from Mir Alam Tank. The now-extinct Singoh tank explains why the Nehru Zoological Park is frequently flooded by waters of the historic Mir Alam tank located nearby. Singoh tank used to serve as a balancing reservoir for the overflow from Mir Alam Tank, before the excess water went into the Musi River. As a balancing reservoir, Singoh tank prevented inundation of nearby areas. With utter disregard to the natural heritage of Hyderabad, authorities, while constructing the zoo five decades ago, simply covered Singoh tank with debris. This thoughtless action is the reason behind the frequent threat to the very existence of the zoo each time it rains heavily. Singoh tank is now consigned to history books, but it testifies to the fact that if we tinker with natural heritage we stand to suffer.


“I remember the lake just below Mir Alam tank. Singoh tank was formed naturally due to excess flood discharge from Mir Alam tank, which incidentally is an artificial lake. It was sandwiched between two major water bodies – Mir Alam and Musi River. The tank was covered with soil. This has affected the flood flow system, leading to frequent inundation of the zoo,” said a senior city historian and author Allama Aijaz Farruq. He said Mir Alam tank once had pure drinking water and it was augmented with inflows from Himayatsagar Lake. In August last year the zoo was flooded with discharge from Mir Alam tank creating panic among zoo authorities. At one stage the government planned to evacuate animals as the situation turned critical. Officials blamed poor drainage system for the flooding, without realising that the recurring problem was due to the filling up of Singoh tank. Sadly, there are no photographs of Singoh tank as the bigger Mir Alam tank dominated attracted the attention of tourists. Incidentally, Mir Alam tank too has suffered heavily due to encroachments on its bed and catchment leading to reduced inflows. It may dry up soon if no remedial measures are taken. Several famous water bodies of Hyderabad including the Masab (Ma Saheba or mother queen) Tank and Mir Jumla Tank have disappeared owing to encroachments and today they are part of the city’s aquatic history.



Solar plant packs powerful punch at Kolkata airport



KOLKATA: A Rs 88-crore solar power generation plant that is under trial at Kolkata airport is set to propel it ahead of its peers in the country . Once it connects to the CESC grid, it will be the largest source of alternative energy in Kolkata. Speaking to TOI, Kolkata airport director Atul Dikshit said the solar-harvesting facility was undergoing tests before pushing power into the CESC grid. Altogether, 45,454 solar panels, each of 330W capacity, have been installed across 65 acres to the east of the primary runway. The plant has a peak generation capacity of 15MW solar power. It is expected to generate 1.3 million units of electricity a month, enough to light up a locality with 1,000 homes. This is the second solar plant at the airport. A couple of years ago, it had commissioned a 2MW rooftop plant -at a cost of Rs 10.5 crore -that currently powers lights at the airport. “We have signed a net-metering agreement with CESC and hope to make substantial savings on our electricity bill once the plant is commissioned,” Dikshit said. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. Since the airport uses more electricity that it will generate, the difference between the electricity supplied to it by CESC and the electricity the airport exports to the grid will be factored into the bill. According to rough estimates, the airport’s electricity bill should come down from Rs 6 crore to Rs 4.75 crore a month. The annual saving will be Rs 15 crore.


CESC confirmed that the airport was poised to become its biggest supplier of solar power and will be critical for the company to meet its solar obligation. At present, the quantum of solar power in the CESC grid is currently around 8.5MW. Prior to the installation of the solar panels, a glare analysis was carried out to ensure that sun’s reflection doesn’t distract or disturb pilots. It is only thereafter that the site location and height of solar photovoltaic modules were decided. “Solar glare was a concern for pilots but technological advancements have led to a substantive reduction in the reflective index of panels,” a pilot said. Setting up a solar unit in a city is major challenge owing to space crunch. Airports have, therefore, emerged as suitable sites for solar harvesting as it has to mandatorily leave large tracts of land vacant next to runway for operational safety.



Where’s the helmet? With tees, cops make violators plug rule



CHENNAI: The city police have hit upon a novel penalty, with a potentially two-fold dividend, for riders of motorcycles and other two-wheelers who couldn’t care less about the helmet rule. The offender has to swap his shirt for a T-shirt with a message on the front, “Where is helmet?”, and on the back, “Wear [image of a full-face, crash helmet]”. And he’s obliged to ride along around a specified locality, with group of likeminded law-skitters, to promote head gear for safety. The penalty may be rudimentary in design (the tees, for one, are as far from hip as the idea of lane discipline is from a majority of Chennai’s motorists), but its trick is that it both embarrasses offenders into compliance and makes them, willingly or otherwise, spread a message on road safety. Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, North Chennai, D Shanmugapriya, came up with the brainwave when she realised that “imposing fines alone did not appear to have taught bikers the benefit of wearing helmets”. The officer put her money where her mouth was, paying for the printing of 50 T-shirts, to make sure police drive home the message on road safety. The DCP and a team of traffic policemen started the drive in Parry‘s on Thursday and followed it up in Washermenpet on Friday, where they caught at least 30 bikers riding without helmets.


Most offenders appeared to be chastised for the experience, having had to wear the T-shirts and follow a police jeep on their bikes through neighborhoods like Ratan Bazaar, Burma Bazaar and Mint on Friday, halt along the way and advise members of a mostly befuddled public about the importance of wearing helmets. Srinivasan, one of the violators who took the penalty in good spirit, said he’d never again forget to wear a helmet. “I removed my helmet as I was riding to my destination and then the policemen stopped me. But I’ve learnt a lesson and will be careful from now on,” he said with visible sincerity. DCP Shanmugapriya said the reactions of the offenders led her to believe that the police force could be on to something. “I doubt these violators will repeat the offence,” she said. “If senior officers think this it’s a good idea, we will implement it in other parts of the city too”.



International News



93-year-old American woman donates $22 million to Cologne Zoo



BERLIN (AFP): A 93-year-old widow from the United States has donated $22 million to the zoo in Cologne, Germany, saying she wanted to give back to the city where she and her husband met during World War II, German media reported Friday. “We never forgot Cologne,” Elizabeth Reichert told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper by phone from her home in Philadelphia. She said she and her Jewish husband Arnulf Reichert both grew up in the western German city. They met in 1944, she recalled, when Arnulf lived in hiding to avoid being discovered by the Nazis. They married a year after the war ended and briefly moved to Israel before settling in the US, where they lived the American dream and made their fortune. Reichert said she worked as a hairdresser, while her husband took a job for a wholesaler selling pets and pet supplies, before setting up his own business and making millions. Shortly before her husband died in 1998, the childless couple agreed to bequeath their money to the Cologne Zoo after their deaths. “When you start thinking about who you want to leave your money to, memories play a big role. With the zoo, the money is well spent,” Reichert said. The couple had already shown their affection for the zoo in 1954, when they gifted a soft-shell turtle. The considerably larger donation this time will come into effect after Reichert’s death, when a foundation named after her husband will provide the zoo with an annual payment. The zoo’s director, Christopher Landsberg, said he was taken aback when he learned of the windfall from across the pond. “I nearly fell off my chair,” he told the DPA news agency.



What to do in case your car is stuck in a flood


Houston, USA: Here are few things to keep in mind in case you find yourself stuck in a car in the event of a flood.

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