News Flash – 20 September 2017

National News



Mumbai: Heavy evening rain causes panic, 4.5-metre high tide at noon today

A Spice Jet Boeing 737 from Varanasi with 183 passengers overshot the runway and got lodged into mud after landing amid heavy rain and strong wind at 9.55pm, Tuesday.



MUMBAI: Panic gripped the city on Tuesday as it experienced rain throughout the day. The emotion was misplaced for most part of the day, as the rain’s intensity didn’t merit such a reaction, but became justified after evening, when parts of the city went on to receive near-record levels of September rain. A 4.54-metre high tide warning has been issued for Wednesday noon, exactly 12.03pm. “For students’ safety, the government has declared a holiday on Wednesday, and will compensate it with one day less of Diwali vacation,” said school education minister Vinod Tawde. Schools began sending messages to parents soon after Tawde’s official announcement. Commuters had a harrowing experience during Tuesday’s downpour, as they rushed home in kaali-peelis, which charged exorbitant fares. Aggregator cabs’ surge prices were two-three times normal fares. CST was packed with passengers around 4pm, with several office-goers leaving for home earlier than usual. An executive from a bank at BKC said that in the absence of any mode of transport, the bank had arranged for a few cars. But given the flooded roads and traffic, it took longer than normal to reach home. An official said JVLR started getting flooded around 3pm. Heavy rain caused congestion on every north-bound road in the city in the evening. Western Express Highway, Linking Road, Eastern Freeway and Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road were the worst-hit.


Long distance trains on Western Railway were affected due to power tripping between Gholvad and Dahanu road stations. Suburban train services were not severely affected. A CR official said, “All trains are running normally except in some cases of 5-7 minutes delay”. A Spice Jet Boeing 737 from Varanasi with 183 passengers overshot the runway and got lodged into mud after landing amid heavy rain and strong wind at 9.55pm, Tuesday . Passengers vacated the aircraft using inflatable slides. An airport official said there was no smoke or fire. Flight operations were suspended at Mumbai airport, forcing all arrivals after 10 pm to divert to other airports. The main runway was to remain closed till 10.30am, Wednesday, said a notice issued to pilots and airlines. The secondary runway was made operational as strong tail winds died down and visibility improved. But some long-haul international flights were unlikely to land (because of being big, wide-bodied aircraft), and pilots and airlines were likely to decide against landing in wet conditions on the shorter secondary runway. Earlier, bad weather led to four flight diversions and ten aborted landings. Visibility fluctuated throughout the afternoon and evening, delaying arrivals and departures by 3045 minutes.



Cellphone video shows robbers fleeing on bikes

A resident recorded the video on his mobile phone.



NEW DELHI: A day after armed bikers looted around Rs 50 lakh from a cash van in northeast Delhi, a dozen police teams are conducting raids in Ghaziabad and outer Delhi areas to nab the accused. Police suspect criminals of Loni and other areas in Ghaziabad to be behind the crime. The cops have obtained video footages which show the accused fleeing on bikes in groups of two with the cash bundles wrapped in blankets. Sketches have been made on the basis of the footage. The cops are trying to contact blanket sellers in areas in Ghaziabad and Karawal Nagar for leads. According to the footage recorded on a mobile phone by an area resident, the van can be seen blocking a narrow lane in Johripur locality of Karawal Nagar. The driver stops and the security guard gets out and asked for the bike to be removed.


There are five bikes involved in the incident. Three Pulsar bikes and two Splendor bikes have been identified. Several stacks of notes fell down as the criminals put the blanket on the space between the pillion and the rider on the bike. The footage shows the men blocking the way of the cash van by parking two bikes at the front and rear. They dragged out the driver and the custodian and fired intermittently, two of which hit them. After which they were asked to walk to the lane behind while the robbers removed the cash bundles. They also snatched the gun from the gunman, sitting in the carrier. The cash van employees are being quizzed to ascertain why the van was taken to such a narrow lane. Several guidelines have been violated by the cash collection firm, police said. Apart from the cash van employees, two others including the man who shot the video and a passerby who had stopped to have a look are being questioned as well.



With 113cm rain, Bengaluru exceeds its annual average in 9 months


BENGALURU: From fears of a drought to a bountiful year: Bengaluru has received more than its average annual rain fall in the first nine months itself. The city has recorded 1,133mm rainfall till September 19 against the yearly quota of 980 mm. The city didn’t receive good rain earlier in the year. According to the meteorology department, Bengaluru received 320mm rainfall from Jan to May, and very scanty rain in June and July. August and Sept brought more-than-average spells of rain, including the record-breaking 129mm on the night of August 14. Over 60% of the rain received was in August and September. About 64% -or, 728mm -of the total rainfall received this year was in August and September. The weatherman doesn’t see anything unusual in this, and Sundar M Metri, head of the meteorological centre in Bengaluru, said it’s in line with Bengaluru’s pattern of receiving most rainfall in August and September.


“South-interior Karnataka, which includes Bengaluru, received vigorous clues Bengaluru, received vigorous spells of rainfall this year. Prolonged dry spell since last year and other changes in the weather pattern resulted in heavy rainfall,” he said. Prof MB Rajegowda, agro meteorologist, University of Agricultural Sciences, said, “During the 1980s, the city received 1,350mm rainfall in one particular year. Since then, the city has received around 1,200mm rainfall for some years,” he added. Another UAS scientist said Bengaluru is at an advantage. “The city’s location -at an elevation of 970 metres from the sea level -helps create necessary depression in the air to draw clouds from the surrounding regions. Also, climatic factors such as rise in temperature result in increasing rainfall in the past few years,” he explained.



Beating flood storm: Pumps to the rescue, where gravity fails



HYDERABAD: With several areas of the city getting waterlogged during monsoon, city-based engineers have mooted the construction of storm water pumping stations in areas where flood water cannot be emptied by gravity to prevent flooding of residential areas and roads by overflowing storm water drains. Water resources experts and engineers, who have worked with departments like irrigation, public health, and GHMC, emphasised this at a recent brainstorming session organized by the Institution of Engineers (India) in the city. They suggested improving the surplus capacity of Hussainsagar with a new gated regulator to prevent back water flow into the storm water drains. With most of the water bodies in the extended GHMC area under encroachments, experts also recommended vigorous monitoring to prevent construction activity within full tank level (FTL) of water bodies and natural drains and called for barring the regularization of unauthorized constructions. Based on expert suggestions, a report has been prepared for short-term, mid-term and long-term mitigation of the problem and submitted to the state government for necessary action.


“Whenever it rains heavily it results in flooding, causing damage to roads. The capacity of the existing storm water drains within GHMC limits needs to be increased. Encroachments constrain the widening of these drains for the required capacity to dispose of flood water. As a result, these drains remain as pockets of flooding during heavy rains. We have recommended the government to construct storm water pumping stations where flood water cannot be emptied by gravity ,” secretary , IEI, and former director (projects), HMWS&SB, G Rameshwar Rao, told TOI. According to Rao, a key reason for flooding is the fact that residential colonies have been built within the FTL of water bodies. “The retention capacity of these water bodies has been greatly reduced which causes flooding,” he said. IEI chairman S Satyanarayana said: “We have recommended that the network be redesigned in line with the changed rainfall pattern and land use .We have insisted that government restores the flood retention capacity of all existing water bodies through desilting and increasing the height of bunds”.



3 aides of ATM fraudsters on the prowl in Europe: Cops



BENGALURU: After arresting two foreign nationals last week for allegedly stealing debit-credit card data by fixing skimmers in five ATM kiosks, police have identified three associates of the duo and have sought Interpol help to nab them. All the three are foreign nationals and touring European countries at present, planting skimmers in ATM machines and stealing data, police sources said. Acting on a tipoff by cash loading staffers who spotted a suspicious device in an ATM kiosk on MG Road, police had arrested Dan Sabin Cristian, 40, of Angeles City in Romania, and Mare Janos, 44 of Ciorbalina, Hungary. Both were picked up from an ATM kiosk at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) where they had gone to retrieve the skimmer they had installed. Dan and Janos had arrived in India on a tourist visa on September 1 and were scheduled to leave on September 19.


“The accused are part of a large gang that operates globally. We have identified three more members. According to the statements made by the accused, the three men are touring European countries. We have alerted Interpol and sought their help in bringing the trio to India,” a source said. “We hope to get the custody of all five of them, which will help us crack one of the biggest ATM frauds in the recent past,” police said. Police said officials of the three banks whose five ATMs were compromised by the two Europeans told them no cash has been stolen so far. “Preliminary investigations have revealed the accused stole data of at least 5,000 ATM users. Bank officials have contacted customers whose card details were stolen and made sure they follow all precautionary measures, including changing of passwords,” police said.



Kolkata: Parking menace rears head in shopping season


KOLKATA: Mayor Sovan Chatterjee on Monday instructed civic officials to crack down on parking lot attendants to single out the errant ones who are reportedly fleecing car owners ahead of the festive season. The move came after the mayor received a series of complaints of car attendants taking advantage of the Puja rush and indulging in high-handedness. Chatterjee has also taken up the matter with additional police commissioner (traffic) Vineet Goyal and deputy commissioner (traffic) V Solomon Nesakumar and urged them to run a parallel inquiry into the charges made against car-parking agencies. “I am upset with some agencies. I have asked Kolkata Police brass to probe into the matter. We will conduct an inquiry simultaneously. We will get tough with the agencies if found guilty. The minimum punishment will be cancellation of licences to run parking lots,” Chatterjee told reporters on Monday.


Debasish Kumar, mayor-in-council member overseeing the KMC car parking department, agreed with the mayor. “We need to get tough with a section of parking agencies who have been flouting rules at will,” Kumar said. According to a KMC car parking department official, most of the complaints were being reported from the shopping hotspots. “Complaints are pouring in from car owners who were harassed and made to pay extra in areas like New Market, Gariahat, Bidhan Sarani (Hatibagan), to name a few,” said the official. Some car owners, said a KMC source, were even forced to pay Rs 40 per hour ahead of the Puja. The normal rate is Rs 10 per hour. Some agencies were so desperate that they did not bother to harass even a Trinamool Congress councillor, a civic official said. “We have received a complaint from Ellora Saha, a ruling party councillor from Pathuriaghata Street. Saha was threatened by the owner of a car parking agency recently near Burrabazar,” he said.



15 tourists rescued after ill-equipped boat stalls in sea



PUDUCHERRY: A reckless and illegal voyage undertaken by 15 tourists, including a woman, turned out to be a nightmare after their boat developed a technical snag and began drifting mid sea 20 nautical miles from the Puducherry coast. The tourists escaped with the timely intervention of an Indian coast guard team which rescued them on Monday. Police said a group of 15 tourists from different parts of the country including Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai set out on sail in a small mechanized boat with a three-member crew from Puducherry at 8am on Sunday . When they crossed 10 nautical miles from the coast the engine of the boat developed a technical snag. The boat did not have any safety and navigational tools. The standby engine also failed and the boat started drifting. The tourists panicked but managed to contact their friends in Chennai using their mobile phones. Chennai police alerted the Puducherry police, who sought the intervention of the Indian Coast Guard. A team from the coast guard set out on Sunday night to trace the boat.


“The team had a tough time in tracing the boat, which does not have proper lighting facilities to help in locating it in case of emergency. The boat belongs to a French national and it does not have any valid registration. The crew did not have any permission from the authorities to venture into the sea. There are no safety or navigational tool or even tow ropes,” said a police official. The coast guard personnel managed to trace the boat, which was about to sink and rescued all the tourists at 2am on Monday almost after 16 hours. Inquiries revealed that an Indian-French duo has been offering adventurous sailing expeditions charging `5,000 from tourists and local residents each. Chief minister V Narayanasamy, who congratulated the police and Indian coast guard teams for rescuing the stranded tourists, ordered a thorough investigation into the episode. He directed the police to initiate appropriate action against the people if found guilty.



International News



7.1-magnitude earthquake kills more than 140 as buildings crumble in Mexico

People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico City on September 19, 2017.



MEXICO CITY: More than 140 people were killed when a powerful, 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Tuesday, toppling buildings in the capital and sowing panic on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. Rescue crews and volunteers in Mexico City — home to 20 million people — clawed through the rubble of at least 49 collapsed buildings looking for survivors and bodies. Local media reported that families were getting WhatsApp messages pleading for help from desperate relatives trapped under the debris. Mexico City recorded 36 of the deaths, while Morelos state directly south of it saw 64 killed. The others were registered in Puebla (29), a town southeast of the capital, and in Mexico state (nine), which lies just to the west of the capital. National Coordinator for Civil Protection Luis Felipe Puente said a total of at least 138 people died. Memories of the devastating 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people in Mexico City spurred panic on Tuesday. Many quickly ran for safety outdoors when walls around them swayed and cracked. “I’m so worried. I can’t stop crying. It’s the same nightmare as in 1985,” Georgina Sanchez, 52, sobbed to AFP in a plaza in the capital. Amamia Sanchez, a 45-year-old secretary cried out: “It’s just not possible that this happened also on September 19”. The quake — which occurred in the early afternoon, hours after city authorities had conducted an earthquake drill — caused damage in the bustling center of the city, and to areas south and west of the capital. “We ran outside thinking all was going to collapse around us,” said Lazaro Frutis, a 45-year-old who escaped an office building before it crumbled to the ground. “The worst thing is, we don’t know about our families or anything”. “It was horrible,” said resident Leiza Visaj Herrera, 27. “I didn’t want to get close under any tree. I had to hold on to the ground”. Scenes of chaos permeated the city straight after the earth shuddered.


Traffic jammed to a standstill before blanked-out stop lights, and anxious people ran between vehicles as ambulances tried to make headway, sirens squealing. Emergency officials warned people in the streets to avoid smoking because of the risk of igniting gas leaking from ruptured pipes. In several locations, people were seen clambering on buildings that were now piles of stone and tangled metal to pull people out. Jorge Lopez, a 49-year-old Spaniard living in Mexico City, said that he raced to the school in the central Roma district where his children aged six and three were in class, to find it collapsed but his offspring safe but terrified. “We arrived at the school and everyone was crying, everyone was frantic, and the kids were holding on to a rope,” he said. “It’s uncontrollable. You can’t do anything against nature”. Witnesses said another school was smashed to rubble in Cuernavaca, a town just south of the capital. The fate of the pupils and teachers was unknown. An office building of around five stories in the chic Condesa district of central Mexico City collapsed. Volunteers scrambled among the debris, pulling out three survivors and looking for more. “There are people trapped there!” yelled one woman. Similar efforts were made at other smashed buildings nearby. At one, an emergency worker held up a sign commanding “Silence” so crews could listen for the sounds of any survivors. Patients were evacuated from a hospital in the adjoining Roma district, wheeled out on beds and wheelchairs as staff set up makeshift wards outside. President Enrique Pena Neto said on Twitter he had ordered the evacuation of damaged hospitals “and the transfer of their patients to other medical facilities”.


At one collapsed building in the Roma district, dozens of people dug through rubble as they waited for the arrival of heavy machinery to move the massive chunks of stone. Officials called out for more volunteers, and for water. A woman standing and watching the efforts with her husband, a doctor, turned to him and said, “Darling, if you want to help, give me your glasses and take care”. The city’s international airport closed for more than three hours following the quake, and the stock market was forced to shut down. Hours after the quake, residents stood around outside, in the streets, fearing aftershocks. On the clogged roads, many without lights, muggers came out at night to assault trapped motorists. Appeals for missing people multiplied on television. Officials in other countries began to react to the disaster, with many offering to help. “With rising casualties & many collapsed buildings, my thoughts are with those impacted by the Mexico earthquake. The UN is ready to support,” tweeted the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock. Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, who was in New York with other world leaders for the UN General Assembly, expressed his “solidarity” with the Mexican people. US President Donald Trump, who has forged an antagonistic relationship with Mexico since coming to office, tweeted: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you”. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, tweeted: “Devastating news from Mexico City. My thoughts are with those affected by today’s earthquake – Canada will be ready to help our friends”. Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray responded by saying “Mexico sincerely thanks the displays of international solidarity that we are receiving”. Mexico is prone to earthquakes, being located in a seismically active region. Its last major quake, on September 7, killed 96 people in the southern part of the country.



Magnitude 6.1 earthquake strikes south of New Zealand – USGS



SYDNEY: An undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 magnitude struck in the remote Southern Ocean south of New Zealand on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said. The quake, at a shallow depth of 10 km (6 miles), was recorded 211 km (140 miles) west of the sub-Antarctic Auckland Island, off New Zealand’s South Island, the USGS said. There were no tsunami warnings issued immediately after the quake.



Hurricane Maria wreaks devastation in Dominica



POINTE-A-PITRE: Hurricane Maria smashed into the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica on Tuesday, with its prime minister describing devastating damage as winds and rain from the powerful storm also hit territories still reeling from Irma. As residents hunkered down in their homes the Category Five hurricane made landfall with top winds swirling at 160 miles (257 kilometres) per hour, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. “We have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Dominica’s premier Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook, saying there were initial reports of “widespread devastation”. “My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains”. Earlier, he said his roof had been blown off, his house was flooding and he was “at the complete mercy of the hurricane”. After being rescued Skerrit appealed for “help of all kinds” but noted specifically that helicopters will be needed so that authorities could survey the damage. Dominica’s airport and ports have been closed. After moving across the tropical island of 72,000 people, Maria was downgraded to an “extremely dangerous” Category Four hurricane but could strengthen again as it races north towards the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.


The NHC warned of dangerous storm surges, destructive waves, flash floods and mudslides and warned that “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion”. The French territory of Guadeloupe — the bridgehead for aid for Irma-hit French territories — ordered all residents to take shelter in a maximum-level “violet alert”. Heavy rain lashed the island and several areas were without power Tuesday morning. The Dominican Republic, the east coast of which was battered by Irma, ordered citizens in part of the north to evacuate ahead of Maria’s arrival, expected Wednesday. St Kitts, Nevis, the British island of Montserrat, Culebra and Vieques were also on alert. Martinique, a French island south of Dominica, suffered power cuts but avoided major damage as the storm skirted its shores. Flooding, mudslides and power outages were also reported in parts of St Lucia. Criticised for the pace of relief efforts in their overseas territories devastated by Irma, Britain, France and the Netherlands said they were boosting resources for the Caribbean. “We are planning for the unexpected, we are planning for the worst,” said Chris Austin, head of a UK military task force set up to deal with Irma, as the British Virgin Islands readied for a new onslaught. On the island of St Martin, which is split between France and the Netherlands, authorities announced a red alert ahead of Maria’s arrival. “We’re watching its trajectory very closely, and we’re preparing for the worst-case scenario,” said local official Anne Laubies.


In Guadeloupe’s biggest city of Pointe-a-Pitre, Elodie Corte, the boss of a metalworking company, said there had been frantic preparations to limit the damage from the storm. “We spent the morning strapping down the aluminium to stop it from flying away if the winds are strong,” she said Monday. The Dutch navy tweeted that troops were heading to the two tiny neighbouring islands of Saba and St Eustatius to ensure security following widespread complaints after the first hurricane of looting and lawlessness on St Martin, among the worst hit by Irma, with 14 killed. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said 110 more soldiers would be deployed to the region to reinforce about 3,000 people already there shoring up security, rebuilding infrastructure and distributing aid. But he warned of “major difficulties” if Guadeloupe is hard hit. Irma, also a Category 5 hurricane, left around 40 people dead in the Caribbean before churning west and pounding Florida, where the death toll stood at 50 Monday. It broke weather records when it whipped up winds of 295 kilometres per hour for more than 33 hours straight. Another hurricane, Jose, is also active in the Atlantic and has triggered tropical storm warnings for the northeastern United States. Many scientists are convinced that mega storms such as Irma, and Harvey before it, are intensified by the greater energy they can draw from oceans that are warming as a result of climate change.

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