News Flash – 21 August 2017

National News



Flood situation worsens in Bihar, death toll rises to 253

Around 1.26 crore people are hit by the deluge in Bihar.



PATNA: The toll in Bihar floods rose to 253 on Sunday as the situation worsened further with more areas getting affected and around 1.26 crore people hit by the deluge. Yesterday, the toll was 202 and the number of affected people was 1.21 crore in 18 districts. No new district has been added to the list of flood-hit districts today. Araria district accounted for 57 deaths alone, followed by Sitamarhi (31), West Champaran (29), Katihar (23), East Champaran (19) while 13 each have died in Madhubani, Supaul and Madhepura, a Disaster Management Department release said. Eleven deaths were reported in Kishanganj, while Darbhanga accounted for 10 deaths, Purnea 9, Gopalganj 8, Sheohar, Muzaffarpur and Saharsa registered four deaths each while Khagaria and Saran accounted for three and two deaths respectively, it said. As many as 4.21 lakh people have been shifted to 1,358 relief camps in different parts of the state, the release said. Chief minister Nitish Kumar undertook an aerial survey of flood-affected areas of East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Muzaffarpur and Patna districts. He was accompanied by state Water Resources Minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh, chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and the chief minister’s Secretary Atish Chandra, an official release said. Twenty-eight National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams comprising 1,152 personnel with 118 boats are involved in rescue and relief operations. Besides, 16 teams of the State Disaster Response Force comprising 466 personnel are helping people in the flood-hit areas with 92 boats, it said, adding 630 Army personnel are also assisting in relief and rescue operations with 70 boats. The release said the number of community kitchens have been raised to 2,569 from yesterday’s 1,879. The number of flood-affected people who are being served at these kitchens have also increased from yesterday’s 3.72 lakh to 4.92 lakh, it said. The local MeT office said Patna, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Purnea are likely to witness generally cloudy sky with the possibility of rain or thundershower tomorrow.


Floods wreak havoc in Assam, Uttar Pradesh: Meanwhile, four more persons lost their lives in Assam and nearly 19 lakh people were suffering in 15 districts of the state. At present, 18.65 lakh people are affected in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Chirang, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, South Salmara, Goalpara, Morigaon, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat and Majuli districts. Till yesterday, 22 lakh people were struggling with the latest spell of floods across 16 districts. The third wave of floods has claimed 67 lives so far in Assam. The total number of deaths in this year’s flood-related incidents has gone up to 151. In Morigaon, which has been hit hardest, 5.21 lakh people have been marooned. 4.67 lakh people are affected in Barpeta. Currently, 1,493 villages are under water and 1.15 lakh hectares of crop area is inundated. Officials said 33 more deluge-related deaths have been reported in Uttar Pradesh over the last two days. The figure of flood casualties in the state now stands at 69. Over 20 lakh people have been marooned in 24 districts. The relief commissioner’s office said 39,783 people have taken shelter in relief camps in the affected districts of eastern UP where there was no letup in flood fury. Raging waters of the rivers emanating from Nepal have caused havoc in vast swathes of human habitation in the region. Army choppers, NDRF and PAC (flood) jawans continued relief and rescue operations in the badly hit areas. The release of water in the rivers emanating from Nepal and incessant rains impeded rescue work and evacuation of people to safer areas. The situation has improved a lot in six flood-hit districts of north West Bengal as there has been no major rainfall over the past three days. There has been no report of any flood-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a senior official of the West Bengal Disaster Management department said. So far, 55 people have died in the floods since July 21. Nearly 55 lakh people have been hit by the deluge in Cooch Behar, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Malda.



Heavy rains to continue in Mumbai for 2 more days


MUMBAI: For the second consecutive day heavy rains continued over many parts of Mumbai on Sunday. The India Meteorological Department(IMD) officials have forecasted heavy rainfall at many places in the next 24-48 hours. After a brief lull, monsoons over Mumbai have revived with fairly widespread rainfall being witnessed since yesterday at many parts of the city and suburbs. However, the intensity of rainfall has been more in the eastern suburbs and compared to parts of the city. K.S. Hosalikar, deputy director-general (western region), IMD, said, “The latest satellite imagery shows a thick cloud mass over west Maharashtra and the interiors too. The rainfall activity over the coast has enhanced”. Meanwhile rainfall recorded in the last 24 hour period from 8am-8am (August 19-20) has been the highest at Bhandup (S ward) with 123.64 mm rain being recorded followed by Gawanpada in Mulund which recorded 122.14mm of rainfall, Ghatkopar (N Ward) 113.29 mm rain, Vikhroli 93.46 mm and Kurla 86.83mm.



‘Drone-like object’ halts operations at Delhi airport for over an hour



NEW DELHI: Flight operations were suspended for over half-an-hour at the international airport here today after a “drone-like object” was spotted in one of the runways. Sources said the “drone-like object” was spotted by an Air Asia pilot about 1909 hours. Many flights were diverted as the operations were suspended for about 40 minutes, the sources said. Flight operations resumed at 1955 hours after clearance from the Delhi Police, they added. Airport security sources said the pilot while landing reported about the object. An airport spokesperson could not be contacted immediately. The airport, which has three runways, is the busiest in the country and handles around 1,200 flight movements every day. During peak time, the airport handles up to 70 flights per hour.



Vishing fraudster dupe’s techie of Rs 89,000



BENGALURU: A techie with Infosys lost Rs 89,000 to a vishing fraudster who managed to coax him into sharing details of his and his friend’s debit cards, and One Time Passwords (OTPs) in the guise of payment towards recharging his cellphone. The suspect allegedly managed to change the 3D secure PIN of the victim’s debit card and siphoned off huge sums. Software professional Vinod Kumar (name changed on request) from Madhya Pradesh landed a job with IT giant Infosys and moved to Bengaluru recently. He ported his Madhya Pradesh-based Docomo SIM to Airtel in Bengaluru. “As I was waiting for my SIM to be activated, I got a call around 6am on July 30. The caller claimed he was an Airtel executive and insisted I recharge my account for Rs 20 immediately or my SIM would be deactivated,” said Kumar, 24, who took the fraudster for real. The caller got Kumar to reveal his debit card details and the OTP that came to his cellphone soon after, which the fraudster generated, stating that it was for SIM recharge of Rs 20. However, the techie wasn’t aware that the scamster had used the OTP to change the 3D secure PIN for Kumar’s card, and used it to make four transactions totaling Rs 34,000, including a purchase on Flipkart simultaneously.


Alerted about the transactions by messages on his phone, Kumar called the fraudster. “The fraudster apologized that the transactions were mistakenly made instead of Rs 20, and said he was willing to transfer Rs 34,000 to another bank account,” said the youngster, who gave the ICICI debit card details of his roommate and also the OTP generated, this time for a transaction of Rs 1. Having eased the path for another fraud, the culprit once again changed the 3D secure PIN in Kumar’s roommate’s account, and pocketed Rs 55,000 through four transfers. “I was really sleepy at that time and spaced out, which the fraudster capitalized on,” lamented the techie, who repaid his friend before approaching the Electronics City police with a complaint. “Most complainants of bank frauds would have revealed the OTP, which the culprits often fish out using minimal SIM recharge, credit/debit card upgrade or other banking offers as bait. One should firmly understand that bank executives never call for confidential card or bank details and such a caller is always a fraudster,” said an officer with the Cyber Crime CID. Cyber-Crime police officers said once the 3D secure PIN is changed, the fraudsters can go on drawing money without requiring any OTPs, till the debit card is blocked.



Traffic curbs for 6 days to ease movement of Ganesh idols



HYDERABAD: In connection with sale and transportation of Ganesh idols in Dhoolpet area, traffic restrictions will be imposed from Monday to Saturday in some parts of the city. Hyderabad traffic police said no vehicle would be allowed from Bhoiguda Kaman X Roads towards the Gandhi statue Puranapul via Mangalhat PS. Traffic from Darusalam heading towards Puranapul should go via Panmandi, Ghode ki khabar, Jhinsi Chowrahi, Jummerath Bazar and Puranapul. Motorists from Asifnagar intending to go to Puranapul would take right turn at Aghapura X Road, proceed towards Ghode ki khabar, Jhinsi Chowrahi, Gulzar Baitak, Jummerath Bazar and Puranapul. Lorries and DCMs, which would transport Ganesh idols, would be allowed to park their vehicles at Jummerath Bazar ground, but they can play only at midnight. Vehicles, including auto trolleys, transporting Ganesh idols would be allowed to enter from Gandhi Statue at Puranapul, Jali Hanuman, PS Mangalhat, Shanker Cafe and exit through Bhoiguda Kaman. People on two-wheelers and cars intending to purchase idols would have to park their vehicles at Jiyaguda road. People from Seetharambagh and Darusalam could park their vehicles in the lanes of Aghapura and go by walking to purchase idols.



Prof takes online safety workshops to schools


CHENNAI: Being cyber-secure begins with a tip as simple as turning off the lights in a store’s changing room to detect if there is a camera watching you to the more complex issues of dealing with online predators and bullies. And that’s the message cyber-security specialist N Kala Baskar is trying to take to schools and college across the state. A scientific officer at the Computer Forensics Division of the Tamil Nadu Forensic Sciences Department for more than two decades, Baskar took over a few years ago as director-in-charge of the Centre for Cyber Forensics and Information Security, University of Madras, where apart from her classes, she sets apart time to offer lessons on staying safe online for students free of cost. In the first year of running the programme, Baskar managed to take the message to 7,500 students, in phase two she reached 6,000 students, and is currently embarking on round three of her talks. Schools that have participated include Lady Sivaswamy Iyer Girls Higher Secondary School, Anna Adrash Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Crescent School and Railways School.


“Children spend so much time online that it is vital that they be taught about security, safe social networking, phishing, malware, and cyber-bullying. Many parents also do not have much knowledge of how dangerous the virtual world can be. That’s why I take my message directly to the students,” says Baskar, adding that when it comes to changing rooms, if the lights are turned off, one will be able to see a red light in the room if there is a hidden camera. The workshops, she says, deal with cybercrimes that include identity theft, botnets, spam, scam, virus, worm, trojans, ransomware, and hacking, and give students tips on safe browsing, anti-phishing techniques, detecting suspicious links, where to look for skimmers in ATM machines, locating hidden cameras, as well as an introduction to cyber law in India and how to report cybercrime. Apart from the workshops, Bhaskar has also written a book on potential cyber-threats based on real life cases. “I have been called to court on several occasions for cyber-related crimes. I am publishing the book online soon so people can make use of the information,” she says.



Hills blasts may’ve been a ploy to veer away from talks



KALIMPONG: The three explosions in Darjeeling on Saturday, including the region’s first remote-controlled IED blast, may have been a stance-hardening ploy, calculated to foil baby steps to get Gorkhaland agitators talking to the state government, believe senior state government officials. Union home minister Rajnath Singh had met senior Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) members in Delhi last week and impressed upon them the need to talk to the Bengal government, keeping in mind Darjeeling’s “sensitive” geographical location. Several GJM members, too, appeared to be veering towards the idea of a dialogue, given that the indefinite shutdown was already two months old and had crippled the Hills’ life and economy. Saturday’s blasts, in which a young civic volunteer was killed and property damaged, seem to have spooked a growing number of Hills residents who want an end to the indefinite shutdown. “The blasts will contribute to a hardening of stance on both sides,” said a senior state police officer. Police charged GJM chief Bimal Gurung and other GJM leaders Prakash Gurung, Praveen Subba, Barud Thapa and Dawa Lepcha under UAPA, the Explosive Substances Act, the West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act, murder and other penal sections, said ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma. This action was only to be expected under the circumstances, said sources. A cornered GJM chief responded by shooting off a “most urgent letter” to the Union home minister, in which he said: “Since the blast is a national security issue, we request you to constitute a high-level enquiry committee immediately, comprising National Investigative Agency, with a Supreme Court judge monitoring the entire investigation, so as to ensure fairness of the investigation.” Referring to the FIR filed against him, he said: “How is it possible that an FIR had been filed so early in such a serious matter, when the investigation has not yet begun?”.


The GJM chief is also increasingly facing rumbles of discontent, even from GMCC partners. In the letter, Gurung called for talks on the Gorkhaland issue but did not mention the state government. “I also request you to expedite the talks on the Gorkhaland issue, so that a permanent resolution to our issues in the form of a Gorkhaland state is arrived at the earliest,” reads an excerpt. The avoidance of the state raised hackles among his coalition partners. “Rajnath Singh had asked the state government to start a bilateral talk with the agitators. The state should now come forward and start the process for talks. Suffering of the people in tea gardens and cinchona plantations is beyond imagination,” said GNLF general secretary Mahendra Chhetri, even before the GMCC sat for talks in Kalimpong on Sunday evening. “People in the Hills have been resolute in their demand for Gorkhaland and it has already been 65 days. The state government needs to take immediate action and sit for talks with the agitators. If the state government needs, we are ready to write a letter,” he added. People’s patience is also being stretched to the limits. In Darjeeling, a poster was pasted at Chowkbazar on behalf of the “janta” demanding withdrawal of the indefinite strike. The poster read that people want Gorkhaland and therefore they supported the movement. But now, poor people were suffering and their sacrifice is not being reciprocated, it proclaimed. GMCC convenor Kalyan Dewan also urged the state government to come forward now to create a positive ambience for talks following the appeal from the home minister. “If there is an official invitation from the state government, we can sit for bilateral talks. Once the talks begin in a positive direction, we can go back to people and discuss the withdrawal of the strike,” Dewan said. Condemning the Darjeeling blast and attack on the Kalimpong police station, GMCC has sought a state government inquiry committee into the issue. “We do not want violence in the Hills. It seems that there are anti-Gorkhaland forces who are creating such violence. They have stooped too low. We want police to book the guilty and restore confidence among people. CCTV footage should also be made public so that the truth comes out,” Dewan said.



Residents panic after minor fire in Raja Annamalai Puram flat



CHENNAI: Panic gripped residents of an apartment complex in MRC Nagar, Raja Annamalai Puram, after a minor fire broke out on Sunday. The fire control room got a call around 12.15pm about smoke emanating from a house on the second floor of the apartment complex. The residents of the apartment complex, which has four blocks and 150 houses, panicked on seeing the smoke. Three fire tenders from Mylapore and Egmore rushed to the scene to put out the fire. Fire personnel found that it was a minor fire triggered by the short circuiting of a refrigerator. The entire circuit was damaged and the smoke was due to this, said a fireman. The fire was put off in 15 minutes and the residents were pacified and sent back home. “It took nearly an hour was the residents to get settled as there was smoke everywhere,” said a fire officer. “The people rushed out of fear as the smoke could lead to suffocation,” he said.



International News



100 gas tanks: Extremists in Spain had planned a massive terror attack


BARCELONA: Police put up scores of roadblocks across northeast Spain on Sunday in hopes of capturing a fugitive suspect from the 12-member Islamic extremist cell that staged two vehicle attacks and plotted much deadlier carnage using explosives favoured by Islamic State terrorists. Complicating the manhunt, though, was the fact that police have so far been unable to officially identify who exactly is at large. While police have identified the 12 members of the cell, three people remain unaccounted for: two believed killed when the house where the plot was being hatched exploded Wednesday, and a suspected fugitive, Catalan police official Josep Lluis Trapero told reporters today. Trapero declined to confirm that Younes Abouyaaquoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan, was the one at large and the suspected driver of the van that plowed down Barcelona’s Las Ramblas promenade Thursday, killing 13 people and injuring 120. Another attack hours later killed one person and injured others in seaside town of Cambrils. “We are working in that line,” Trapero said. But he added: “We don’t know where he is”. Another police official did confirm that three vans tied to the investigation were rented with Abouyaaquoub’s credit card: The one used in the Las Ramblas carnage, another found in the northeastern town of Ripoll, where all the main attack suspects lived, and a third found in Vic, on the road between the two.


Police believe the cell members had planned to fill the vans with explosives and create a massive attack in the Catalan capital. Trapero confirmed that more than 100 tanks of butane gas were found at the Alcanar house that exploded, as well as ingredients of the explosive TATP, which was used by the Islamic State group in attacks in Paris and Brussels. “Our thesis is that the group had planned one or more attacks with explosives in the city of Barcelona,” he said. That plot was foiled, however, when the house in Alcanar blew up Wednesday night. The investigation is also focusing on a missing imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, who police think could have died in the Alcanar explosion. Trapero confirmed the imam was part of the investigation but said police had no solid evidence that he was responsible for radicalizing the young men in the cell. Es Satty in June abruptly quit working at a mosque in Ripoll and has not been seen since. His former mosque denounced the deadly attacks and weeping relatives marched into a Ripoll square on Saturday, tearfully denying any knowledge of the radical plans of their sons and brothers. Abouyaaquoub’s mother said his younger brother Hussein has also disappeared, as has the younger brother of one of five radicals shot dead Friday by police during the Cambrils attack.



Injuries reported as rocket hits near Damascus business fair



DAMASCUS: Rocket fire injured several people Sunday near the entrance to the Damascus International Fair, a key business gathering being held for the first time in five years, Syrian television said. State television, citing its reporters on the scene, said the rocket hit near the entrance of the exhibition complex where the business fair opened this week. The breaking news alert gave no details on the number of injured or the source of the rocket fire, and there was no immediate mention of the incident on state news agency SANA. “We were preparing to receive visitors when I heard an explosion… then I saw smoke so the side of the of the entrance to the exhibition hall,” said Iyad Jaber, 39, a Syrian working at a textile stand. The Damascus International Fair was once the top event on Syria‘s economic calendar, but was last held in the summer of 2011, months after the start of a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad‘s government. This year’s fair opened on Thursday, and was scheduled to last 10 days. Its general director, Fares al-Kartally, said the decision to hold the fair this year was a result of “the return of calm and stability in most regions” of Syria.


“We want this fair to signal the start of (the country’s) reconstruction,” Kartally told AFP earlier this week. While Damascus has been insulated from much of the worst violence of the country’s war, several key rebel enclaves remain in the Eastern Ghouta region outside the city. Fighters in the area have regularly fired rockets into the capital, and government warplanes have frequently carried out devastating raids across Eastern Ghouta. But in recent weeks, much of the area has been quieter after the implementation in July of a “de-escalation zone” covering parts of Eastern Ghouta. The United States and European countries, which have imposed sanctions on Assad’s government, were not officially invited to participate in the fair, which was first held in 1954. But a handful of European companies are participating on an individual basis in the event. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

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