News Flash – 21 February 2020

National News

 

 

H1N1 Scare in Tech Hub after SAP India Hits Panic Button

 

 

Bengaluru: A tech hub of Bengaluru was in the grip of an H1N1 influenza scare on Thursday after German software major SAP pressed the panic button following two of its employees in the city contracting the virus. However, health department officials said there’s no cause for alarm. SAP shut its offices in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Gurugram and asked all employees to work from home till further notice. It undertook fumigation and sanitisation of the offices. The news spread after RMZ, which operates the business park in which SAP is located in Bengaluru, issued an advisory to all tenants on measures they could take, specifically mentioning SAP’s actions. The park’s other tenants include Accenture, Honeywell, Danske IT, Shell Technologies, Morgan Stanley, Capgemini and ANZ. Sources said some of these companies told employees to work from home for the next three days, but considering they are holidays for most employees (Mahashivaratri followed by the weekend), the order will have little impact.

 

 

Workshop goes up in Flames, 18 Cars Destroyed

 

Kolkata: A blaze engulfed a car workshop and raged on for one-and-a-half hours on Thursday, destroying a dozen vehicles and partially damaging at least six more. No one was injured. The incident took place at the Maruti Hossainpur workshop, located over a kilometre off EM Bypass in Madurdaha. Residents said they first noticed smoke coming out of the front section of the workshop around 1.30pm but the fire spread so fast that within 15 minutes, dark plumes could be seen from as far as Tagore Park on Bypass. As the flames leapt up, people living in high-rises in the area panicked and evacuated their homes, fearing the fire might reach them. But before rushing out in the open, many of them called the police and fire brigade. Another workshop located nearby shifted out its cars, partly as a safety measure and partly to make space for fire engines to reach the spot. “It was our lunchtime and most of us were eating. The fire caught us unawares. We rushed into the shed to salvage as many vehicles as we could. Locals also pitched in. We managed to save 20-odd vehicles but those left on the hydraulic lift could not be brought down in time. We are yet to come to the exact number of damaged cars but the vehicles on the mechanical lift were the worst hit,” said Biswajit Mondal, an employee. Locals claimed fire engines took longer than usual to reach the spot. But fire officers denied the charge. “We reacted immediately and sent five engines. The approach road is extremely narrow.

 

 

We could not send more than three fire engines together to the site and adopted the relay system. We sent 10 engines in total,” a fire officer said. A bore well and water reservoirs on the apartment compounds ensured there was no dearth of water. “My wife and I had just finished lunch, when we noticed thick smoke outside. Fearing the flames were leaping towards our buildings, we asked everyone to evacuate. It would have been better had the fire engines reached a bit earlier, but all of us here did everything in our capacity to contain the fire,” said Avishek Sinha Roy, a resident of Korean Pearl Complex, next to the workshop. Both fire minister Sujit Bose and actor-turned-MP Mimi Chakraborty visited the spot. “We need to ascertain the cause of fire. We needed foam to douse the blaze,” Bose told TOI. While officers remained tight-lipped about the cause though they hinted at a possible short circuit, locals and some employees claimed work on installing ACs were going on inside and something might have gone wrong there. The theory gained credence as the front and middle sections of the unit, which housed ACs, were more damaged than the rear side. Car owners Indrajit Chowdhury from Ajay Nagar and Subhajit Ganguly from Patuli stood looked on, devastated. Both had sent their cars to the workshop in the morning. “They are promising to hand over my car with full-road worthiness but one does not know how long it will take,” Ganguly told TOI.

 

 

Thief Steals Two CCTV Cameras, Caught on Lens

(L) One of the cameras was stolen from this slot from a (R) Garia complex.

 

 

Kolkata: A thief who planned to break into an apartment complex in Garia on Tuesday night stopped short as CCTV cameras were installed at every corner, literally. So, he did what he thought was the next best thing: steal two of the cameras to try and sell them. What he did not realize was that those very cameras recorded the theft and the images were saved. Based on those grabs, cops tracked him down in less than 24 hours and promptly lodged an FIR. The accused has been identified as Amir Ali Gazi alias Raja (27), a resident of Bizli in Garia. “We arrested the accused and sent him to court on Thursday. He had wrapped his face with a piece of cloth but we tracked him down, based on the clothes he wore that night that were captured on camera,” said an officer. The two cameras were installed by Sabari Sengupta (51), who lived in Block A of the complex, said the police. “She claimed around 9pm on February 19, she found the two CCTV cameras at her house stolen. His face wrapped, the accused entered the common parking-garage area and carried out the theft. We will find out whether he had planned to return to that flat, after taking the CCTV cameras away,” said an officer. Police said it explained the importance of bringing CCTV cameras even in residential areas under cop purview. “Monitoring with cameras help us collate records and it has assisted us in a number of arrests,” said an officer.

 

 

19 Killed, 25 Injured after Truck Jumps Median, Rams Bus in Tamil Nadu

DEADLY CRASH: The container got detached after the truck hit the median, crossed to the other lane and ripped the right side of the bus.

 

 

Coimbatore: Nineteen people, including a bus driver and five women, were killed and 25 other injured when a container truck rammed a Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus near Tirupur in Tamil Nadu early on Thursday. Police said the bus with 48 passengers collided with the truck at 3.40am near Avinashi in Tirupur district on Avinashi-Salem bypass road. The Garuda Volvo bus was on its way to Ernakulam from Bengaluru. The container truck carrying 25 tonnes of floor tiles was going to Bengaluru from Kochi. According to police, truck driver K A Hemaraj, 37, from Kollathumkundil at Ottapalam near Palakkad, dozed off and lost control of the vehicle. The truck hit the 30-cm-high median and crossed over to the other side of the lane. In the impact the container got detached and tore down the right side of the bus, killing most people seated on the side. Survivors were trapped as the front portion of the bus was completely mangled in the collision. Passing motorists informed the Tirupur city police who rushed to the spot. Fire and rescue services personnel started rescue work with the public joining them in breaking open the glass panes of the bus and helping passengers come out.

 

 

International News

 

 

China Changes its Virus Diagnosis Criteria, Again Confusion Ensues

CLASH IN UKRAINE OVER EVACUEES FROM CHINA: Residents of Ukrainian village of Novi Sanzhary protest the arrival of evacuees from China’s Hubei province on Thursday. They fear they could be infected with the coronavirus despite authorities insisting there was no danger. Protesters blocked the road leading to a sanatorium where the evacuees are to be quarantined. President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his compatriots to show solidarity and remember that ‘we are all human.

 

 

China: For the second time in a week, China on Thursday changed its criteria for confirming coronavirus cases, throwing into confusion the methodology that the country at the heart of the outbreak uses to track transmissions and resulting in a dramatic decrease in new infections. The new criteria exclude patients from Hubei province, the hardest-hit area of the outbreak, who are diagnosed using clinical methods, including CT scans and an assessment of symptoms. Instead, patients there would be counted as having contracted the virus only when confirmed by a specialised nucleic acid test. Using the new criteria, officials in the province on Thursday recorded 349 new cases in the previous 24 hours, a notable shift from the 1,749 figure released a day earlier. The total national figure now stands at 74,576. New deaths rose by 114 on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 2,118. In its sixth iteration of a diagnosis regime, the government said it would differentiate between “suspected” and “confirmed” cases from now on. Cases would only be considered confirmed after genetic testing. Such tests are notoriously difficult to conduct, and the results are often wrong. It takes at least two days to process the results of the test. The change has caused confusion among public health experts, who said it is now extra difficult to track the outbreak in China. “For an epidemiologist, it’s really frustrating when case definitions keep on changing,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong. “Why can’t they work out what’s a probable, suspected and confirmed case? It’s totally confusing”.

 

 

Last week, the government switched to counting cases based on diagnoses made in clinical settings, including scanning patients’ lungs, in an effort to more quickly isolate and treat patients. As a result, however, the country may have over counted cases because lung scans are an imperfect means to diagnose patients. Even patients with ordinary seasonal flu may develop pneumonia visible on a lung scan. Japan reports first deaths of ship passengers Two elderly passengers taken off the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess because they were infected with the new virus have died, Japan’s health ministry said on Thursday, becoming the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel. Japan now has three deaths linked to the COVID-19 illness. The two victims, a man and woman in their 80s who are both Japanese, were believed to have been infected before health checks and a February 5 quarantine began on the ship, health ministry official Masami Sakoi said. They had been hospitalised on February 11 and 12 and each tested positive a day later. The ministry also announced on Thursday that two more government officials had become infected while providing clerical work on the ship to help in the quarantine effort. Four other officials — a quarantine official, a paramedic who carried an infected passenger, a health ministry worker and an emergency relief medical expert — have also been sickened. The 621 cases confirmed among the Diamond Princess’s original 3,711 people on board are the most anywhere outside China. In all, Japan has over 700 confirmed cases.

 

 

Gunman Kills 9 Immigrants in Two Bars in Germany

 

Hanau (Germany): A 43-year-old German who posted a manifesto calling for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst” shot and killed nine people of immigrant background, most of them Turkish, in an attack on a hookah bar and other sites in a Frankfurt suburb, authorities said on Thursday. He was later found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism. The gunman attacked the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in Hanau around 10pm on Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5km and opened fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims. The bloodshed came amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany and stepped-up efforts from authorities to crack down on it, including last week’s detention of a dozen men on suspicion they were planning attacks against politicians and minorities. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the shootings exposed the “poison” of racism in Germany, and she pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country. Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and Metin Kan, who knew many of the victims, said it was obvious why the gunman chose the neighbourhood. “It’s a place frequented by immigrants.” People of Turkish background make up Germany’s single largest minority, and Turkey’s ambassador said five of the dead were Turkish citizens.

 

 

Germany’s federal prosecutor, Peter Frank, said that all nine killed were of immigrant backgrounds and that six others were injured, one seriously. Investigators said it appeared the gunman acted alone, but Frank said authorities are trying to find out whether there were others who knew of or supported the attack. Witnesses and surveillance videos of the getaway car led authorities quickly to the gunman’s home, said Peter Beuth, interior minister for the state of Hesse. Both the attacker and his 72-year-old mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on him, Beuth said. Frank identified the gunman only as Tobias R, in line with German privacy laws, and confirmed he had posted extremist videos and a manifesto with “confused ideas and far-fetched conspiracy theories” on his website, which has since been taken down. In the manifesto, Rathjen claimed to have approached police several times with conspiracy theories. But Beuth said it does not appear the gunman had a criminal record or was on the radar of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Among the documents posted to the website was a 24-page, rambling manifesto in German detailing, among other things, fears that he has been under government surveillance for years. He blamed the surveillance for his inability to have a relationship with a woman. “We now have ethnic groups, races or cultures in our midst that are destructive in every respect,” he also wrote. He said he envisioned first a “rough cleaning” and then a “fine cleaning” that could halve the world’s population. He wrote: “The following people must be completely exterminated: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the complete Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines”.


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