News Flash – 22 January 2018

National News



17 killed as fire guts illegal cracker factory in Bawana


NEW DELHI: In the worst fire tragedy in the city since the Uphaar accident, 17 people were killed and 30 hurt when an illegal firecracker factory was gutted in outer Delhi’s Bawana Industrial area on Saturday evening. The toll may go up as many others are feared trapped inside. The owners of the factory had a licence to make plastic products. Among those killed were eight women and two children. The victims, mostly labourers, were trapped inside a room as escape routes were blocked due to unauthorised construction. “Initially, we were told that the building was vacant. But a boy who had saved his life by jumping off the first floor told us that there were people trapped inside,” fire officials said. They said 13 bodies were recovered from the first floor, three from the ground floor and one from the basement. The injured were rushed to Baba Saheb Ambedkar hospital in Shahbad Dairy.


Fire officials suspect that phosphorus used for making crackers could have caused the fire. Twenty fire tenders fought for four hours to douse the blaze. Fire service chief G C Mishra said they got a call around 6.30pm and fire engines were immediately sent. But the blaze spread rapidly. Police have caught one Manoj Jain and are trying to verify if he and his partner Lalit Goel were the owners/ tenants of the building. A case under 304 A (causing death due to negligence) and 285 IPC (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter) has been filed. DCP (Rohini) Rajneesh Gupta said a probe has been initiated. The Delhi government has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for those who died in the fire tragedy.



Mumbai: Fire erupts in Marol factory, no one injured



MUMBAI: A fire erupted in a godown at Mistry Industrial Estate near Marol bus depot on Sunday night. Eight fire engines and six water tankers were rushed to the spot. It was a ground-plus-one structure and fire is learned to have started at 1.16am on Sunday. Fire spread across electric wiring and electric installations, moulding machines, boiler, waste material, plastic panels, plastic raw material, cartons and documents in an area about 10,000 sq. ft. in the manufacturing unit.





Ahmedabad: Love, confidence, determination and acceptance can surmount all obstacles. This is what nearly 100 kids will prove on Sunday by participating in a cyclothon at Law Garden. Cycling is a trend and every other person wants to be part of it, right? No. The Sunday Cyclothon, the Smiling Wheels, is different because all these enthusiasts have Down syndrome and learnt to cycle just a few days back. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder associated with delay in physical growth, characteristic facial features and mostly accompanied by mild to moderate intellectual disability. The Sunday Cyclothon is organised by an informal group DSWC (Down Syndrome Welfare Club) and its inspiration is Palak Vaidya. Palak is 25-year-old but Down syndrome makes her look like a child. She recently cycled 40 km from Bolzano to Merano in Italy and won hearts. Her feat has inspired the Sunday event. Palak is special because she has several accomplishments to her credit that ordinary people struggle to achieve. Starting from various awards in school, including the best adorable student award, she has the distinction of traveling across the world, para gliding, snorkeling, trekking, parachuting and other adventure sports. From Karate to singing, Palak loves social interactions, taking the stage and making her presence felt. And it is not just extra-curricular activities. At present, Palak functions as a general manager at an orthopaedic and maternity home, run by her parents in Navsari where she draws a monthly salary too. “She is responsible and friendly. If she is not around, patients ask for her,” beams her mother Dr Nina Vaidya. Can’t call it anything but fate that Nina was a qualified pediatrician when she went for her regular checkup during her pregnancy. The tone of her doctor made her realise something was wrong.


Soon, she found out that she was carrying a child with Down syndrome. Nina’s father, an electrical engineer, was her key support system then. Nina and her husband Piyush, an orthopaedic, ensured that Palak, born in 1992, got treated as a normal child from the beginning. Through a doctor friend in Houston, Nina started getting literature and gained awareness about Down syndrome. The result was that Palak not only went to a regular school but her mother and dad ensured she had a normal childhood and school life. “Tata Girls High School in Navsari was a great place. Usually at farewells, teacher ask what are you going to do after this. In my case my school asked, Palak what are we going to do without you,” Palak tells Mirror. She says she loves her job. And she loves traveling. From Ahmedabad to Amsterdam, Delhi to Germany, Singapore to Nainital, Palak loves her holidays. Recently, she addressed the first Indian International Down Syndrome Conference in New Delhi. “Kids with Down syndrome are strong in visual learning. They can easily emulate. Their conceptual learning is slow. They require patience, love, confidence and above all equality,” tells her mother Nina. She was frustrated seeing kids with Down syndrome being treated as ‘mentally retarded’ in India and decided to utilise her life spreading awareness and creating support groups for families. With help of Vaishali Hyderabadi, an Ahmedabad-based geneticist, Nina began contacting parents with children having Down syndrome which is detectable as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy. To ensure that Palak and likes of her get self-reliant and do not suffer discrimination, Nina began conducting regular workshops free of cost, teaching smart techniques of raising a child with Down syndrome and teaching them essential functional skills.


Today, Dr Nina and Vaishali’s informal group has over 2,000 parents registered with them. “Palak is a great asset to our family. She is the biggest de-stressor for anyone around. Also, every holiday, she is the one who makes the list of things to be taken. Also she is a great manager at home. It is inhuman to treat children with this syndrome as a non-inclusive segment of the society,” says Nina. Palak’s older brother Purvaj remained her best buddy but when he married last year, Palak offered her room and now her sister-in-law Chandni is an integral part of her existence. On Sunday at around 8 am, the Down syndrome affected, their families and well-wishers will take over Law Garden and have fun and make a powerful statement. “Do not leave us out from normal life and its journey. Give us love, support and cooperation and let us be a part of your world.” That is the message Palak, her mother and all her friends will be trying to get through on Sunday morning.


What is Down syndrome?


Down syndrome is a genetic disorder associated with delay in physical growth, characteristic facial features and mostly accompanied by mild to moderate intellectual disability.


How is it caused?



A normal newborn has 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes. The extra or abnormal chromosome leads to changes in how the brain and body develop.


How is it diagnosed?



It is detected by conducting screening and diagnostic tests during the first or second trimester. Screening tests sometimes give false positive or false-negative results. Diagnostic tests such as amniocentesis and villus sampling are confirmatory.


How is it treated?


It is best that the disorder is detected early as it is better to manage. Regular doctor visits are necessary for child to stay in good health. Most children need speech and physical therapy. Teens and adults may need occupational therapy. Most of all, those with Down syndrome need support and encouragement from family.



International News



Taliban attack on Afghan hotel ends after 13 hours, 18 dead

Afghan security forces are seen at the roof top of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.



KABUL: A Taliban assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Afghanistan‘s capital killed at least 18 people, including 14 foreigners, and pinned security forces down for more than 13 hours before the last attacker was killed on Sunday, with the casualty toll expected to rise. The heavily-guarded luxury hotel is popular among foreigners and Afghan officials. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the 18 killed included 14 foreigners and a telecommunications official from the western Farah province who was attending a conference. “11 of the 14 foreigners killed were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline,” said Danish. KamAir also put out an announcement saying some of their flights were disrupted because of the attack. Ukraine says one of its citizens was killed in the attack. Vasyl Kyrylych, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, announced the death of the Ukrainian citizen in a brief statement on Twitter, without providing further details. Afghan officials did not identify the foreigner killed in the attack. Ten other people, including six from the security forces, were reported wounded and more than 150 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued from the hotel, Danish said. The Taliban claimed the attack, which began around 9 PM yesterday, saying five gunmen armed with suicide vests targeted foreigners and Afghan officials. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents initially planned to attack the hotel Thursday night but postponed the assault because there was a wedding underway and they wanted to avoid civilian casualties.


The attack unfolded almost six years after Taliban insurgents launched a similar assault on the property, which is not part of the Intercontinental chain of worldwide hotels. The Interior Ministry said a private firm assumed responsibility for securing the hotel around three weeks ago. The ministry says it is investigating how the attackers managed to enter the building. During a press conference, Danish said that early investigations show that six insurgents entered the hotel from the northern side and stormed its kitchen. Two attackers were killed by Special Forces on the 6th floor of the hotel. “We need to complete our investigation, but our initial reports show that the attackers were moved in to the hotel,” said Danish. Mumtaz Ahmad, a provincial telecommunication employee for Helmand province who survivor the attack said “I was on my way from my room toward the reception, when I the elevator door opened, I saw two-armed suicide bombers. People were escaping and the attackers were firing at them”. Afghan security officials confirmed that 34 provincial officials were gathered at the hotel to participate in a conference organised by the Telecommunication Ministry. A fire broke out at the hotel as the fighting raged, and the sound of explosions could be heard throughout the standoff. Live TV footage showed people trying to escape through windows on the upper stories. Capt. Tom Gresback, spokesman for NATO-led forces, said in a statement that Afghan forces were leading the response efforts. He said that according to initial reports, no foreign troops were hurt in the attack.


Neighboring Pakistan condemned the “brutal terrorist attack” and called for greater cooperation against militants. Afghanistan and Pakistan routinely accuse each other of failing to combat extremists along their long and porous border. Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban since the US and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014. They have also had to contend with a growing Islamic State affiliate that has carried out a number of massive attacks in recent years. In the northern Balkh province, insurgents burst into a home where several members of a local pro-government militia were gathered late Saturday, leading them outside and killing 18 of them, said Gen. Abdul Razeq Qaderi, the deputy provincial police chief. Among those killed was a tribal leader who served as the local police commander, he said. In the western Farah province, a roadside bomb killed a deputy provincial police chief and wounded four other police early Sunday, according to Gen. Mahruf Folad, the provincial police chief. The Taliban claimed both attacks. In the western Herat province, a roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying 13 civilians, killing all but one of them, said Abdul Ahad Walizada, a spokesman for the provincial police chief. No one immediately claimed the attack, but Walizada blamed Taliban insurgents, who often plant roadside bombs to target Afghan security forces.



Spain rescues 56 migrants crossing Mediterranean Sea

A group of migrants wrapped in red Cross blankets arrive onboard of a Spanish coast guard vessel at the southern Spanish port of Malaga.



MADRID: Spain’s maritime rescue service says it has saved 56 migrants trying to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to European shores. The service says two boats were intercepted by its search craft Saturday morning. One boat was carrying 23 men in the Strait of Gibraltar. A second boat with 33 men of sub-Saharan origin was located east of the Strait near Alboran Island. Europe’s border watchdog said Friday that 22,880 migrants had arrived in Spain last year by sea, up from 10,231 in 2016. It also warned it expects the number of migrants using the western Mediterranean route to Europe to increase this year. The International Organization for Migration says 2,583 migrants entered Europe by sea this year through Wednesday, and 199 others died en route.



Island volcano in Papua New Guinea erupts with ash, steam

Ash plumes rise from the volcano on Kadovar Island, Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific on Jan. 21, 2018.



SYDNEY: An island volcano in Papua New Guinea erupted again Sunday, sending plumes of steam and ash into the air. Thousands of people have been evacuated from islands surrounding Kadovar Island off the South Pacific nation’s north coast since the volcano there began erupting on Jan. 5. Flights nearby have been canceled due to the risk posed by ash plumes and ships were warned to stay away from the island. Experts warned last week that seismic activity beneath the volcano meant that a major eruption could be imminent. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has previously said state resources were being made available to support evacuations and he has warned northern coastal communities to be alert for possible tsunamis. Kadovar is off the northern coast of New Guinea, the larger island that includes Papua New Guinea‘s capital, Port Moresby. Papua New Guinea sits on the “Ring of Fire,” a line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific that has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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