News Flash – 22 September 2017

National News



Mumbai: Flyers hit as 50 flights scrapped, many delayed



MUMBAI: The ripple effects of the SpiceJet aircraft getting stuck in mud at Mumbai airport on Tuesday night continued to be felt even hours after its retrieval. Hundreds of passengers who had flights into and out of Mumbai on Thursday expected to encounter only short delays, but were caught unawares as a number of flights were delayed by two hours or more. Worse, about 50 flights were cancelled, 38 of them operated by Jet Airways. Air India too was hit—to a much lesser degree. Both airlines operate wide-bodied aircraft for long-haul flights. With only the shorter secondary runway operational all through Wednesday, these flights were diverted to other cities. Bringing them back to Mumbai, re-planning the subsequent departures, and getting pilots and cabin crew rostered for these took a toll on airline schedules. Among the cancelled lot were Jet’s return flights to Calicut, Hyderabad, Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Delhi, and Chennai. Pradyna Mhatre, whose son was to land from Goa (9W 627) around 2.45pm, said the flight finally landed at 8.30pm. Air India passengers on flights to Varanasi and Coimbatore were inconvenienced as the airline cancelled two connections (AI 696, AI 658) to these destinations. Among the other Jet and Air India delays were arrivals from Jodphur, Chandigarh and Vishakhapatnam, not to speak of international arrivals—AI 191 from Newark was scheduled to land at 1.30am, but landed at 8.30am, Jet Airways 9W275 from Dhaka arrived over six hours late at 9pm. GoAir’s Mumbai-Goa flight, which was to depart around 4pm, left at 6pm.


What added to passengers’ misery was that Mumbai airport is a silent airport (no flight announcements are made) and a number of flight display boards showed inaccurate information. Expectedly, passengers’ anger spilled over onto social media all through the day. With a picture of an inaccurate flight display board, Sagar Shetty, a passenger, tweeted in the morning: “#jetairways mum Kolkata flight delayed by almost 2 hours. And still showing on time. And the worst no one here to answer.” Rahul Piprade, booked on a 11.30am Mumbai-Goa flight tweeted: “Jet Airways 9W475 you guys ruined our Bachelors party. Curse is better word”. None of the airlines issued a statement on flight disruptions. Trouble for passengers began at Mumbai’s airport on Tuesday night when a SpiceJet Boeing 737-900 aircraft landed amid rain and strong wind, only to overshoot the hard-working main runway and get stuck in mud. Flight operations had to be moved to the poorly-equipped secondary runway, which lies unfavorably in the northwest-southeast direction. Strong westerly winds from the Arabian Sea had aircraft landing on the secondary runway face incompatible tailwinds and crosswinds. On Wednesday night, about 24 hours after it got stranded, the SpiceJet aircraft was moved from its resting place and in about three hours the main runway was reopened. But as became evident in the course of the day, the problems for passengers were far from over.



Delhi: Weatherman predicts 2-day rain relief starting today



NEW DELHI: Delhities may get some respite from the heat and humidity with the Met department predicting heavy rain and thundershowers in parts of the capital from Friday. The rain is likely to continue on Saturday. On Thursday, Delhi’s maximum temperature remained high at 35.4 degrees Celsius, one notch above normal for the season. Officials from Regional Weather Forecasting Centre (RWFC) in Delhi have also forecast heavy to very heavy rainfall over isolated parts of Uttarakhand and west Uttar Pradesh on September 22 and 23. Meanwhile, Delhi and its neighbouring areas, along with parts of Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, are likely to see heavy rain and thunder activity on the two days. “Delhi and its neighbouring areas will see moderate to heavy rainfall. The temperatures are likely to drop by 2-3 degrees Celsius and rainfall is likely to occur on September 22 and 23,” said an RWFC official. Delhi’s minimum temperature was recorded at 24.8 degrees Celsius on Thursday. However, humidity continued to remain high, oscillating between 54% and 88%, officials said. On Friday, the maximum temperature is expected to be around 32 degrees Celsius, while the minimum will be around 25 degrees Celsius, met officials said.



Airport link: Revised alignment faster, safer and cheaper, says BMRC


BENGALURU: The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC), which submitted the detailed project report (DPR) for the airport link to the government on Thursday, says the revised alignment near Cantonment Railway station—connecting Shivajinagar and Pottery Town Metro stations—is the best option available. BMRC managing director Pradeep Singh Kharola said the corporation revised the alignment, which now goes through Bamboo Bazaar, as it saves money, is safer and the fastest way to connect Shivajinagar and Pottery Town. The original plan was to take it under the Cantonment Railway Station. “There are three broad reasons: technical, safety and financial. The earlier alignment was 1.8km-long with sharp curves that’d increase the time taken to reach Pottery Town by at least 2 minutes. The route we now propose is faster as it’s almost a straight line,” Kharola said. He also said the new alignment wouldn’t affect access to Cantonment Railway Station. “In either plan, people would need to walk the same distance. Here, we plan to construct an underground subway connecting the Metro station and the railway station and also have separate ticket counters for those getting off the Metro,” Kharola said.


Safer & cheaper: Stating that the revised alignment will save the BMRC around Rs 1,000 crore, Kharola said the old route would have been a big challenge for the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) too. “The longest tunnel in Phase 1 was 965m and both the TBMs had to be repaired. We have learnt our lessons and don’t think that a 1.8km-long tunnel would be easy with our TBMs,” Kharola said. In Phase1, the TBMs could be retrieved and repaired as there was enough land available with BMRC on the said stretch. However, if the machine fails on this stretch, which is part of Phase 2, it’ll have to be left underground. The BMRC also feels that such a long underground stretch (1.8km) isn’t safe for people. “Imagine if there’s a power failure. People have to be evacuated and this isn’t the safest option,” Kharola said.


Railway restrictions: Also, if the original route was to be implemented then there’d be additional cost as the Railway Board has now given written instructions that any track going under an existing railway station needs to be at least 30m below the railway tracks. “If our tracks need to be 30m below then the station would be 40m below the Cantonment station, which isn’t feasible. On the revised route we’ll only be required to go 15m below the ground for our tracks,” Kharola said.


Land caved in at Majestic: Months after the city’s first underground stretch became operational, the BMRC has revealed a secret that led the Railway Board to revise its guidelines. Kharola on Thursday said it wasn’t viable to go under the Cantonment Railway Station—the original plan—as the Railway Board has issued instructions that Metro tracks need to be at least 30m below the station. Answering a question about how the BMRC had managed to lay Metro tracks just 15m below the City Railway Station if this was the rule, Kharola said: “This has never been disclosed before, but the land had caved in at Majestic and the railway tracks were hanging. Following this, the Railway Board revised its guidelines. We now have written instructions”. In the coming years, the Byappanahalli Metro depot will stop feeding trains on the East-West corridor. “Given the latest plans, Byappanahalli will be required to feed the Outer Ring Road (ORR) line, while the Kadugodi depot will feed the East-West corridor,” Kharola said. The BMRC will need at least 50 acres for the Kadugodi depot, which have to be acquired from the forest department. “The process has begun and we will follow all procedures,” he said.



Tactical drills on disaster relief in Hyderabad on September 23



HYDERABAD: Tactical drills on providing relief during disasters will be demonstrated by various agencies at Husainsagar in the city on September 23. On Friday, Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju will speak at the “Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief” (HADR), which will be conducted at College of Defence Management in Secunderabad. Lieutenant General PM Hariz, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C), Southern Command and other subject experts will also speak. The seminar is a part of the exercise “Pralay Sahayam”, which has been conceptualized as a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), supported by the government of Telangana in conjunction with the armed forces and other disaster mitigation agencies. During the seminar, strategic and operational level plans will be discussed. The tactical drills on September 23 will be a multi-agencies exercise. All national, state and district-level disaster management agencies, including the NGOs will join together to demonstrate the ‘Rescue and Relief Operations’ exercise. “The exercise aims to synergise the efforts of all the agencies involved and to build confidence in the populace with regards to the capabilities of the disaster management agencies towards mitigation of disasters and support available in case of such disasters,” Defence officials said. The exercise will be conducted by the Headquarters Southern Command of the Army with guidance from Sudarshan Chakra Corps and coordinated by Bison Division.



Kolkata: Cops plan parking zones for app cabs, map toilets

Commissioner Rajeev Kumar (C), additional CP (I) Vineet Goyal (R) and DC (traffic) Solomon V Nesakumar release the Puja guide map at the Police Athletic Club tent on Thursday.



KOLKATA: In a first, Kolkata Police will set up separate parking zones for app cabs at 40 locations for encouraging pandal-hoppers to use public vehicles. The cops are already in talks with app-cab aggregators to explore the possibility of extending concession to those hailing vehicles from these points. In another first for the police force, the men in uniform will be present on Kolkata’s roads from Dwitiya this year. While the full-scale centralized deployment will begin from Chaturthi, the cops are “aware” that several big Puja pandals, which have already been inaugurated, might need police presence from Friday evening. “With the weekend ahead, all local police stations and traffic guards have been asked to make their arrangements to maintain smooth traffic and ensure law and order,” said a senior IPS officer. To make pandal-hopping hassle-free, commissioner Rajeev Kumar on Thursday launched ‘Utsav’ app and published the Puja guide map. The app is being seen as a one-stop solution for revellers looking for directions, public transport. The commissioner also launched the unique public toilet map, which gives the public information about toilet locations near big-ticket pandals.


Commenting on the arrangements, additional CP (I) Vineet Kumar Goyal said the decisions were taken keeping in mind two important parameters — past experience and the feedback from organizers and the neighbourhood. “We are going to put up important traffic updates on our Facebook page. Any change of traffic plans will be communicated real time,” said Goyal. DC (traffic) Solomon V Nesakumar confirmed that the movement of autos will be regulated from Panchami. “No autos will be allowed to ply beyond 2pm on all important roads,” he said. Elaborating on the utility of the app, Solomon added: “It will have the digital version of the guide map. Whoever downloads the app will be directed to the map page where the location of the user will get automatically updated. One only needs to select the pandals he wants to visit and the app will show the shortest route. It will also display the traffic condition and the adjoining parking locations”.



Chennai Corporation zeroes in on dengue hotspots



CHENNAI: Greater Chennai Corporation has drawn the battle lines in its fight against dengue. One hundred and seventy-nine localities in the city have been identified as ‘hotspots’ for the vector-borne infection. Stepping up vigil, the civic body has mapped 179 neighbourhoods in 32 areas where more people are reporting dengue-like symptoms, including fever. Surveillance has been heightened in Adyar, Mylapore, Kodambakkam, K K Nagar, Virgumbakkam, Vyasarpadi and Ekkatuthangal. City health officer Dr N Senthilnathan said in these areas sanitary inspectors had been going door-to-door to remove potential breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus. “We are intensifying source reduction in any unit or locality that reports more than five cases,” he said, adding that the department was also mobilising community volunteers to participate in the drive. The health department is taking other parameters into consideration before identifying an area as a hotspot, including mosquito density, number of complaints received and larval count. The corporation has identified around 1,500 premises in the city, including educational institutions, construction sites, hospitals and commercial establishments, that could be potential breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes. “We first issue notices asking them to take steps to ensure they don’t become sources for the mosquito larvae. If they don’t comply, we penalise them,” said Dr Senthilnathan. The health department has collected Rs 11 lakh as fine in three months.


Owners have been instructed to cover all water storage containers in ‘mosquito-proof’ manner and remove discarded items like tyres, tins, boxes and other articles that can contain water. Mosquitoes can travel up to 500m, putting the neighbourhood at risk even if one household has a breeding source. At present, around 2,800 ground workers have been deployed to carry out fogging and breeding check in all the zones of the corporation. According to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Tamil Nadu recorded 6,919 dengue cases since January, the second highest in the country after Kerala. The state government reported 16 dengue deaths. Director of public health K Kolandaiswamy said while initially the state’s focus was on districts bordering Kerala, the infection was now more prevalent in Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Tiruvannamalai and Chennai. “Although Chennai hasn’t been categorised as a hotspot, fever cases are increasing,” he said. According to corporation records, since January, 110 fever cases have been confirmed as dengue. Dr Benny Benjamin, consultant pediatrician at Fortis Malar Hospital in Adyar, said because of awareness most of the patients were coming in at an earlier stage. “Almost all report with either mild or moderate severity. Only 30% require hospitalisation for up to three days,” he said, adding that there has been a rise in other viral and bacterial infections that cause distress in the upper respiratory system, along with fever.



International News



Myanmar police fired warning shots in Rakhine as mob attacks aid boat



YANGON: Myanmar police fired warning shots to disperse a mob who threw petrol bombs at them and tried to block an ICRC boat in the conflict-hit Rakhine state, where tens of thousands are believed to be in urgent need of aid, state-backed media said on Thursday. Communal tensions remain sky high across Rakhine where raids by Rohingya militants at the end of last month sparked a massive army crackdown and an unprecedented exodus of the Muslim group which the UN has called “ethnic cleansing”. Stranded after their villages burned to the ground, many Rohingya Muslims left inside Rakhine are in especially desperate need of aid. The zone worst-hit by communal violence remains under a virtual army lockdown, although authorities have promised to allow safe passage for relief. Aid is an incendiary issue in Rakhine, which is poor and scored by ethnic and religious hatred. Ethnic Rakhine believe foreign aid agencies ignore their needs and are biased towards the Rohingya — a minority denied citizenship in Myanmar and branded ‘Bengali’ outsiders. A 300-strong mob in the Buddhist-majority state capital Sittwe massed late Wednesday at a jetty where a boat — carrying 50 tonnes relief materials including clothes, water buckets and mosquito nets — was preparing for the journey up river into Maungdaw. They forced “the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to unload the aid from the boat and prevented the boat from leaving,” Global New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday, quoting Myanmar’s Information Committee.


Police officers arrived as the crowd grew near the jetty, while Buddhist monks also tried to calm the mob, but people began to hurl “stones and Molotov (cocktails) at the riot police” the report said. Eight people were detained and several police were injured before order was restored late at night. Before last month’s crisis, tens of thousands of Rohingya — as well as some ethnic Rakhines — displaced by previous rounds of violence were already dependent on foreign and local aid groups. Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was condemned early on in the Rohingya crisis after photos of World Food Programme (WFP) food packages were shared on her office’s Facebook page after apparently being seized from the Rohingya militants. Foreign aid groups said that made them a target of local hostility — and many have reined in or stopped their operations for safety reasons. Hundreds have been killed in violence since August 25, which has forced 420,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee army operations to Bangladesh. A further 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also been displaced, seeking shelter in monasteries and schools in and around Sittwe. There are fears tens of thousands of terrified Rohingya villagers are on the move inside Rakhine desperately short of basic necessities.



Leaving the caliphate: The struggle of one ISIS bride to get home



“No, Abu Bakr, leave it alone!” A woman shouts at her five-year-old son as he reaches out to pet a chicken that is penned into the corner of the warm, filthy room by jerry cans filled with water. Curly haired Abu Bakr ends up being roughly pulled away by his mother, 20-year-old Lebanese Nour al-Huda. The eldest of four – soon to be five, as Nour is pregnant – scowls but does as he’s told. He’s nicknamed for the leader of ISIS, Nour explains, before reflecting on the reason the chicken is there. “I am going home in two days,” she says, clearly delighted. “Maybe we’ll have the chicken to celebrate”. Her friend Fatima (not her real name), a Syrian with freckles and beautifully mascara’d eyelashes, draws a finger slowly across her veiled neck, miming a beheading. “Let’s slaughter it ISIS-style,” she says mischievously, at which Nour suffers from a laughing fit so severe she has to hug her growing belly. Nour looks much younger than 20. Although it may be expected that a girl who got married at 14 – and then lived in the capital of ISIS’s caliphate for three years – will look and act older than her real age. Her cheerfulness is not at all in keeping with the unpleasantness of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp she lives in or the experiences that have shaped her life so far, although that might be because she’s just had good news. Jilad, the camp’s leader, said on Thursday that Nour’s father had managed to arrange for his daughter and grandchildren to rejoin the family across the border in Lebanon.


The news makes Noor much luckier than the 15 other “ISIS wives“, as they are called by the rest of the residents of the IDP camp in Ain Issa, 45 miles (72km) north of Raqqa. Once the impenetrable heart of the so-called ISIS caliphate across Syria and Iraq, since the US-backed joint Arab-Kurdish campaign to drive fighters out of the city began in earnest in June, ISIS has been greatly weakened in Raqqa. Retreating jihadists leave improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and a sniper rear guard as they consolidate their shrinking territory under the constant threat of US-led coalition air strikes. Most fight to the death, some are captured: almost all leave behind brides and children. Unsure with what to do with the fighters’ families, officials at the Ain Issa camp have separated the “ISIS wives” from the rest of the residents, in a small compound accessed through the head office. Since Syria’s war began in 2011, the town has passed from the hands of the Syrian government, to Free Syrian Army rebels, to ISIS, to the control of the Kurdish-backed Raqqa Civic Administration. Once upon a time it was a regime cotton plant site, according to the sign that still hangs above the gated entrance. In the room in which we are talking there is a plastic picnic table piled high with nappies and other baby essentials, thin mattresses for sitting and sleeping and next to nothing else. A very small baby sleeps face down on one of them, next to Nour, while older children play and fight almost on top of him. Outside in the open-air corridor it is even more chaotic. The 16 women and their 32 children all live in just three rooms and a small concrete courtyard. It’s hot, dirty, and noisy as women shout at each other and their kids.


Several foreigners are among them, including a strawberry-blonde Turkish woman and a new arrival originally from the Netherlands. One blue-eyed woman nurses her half-Indonesian baby; the mix of languages and ethnicities could double as a diversity poster if not for the intense poverty, borne of an evil experiment. Most of the women tell a similar story: the caliphate wasn’t what they thought it would be. The wives claim their husbands were tricked into moving to Syria, or they were otherwise misled themselves. Without papers, proof or a trial for obvious wrongdoing, however, the foreign women in particular find themselves in a stateless legal loophole, detained against their will. One of their curious band – a dual French-Moroccan national- managed to leave the camp last week. She may have been rescued by the French embassy, but that seems unlikely given that France expects French female ISIS members captured during the battle for Mosul to face trial in Iraq rather than be extradited home. Most of those remaining think she has ended up detained elsewhere. Nour, from Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, is no different to her new-found sisters – except that she may really be going home. “I was only 17 when I came here,” she complained, twisting her thick mousey hair into a plait, then unbraiding it, then plaiting it again. “I was a kid, what did I know?”.


Moving to Syria had been her late first husband’s idea, Nour said. He was killed fighting in 2015; when pressed, she said she is not sad about his death. Since ISIS generally doesn’t tolerate singleness or widowhood in child-bearing women, pressuring them into remarrying, she quickly married a second husband – a Tunisian. He was also killed defending ISIS’ disintegrating caliphate. Although he is father to her youngest, and the baby she has on the way, Nour only speaks of him as “the Tunisian”, laughing when asked if she had any feelings for him at all. “Khalas,” she says, the versatile word in Arabic for something that is irreversibly done or over. “What does it matter? He’s dead, and I’m going home”. Nour is vague on the details of how her family has managed to secure her return. It appears she doesn’t really understand what’s happening – only that her father has somehow found her safe passage through President Bashar al-Assad‘s territory to Lebanon, or across the Kurdish-claimed areas of northern Syria to the Iraqi border. The arrangement is unheard of, although the camp manager confirms it’s happening. It remains to be seen whether the deal will work. “I’ll see you in Beirut,” I say, tucking a piece of paper with her father’s name and address into a shirt pocket. Nour claps her hands with excitement. “Yes! Like on Arab Idol. They say that at the end when a contestant gets through to the next round. God knows I’ve missed TV. “And my father. And my brothers,” she adds in the next breath. “I probably should have said I missed them more first”.

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