News Flash – 23 January 2018

National News



Bandra blaze kills a toddler, leaves 4-year-old sister critical



MUMBAI: In yet another major blaze in the city, a toddler was killed and her sister left in a critical condition following a fire inside a room in a commercial building premises at Carter Road, Bandra, on Monday afternoon. The room where the flames are known to have erupted is prima facie illegal, said civic officials. The children showed signs of severe suffocation due to smoke. The fire reportedly started in the room erected above the pump room of Shoeb Manzil, which was occupied by society watchman Shankar Dhanu (24), wife Sita and daughters Debi, aged a year-and-a-half, and four-year-old Uma. The children were resting unattended at home when the blaze took place. Shankar was out on duty and Sita had gone to buy vegetables. A fire engine and an ambulance were rushed to the structure that houses an SBI branch on the ground floor and a gym on the second. Shankar, who was at Holy Family Hospital where the children were taken, told TOI: “I had bought a battery-operated Chinese electronic toy for the children a few days ago, which had been kept for charging. I think the fire might have originated there. By the time my wife returned from the market, the fire had spread to the entire house”.


Sita said she had come to Mumbai from Nepal with her children just two months ago to live with her husband. A local from the area said Shankar had been a watchman in the building for the past seven years and he also did odd jobs like washing cars of residents. Firemen alleged police were initially hesitant to lodge a case. Ashish Shelar, local MLA who reached the spot within minutes of the incident, tweeted: “Prima facie appears to be an illegal structure. I visited the spot and the hospital. Have asked the immediate inquiry into the incident and also criminal FIR as the guilty should be punished for the loss of young girl’s lives (sic)”. Sharad Ughade, H-West Ward’s assistant municipal commissioner, said they have launched an inquiry. “The building appears to be very old. We are probing the case. However, it appears that the structure where the watchman lived is illegal.” Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said the children were rushed to a hospital before the fire brigade arrived. “Using a pump room as residence is illegal and hence we have directed the concerned nominated officer to lodge a police complaint against society office bearers.” The cause of fire is being probed.



3 reasons why Delhi’s on high alert



NEW DELHI: It’s a busy week ahead for security agencies in the city: if Republic Day and the Asean summit didn’t already have them on their toes, there’s the added issue of the release of “Padmaavat” . The capital has been put on a high alert for the week. Sources revealed that there were multiple intelligence inputs of three armed men being headed towards Delhi. While the first input came two weeks ago and was ruled out, two more followed, with the same content but from different sources. This has forced cops to dig deeper. As a result, Delhi Police is taking unprecedented measures to sanitise important areas. Not only are manholes being locked, but also stickers are being pasted on them. The command centre, C4i, located at police headquarters, is keeping a close watch on crowded markets and vital installations. The presence of 10 heads of states for the Asean summit has prompted the setting up of a massive security ring around the capital, with Delhi Police, paramilitary forces, intelligence agencies and armed forces deploying their personnel. A major challenge for the cops will be to coordinate the movements of the heads of states to the venue at Rajpath.


The stage erected for seating the guests is around 100ft wide — three times the usual aide — and will be covered by bulletproof glasses from all sides. Police said the guests would stay at three five-star hotels along Sardar Patel Marg and Mathura Road. Police would strive to keep traffic disruptions to the minimum around these areas. The security unit of Delhi Police, which will accompany each leader with a convoy of 8-9 cars, has been briefed about the synchronised movements. Cops have been conducting drills during peak hours. On January 26, the guests will reach Rashtrapati Bhavan from where they will proceed to Rajpath around 9.35am. The arrival of each head of state will be staggered. Snipers and spotters from NSG and special forces will be positioned at strategic locations around the venue to keep an eye on suspicious elements. Visitors have been asked to be seated at least three hours before the event starts. Special arrangements have been made to prevent unnecessary snarls.



Digital upgrade: 54 stations under SCR set to log in to Wi-Fi soon



SECUNDERABAD: Ahead of the March-2018 deadline that the Centre has targeted to make 600 railway stations across the country Wi-Fi enabled, RailTel Corporation of India, in tandem with Google, is on a war-footing to extend free Internet access to 54 ‘A’ and ‘B’ category stations under the six divisions of South Central Railway. Wi-Fi facilities are available at 216 stations in the country at present. The project to bring stations under SCR under this ambit, kicked off in 2016-17 fiscal when five ‘A1’ class stations – Hyderabad, Kacheguda, Secunderabad, Tirupati and Vijayawada – got the Wi-Fi facility. SCR has 31 ‘A’ category stations, from where the revenues each year hover between Rs 8 crore and Rs 60 crore. Of these, 15 stations are equipped with Wi-Fi. Among these are Anakapalle, Aurangabad, Eluru, Kazipet junction, Guntur junction, Nellore, Rajahmundry, Tenali junction, Bhimavaram Town, Warangal and Kakinada Town, to name a few. Now, SCR is hoping to install Wi-Fi in the remaining 16 stations, including Anantapur, Cuddapah, Gudur junction, Guntakal junction, Nagarsol, Nizamabad, Ongole and Raichur among others in the first phase. There are 38 ‘B’ category stations under SCR, which earn between Rs 4 crore and Rs 8 crore annually. Passengers commuting through stations like Begumpet, Adilabad, Bidar, Lingampally, Machilipatnam, Mahboobnagar, Mahbubabad, Nalgonda, Gooty junction, Narsapur, Nandyal, Kamareddi and Chittor etc. are still waiting for Wi-Fi facility. Officials say all these stations will be Wi-Fi enabled within a year. For now, they are focused on implementing the project in ‘A’ category stations.



2 die as fire reduces civic market to ashes


KOLKATA: Two persons were charred to death in a late night blaze that gutted over 200 shops and a bank branch in Dum Dum‘s Gorabazar civic market. More than 30 fire tenders battled for over 12 hours before the flames were finally doused. Preliminary inspection pointed to a possible short circuit triggering the fire. It was around 1.35am on Monday that a security guard rushed into Dum Dum police station and alerted the cops about the fire in the market barely 100 metres away. By the time policemen reached the spot, the fire had ignited shops stocked with plastic items. Locals armed with buckets tried to splash water on the flames in a futile attempt to douse it before it hit the thatched shed. Once the shed caught fire, the flames began to spread fast, fueled by swirling winds as well as inflammable goods stocked in shops. The first fire tender reached around 2.30pm. Thereafter, more fire tenders were requisitioned through the night. While many workers and labourers who sleep in the market managed to flee, two tea stall workers — Vicky Shaw (22) and Sunil Shaw (35) — were engulfed by the flames. The charred bodies of the two tea stall workers were recovered late on Monday morning. Fish trader Parimal Das was lucky to escape. “I was sleeping inside my shop on the first floor with the shutters rolled down. I was woken by loud thuds on the shutter and heard someone shout, urging me to come out immediately,” Das said, recounting how he rolled up the shutter in a daze and saw the raging flames leap up. The casualty figures could have been higher had the fire leapt to the adjoining Harijan Basti. But, mercifully, the winds did not blow the fire its way.


But the flames spread eastward and away from the access point, making it difficult for firemen to combat it. “The biggest challenge was arranging continuous water supply as the large pond near the market is almost dry and is being desilted. We had to draw water from a small pond around 400m from the spot,” said a fire official. The fire, fueled further by all kinds of inflammable items stocked in shops engulfed a UCO Bank’s branch on the first floor and a garment shop on the second. As gas cylinders stored inside restaurants blew up, many residents from nearby quarters vacated their homes. “At one point of time, we feared the fire would burn down our homes. So we evacuated after gathering whatever possessions we could lay our hands on in a hurry,” said Subba Singh, who fled home with his family. Although the fire was brought under control by 9am, it took around 12 hours for the fire tenders to douse the flame completely. Locals on Mon-day alleged that a prompter response from fire stations could have restricted the damage. Prima facie, the fire appears to have been caused by a short circuit. Municipality officials claimed they had warned shop owners about the potential dangers of hooking and blamed it for the mishap. “Wish shop owners had paid heed to the advice,” said state IT minister and local MLA Bratya Basu. He has convened a meeting of the market stakeholders and police on Tuesday to take stock of the situation. “The primary target is to rebuild the market and provide relief to traders who lost everything in the fire,” he said.



Microchip to guard against cyber attack



CHENNAI: A computer may be unsafe unless there is a good anti-virus software that burrows into the system and destroys files containing virus. But soon a tiny piece of hardware would be able to do the job of an anti-malware program. A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) has developed a microprocessor chip that will be able to protect computers, tablets and mobile phones from being hacked. And, eventually, it could replace anti-virus software. The microprocessor called Shakthi T has a security feature that detects malicious software like WannaCry, which gets unauthorised access to a system’s memory, and stop it from gaining access to its stored data. The team is in the process of developing software tools for the microchip. The team from the department of computer science and engineering has developed a prototype of Shakthi T, as one of the variants of Shakthi, a series of different microprocessors. Professor V Kamakoti said the new processor works on a concept called tagged instruction architecture. It will have a software, in the form of instructions, that will control the way a computer system behaves to any command or instructions given to it. Usually when a user clicks on a malware program that comes in the form of a link or an attachment in an email, it causes the program to run, get unauthorised access to memory locations in the system and encrypt the stored data. When replaced with the new microprocessor, it will immediately detect the malware program and guard it from being executed while also protecting the memory from being hacked.


“Hackers usually take cognizance of the ignorance among the developers of applications, operating systems and the hardware about each other and exploit it. That is why apps become vulnerable to attacks. What we have done is tightening up the basic hardware itself, so it can support both the OS and the applications,” Kamakoti explained. “Our hardware will be an aid to a software designer, so that he can exploit this feature and make the system more secure”. Assistant professor Chester Rebeiro said, with their new enhanced processor, a computer system or a mobile phone will after a while not require any additional software to protect from being hacked. “We are making a fundamental change to the hardware. We need to redesign the operating system and the applications that go with it,” he said. The specialised processors would help in safeguarding critical applications including the military. “The hardware we have developed will retrofit the security in the system because in five years down the line, security will be a primary feature and information security is going to be a prime problem,” Kamakoti said.



International News



Death toll in Syria’s Afrin climbs to 18

A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter looks through the scope of a rocket launcher at a monitoring point near the Syrian village of Qilah, in the southwestern edge of the Afrin region on Jan 22, 2018.



BEIRUT: The death toll from a Turkish offensive in the Afrin region of northwestern Syria stands at 18 civilians, including women and children, the spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia alliance said on Monday. An additional 23 people have been wounded in the offensive, SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel added in a statement circulated on an instant messaging group run by the SDF. The SDF includes the Kurdish YPG militia – the stated target of the Turkish attack.



Several injured in stampede at Morocco-Spain border



RABAT: Several people were injured, at least one seriously, during a stampede Monday on the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, authorities and a rights group said. At least three were injured on the Spanish side, including a man who was hospitalised in “a very serious condition”, Melilla police said. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said 11 people were injured on the Moroccan side. The stampede took place at the Barrio Chino border post, which is reserved for pedestrians who carry merchandise across the border on foot, said Omar Naji, an AMDH official based in nearby Nador. “Without prior warning, the crowd rushed… on the entrance turnstiles to Melilla” from the Moroccan side, Melilla’s police said in a statement. The border post was closed “pending a return to order and normality at the entrances from Morocco,” they said. Thousands of people, mainly women, work as porters transporting goods across Morocco’s borders with Melilla and Ceuta, another pocket of Spanish territory on the North African kingdom’s Mediterranean coast. The porters often carry loads much heavier that their own weight strapped to their backs.


Recent months have seen several sometimes deadly stampedes at the Ceuta crossing. Last week, two women died in a stampede at the Tarajal II crossing for pedestrians between Ceuta and the Moroccan border town of Fnideq. Last year, at least four female porters were trampled to death in crushes at the same border crossing. It is estimated that around 15,000 female porters tread the route between Ceuta and Morocco, even if the daily number is lower after the Spanish authorities established a limit of 4,000 people per day. The two enclaves, which have the only major land borders between the European Union and Africa, enjoy the status of “free ports”, with smuggling of consumer goods largely tolerated by the authorities. Rights groups have repeatedly denounced the work as “humiliating”, saying it is tantamount to trafficking tolerated by the authorities. Watchdogs say the women are being exploited by powerful interests.



Tokyo gets first ‘heavy snow’ alert in four years

People cross a street during a snowfall in Tokyo on January 22, 2018.



TOKYO: Japan‘s weather agency on Monday issued a heavy snow warning for Tokyo for the first time in four years, urging people to go home early amid fears of public transport chaos. Scores of domestic flights departing from and arriving at the Japanese capital were scrapped due to the snow, while some regional trains were also cancelled. Japan’s northern regions frequently see heavy blankets of snow but such weather is rare in Tokyo. And with the snowfall expected to get heavier, Tsumoru Matsumoto, the agency’s chief forecaster, urged people to cut short their working day. “There will be heavy snow this evening” in Tokyo, Matsumoto said, warning that “the snow is likely to affect public transport” when the evening commute begins. Large crowds battled through snow at Shinjuku, the world’s busiest train station, as the nightly rush hour began.


One Twitter user complained it was impossible to move in Shinjuku as it was so packed. The weather agency only issues a heavy snow alert when there are fears there could be damage to property or disruption to traffic. “In Tokyo, we also warn of heavy snow if the snow is expected to accumulate more than 10 centimeters (4 inches) in 12 hours,” Sakiko Nishioka from the weather agency told AFP. The last time the alert was issued, in February 2014, Tokyo saw 27 centimeters of snow. The country’s northern regions that often see heavy snow have a higher bar for the warning. This prompted some mockery on Japanese social media, with one user noting “public transport is paralysed with such little snow in Tokyo and a flood of people cannot go home. “People in Asahikawa (in Hokkaido) live as if the snow didn’t exist”.

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