News Flash – 23 October 2018

National News



BMC to shore up safety at beaches, hire 59 more ‘Professional’ Lifeguards

The move follows a government resolution directing the BMC to ensure adequate safety.



Mumbai: With several drowning incidents being reported at city beaches during monsoon, the Mumbai Fire Brigade has decided to get on board a professional agency to provide lifeguards and increase their number from 34 to 93. The lifeguards will be posted at six of the most-visited beaches including Girgaum, Dadar, Juhu, Versova, Gorai and Aksa shores. The civic body will spend Rs 10 crore to procure 59 new guards for whom wooden towers will be erected. The fire brigade at present has 11 permanent lifeguards and 23 serving on contractual basis. Apart from these guards, flood rescue teams and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are deployed on beaches on public holidays and high tide days. Now, the fire brigade has proposed that 59 lifeguards be outsourced from a private agency. Of the existing 34 lifeguards, 11 will work with the new ones and the rest will supervise all of them. A senior civic official said, “A government resolution has directed that beaches should be adequately protected so that there are no drownings. Following the same, we have moved to hire the services of a professional agency who will depute experts. The 93 lifeguards will work in two shifts”. “Depending on the length of the beach, the number of lifeguards to be deployed will be decided. They will be trained at a government institute and will carry life-saving equipment like binoculars, whistles and jet skis. In case of drownings, lifeguards will be expected to swim up to 200 metres inside the sea,” added the official. The proposal for appointing the agency will be tabled before the civic standing committee for an approval on Wednesday.



6-hour runway closure hits last-min flyers


Mumbai: The airport will remain closed for six hours on Tuesday for pre-scheduled runway maintenance work. While airlines have cancelled or rescheduled flights, the closure is expected to hit last-minute air ticket buyers, especially those who need to fly out or arrive into the city in the evening. Both the main and secondary runways will remain closed between 11am and 5pm. At most airports, afternoon usually experiences leaner air traffic than early morning and evening hours, during which traffic peaks. “But since Mumbai airport is congested, the afternoon time slot is not as lean as it used to be till some years ago,” said an air traffic controller. Passengers booked on evening departures out of Mumbai can expect delays, with flights scheduled between 5pm and 7.30pm, to be the worst hit. The pinch though would be felt by flyers who would need to buy an air ticket on an emergency to fly out of the city in the afternoon or later. Given that its peak travel season, airfares out of Mumbai have climbed, though on Monday, airfares for Tuesday travel hadn’t skyrocketed. The cheapest, all-inclusive one-way fare to Delhi on an evening flight started at Rs 6,000, while that to Bangalore cost Rs 5,500. On Kolkata flights, among the expensive routes out of Mumbai, the cheapest evening one-way fare began at Rs 9,700. Goa one-way was expensive at Rs 6,500, while fare for Wednesday travel was Rs 3,800. “Since it’s only a one-day runway closure, airfares haven’t been hit greatly,” said an airline official. Next year, Mumbai airport will be closed for six hours thrice a week between February 7 and March 30.



At 4,700, Maharashtra tops in Dengue cases, Odisha second


Pune: With 4,667 recorded cases, Maharashtra has earned the dubious distinction of having maximum dengue reports in the country this year, which health activists have blamed on the “collective failure of administration at various levels”. The latest data of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBCP) revealed that Maharashtra recorded maximum (4,667) dengue cases till September 30 this year — much higher than Odisha which occupies second spot with 3,883 cases. Kerala at third spot, recorded 3,660 cases, followed by Andhra Pradesh (3,314), Himachal Pradesh (3,303) and Rajasthan (3,022). “This reflects the collective failure of administration, besides lack of intra-departmental coordination and a disregard for carrying out basic vector-control and anti-larval measures,” health activist Sanjeev Dabhade said. He added state and civic health staffers were not carrying out weekly surveillance and antilarval work effectively. “Entomological surveillance is the gold standard to prevent spread of dengue, which is often neglected or done halfheartedly,” he said. Dismissing this claim, state entomologist Mahendra Jagtap said, “The screening and detection work in Maharashtra is robust and transparent. We detect, treat, record and report every patient diagnosed with dengue in the state. That’s why the dengue disease burden in Maharashtra is always on the higher side”. However, he added that the number of dengue deaths have reduced significantly due to early diagnosis and treatment.


“The Union health ministry’s report shows that there were 7,829 cases and 65 deaths in Maharashtra during the same period (January 1 to September 30) last year. The cases and deaths have dropped to 4,667 and 18 respectively in the same period this year,” Jagtap said. Under optimal condition, the life cycle of dengue causing Aedes aegypti mosquito can be as short as 7-10 days. The health staff deployed by state for surveillance work is supposed to monitor house and container index by carrying out house-to-house surveys every 15 days. They are trained to keep the indices at zero and not let it exceed the 10% mark. “If it exceeds the 10% mark, the health staff should inform the medical officer in charge of the area, who is supposed to intensify surveillance to ensure destruction of mosquito-breeding sites, while taking up a door-to-door survey to identify people down with fever,” a state health official said. While carrying out the survey, workers are supposed to sensitize and educate people about how to prevent mosquito breeding in and around their dwellings. “The health staff is often found to be lax in one and or more of these parameters of surveillance, resulting in high number of dengue cases,” the official said. In India, dengue outbreaks have been reported since the 1950s. Data provided by NVBDCP and earlier publications of Pune-based National Institute of Virology show that dengue has been endemic in 16 states since then.



Bhalswa landfill continues to simmer as city battles poor air


New Delhi: Even as the capital’s air quality has become a cause of concern these days, remaining mostly ‘poor’ but tending towards the ‘very poor’ level, a toxic mass of polluting particles is being released into the air from the Bhalswa landfill in northwest Delhi. On Monday, the fire that started on Sunday, was still smouldering and sending thick smoke into the air. The fire brigade was at the spot and trying to douse the embers. Over 13 fire tenders and a dozen trunkful’s of construction and demolition waste (C&D) have been used to contain the fire. Often, to control a methane fire at landfills, as in Bhalswa, the authorities use construction debris rather than water because it is more prudent to fill up the spaces where the gas gathers. However, overuse could create methane pools that can lead to explosions. “The fire was doused on Monday afternoon and the situation is now under control. We used construction waste to curb it,” claimed a senior official of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. The 40-acre landfill was declared exhausted in 2006, but the non-availability of land for a replacement site has led to the corporation continuing to use it to dump municipal waste. The landfill site has also crossed the permitted safe height allowed by the environment ministry by at least 30 metres. It experiences fires most frequently among the three landfills, the others being Ghazipur and Okhla.


Following the trash slide at the Ghazipur landfill last year, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had decided to use an open plot in Rani Kheda for dumping garbage. However, the protests of the residents there led to the cancellation of the measure. The civic body has finalised the tender for the erection of a 15MW waste-to-energy power plant on a 12-acre site near the landfill in the hope that this will help diminish the quantum of waste requiring dumping. “The idea is to ensure that the garbage is processed on a daily basis and only the matter not utilised by the waste to-energy plant is dumped in the landfill,” said a civic official. Similar plants are in operation in Ghazipur, Okhla and Narela-Bawana. The reclamation plan for the Bhalswa landfill site was turned down by the civic body because the project entailed an expenditure of Rs 900 crore. It was decided instead to install a methane extractor plant to pipe off the inflammable gas from the garbage heap before turning the whole into a green space by covering the humongous mound with layers of soil and seeding it with grass. The official added, “We had earlier planned to give the material from the Bhalswa landfill site to the National Highways Authority of India for use in road construction, but a study established that the landfill’s content had zero calorific value and so was not good for use in road construction projects”.



Case against Security firm



Bengaluru: Police have registered a case against a private security agency that provided armed guards to self-proclaimed social activist Muthappa Rai. The action comes after photographs of Rai performing Ayudha Puja to at least half-a-dozen guns and pistols went viral on social media. Rai appeared before the Central Crime Branch on Saturday, along with his bodyguards and K Vasantha Poovaiah, owner of the security agency. Police found that Poovaiah has been running the agency without permission from the Internal Security Division (ISD).



As Gandhi Hospital brims, Health dept. to set up Swine Flu centre at OGH



Hyderabad: With the swine flu ward at Gandhi Hospital, where complicated cases of swine flu are being rushed from across the state, chock-a-block with patients, the state health department has now planned to set up another specialty nodal centre at the Osmania General Hospital. Also with a three-fold jump in cases, the health department authorities have pressed into action nodal swine flu teams for quick screening of patients and arranging logistics. The nodal centre at OGH will accommodate patients who develop severe respiratory stress along with other red flag symptoms of swine flu like breathlessness, chest pain, drowsiness, fall in blood pressure, sputum mixed with blood and bluish discoloration of nails in addition to fever and cough. As the condition of such patients can progress rapidly to pneumonia and even lead to cardiac failure, such patients need intensive care. While all district hospitals are equipped to handle swine flu patients who are stable, nodal centres are meant for tackling complicated cases.


In fact, if the number of cases continue to rise further, all six teaching hospitals in the state might require to be upgraded to nodal centres. Apart from the nodal centre coming up at OGH, two more nodal centres are currently under consideration to deal with the alarming rise in the number of cases. These are likely to come up at Fever Hospital and Warangal. “Ventilators have been made available at the special ward at OGH. We are upgrading more hospitals, which have the intensive care (ICU) facility, to nodal centres for handling complicated cases. A round of intensive training has been completed for a few centres last week,” said Dr K Shankar, director, Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM). Meanwhile, health authorities have not only sounded an alert and sent an internal set of advisories and recommendations to all government hospitals two weeks back, teams have also been trained at various hospitals to man the isolation wards.



GSI designs app-based landslide warning for Darjeeling villages


Kolkata: People in the three most landslide-prone villages in the country will now be alerted by WhatsApp messages and sirens on phone apps at the slightest signals of landslides. The Geological Survey of India has developed a “people-centric” Landslide Early Warning (LEW) for Giddapahar, Paglajhora and 14th Mile villages, which it had earlier marked among the country’s most landslide-prone zones. The LEW is connected to mobile apps for fast and mass dissemination. The system has been installed by GSI in the chosen villages, all in Kurseong block of Darjeeling, along with the district administration. The system has started working. The loss of life and property in the three villages due to landslides since 2003 has been immense and hence GSI decided to install the system here first. “Most landslides are rainfall-triggered and earlier we had a top-down system, where the administration was alerted first and then it trickled down to the population. But we wanted to change this because we thought that a bottom-up approach, where possible victims are alerted as soon as there is a trigger, will save more lives,” said Ashish Nath, director of GSI.


The villages are located over the crown of an active rock slide, which reactivated several times in the two decades. The houses and grounds have developed cracks and show signs of active mass movement, he added. Shallow, fast-moving rainfall-induced landslides are one of the most common that kill several people every year in these villages and that had induced the GSI to study the pattern of landslides. There are 18 such zones that the GSI has marked as extremely vulnerable and the three Darjeeling villages, where the warning system has been installed, top that list. The area has been studied using the latest In-SAR technology (Interferometric synthetic aperture radar), used for remote sensing, by putting five corner reflectors, rainfall threshold analysis for landslide initiation within the Kurseong area and finally the results culminated into development of the LEW.



Monsoon maladies: 50 dengue, 20 H1N1 cases daily across TN


Chennai: At least 50 cases of dengue and 20 cases of H1N1 are diagnosed among the 5,000-plus patients who visit hospitals across the state every day complaining of fever. And health experts fear a spike in these numbers once the rain begins. Most hospitals in Chennai and bordering areas of Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts are seeing an increase in admissions due to fever. On Monday, at the state-run Institute of Child Health, there were more than 27 children with dengue. There was also an increase in H1N1 cases and other respiratory ailments, said hospital director Dr A T Arasar Seeralar. The city, which now has nearly three-fourths of the fever cases in the state, usually sees a spike in monsoon ailments from September. “This year, it has affected a lot of children. Besides mosquito-borne ailments, hospitals are beginning to see increase in respiratory disorders such as bronchitis and pneumonia,” he said. Hospitals are also beginning to see two cases each of leptospirosis and typhoid, caused by contaminated water or food. Private hospitals have reported an increase in fever cases, most of them children. Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital has 15 cases of dengue and about five H1N1 cases. Hospital medical director Dr S Balasubramanian said the facility has been reporting all positive cases to the health authorities. “As a policy we don’t test outpatients for dengue or H1N1. We give them medications to reduce fever and other complications,” he said. While there are cases reported among adults — the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital had about four dengue cases among 50 patients admitted for fever on Monday – what has left pediatricians worried about dengue this time is that the disease disrupts immune system and is causing cardiac arrest and brain swelling.


“We are studying the number of patients who died because of myocardial dysfunction and encephalopathy,” said Dr Arasar. The state public health department will follow up on dengue cases to track the source of infection. “We had given a three-day deadline to government and private organisations to clean up surroundings to prevent mosquito breeding. If public places such as theatres, religious places and parks are not clean we will initiate action against them,” said director of public health Dr K Kolandaiswamy. Besides cleaning up the place and collecting a fee, the department will slap fines. The state authorities will meet residents’ welfare associations, hotel and mall owners to sensitize them about the need to remove scrap and unused items from their premises. The state is advocating hand hygiene to prevent H1N1 infection. “At least 30% of patients with H1N1 have history of travel to neighbouring states,” he said. “We are telling doctors to start patients with fever, sore throat, running nose, watery eyes and other clinical symptoms on oseltamivir even before the test,” he said. Health secretary J Radhakrishnan said officials will meet members of the state pharmacy and druggist associations. “We will ask them to notify patients with fever coming for medications without meeting doctors. Action will be taken against druggists who distribute antibiotics and other scheduled drugs over the counter because it delays right therapy and causes death,” he said.



International News



America goes crackpot over $2.2 billion Jackpot

FEELING LUCKY: A man reaches for his Mega Millions tickets hours before the draw of the jackpot, at a store in California.



Washington: From water cooler chatter to elevator small talk, it is the subject du jour. A record $2.2 billion-plus is up for grabs in two American lotteries this week. And just so you know — foreigners and non-residents are eligible to buy and win the lotteries, although they will be subject to different tax laws. But just so you also know: you have greater chances of getting struck by lightning (one in million), getting killed by a hippopotamus (one in 2.5 million), and having identical quadruplets (one in 15 million), than winning one of the two lotteries at stake, Mega Millions or Powerball, which come in at approximately one in 300 million chance. Still, millions of Americans are streaming into gas stations and convenience stores to slap down anything from a couple of bucks to hundreds of dollars, often by way of office pool, to take a shot at the improbable, fueled by hope, dream, and outright fantasy. Both the principal US lotteries, Mega Millions and Powerball, have rolled over for several weeks now with no winners, resulting in what is a $40 million initial prize for a twice-a-week draw ballooning to more than $1.6 billion for Mega Millions and $600 million for Powerball, for a combined $2.2 billion (approx. Rs 16,000 crores). After sundry federal and state taxes and fees, the winner can have expected to get about 60% of the payout if he or she accepts it in one lump sum, instead of the option of taking it in equal instalments over 30 years. For Mega Millions, players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number of 1 to 25 (for eg 12 34 57 65 69 and 12).


With so many combinations, the odds of nailing the winning number right now is said to be one in 302 million. Powerball works along the same lines. The last time somebody hit the Mega Millions was July 24, when an office pool in Silicon Valley won the $543 million jackpot. The jackpot reset at $40 million for the next drawing and has been soaring ever since, each week’s failure to pick the winning number ballooning the overall prize money by tens of millions of dollars. In fact, it turns out that lottery officials tweaked things to make it even tougher to win and ramp up the prize money fearing that the relatively modest but more frequent prizes in the $100 million range was resulting in “jackpot fatigue”. Lottery officials banked on the fact that when the jackpot grows to an absurdly high figure, even skeptical players will buy tickets. They figured right. The story has been done to death before – even without reporters winning the lottery – and it does not have a happy ending. Most lottery winners’ lives end in disaster – even death – as they are overcome by misfortune, not to speak of friends and relatives who come out of the woodwork, along with conmen and tricksters. Still, Americans continued to chase the jackpot dream. In 2016, Americans spent more than $80 billion on lotteries, eclipsing the combined total of what they spent on movies, video games, books, music and sports tickets. It dropped to below $77 billion in 2017, but expect an uptick in 2018 with the ongoing billion-dollar bonanza.

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