News Flash – 24 April 2018

National News



743 black spots in Maharashtra, 12,000 road deaths last year


MUMBAI: Maharashtra roads have 743 black spots, or accident prone zones, and witnessed more than 12,000 fatalities last year. It is learnt that 52 of these black spots are in Mumbai, with most of them in the suburbs. Launching the state-wide Road Safety Fortnight on Monday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis the government has adopted a three-pronged strategy—Enforcement, Education and Engineering (roads) —to curb accidents. “We have been successful to some extent in the past one year which saw a 10% dip in the number of accidents,” he said. “This is mainly due to road safety campaign being carried out not just during a fortnight, but 365 days of the year. In Mumbai, the e-challan system introduced by traffic police also helped a lot in curbing mishaps and disciplining motorists,” he said, adding that there are over 700 black spots across the state. Transport secretary Manoj Saunik later told TOI that the exact number of black spots in the state was 743. According to the data provided by the state government, 35,853 accidents (serious offence) were reported in 2017, as against 39,848 the year before—a drop of 10%. The number of fatalities also dipped from 12,883 in 2016 to 12,264 in 2017.


The CM expressed concerns over the increasing vehicular population, specially two-wheelers, in Mumbai and appealed to citizens to wear seatbelts and helmets for safety. In Mumbai, there are nearly 1,000 bikes per km of road. Fadnavis said there was an urgent need to create awareness among motorists on ‘No Honking’ to reduce sound pollution. He stated that use of technology will help prevent accidents on the Pune Expressway and also on the Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway in future. Transport minister Diwakar Raote said the Rs 161 crore collected as Road Safety Fund will be utilised for accident prevention measures. “We have created vehicle inspection facilities /brake test tracks at 35 RTOs and will introduce the same in 15 other RTOs soon to ensure that only road worthy vehicles are plying across state,” he said. Joint police commissioner (traffic) Amitesh Kumar said there would be more speed cameras, CCTVs for e-challans and breath analysers to reduce mishaps on Mumbai roads. “We also plan integrated traffic management system with signals being controlled by sensors and based on density of traffic to avoid congestion,” he added.



Child charred in afternoon fire at slum, hundreds left homeless

While the reason behind the fire was yet to be ascertained, it had spread rapidly due to the wind and an abundance of inflammable material.



NEW DELHI: A devastating fire swept through a large slum in east Delhi’s Mansarovar Park on Monday afternoon, killing a six-year-old girl, destroying over 300 shanties and leaving hundreds homeless. While the reason behind the fire was yet to be ascertained, it had spread rapidly due to the wind and an abundance of inflammable material. Fire officials said they received a call at 1.05pm after which 10 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. When the fire couldn’t be doused even after half an hour, 10 more tenders were pressed to action. The blaze was finally extinguished over an hour later. For some occupants, it was déjà vu. A similar fire at Seelampur a few years back had left them homeless. “I shifted to this place after my house in Seelampur was gutted. I had never thought that I would have to go through this all over again. I have lost everything and my daughter is missing,” said Petal, a slum dweller, who later found his daughter’s charred body. Another resident, Jai Singh, said all his life savings were reduced to ashes. He claimed that the situation could have been salvaged had the fire tenders arrived on time. Seventy-one-year old Jamila said she raised an alarm when she saw smoke emanating from one of the shanties. She claimed that by the time fire tenders arrived, the devastation had been total.


“Around 1pm, I started to choke because of the smoke. First, I thought someone had burned garbage outside my house,” Jamila, a widow who has a family of five to take care of, said. “I started screaming and alerted everyone. As I ran out with my son, I saw the roof collapse behind us,” she added. Services on the Delhi Metro’s Red Line (Dilshad Garden-Rithala) were suspended for more than one hour as a precautionary measure. “At 1.15pm, heavy smoke was reported to have originated from the nearby slums beneath the viaduct between Mansarovar Park and Shahdara metro stations. As a precautionary measure, train services were suspended between three stations between Dilshad Garden and Mansarovar Park during this period,” DMRC said in a statement. “Rest of the line remained unaffected. At 2.33pm, normal services were resumed after due clearances,” it added. “Although our metro train system is fireproof, we could not take chances and run the trains through smoke, which could have hampered the visibility as well. We suspended the operations the moment it occurred to us that it could pose some threat,” an official said. Police said they had registered a case and were trying to find out the cause of the fire. The affected families would be shifted to temporary tents, officials said.



Chennai man robs bank of Rs 6.4 lakh, arrested as gun abruptly fires

A customer helped nab Manish Kumar.



CHENNAI: It was a caper straight out of a heist film with a comic twist – up until a 22-year-old itinerant ice cream seller, having robbed a bank in Adyar of 6.35 lakh during business hours, armed with a pistol in each hand, found himself busted at a traffic halt after accidentally firing one of the guns. The armed robbery was anything but funny for everyone involved but at least one person turned out to be as daring as the perpetrator: Mohanraj, 26, a customer held at gunpoint during the stick-up, helped nab the robber, Manish Kumar, of Bihar, giving chase and ramming his motorcycle with his own bike at a traffic signal 500m from the bank. Investigators said Manish – slightly-built and just 5’5″, was wearing a white T-shirt with horizontal stripes and a full-face helmet when he entered an Indian Bank branch in Indira Nagar, Adyar, at 1.25pm – took less than 15 minutes to menace customers, staff and the manager at the bank at gunpoint and make away with the money from a cashier’s till in a sling bag. “The suspect went straight into the bank manager’s room, acting as if he wanted details about a loan,” an investigating officer said. “Seconds later, he was brandishing two pistols and herding the manager, four employees and six customers into a corner”. Manish, who investigators said had purchased the country made pistols in his home state, then led the manager at gun point to a teller’s cubicle and ordered a cashier to stuff all the cash in the registers into a bag. Fearing for their lives, the terrified bank employees and customers cooperated, the officer said.


“He calmly walked out of the bank with the money, got on a motorcycle and sped away, heading south on Rajiv Gandhi Salai (the IT Expressway),” the officer said. There was no Security guard on the premises at the time, he said, noting that this, and the fact that the bank had just one security camera, may have emboldened the suspect. Manish did not count on a customer having the courage to pursue him. Mohanraj, who had come to deposit a check in the bank, followed the robber on his motorcycle and spotted him at the Indira Nagar junction traffic light. “Mohanraj smashed his bike at speed against the suspect’s motorcycle, the impact causing the suspect to fall to the ground,” the officer said. “In a panic, the suspect reached for a gun, accidentally fired the weapon and then took off on foot. But the traffic policemen and a bystander caught him after a brief chase.” The accidental discharge of the pistol did not harm anyone, he said. Mohanraj later told TOI that the sight of the Manish Kumar’s pistols terrified everyone in the bank. Another customer, Poongavanam, said, “He seemed to be speaking to someone through a Bluetooth device inside the helmet,” he said. Investigators later discounted the possibility that Manish Kumar had an accomplice. “It does not appear from his cellphone call records that anyone else was involved in the robbery,” another police officer said. “We seized four bullets and two country-made pistols from the suspect,” a senior officer said.



International News



Van plows into Toronto crowd in ‘deliberate’ act, leaving 10 dead


TORONTO: A driver deliberately plowed his white Ryder rental van into a lunch-hour crowd in Toronto on Monday, killing 10 people and injuring 15 along a roughly mile-long (1.6-km) stretch of sidewalk thronged with pedestrians, police said. The incident – which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “tragic and senseless attack” – was one of the most violent in recent Canadian history. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders identified the suspect as Alek Minassian, 25, who he said had not previously been known to authorities. “The actions definitely looked deliberate,” he told a late-night news conference close to the site of the incident in the northern section of Canada’s biggest city, noting the van had been driven along sidewalks. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp, citing government officials, said Minassian was not associated with any organized militant group. Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, standing next to Saunders, said: “There would appear to be no national security connections”. The driver steered his vehicle toward people just before 1:30pm (1730 GMT). A Reuters witness saw at least two tarp-covered bodies at the site of the incident. The CBC aired a video it said was shot by a bystander that showed police arresting a suspect at the scene as he shouted: “Kill me” and pointed an unidentified object at an officer. The video later showed what appeared to be the same man lying down, being handcuffed. Ryder System Inc. spokeswoman Claudia Panfil confirmed that one of the company’s rental vehicles had been involved and said the company was cooperating with authorities. There has been a string of deadly vehicle attacks in the United States and Europe, including an October 31 attack in New York that killed eight. The Islamic State militant group encourages its supporters to use vehicles for attacks.


The tragedy in Toronto struck as Canada was still shaken by a highway crash in Saskatchewan earlier this month that took the lives of 16 people on a bus carrying a junior hockey team. “It was with great sadness that I heard about the tragic and senseless attack that took place in Toronto this afternoon,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities”. Last month, a former Canadian university student pleaded guilty to killing six men praying in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. In September, a Somali refugee was charged with attempted murder over allegations he ran down four pedestrians with a car and stabbed a police officer outside a sports stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. Monday’s incident occurred about 30 km (18 miles) from the site where Toronto is hosting a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers from Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, but had no noticeable effect on that event’s security. A man who gave his name as Ali told CNN he saw the van and that the driver appeared to have been targeting people. “This person was intentionally doing this, he was killing everybody,” the man said. “He kept going, he kept going. People were getting hit, one after another”. He said a number of the victims were older people and that he saw at one point a stroller fly into the air. At least one person was struck outside an Anglican church, north of where the van came to rest in front of a condominium tower. Some of the victims were struck in a public square popular with office workers on lunch breaks. Aerial photos of the scene posted on social media showed a food truck parked just a few feet away from where emergency workers transferred people onto stretchers.



Fire in China kills 18, injures 5; could be arson



BEIJING: Police in a southern Chinese city say a fire at a three-story building has killed 18 people and injured five others and that it was likely caused by arson. The public security bureau of Qingyuan City in Guangdong province said police received a call around half-past midnight on Tuesday about the fire. It said on its official account on the microblog site Sina Weibo that police, fire, health and other departments sent rescuers to the site and that the fire was put out at 12:55 a.m. Police say that according to preliminary investigations, the fire was caused by arson and that authorities were stepping up investigations.



14 Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan



KABUL: At least 14 Taliban militants were killed in military operations in two Afghan provinces, authorities said on Monday. “Six terrorists were killed and five others injured following an Afghan National Army (ANA) cleanup operation in Takhar province on Sunday,” Xinhua news agency quoted defence officials as saying. In the neighbouring Kunduz province, eight militants were killed and four others wounded after Afghan army and intelligence agency operatives launched an operation in Aqtash district. The victims included two Taliban commanders, the sources added.

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