News Flash – 25 October 2018

National News



Boat to Shivaji Sea Memorial site capsizes off Colaba, 1 dead

One of the four boats, with 25 people on board, hit a rock and overturned.



Mumbai: Tragedy and deep embarrassment for the Maharashtra government marked the day work on the proposed Shivaji sea memorial was to begin. A boat carrying about 25 people to the site capsized midway, near Prongs Reef off the tip of Colaba, killing a 35-year-old chartered accountant from Santacruz. The state government, at the instance of Vinayak Mete, the chairman of the steering committee overseeing the memorial project, had organized a bhoomi pujan ceremony at the proposed site, which is a rock outcrop 2.4km off Marine Drive. About 250 people set sail between 3.30pm and 3.45pm from the Gateway of India on four boats—two speedboats and two big passenger boats. They included senior bureaucrats like chief secretary D K Jain, the chief minister’s personal secretary Bhushan Gagrani and Manoj Saunik (secretary of the public works department, which is executing the memorial project), junior state officials, politicians, journalists, Mete’s supporters, and other saffron loyalists. Around 4pm, the speedboat with Mete’s supporters, some from Beed, hit a rock. As water started gushing into the damaged vessel, panic ensued.



When the speedboat with saffron loyalists hit a rock, a few occupants jumped out, and then held on to its railings. Rescue boats arrived within 20 minutes and started pulling them to safety. One person was declared missing after some time. This was Siddhesh Pawar (35), a Santacruz resident who got married just five months ago. After a search of over three and a half hours, his body was fished out from inside the overturned boat. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said quick response from all agencies ensured that the accident did not turn into a big tragedy. He announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to Pawar’s next of kin. Chief secretary Jain said, “The Mumbai Maritime Board (MMB) will conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident”. Activists and environmentalists opposed to the project say Wednesday’s incident should serve as a wake-up call for the government, which should scrap the project or at least think of a site that can be approached safely. “We have repeatedly petitioned the government about the unfeasibility of the site shortlisted for the project. The site is inaccessible during the four monsoon months, when the waves are just too high for passenger boats. And on the other days, rules prohibit passenger boats from breaching the maritime baseline. The project site is ahead of the demarcated maritime baseline,” said Vice-Admiral (Retd.) IC Rao of APLI Mumbai, a citizen group.


Wednesday’s trip arrangements seemed to have been made in haste. The boats were overcrowded, said an eyewitness. There were simply too many people and the organizers seemed to be in a hurry to accommodate them all, he said. “It seemed something very big was at stake”. When the four boats were passing by Prongs Reef within a few minutes of one another, the speedboat which had Pawar hit a rock and got severely damaged. An eyewitness said that the boat was at great speed and passengers were scared of the consequences. Experts say the area around the reef is particularly dangerous as it has rocks which aren’t visible from the surface of the sea, and also a few ship and boat wrecks. Boats should ideally avoid that area, but even if they don’t, they should navigate the treacherous waters there slowly, said an expert. The reef is 4.4km from the Gateway and has a lighthouse. “The speed of the boat was very high and suddenly we heard a screeching noise and the boat came to a halt. The rear end had hit a rock. Water was coming inside at force,” said Balasaheb Jatal Patil, who had come from Beed to attend the event. He said that within minutes the boat was flooded up to people’s knees, and the passengers started jumping into the sea. “I could hear Pawar screaming for help. But no one was able to reach him. A relative of his, who was rescued, wanted to jump back to save him, but we didn’t allow him to do so as that would be perilous for him too,” said Patil. “I was so scared, I thought this was the end of my life. I also made a call to my family, telling them I may never return”. Two people sustained some injuries and also an excess ingress of water into their lungs and bodies.



Dengue stings more than usual, 20 cases in city, 86 in state in one day



Hyderabad: Contrary to the usual trend of the dengue season coming to an end in the month of October, this year the virus has become more active with 477 new cases being reported over the last fortnight. On Tuesday alone, 86 new cases were detected in the state, 20 of which were from Hyderabad city. Apart from Hyderabad city, a spurt in cases has also been recorded from Kothagudem, Nizamabad and Medchal. Typically, dengue season begins with the onset of monsoon in the month of June-July and subsides by the end of October. While last year the season extended well into the month of January, the dengue season is likely to extend far beyond the usual season this year as well, said experts. In fact, more dengue deaths have been recorded in the month of October than the last two months of this year, confirmed health authorities. Also, the severity of dengue cases seems to have increased, said doctors. “A peculiar thing being noticed this year is an unusual proportion of rashes. Also, in many cases, severe joint pains have been found to be persistent even after the dengue fever has subsided,” said Dr Rahul Agarwal, consultant general physician. Doctors also recount having many patients from a close vicinity, be it an entire family or roommates or immediate neighbours. “We are seeing many members from the same family coming in at almost the same time, which clearly hints at the lack of adequate sanitation in the immediate vicinity,” said a senior doctor.



Swine flu claims 3 more lives in Andhra Pradesh



Kurnool: Swine flu claimed three more lives in Kurnool district of AP in the last two days including two on Wednesday. According to Dr P Chandra Sekhar, medical superintendent at the Government General Hospital in Kurnool, a 27-year-old man from Shareen Nagar in Kurnool town was admitted with advanced swine flu symptoms a couple of days ago and he died on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, a 54-year-old man from Adoni and a 38-year-old woman from Peapully were also admitted in advanced stages of Swine flu and were placed on ventilator support as their condition worsened. Both of them passed away this evening.



As city celebrates, gangs clean out 28 empty homes


Kolkata: While the city celebrated its annual festival, thieves apparently had a free run in some neighbourhoods and the suburbs. Almost 30 petty crimes have been reported from Joka to Titagarh over the past 10 days, between Shashthi and Laxmi Puja. Even conmen seemed to have been at play, with a case being reported as recently as on Wednesday. But Lalbazar and other commissionerates claimed the figure was lower this festive season than that in the past few years, thanks to the sustained campaigns and greater precautions adopted by the residents of Kolkata, Salt Lake and the neighbouring pockets. All the thefts had a common trait: the families were away on a vacation or a brief holiday and the homes were targeted during the peak Puja time. The police claimed that at almost all the houses, the occupants did not leave the homes fully secure, and that gave the thieves an opportunity to break in and make away with valuables. While some thefts, especially a couple of them in the southern fringes of the city along with north Kolkata, have received attention of the top brass from Lalbazar, the police are convinced that organized gangs, possibly from South 24 Parganas, were involved. The cops said that of the 28-odd complaints received across Kolkata and suburbs during the festive season, four thefts at Survey Park, Panchasayer, Tangra and Chitpur were being given the most importance.


In the first case, Sandipan Kundu, a resident of Santoshpur Avenue, who left for a vacation to Sikkim on Shashthi, was informed by his neighbours on Nabami that his house had been burgled. He cut short his holiday and returned home on Saturday to find Rs 15,000 in cash and small gold and silver articles missing. From the images of the CCTV camera he had set up, the police spotted two men entering the house and even fiddling with the CCTV. At Panchasayer, an 80-year-old resident, Bithika Duttagupta, lodged a complaint that after she returned home following a short break between Shashthi and Nabami, she found Rs 7,000 and other valuables missing. At Tangra, the complaint was lodged by a resident, Annapurna Modak. Chitpur’s Sanghati Mukhopadhyay claimed the thieves targeted her money bag and laptop. The latest incident reported on Wednesday saw a government food outlet employee being duped in the Entally Market area. “The accused visited the shop around 9am and bought some items. He ordered a few other items. I asked another employee to arrange for those. As my colleague got the articles together, the accused asked for Rs 3,000 from him, saying he had paid Rs 5,000 at the counter. My colleague believed him and handed him the money and the accused walked away. He had not paid anything,” claimed victim Anup Saha, who said he would go to the police on Thursday. Locals claimed two more nonjobs were reported from the area, though the Entally police said they were yet to get any complaint.



Post-Puja viral attacks leave city under weather, trigger panic


Kolkata: Thousands of Kolkatans are down with a post-puja spate of viral diseases, including one that is leading to unexplained body rashes. With the dengue still on the prowl and symptoms being similar, it has led to a panic. At least three non-dengue viruses have struck, according to clinicians and though none is fatal, concurrent bacterial infections have often been leading to serious ailments. A spurt in the number of viral fever patients was triggered during the Puja. It coincided with the temperature fluctuation that followed cyclone Titli which struck four days prior to the festival. “This is the season when the mercury starts going up and down, leading to a spurt in viruses. Since the dengue outbreak persists, a panic has set in. Non-dengue viral symptoms are similar. So, dengue has to be ruled out first through an NS1 test. Seasonal viruses are extremely contagious, but rarely fatal unless the patient has an accompanying bacterial infection,” said consultant Arindam Biswas. Rhino virus, human meta-pneumo virus and influenza virus are likely to have struck, said doctors. It is difficult to identify a virus unless a test is done. The state, however, doesn’t have the facility. But it is the viral fever with body rashes that has had doctors worried. It is striking children more frequently. “The rash is leading to a dengue scare. But it’s neither dengue nor measles. So, the symptom is leaving us worried till dengue has been ruled out. Like dengue, the viruses are very severe this time with the fever persisting for a week. The accompanying symptoms like body ache, diarrhea and vomiting, too, have been very severe,” said Paediatrician Shantanu Ray.


The common viruses trigger similar symptoms which recede in 3-5 days, according to consultant P K Nemani. “But a bacterial infection can lead to complications. The elderly and children are vulnerable,” said Nemani. Those above 65 years of age and below 12 were susceptible to bacterial infections while suffering from viral fever. “A subsidiary infection could be dangerous unless it is detected early and treated with antibiotics. Many have required hospitalization to tide over the crisis period,” said Ray. Seasonal viruses are highly contagious so an outbreak is difficult to prevent in the pre-winter period, felt Belle Vue Clinic critical care consultant Samarjit Naskar. “These viruses are transmitted through sneeze and cough droplets which can travel six feet. Public places and transport usually help to spread them. The only option is to use handkerchiefs and not to touch objects with bare hands,” said Naskar. The post-puja period sees a spurt in viral outbreak since the festivities see large congregations which helps the spread, said a consultant. Most felt that the outbreak could continue for a month till the temperature fluctuation stops. “This is also the time when pollution shoots up. As the suspended particulate matter count rises, lung and respiratory disorders turn frequent. Coupled with the viral infection, these can complicate matters. I have come across several elderly patients who contracted pneumonia during a viral attack,” said Biswas.



Health department raises the Alarm as doctors err on treating fever


Chennai: The health department has raised the alarm after it found that nearly a third of patients with fever referred to government hospitals in the city by private doctors in the past few days developed complications, including kidney and lung failure, caused by faulty treatment. A late night audit by the department on Monday threw up multiple cases of wrong diagnosis and prescription by medical practitioners across the city, with some patients who complained of fever turning critically ill. The prescriptions that patients brought to the government hospitals showed that many of them, including children, were given analgesics and steroids for quick recovery or were overloaded with fluids and platelets. Administering steroids to patients with diseases such as dengue will lead to kidney failure and drop in platelet count, said Dr A T Arasar Seeralar, director of the Institute of Child Health. “Children with dengue may be dehydrated and may require IV fluids. In some cases, they may need platelets. But fluids should be given very slowly. Some doctors may rush fluids. It can cause serious complications, including lung failure,” said Dr Arasar. The director of public health, Dr Kolandaisamy, said it was shocking to find that even specialists were prescribing the wrong medication. “Children with simple seasonal fevers landed up in ICUs.


One patient with typhoid had to be wheeled into the theatre last week for an emergency surgery as the doctor failed to diagnose the disease despite textbook symptoms,” he said. “If we find wrong prescriptions or late referrals, a two-member committee will hold an inquiry. If they are convinced there is mismanagement, the state will file complaints with the state medical council,” Dr Kolandaisamy said. The health department circulated the “faulty” prescriptions among doctors’ bodies such as the Indian Medical Association and Association of Physicians of India for discussion along with a six-page advisory on management of fever cases. Doctors’ bodies said they would circulate the advisory and conduct refresher modules for all doctors. “We will be propagating the state protocol actively to avoid use of injectable analgesics and steroids. We are telling doctors to do a blood test on the third day and refer patients to bigger hospitals at an earlier stage if they don’t have adequate facilities,” said IMA state president Dr A Jayalal. The health department plans regular audit of all cases referred to government hospitals with complications such as dengue, H1N1 and typhoid. “The number of positive cases we receive this year is far less than 2017, but when we saw four back-to-back deaths from dengue and six from H1N1, we decided to check,” said health secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan.



A bridge too far: 20x commuters, same infra


Santragachhi: A day after a stampede on the foot overbridge at Santragachhi station claimed two lives and injured 12, things seemed to have changed at the station premises. On Wednesday, the station was looking cleaner, the staff seemed more disciplined and uniformed scouts and guides of South Eastern Railway (SER) were seen patrolling the overbridge across the sprawling railway yard, coaxing passengers to move towards the platforms instead of waiting on top with their luggage. A massive retinue of Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel also guided passengers to their designated platforms after announcements were made. Passengers were also asked not to cross the tracks but use the overbridge. If the knee-jerk reaction after the tragedy seemed too good to be true, closer scrutiny revealed that it indeed was. The problems are bound to come back even before the dust of the tragedy settles. Passengers were almost unanimous in saying that what happened on Tuesday evening could have happened any day. “That’s because the infrastructure in place is the same as that of 2001, when the overbridge was opened,” said a railway official. “At that time, only two mail trains used to halt at Santragachhi. Taking into account the local trains, the station used to handle 5,000 passengers a day. Now, the same station complex has 20 times the footfall, with the station serving 12 pairs of mail trains and more than 98 local trains. There is a second overbridge, but it connects only two platforms 5 and 6”.


One of the major mistakes identified by railway officials is delayed announcement. Most passengers wait for trains on the overbridge, not on the platform, as there is very little gap between announcements and arrivals. “If I wait at platform No. 6 for the train and the announcement is for platform 1, I will surely miss the train,” said Tinku Das, who came to see off his relatives. That’s the reason why the overbridge remains congested. In the absence of a ramp, a passenger needs to physically haul luggage also. “It is impossible for any passenger, carrying luggage, to rush from one platform to another. This is why he finds it easier to wait on the overbridge and keep track of announcements,” said Md. Kamal, president, South Eastern Railways Shop-owners’ Welfare Samiti. There is also a design flaw. The overbridge does not connect platform 6. One needs to walk to the end of the overbridge, get down and then walk up to platform 6. Most passengers don’t find this way and instead get down at platform 5 and walk across the line to access platform 6. Instead of manning the overbridge, RPF personnel are mostly busy catching these “jaywalkers” to penalize them. The overbridge is also used by locals, who are not passengers. It is the only bridge for residents living south of the yard. “If you don’t use the overbridge, you have to take a detour of 3km to use the Betor level crossing,” said a local resident.



AAI cleans drains, desilts river to prevent flooding at airport



Chennai: With monsoon around the corner, Airports Authority of India (AAI) has completed desilting of many water channels that crisscross the campus, connecting eastern and southern neighborhoods through Adyar river, and the space under the runway bridge to prevent flooding at Chennai airport. As part of its short-term measures to prevent floods, AAI has desilted some portion of the Adyar river. AAI has further agreed to pay Rs.60 lakhs to the PWD to desilt the stretch of the river upstream and downstream near the airport. “We have paid Rs.31.5 lakhs to the PWD as the first installment, and the balance will be paid when the work is completed,” said an official. “We have also bought two high-power pumps that can pump out 10lakh litres of water in an hour. We plan to buy two crane-operated pumps for which the tender is getting over,” he added. These pumps can be used to remove water stagnation caused in the drains that carry water from neighbourhoods and pass through the campus. “These drains get clogged faster as the water brings with it floating garbage and debris,” he said. As part of a long-term plan to prevent flooding, AAI has planned to install two sluice gates on the compound wall and install water barriers near critical installations like ILS antennas, DVOR (a navigational aid), radar and other equipment. This would ensure time to create a backup or take steps to protect the equipment before the water level rises. “These are part of the recommendations submitted by IIT-Madras, which studied the airport after the 2015 flood. The sluice gates will be ready in three months,” the official said. IIT-M has submitted a Rs.700 crores plan to protect the airport from floods. But AAI has written to them to scale it down and reduce the cost.



International News



Cathay Pacific hit by data leak affecting 9.4m flyers



Hong Kong: Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific said on Wednesday it had suffered a major data leak affecting up to 9.4 million passengers. The airline admitted data including passport numbers, identity card numbers, email addresses and credit card details was accessed. “We are in the process of contacting affected passengers, using multiple communications channels, and providing them with information on steps they can take to protect themselves,” Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg said in a statement on the airline’s website. “We have no evidence that any personal data has been misused.” Cathay said it had launched an investigation and alerted the police after an ongoing IT operation revealed the hack. Hogg also revealed 403 expired credit card numbers and 27 credit card numbers with no CVV were accessed. “The combination of data accessed varies for each affected passenger,” he said.

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