News Flash – 26 April 2018

National News



13 children killed in bus-train collision in Uttar Pradesh

The accident site in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh



NEW DELHI: As many as 13 children were killed this morning when the school vehicle they were in collided with a moving train at an unmanned rail crossing near Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, reported Times Now. Eight students were injured in the accident. Between 20 and 30 children were traveling in the school vehicle. The accident occurred at a rail crossing in Dudhi near Kushinagar town. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath expressed his deepest condolences, and directed the district administration to provide all help and medical aid to the injured. He also declared an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakhs and directed an inquiry into the cause of the accident. This is the second accident this month involving a school vehicle. On April 9, 23 children and four adults accompanying them were killed when the driver lost control of the school bus and it fell into a 100-metre deep gorge at Malkwal area in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.



Pollution check: 50 cycle stations soon in Delhi


NEW DELHI: New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has awarded the work to develop50 cycle stations under the “bicycle sharing” project to offer people an alternative way of commuting. The cycle stations will rent cycles starting at Rs 10 per hour, from where people can drop it off at any other station. Senior officials claimed that the idea is to encourage non-motorised mode of transport and provide an alternate way to control the rising level of pollution. The Delhi Master Plan 2021 has suggested cycle tracks on all roads but in the current scenario, hardly any dedicated cycle tracks can be seen across the city. NDMC chairman Naresh Kumar said that private organisations have been made a part of this project and all important places under the jurisdiction will be linked. “We will develop 50 stations in the first phase, and will expand it further, based on reviews for the first phase. The project will be initiated on ground by mid-May,” said Kumar. The council is planning to link places like metro stations, office complexes, markets etc., where the footfall is high. Connaught Place will see multiple cycle stations connecting the outer and inner circle. “Metro stations, office complexes, market and tourist’s places will be linked in the first phase, and cycle tracks will also be developed gradually,” he said.


Kumar pointed out that taking a cue from Noida, footpaths and service lanes will be used as cycle tracks. “The cycles can be taken from a station and people can deposit them at any station near their destination. It will be beneficial for both their health and the environment. Cycling is a habit and these projects will help bring behavioural changes in people, which is the major idea behind this project. We have taken example from Noida, and will develop service lanes and footpaths for cyclists,” said Kumar. The Mysuru City Corporation was the first city in the country to introduce public bicycle sharing service in 2016, followed by Chandigarh in February 2017. NDMC had conceived the project earlier this year and it was in the pipeline to get the nod from the council. Senior officials claimed that the service will be extremely beneficial. “The cycles will be available at a minimal cost of Rs 10 per hour and people can drop the cycle at any of the 50 stations. Soon we will also issue cards to the public on similar lines of metro card,” said a senior NDMC official. “Cycle stations will be constructed near metro stations including — RK Ashram Marg, Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan, Lok Kalyan Marg, Janpath etc.,” said the official.



Armed dacoits strike landlord house, decamp with booty worth Rs 1 crore



Bengaluru: A gang of armed dacoits allegedly broke into a house in Attibele town on the outskirts of the city, threatened the landlord at gun point, blindfolded and tied him up before looting his house on Tuesday night. The gang fled with booty worth more than Rs 1 crore including 2.8kg of gold. Attibele police say the gang of about 10 broke into the house of Venkatesh Reddy, 60, a resident of Pillareddy Layout, at about 8pm. Reddy was alone at home at that time and gang assaulted him when they barged in. “My wife and two daughters were out at the wedding of a relative,” Reddy said. “I also attended the reception and returned home by 7.30pm. About half an hour later, somebody knocked on the door and I opened it. Four people barged into the house”. One of them slashed Reddy’s hand with a knife and another brandished a gun while warning him not to scream for help. They then tied Reddy’s arms and legs and blindfolded him. Reddy claims they were joined by others as they began to ransack the house.


“Initially Reddy wasn’t sure of what the gang had stolen and said he would enquire with his wife and daughter,” police said. “This morning (Wednesday) he informed us that the gang fled with Rs 4.5 lakh in cash, 2.8kg of gold ornaments and 6kg of silver articles. They also took his ring and watch which he was wearing before fleeing”. Reddy claimed the dacoits spoke to each other in Urdu and used broken Kannada with him. All of them wore black shirts, were unmasked and were aged between 25 years and 30 years. Reddy insisted that he would be able to identify them if he sees them again. Police said that there was a power cut in the area due to rain and wind a few minutes before the gang struck. The incident came to light around 9.40pm when Reddy’s neighbor found the door open and entered the house out of curiosity. The victim then informed the police. Police have collected fingerprints and other evidences from the spot and have launched a probe.



International News



Chemical weapons inspectors visit second site in Syria town


BEIRUT: Chemical weapons inspectors collected samples Wednesday from a new location in the Syrian town of Douma, their second visit to the area that was hit by a suspected gas attack nearly three weeks ago. The Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said samples taken by the team in Douma will be sent to the organization’s laboratories for analysis. An earlier visit took place on Saturday after the inspectors were delayed for days from getting to the town, just east of Damascus, over security reasons. The United States, France, and Britain have blamed President Bashar Assad‘s government for the April 7 attack, which Syrian activists said killed more than 40 people. The three countries struck suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities in joint airstrikes a week later. The OPSW visit to Douma and sample collection would allow the international watchdog to proceed with an independent investigation to determine what chemicals, if any, were used in the attack. The watchdog is not mandated to apportion blame for the attack. The mandate of a joint U.N.-OPCW body delegated to investigate who may be behind such attacks has expired and Russia has vetoed its renewal. The joint body had found the Syrian government responsible for several previous attacks. Syria’s government and its main backer Russia have denied responsibility for the April 7 attack. They repeatedly blamed the rebels and opposition activists for possessing and deploying chemical weapons. Russia had even said the attack was staged and on Wednesday, Russian diplomats said they plan to bring evidence of this to the OPCW. Russian Embassy spokesman Mikhail Sobolev said it would bring a group of 15 Syrians who they claim were filmed in “staged videos” of the alleged attack to a meeting at the OPCW on Thursday.


The development is part of an ongoing clash of narratives between the West on one side and Syria and Russia on the other concerning the suspected attack. Thousands of Douma residents left the town after the attack while Russian military police and Syrian security forced deployed in Douma, raising criticism from opposition activists the evidence may be tempered with. Others have said that those Douma residents who stayed in the town under government control would be too afraid to challenge the Russian and Syrian narrative, fearing persecution. Responding to Russian plans to visit its headquarters with the Syrians, the OCPW in The Hague, Netherlands, said Wednesday it has advised the Russian delegation that “these persons should be first interviewed” by the inspectors who are currently in Damascus. “It was also recommended that such a briefing take place once the (fact-finding mission) has completed its work,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, the Russian delegation stated that it would go ahead with the briefing and that its intention was not to interfere” with the work of the mission currently in Syria. Six days after the suspected attack, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Britain of direct involvement in staging video images of alleged victims. Britain vehemently denied the accusation. The suspected attack and retaliatory strikes ratcheted up tension between the West and Russia. On Wednesday, Russian Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said Russia will supply Syria with “new missile defense systems soon.” Rudskoi’s statement did not specify the type of weapons, but his remarks follow reports in Russian media that Moscow is considering selling its S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria.


Top Russian officials said that in light of the airstrikes on Syria earlier this month, Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with the S-300 system. Transferring upgraded air-defense systems to Syria could be seen as an escalation by neighboring Israel and raises the risk of Israeli attacks. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Tuesday that if Syria uses Russian-made air defense missiles against Israel, the Israeli military would strike back. “What’s important to us is that the defensive weapons the Russians are giving Syria won’t be used against us,” Lieberman told Israeli news website Ynet. “If they’re used against us, we’ll act against them”. Israel has not taken sides in the Syrian civil war, but its air force has carried out dozens of airstrikes during the fighting, most believed to have been aimed at suspected arms shipments to the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, another key Assad ally. More recently, Israel has warned that it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria. Iran is also a staunch supporter of Assad. In February, Israel shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that penetrated its airspace from Syria. Israel responded by carrying out airstrikes in Syria, drawing anti-aircraft fire that shot down an Israeli warplane. Israel then retaliated by destroying Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. Israel and Russia have maintained close contact in order to prevent any clashes between their air forces in the skies over Syria. In the interview, Lieberman said Russia already has air-defense systems in Syria. “For several years we’ve been constantly in coordination and able to avoid friction with the Russians,” he told Ynet. “The only ones to act against us are the Syrians. When the Syrian systems acted against us, we destroyed them”. “One thing should be clear. If anyone’s shooting at our planes, we’ll destroy them,” he said.



North Korea nuclear test site partially collapsed after massive blast: Chinese experts



BEIJING: North Korea‘s underground nuclear test site has partially collapsed following a massive bomb blast last year, making it unusable, Chinese seismologists have concluded. The North’s leader Kim Jong Un declared last week that his regime would halt nuclear and long-range missile tests + and shut down its nuclear site at Punggyeri under Mount Mantap in the country’s northeast. The offer came days before his summit this Friday with the South’s President Moon Jae-in, which is scheduled to be followed by a summit with US President Donald Trump. North Korea conducted five of its six nuclear tests at the site, with the biggest one last September triggering a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that was felt across the northern border with China. The North claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb. Landslides and earthquakes following the explosion led to speculation that the site was suffering from “tired mountain syndrome”. Two studies involving Chinese experts have found that a 4.1-magnitude aftershock that took place 8 1/2 minutes after the first quake caused the collapse of rock inside the mountain. “It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” said the University of Science and Technology of China in a summary of one study posted on its website. The university said the study would be published in Geophysicial Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. An English-language abstract by the study authors in another section of the university’s website concluded: “The occurrence of the collapse should deem the underground infrastructure beneath mountain Mantap not be used for any future nuclear tests”.


The line about the site being unusable does not appear in the Chinese-language summary and it was unclear whether it would be included in the journal. One of the study’s authors, Lianxing Wen of New York’s Stony Brook University, did not immediately respond to emailed questions. A second study led by Chinese scientists, including experts from the China Earthquake Administration, also concluded that the September aftershock had caused a collapse. “The aftershock was neither a secondary explosion nor a triggered tectonic earthquake,” said the second study, published last month, also in Geophysicial Research Letters. “It occurred due to a process comparable to a ‘mirror image’ of the explosion, that is, a rock collapse, or compaction, for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site,” it said. The second study, however, did not determine whether the site was unusable or leaking radiation. “Seismic models, like in this paper, provide only partial understanding of the underground explosions,” it said, adding that further studies are necessary to look at radioactive leaks or possible groundwater contamination. The two studies reached their conclusions by looking at data from seismic monitoring stations. China has deployed radiation monitoring stations along its border with North Korea. A state-run newspaper in the northeastern province of Jilin last year published a list of tips on how civilians can protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.

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