News Flash – 27 July 2017

National News



How mobile phones helped tracking Ghatkopar building crash survivors



Mumbai: For Darshan Doshi, a 26-year-old resident of the Ghatkopar building that collapsed on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, a glimmer of hope came from deep inside the rubble when his mobile phone buzzed around 5.10 pm with his father’s number flashing on it. Rajesh Doshi, 57, who was inside his flat in the ground plus four building when it caved in while his son and wife Rita were out visiting a temple, called up to say he was stuck under the debris, but was alive and sought help immediately. Luckily for him, he not only had the phone with him, it remained undamaged too. Darshan passed on his phone to his anxious mother. According to relatives, Rajesh told Rita, 53, that a wall had come crashing down on his legs, trapping him. “He said that he was able to breathe but can’t get out as his legs were stuck under the debris. He asked Rita and Darshan to ask people to take him out. He also gave details about where he was trapped,” said a relative. While Rita spoke to him at least thrice, the NDRF team was able to locate him around 7.30 pm. At the time of going to the press, efforts were on to extricate him from under the concrete. Family members offered juice and medicines to Rajesh, who is a diabetic. It was not only Rajesh, many other trapped residents called up their family members from inside the rubble. “The mobile phones helped us in tracking the trapped survivors. As the hapless families called up their near ones, we followed the sound of the rings to locate them,” said PS Rahangdale, chief fire officer.


Fate was not as kind to the Dongre family though. Couple Mehul and Veni Dongre left home for work at 9 am, leaving their one-year old son Krishiv in the care of his grandparents Pandharinath and Manorama Dongre. Fifteen minutes after the grandparents clicked pictures with the infant, the building collapsed. While Pandharinath’s body was recovered, search continued for the child and Manorama. Around 8.30 pm, the two, with injuries all over their bodies, were found. “We thought that they were alive. But both passed away even before they could be taken to Rajawadi Hospital,” said Mehul’s colleague. Three-month-old Renuka Thak also died in the incident, along with her mother Amruta. Her father Lalit received minor injuries while a search for her grandmother was on at the time of going to press. The Thak moved into the building a couple of months ago. Among the dead was at least one person, who was not a resident of the building, but was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Septuagenarian Mansukhbhai Gajjar, a carpenter, had gone to the building to take measurements for a cupboard. Although he wasn’t into hard carpentry work anymore, he had agreed to make the cupboard for the Shahs living on the third floor.


Only Gajjar and Mrs. Shah were inside the flat at the time of the collapse. While his family was unaware of the incident, the Shahs started looking for the duo and discovered that Gajjar had died. Mrs. Shah was known to be trapped at the time of going to press. Another resident, Lalchand Ramchandani, claimed that he saw the building coming down in front of his eyes. He had barely stepped out of home for work and was walking down the street when he heard screams. He quickly turned to be greeted with a sight he would never forget. “It was so unreal for me, the building just fell in a heap,” recalled Ramchandani, who had been living in a 1bhk apartment on the fourth floor of the building since it came into existence some 35 years ago. His wife Geeta, who was injured, is in a critical state at Rajawadi Hospital. “I think she survived because she was on the top floor. I had bought the flat with all my savings. Nothing is left now,” he said.



Gujarat floods: 18 of a family killed, toll rises to 119



PALANPUR: Tragedy struck Khariya village in Gujarat’s Banaskantha on Wednesday when 18 bodies — all close relatives — were recovered from a river bank, taking the flood related death toll since the beginning of monsoon to 119. The toll may go up as rescue operations are on. Villagers in Khariya watched in disbelief as the bodies were found one after another from the slush and placed in a line. The victims, all from the OBC Thakor community, included eight women and an eight-year-old girl. Khariya was among 30 villages where an alert had been sounded after water level in the Banas river swelled due to influx of water from the dams following heavy downpour. “We suspect that they people were swept away after Tuesday midnight,” V M Patel, deputy mamlatdar, Kankrej, told TOI. Two Army columns, three NDRF teams and a BSF team are engaged in the rescue and relief operations, and are being aided by 10 IAF choppers in Banaskantha. The Bhavnagar-Ahmedabad highway was flooded after several villages near Dholka were inundated following release of 1.24 lakh cusecs water from the Dharoi dam. Ahmedabad collector Avantika Singh Aulakh said at least 3,858 people in 20 villages had been taken to safer locations in the district.


Three days after their village, Dabhipura in Dantiwada taluka of Banaskantha, was inundated, families returned home on Wednesday. “We have lost everything. Our grain stock and utensils have been washed away. Our houses have been severely damaged,” said one of the villagers. On Wednesday, at least 650 people were rescued from villages of the district. Of these, 272 were airlifted to safety. At least 500 medical professionals, including doctors, paramedics and health workers, have been pressed into service in the district to distribute chlorine tablets and ORS packets to ensure that there is no outbreak of any epidemic. Medical staff from other districts have also been deployed in Banaskantha. Though water receded in Dhanera town, one of the worst-hit in Banaskantha, people witnessed the trail of destruction left behind by the nature’s fury. Sacks of grains rendered useless were lying on the road and people struggled to remove water from their houses.



165 swine flu deaths in Maharashtra till April: Health minister



MUMBAI: Maharashtra reported 844 cases of swine flu between January and April this year. Of these cases, 165 patients died, state health minister Deepak Sawant informed the state assembly on Wednesday. In the Mumbai municipal limits, 22 cases were detected during this period of which one died. In the Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad area, 49 swine flu deaths were reported, Sawant said. Since 2009, swine flu had spread beyond urban areas to the rural belt as well, he said.



10 die of TB every day in Delhi, finds NGO



NEW DELHI: At least 10 people die every day in Delhi of tuberculosis, a curable disease, exposing a huge healthcare deficit in the national capital. Nearly 47% of the deaths are of people in the productive age group of 15 to 44 years. This data, an average of TB deaths in 2014 and 2015, was accessed by NGO Praja Foundation through RTI applications in all municipal and state government-run hospitals. “The actual number of deaths due to TB in Delhi could be much higher. Our data is based on deaths reported by hospitals which constitute only about 60% of all deaths. Also, hospitals run by the Centre and private institutions are not included in this,” Milind Mhakse, project director of Praja Foundation, said. Rohini zone, in north corporation, was the city’s TB hotspot, accounting for 33% of all cases. Praja Foundation said the Civil Lines zone reported 11% of all TB cases recorded by hospitals from 2014 to 2016, while Karol Bagh accounted for 8%. The NGO said that from January 2014 to December 2016, Delhi reported more than two lakh TB cases — 73,096 cases in 2014, 83,028 in 2015 and 68,169 in 2016. The disease claimed 4,350 and 3,635 lives in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Data for deaths in 2016 wasn’t available, the NGO said. TB is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of the body, like the intestine and spine. Caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, the disease spreads through the air, just like a cold or flu.


Dr. Sarman Singh, professor and head, division of clinical microbiology and molecular medicine at AIIMS, said lack of awareness about the disease was a major reason for high incidence of TB and related deaths. “In India, three persons die due to TB every two minutes. It remains a public health challenge in spite of 50 years of control activities. There is an urgent need to step up the campaign for awareness about the disease’s symptoms to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment,” he said. Experts say emergence of drug resistant TB was another area of concern. A recent study covering four metros found close to 9% of all pediatric TB patients were resistant to rifampicin, one of the first-line drugs used in treating infectious diseases. TB incidence, the survey found, was highest among children in Delhi at 12.2% and the least in Chennai at 5.4%. Doctors say incidence of drug resistance in children suffering from TB has gone up. “Children mostly get the infection from adults. If we can reduce the incidence of TB among adults, the incidence among children will come down significantly,” said a doctor. The doctor also busted a common myth about TB affecting mostly the poor. “We get many people from well-to-do families suffering from TB,” the doctor added. A senior official in the Union health ministry said government is preparing a national strategic plan for ending TB in the country by 2025. “We are expanding the rapid diagnostic services to all districts for timely diagnosis. Also, we will step up awareness campaigns,” he said.



Viral fuels panic in dengue season



KOLKATA: With some schools conducting first-term tests and pre-board examination around the corner, fever has become a major concern for parents and students alike. While viral fever itself is communicable, at a time when sporadic cases of swine flu and dengue fever are being reported, doctors advise everyone to be more careful. “Around 50% patients running a temperature have just viral fever. Though people shouldn’t panic, there are reasons to be careful. We have come across many patients who are taking antibiotics without consulting doctors, leading to resistance,” said Anirban Biswas, a general medicine consultant at the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. While most viral fever cases are self-limiting and can be treated with Paracetamol, rehydration and rest, many are flocking to hospitals to rule out the possibility of having dengue or swine flu. “Viral fever is quite common during any change of season. Most of the cases that we treated so far were uncomplicated. However, in some cases the temperature is very high and persistent with accompanying symptoms such as lethargy, respiration problems and abdominal pain. Such patients should consult a doctor without delay,” said Prabas Prasun Giri, PICU in-charge at Institute of Child Health Kolkata.


Viral fever is communicable and spreads through droplets that are released into the air when an affected person coughs or sneezes. Children are the most vulnerable group as their immunity is lesser than adults, followed by those using steroids or having asthma or diabetes. “Dengue, swine flu and influenza viruses crop up during this time of the year along with common viral fever. This may sometimes lead the patients to panic. But for a viral fever one just needs Paracetamol to keep it at bay along with consuming enough water for rehydration and taking rest,” said Shyamashish Bandyopadhyay, senior consultant (medicine) at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals. Dengue has already claimed four in the South Dum Dum municipality, while swine flu has taken at least five lives this year. Though viral fever is not as lethal as the two infections, it can easily spread from one person to another. Thus, school-goers who share transport and sit in close proximity in classrooms need to be more careful. If the fever is high and persisting for more than four days, one must go for H1N1test.



Mumbai Metro introduces India’s first Mobile Ticketing System


MUMBAI: Commuters of Mumbai Metro will now be able to make use their smartphones for journey ticket, apart from tokens and smart cards, to commute on the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor. India’s first Mobile Ticketing System “OnGo” is likely to be introduced mid-August, 2017. The system is at an advance stage of testing and almost ready to go. R-infra promoted Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), which runs the corridor, said the Mobile Ticketing System work on iOS and android operating systems. A MMOPL official said, “With the help of Mumbai Metro app, the commuters will now be able to buy their token or pass and can generate a QR code which will be used to get access through automated fare collection (AFC) gates”. A link on the Mumbai Metro app will lead the user to the “OnGo” facility that will than give the option to book tickets, select destinations and pay fare. The official said, “Money can be loaded in the mobile wallet app to carry out the transaction to purchase token for single journey, return journey and recharge smart card. In fact, QR code can be generated 7 days in advance”. The Mobile Ticketing System is expected to take load of the booking counters, where people queue up in large numbers to buy token or recharge smart cards”.



10 dead, 10 lakh marooned but it’s not ‘flood’ as yet


BEHRAMPORE/BANKURA/ARAMBAG/MIDNAPORE: The state is yet to declare the current spate of inundation across five districts as flood, but Nabanna officials on Wednesday admitted that 10 people have lost their lives so far as heavy rains lashed the state since Friday. Besides, over 10 lakhs have been affected as water gushed into villages and towns. Two went missing in Howrah as 168 villages went under water after the Damodar barrage breached at Samantapara, Batla and Monsukha. With thousands housed in 50 relief camps, Goghat and Chandrakona witnessed protests with victims alleging authorities were not providing relief materials to the camps. Bankura was the worst-affected. The government on Wednesday announced that dry food and water pouches were being supplied to relief camps along with 6,73,000 tarpaulin sheets to house the displaced. Besides, over 3 lakh dhotis, 1.7 lakh lungis and 2.49 lakh sarees have also been dispatched. With the situation raising concerns over price rise of vegetables in city markets, ministers and officials of the agriculture and agricultural marketing departments reviewed stocks of different items with the state.


Murshidabad, Hooghly, Kolkata and West Burdwan accounted for two deaths each while West Midnapore and Nadia reported one death each. In Murshidabad, a teenager and a housewife died on Wednesday. Ronit Ghosh (13), a Class VIII student, was returning home at Bhorowan from school when he slipped into a ditch and drowned. Marjina Bibi (42) of Bagdanga died after the roof of her house collapsed. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee once again blamed the Centre for the flood-like situation. “Since 2012, I have been telling the Centre to get the DVC barrages dredged. But nothing has been done. The capacity of these barrages has declined. So, whenever there is heavy rain, water has to be released from Jharkhand, causing floods in Bengal,” the CM said. Later, she reviewed the situation at a meeting in Nabanna. DVC released 2 lakh cusecs of water till 3pm on Wednesday. The state’s reluctance to declare floods is perhaps driven by the fact that it spent Rs 3,500 crore on flood and drought relief in 2015 all by itself with no funding from the Centre.



Violating traffic rule? Cops to fine through debit card



CHENNAI: The Chennai city police have moved to cashless transaction to collect fines from traffic violators. No longer will excuses of having no money to dodge fines work, as police personnel can now deduct the amount by swiping debit or credit cards. As a part of the modernization of police force, at least 100 swiping machines have been distributed to traffic enforcement inspectors in the city from the State Bank of India (SBI). A senior police officer said, “We have distributed the Point of Sale (PoS) machines to the police personnel, where more number of cases being booked on a day-to-day basis.” More such equipment will be handed to traffic police officers in the second phase. There are about 300 e-challan machines presently being distributed to all the traffic enforcement inspectors of police and sub-inspectors of police. A police officer said, “We are trying to make an additional provision in the existing e-challan machines so that debit and credit cards can also be swiped. If this plan works out, we will direct the manufacturer to prepare the e-challan machines with a slot to use the cards”. The amount deducted from the traffic violators will be directly credited to the transport department’s bank account, it will be later routed to the road safety fund.



International News



Wildfires prompt 10,000 evacuations on French Riviera


MARSEILLE: Firefighters evacuated thousands of campers and local residents after a wildfire broke out on France’s tourist-thronged Riviera coast overnight. The blaze was the latest of several wind-whipped fires that are ravaging forest and scrubland on the hills and slopes that spill into the Mediterranean sea between the Marseilles and the city of Nice in the southeastern corner of France. Not far west of the yacht-filled marinas of Saint-Tropez resort, 10,000 people were evacuated – 3,000 of them from campsites – as a fast-encroaching fire ripped through the hills of La Lodes les Manures, the Lavabo and Bromes. “A fast-spreading fire broke out at 22:50 (2050 GMT), burning up about 800 hectares of land,” the local government prefect’s office said in a statement. Hundreds of firefighters fought the blaze with planes and helicopters dropping tonnes of water on the tinder box hills where fires regularly break out in summer time, often as a result of a carelessly discarded cigarette butt. Thousands of hectares of land have been devastated by flames since the start of the week, although Tuesday night’s evacuation was far larger than other more minor ones where dozens of people and horses were moved to safety from fast-encroaching infernos. High winds risked whipping up more fires, said the prefect’s office of the Vary region, where most of the blazes are located. So far there have been no deaths reported in the summertime wildfires, unlike in other countries such as Portugal where they have killed dozens.



26 Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban attack on Kandahar base: Defence ministry



KANDAHAR: At least 26 Afghan soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded in a Taliban attack on a military base in Kandahar province, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, the latest blow to struggling security forces. The militants “attacked an army camp in Karzali area of Khakrez district of Kandahar last night,” MoD spokesman General Dawlat Waziri said. Afghan soldiers “bravely resisted”, he said, killing more than 80 insurgents. Residents in the area described an hours-long attack launched by a 30-strong convoy carrying “hundreds” of Taliban who assaulted the base from multiple directions. Air support was called in, several residents said, though that was not immediately confirmed by officials. The insurgents claimed the attack via their Twitter account. The resurgent Taliban have been ramping up their campaign against beleaguered government forces, underscoring rising insecurity in the war-torn country throughout the warmer weather fighting season.


Afghan security forces, beset by killings, desertions and non-existent “ghost soldiers” on the payroll, have been struggling to beat back insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014. According to US watchdog SIGAR, casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed. The insurgents have carried out more complex attacks against security forces in 2017. In April more than 140 soldiers are believed to have been killed on a base outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, one of the deadliest ever Taliban attacks on a military installation. While in early March gunmen disguised as doctors stormed the Sardar Daud Khan hospital – the country’s largest military hospital – in Kabul, killing dozens.

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