News Flash – 3 June 2017

National News



17 hi-tech mini fire engines arrive, to be on the road by month-end


MUMBAI: The much-awaited 17 mini-fire engines have finally arrived in the city and the fire brigade plans to commission them by the month-end, after RTO clearance. Their need has always been felt, more so after the major Kalbadevi fire in 2015, in which regular fire engines found it difficult to navigate through congested lanes. Four senior fire officers died in that blaze. The fire brigade has finalized locations where these mini engines will be stationed. The idea is position them where there are no fire stations in the vicinity. In South Mumbai, while there is a fire station at Gowalia Tank, there is no fire station in areas like Malabar Hill or Walkeshwar. The fire brigade officials said the idea is to have a mini-fire engine stationed near the Walkeshwar reservoir, for used as the first line of action.

The fire brigade has demarcated spots where these engines will be stationed and has informed ward officials to help set up steel sheds where a container for officers and the engines will be stationed. The mini engines will be attached to a main fire station in the vicinity. Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said, “We will use the fire engines as the first line of attack to douse a fire till the regular fire engine reaches the spot. The mini-fire engine has the latest equipment and has an electronic control system. Their arrival is an attempt towards upgrading the fire force.” In the Kalbadevi fire report, the committee set up to investigate the incident had expressed the need for the mini-fire tenders.



Gang switched off phones within minutes, sped off in Toyota Camry



HYDERABAD: The Peruvian gang were thorough professionals and they left very few clues making it impossible for the cops to nab them before they left the country. On April 16, they stole 3.5kg gold by diverting the attention of a jeweler. Following the crumbs to get to the accused has been a massive task. Daniel who works in a dance bar in Hong Kong, flew from Lima to India via Dubai, like his two associates to commit the theft. The gang carried high quality forged Japan and South Korean passports from other countries. The Nigerian aides of the gang purchased a Toyota Camry which already changed six hands making it more difficult to trace.

The gang members approached an AC mechanic, Nausad of Bangalore and made him prepare nails which would be effective to puncture even tubeless tyres. Daniel personally placed the nails under the tyre of jeweler’s sedan. While Rosa was stealing the gold bag from car, Daniel diverted the attention of a person looking at Rosa by bumping against him and Moises briskly walked back to their parked Camry car and swiftly drove away as soon as his associates got back in. Rosa covered her face with a scarf while committing the offence. Daniel and Moises sported hats for the majority of the time. The gang switched off their phones within a minute of committing the crime and checked out of the hotel within an hour. After returning to Bangalore, they travelled by road to Indo-Nepal border and crossed a check point where scanner was not there so that the gold would not be detected.



Passport verification now a few swipes away



NEW DELHI: Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik has approved a proposal to procure passport verification devices (PVDs) for the department. Initially, around 250 such devices–they look like tablets–will be procured. According to sources, the devices will have an “m-Passport police app” installed on them. The verification officer will then swipe through details, upload and download relevant documents and verify the applicant without any hassle. The step is aimed at digitizing the verification process by reducing paper work. It will ease the police-public contact process and is expected to weed out corruption. However, there is no clarity as yet whether home visits by cops will be done away with or not. The new method will pave the way for electronic payment. The system will also ensure uninterrupted connectivity and coordination between police and the passport department. Each of these devices will have a 10-inch screen and run on android operating system. They will have a front and a dual camera of 5 and 2 megapixels respectively. For making it more efficient, cops are insisting on 4,600MAH battery power in them. The devices will have 4G connectivity.

Delhi Police is looking for vendors, who would provide them with internet services with minimum of 5GB data. At present, the verification is done by the special branch, which works in tandem with the passport department. Last year, the branch had verified 3,64,600 passports, of which 3,62,318 were disposed of. The passport verification requests received in a day range from 1,500 to 1,700. Applicants are informed through an SMS about the status of the application. The prototype of the “mPassport Police” app was launched last year. It enables a cop to capture the data for police verification report (PVR) on real-time basis at applicant’s place of residence. The objective was to expedite the submission of PVR. This app was launched in addition to the existing mPassport Seva App, which helps citizens to browse passport related information on their smart phones.



Monsoon preparation: Plastic road to smoothen bumpy rides



HYDERABAD: Preparing for the monsoon, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is laying a three-km plastic road at Sainikpuri Colony. This is the longest stretch of plastic road in Hyderabad. Earlier a 100-metre stretch was laid connecting Nagole and Uppal metro station on an experimental basis, and a 300-metre stretch was laid at Saidabad in Old City. The price to lay a plastic road is less compared to a BT road and it decreases chances of potholes appearing, according to GHMC officials. “Laying of this road has costed us two per cent less money compared to a regular road. Plastic melts and fills the gaps once the road is laid reducing erosion due to waterlogging,” said Dattupanth, executive engineer, Kapra Circle. Plastic roads have more life and strength compared to regular roads, according to GHMC officials. Explaining how such roads are laid, officials said, plastic waste is mixed with bitumen. “Eight per cent of plastic waste is added to the bitumen so that road it strengthened,” said Dattupanth. Experts opine the percentage of bitumen should not be reduced while laying plastic roads, “Total percentage of bitumen should not be less than by 5.5,” said Kushan Karan an civil engineering expert. “The new plastic road has been laid at Sainikpuri No. 1, 2 and 3. The government’s move is good, but it needs to lay it on main roads and waterlogged areas,” said Rohan Patnayak who uses the Sainikpuri Road frequently. “Usage of plastic as construction material it one of the best ways to recycle it as plastic does not decomposes easily,” said a top GHMC official.



Sprinklers disconnected, no vent to let out smoke



CHENNAI: Non-functional fire sensors and water sprinklers were one of the reasons the fire quickly spread to other floors of The Chennai Silks building. Police which began investigation into the fire accident in T Nagar, found the building had fire sensors and water sprinklers installed in all the floors including the basement, where the fire broke out, but they were mere show pieces as none of them were in working condition. Police sources said the fire sensors were dysfunctional and the water sprinklers were not connected to any water tank. “The workers had disconnected the pipe which connects to the sprinkler to save water for summer,” a police official said. Fire sensors are connected to an alarm and water sprinklers. Once the sensor detects smoke, it sends a signal to the alarm system and the water sprinkler starts. Police said fire sensors and water sprinklers are mandatory safety features in highrises. A senior fire department official said the building was on the ‘rejection list’, and they had informed CMDA about the violations of fire safety norms four years ago. “Commercial building owners have to approach us to get a completion certificate once the structure is built.


But many highrises in the city flout rules,” the official said. “We do not have the manpower to visit and inspect all the buildings”. Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the firefighting team’s strategy. It wasn’t until the fire started spreading to the upper floors that the team responded by spraying water. However, fire officials, who supervised the operation, said the accident couldn’t have been handled any better given the complications they faced. “Smoke had clogged the basement as there was no ventilation in the building. There was no way for our personnel to enter the basement and identify the source of the fire. The emergency exits had been converted into storage rooms and the doors were locked. We had to break open the walls to let the smoke out, but it proved a challenging task,” said a senior officer. Contrary to images shown on television, the blaze was of little concern to the firefighters. “There was only intermittent fire. Once we realised that reaching the source of fire was difficult, our strategy was to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings,” the officer said.



Gang targeting long-distance trains busted



Ahmedabad: A team of Western Railway Police (WRP) arrested six persons, all natives of Bihar, for thefts from long-distance trains in multiple states. The gang is wanted in a case registered on May 20 with Government Railway Police (GRP) at Kalupur. Sharad Singhal, in-charge SP, WRP (Ahmedabad), said a team from Ahmedabad caught Mohammad Imtiyaz Renbiradar, 35, Sunil Singh, 47, Shashikant Mishra, 25, Navin Kumar Singh, 47, Sanjit Kumar Kahar, 46, and Shivnandan Thakur, 60, all natives of Begusarai and Patna districts in Bihar. “The group was found in possession of six bags when they were caught near the entrance to Kalupur railway station at 9pm on June 1. The bags contained gold and silver ornaments worth Rs 7.04 lakh along with 14 mobile phones, Rs 21,140 cash and 153 railway tickets to various destinations. In all, valuables worth Rs 8.34 lakh were recovered,” said Singhal. The group was found to be involved in a theft aboard the Madgaon-Hapa Express on May 20, when a passenger had complained about the theft of gold ornaments worth Rs 1.1 lakh along with a phone and Rs 6,000 cash. The group was identified on the basis of CCTV footage that day. Investigators said the group would book tickets on long-distance trains and cut bags stowed below the berths to steal valuables. They confessed to having stolen valuables in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.



International News



Gunshots as Kabul protesters clash over deadly bombing

Protests against the government have erupted in Kabul following a catastrophic truck bomb attack.


KABUL: Afghan police on Friday fired live rounds to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing protesters seeking to march on the presidential palace to demand the government’s resignation following a catastrophic truck bombing that killed 90 people and wounded hundreds. Public anger has mounted after yesterday’s brazen attack, the deadliest in the city since 2001, which was launched from an explosives-laden sewage tanker that tore a massive crater in the ground. Demonstrators calling for President Ashraf Ghani to step down and chanting “Death to the Taliban” clashed with police near the bombing site, prompting officials to respond with live rounds, tear gas and water cannon as some protesters tried to overrun a security cordon. At least three protesters were wounded, some of them critically, and were rushed to Kabul’s Emergency Hospital, witnesses said. The bombing during the holy month of Ramadan highlighted the ability of militants to strike even in the capital’s most secure district, home to the presidential palace and foreign embassies that are enveloped in a maze of concrete blast walls. Angry citizens have demanded answers from the government over the perceived intelligence failure leading to the assault, which underscores spiraling insecurity in Afghanistan.

“Our brothers and sisters were martyred in the bloody attack on Wednesday, and our leaders are doing nothing to stop this carnage,” Rahila Jafari, a civil society activist, said during the protest. “We want justice, we want the perpetrators of the attack to be hanged to death”. Another enraged Afghan said the protests would continue until Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah resign. “Day after day, innocent civilians are being killed by terrorists. If our leaders cannot restore security they should step down,” he said. Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has blamed the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network for the attack. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to approve the execution of 11 Taliban and Haqqani prisoners, a government source told AFP, in apparent retaliation to the assault. The Taliban — currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” – denied they were involved. The Haqqani Network, long thought to have ties to neighbouring Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment, is led by Sirajuddin Haqqani — who is also the Taliban’s deputy leader. It has carried out numerous attacks in Kabul, including the 2008 Indian embassy bombing that killed almost 60 people.



German rock festival evacuated over ‘terrorist threat’



BERLIN: One of Germany‘s biggest music festivals was interrupted over a “possible terrorist threat,” police said. Organizers asked fans on Friday at the three-day event to leave calmly “in order to help police investigations” but said they were hopeful the festival would resume on Saturday. The three-day “Rock am Ring,” held at the famous Nuerburgring sports complex near the western city of Nuerburg, is scheduled to run until Sunday. It draws tens of thousands of people annually. In a statement, police in the city of Coblenz said they were in possession of “concrete elements, in the light of which a possible terrorist threat cannot be ruled out”. “As safety is the key priority and any danger to festivalgoers has to be avoided as much as possible, a decision has been taken to suspend the festival for today,” the statement said. There were no further details. Security for the festival had already been stepped up, with an additional 1,200 staff, in response to the May 22 Manchester bombing which occurred after a concert by US singer Ariana Grande. Last year’s Rock am Ring programme was curtailed by violent storms in which dozens of people were injured by lightning. The country remains on high alert after a jihadist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin on December 19. Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian, hijacked a truck, killed its Polish driver and ploughed the vehicle through the market, claiming 11 more lives and wounding dozens.



Dozens dead after gunman torches Philippine casino: Police



MANILA: Thirty-six bodies were found inside a casino in the Philippine capital on Friday after a masked man burst in with an automatic rifle and set fire to the building, triggering fears of a terrorist attack, police said. Dozens of other people were injured in a stampede as people rushed to leave Resorts World Manila, which is across a road from the Philippines’ main international airport, after the man fired what police Chief Ronald dela Rosa said was an M4 assault rifle and set alight parts of a gaming room about midnight. The body of the gunman was found in a hotel room inside the complex about five hours later, Dela Rosa said. He said the gunman only fired at a television screen and did not take aim at any people, but police later reported finding 36 bodies in the casino who apparently died from smoke inhalation. “Thirty-six deaths, this is due to suffocation,” Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde told CNN Philippines. The gunman initially disappeared into the chaos of smoke and running people, leading to a manhunt throughout the complex that ended just after dawn when he was found dead in a hotel room, according to Dela Rosa. “He lay down on the bed, covered himself with a thick blanket, apparently poured petrol on the blanket and burned himself,” Dela Rosa said. Before the gunmen had been killed and police had confirmed any motive, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility and US President Donald Trump also branded it a “terrorist attack”.

But Dela Rosa insisted it was most likely a robbery gone wrong, saying the man did not shoot at anyone and appeared to be intent just on stealing gambling chips. “For now, we can say that this is not an act of terror. There is no element of violence, threat or intimidation that leads to terrorism,” Dela Rosa said. Dela Rosa said the man, who appeared to be acting alone, walked into one of the gambling rooms and fired the rifle at a large television screen, then poured gasoline onto a gambling table and set it alight. He said the man then fired again at a stock room containing gambling chips and filled a backpack with chips worth 113 million pesos ($2.3 million). The man left the room and went upstairs to the hotel section, but left the backpack, according to Dela Rosa. Albayalde also insisted it was not a terrorist attack. “It is a simple robbery and most likely it was done by a demented person,” Albayalde told reporters outside the casino. Dela Rosa said 18 of 54 injured people were in hospital. He said the others sustained only minor injuries. People inside the casino recounted feelings of terror when the shooting occurred. “I was about to return to the second floor from my break when I saw people running. Some hotel guests said someone yelled ‘ISIS’,” Maricel Navaro, an employee of Resorts World, told DZMM radio.

ISIS is another acronym for the Islamic State group. “When we smelled smoke, we decided to go for the exit in the carpark. That’s where we got out. Before we exited, we heard two gunshots and there was thick smoke on the ground floor,” Navaro said. Outside the complex, relatives of people caught inside waited on Friday morning to hear news of their loved ones. “Our daughter called us past midnight saying she was in the VIP section of the casino and there was smoke and they were suffocating,” Gil Yongco, 42, said. “We are very worried about her. We haven’t heard from her”. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law last week across the southern region of Mindanao to crush what he said was a rising threat of IS there. He made the move shortly after militants went on a rampage through the southern city of Marawi, which is about 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of Manila. Security forces are still battling the militants in Marawi, and the clashes there have left at least 171 people dead. Duterte said last week he may need to declare martial law across the rest of the country if the terrorism threat spread.



Robocop joins Dubai police to fight real life crime


DUBAI: A robotic policeman which can help identify wanted criminals and collect evidence has joined Dubai‘s police force and will patrol busy areas in the city, as part of a government programme aimed at replacing some human crime-fighters with machines. If the “Robocop” experiment is successful, Dubai Police says it wants the unarmed robots to make up 25 percent of its patrolling force by 2030. Clad in the colours of the Dubai Police uniform, the life-size robot, which can shake hands and perform a military salute, is the lighter side of a government plan to use technology to improve services and security ahead of Dubai hosting Expo 2020. “These kind of robots can work 24/7. They won’t ask you for leave, sick leave or maternity leave. It can work around the clock,” said Brigadier Khalid Nasser Al Razooqi, director general of the Smart Services Department at Dubai Police. The first automated policeman in the Middle East, the robot on wheels is equipped with cameras and facial recognition software.

It can compare faces with a police database and flag matches to headquarters. It can read vehicle licence plates and its video feed can help police watch for risks such as unattended bags in popular areas of Dubai, a financial and tourism hub. Members of the public can also talk to the robot to report a crime or communicate with it using a touch screen computer embedded in its chest. Built by Barcelona-based PAL Robotics, and programmed by Dubai Police, the cost of the robot has not been disclosed. Most people are not nervous about talking to a robot and some even seem to prefer it, Razooqi said. “We now see the new generations who are using smart devices – they love to use these kind of tools. A lot of them have seen the Robocop movie and they said: you guys, you have done it”.

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