News Flash – 30 December 2017

National News



Cash firm staffer steals Rs 23 lakh from ATMs using code



CHENNAI: An employee of a cash management firm escaped with 23 lakh from three ATMs in KolathurICF and Medavakkam after opening the lockers in the machine with a secret code. Though the man had stolen the money a week ago, the incident came to light on Friday after police checked CCTV camera footage and found the man sneaking into the ATM kiosks, opening the locker and stealing the cash. The man, identified as 30-year-old Kumar of Manali and employed by a firm in Chetpet, is absconding. Police said on December 18, employees of the firm loaded a private bank’s ATM in Kolathur with 9.65 lakh. But within couple of hours, the money went missing. Baffled, the bank authorities then contacted the cash management firm whose manager told the bank that Kumar and Dinesh had fed the cash into the ATM. The manager then lodged a complaint with the Rajamangalam police saying Kumar did not turn up for work after December 18. Police first questioned Dinesh but did not get any leads. With Kumar untraceable, police checked the CCTV camera footage and found him using the code to open the ATM before fleeing with the cash. “The company kept changing the code every day. So Kumar decided to steal the money in a single day,” said an investigating officer. Police found that Kumar had targeted an ATM on ICF MTH Road and took away 5.5 lakh, and another one in Medavakkam from where he stole 8.57 lakh. Police have launched a hunt for him and further investigations are on.



2 Security Guards of Times Network heroes rescue over 150 people

Fire at Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel, Mumbai



MUMBAI: Two Security personnel from the Times Network exhibited exemplary courage and heroism in the midst of the Kamala Mills tragedy on Friday and rescued over 150 people by breaking open an exit door and leading them to safety. The staffers, Mahesh Sable (23) and Suraj Giri (21), also averted a bigger tragedy by removing gas cylinders which were close to the falling fire debris. The Times Network is located in a building adjacent to the one housing the restaurant where the fire started. Giri said the two premises had a connecting terrace. Sable told TOI he noticed the fire around 12.10am and immediately called the cops. “I saw people coming down the stairway, but since it was dark, they were clueless. Having worked there for over a year, I knew my way around. I immediately broke open the exit door and guided people out”. Sable said he then called up Giri, who was outside the building gate, and told him about the people making their way down.


Working in perfect sync, Giri ensured people were escorted to safety. “It was chaotic. Some did not have shoes on, while the clothes of a few others were torn. A couple of them even fell down. I steered everyone away from the shower of debris and the fire,” Giri said, adding he had to even stop a few from going back to the building to rescue family and friends. Giri also had the presence of mind to alert fire officials about several cylinders kept in a room close to where the fire debris was falling. “We broke open the door and managed to take the cylinders out. If this hadn’t been done on time, all of Kamala Mills would have been destroyed and loss to life would have been colossal,” he said. Both said their fire training courses had helped them overcome their fear. “I also suffered minor injuries, but I knew I could not leave anyone behind,” Sable said. “It was heartbreaking…I had to help however I could,” Giri added.



Only 400 of 5,000 Delhi eateries have got fire safety permit


NEW DELHI: On the day that 14 people lost their lives in a pub fire in Mumbai, it was sobering to discover that only 400 of Delhi’s 5,000 restaurants, pubs and bars had the requisite fire safety clearance. TOI found establishments in popular eating hubs of the city merrily flouting fire safety norms. Fire officers pointed out that since there rarely is a physical check of the premises to see if safety requirements are being adhered to, restaurateurs get away with gross violations. One rule is particularly misused by those reluctant to spend extra to ensure the safety of customers: eateries with a seating capacity of less than 50 do not require fire clearance. Restaurant owners certify themselves under this norm, but routinely set up additional temporary seats which are quickly removed in case of checks. Senior officials from the municipal corporations confirmed that most of the 4,528 licences they issued were to eating joints claiming seating for 48-49 people. “With limited manpower we are hard-pressed to carry out surprise checks,” one official admitted. “Still, over 7,000 challans have been issued this year for violations of building code, unauthorised use of properties and for breaching the sitting capacity”. In the crowded Khan Market and Hauz Khas Village, hazards also include the lack of proper exits and old, weakened structures. At Khan Market where shops have a single, 3-ft-wide stairs as both exit and entry, market officials said that only 35 eateries and pubs had sought fire clearance despite Delhi high court directing civic authorities to take action against violators.


In Hauz Khas, the staff at My Bar Grill adamantly refused to show TOI the mandatory second exit. Anshu Tondon, who heads the Khan Market Welfare Association and owns Big Chill eatery, however, dismissed chances of blazes of the Mumbai sort here. “Agreed we have the problem of a single staircase for entry and exit, but this place only allows two and a half storeys and does not represent a fire hazard that a multi-storeyed building does,” he said. Tondon added that the narrow back alleys of the market weren’t hazards “as the eateries had wider roads in front”. Other businesses are wary about the restaurants increasing the load on the old buildings here. “We were asked by New Delhi Municipal Council after the fire in Mumbai to install safety measures for New Year Eve, but a long term solution has to be found,” declared Sanjiv Mehra, president of Khan Market Traders’ Association. The no-objection certificate for fire safety is reviewed every three years after a safety audit of the premises, but as fire officers found during a check at the culinary hub of Hauz Khas Village, many restaurants often operate with expired fire safety certificates. Fire department officials assured that an inspection drive would be conducted in popular markets to identify those operating without a fire certificate.


Under Delhi high court pressure, the south Delhi civic body closed 19 eateries in August this year, but the overall number of places sealed for such violations remains small at 23. “Delhi Fire Services has the power to take action and should act because they are experts in this field,” insisted a civic body official. “They carried out a fire safety audit in Hauz Khas Village but nothing happened”. Rajinder Sharda, who heads the Greater Kailash I M Block Traders Association, alleged there were around 15 eateries in the upmarket areas, but only three claimed to have seating for over 50 and accordingly obtained fire clearances. “In fact, eateries and pubs do have fire extinguishers, though we don’t have anything like a water tank or a joint firefighting system for the entire market,” Sharda added. At Khan Market, the traders’ association had proposed the construction of a walkway on the second level, along the balconies to connect the shops. However, this could not materialise, mainly because 11 properties there had residences on the upper floors, where people were unwilling to open up their privacy to market goers. Satinder Sarna, president of Hauz Khas Villager Traders’ Association and owner of three eateries there, claimed that businesses were willing to adapt according to the advice of experts and administrative officials. “For instance, we have approached the civic authorities to create at our cost an underground reservoir to store one lakh liters of water to tackle fires,” said Sarna.



Fire safety drive gathers pace ahead of D-Day



KOLKATA: Taking a cue from the Kamala Mills blaze in Mumbai, fire officials in Kolkata have decided to inspect hotels and restaurants to avoid any untoward incident in the festive season. The department has already issued an advisory, urging party organizers to adhere to safety norms. “We have told organizers to check sprinklers and fire alarms, to have provision for ventilation on each floor, carry out regular checks of electrical installations and cables and keep public address system functional,” said a senior fire brigade officer. The department has made it mandatory for party spots to have reservoirs with adequate water. The event organisers have responded positively to keep their venues safe. Aman Chopra, partner of The Party People (TPP), which organizes one of the niche private parties in Kolkata, said, “We have followed every instruction given to us and will abide by all norms set by the fire department.” The organizer of Elitify Select added, “We are deriving power from generator sets. We have tied up with vendors who have been authorized to get sanction from the power department”. “Fire sprinklers, adequate number of exits, disability access, using fire-proof material while using props, stage and decorations and safe electric wirings are some of the areas we are focusing on,” said event manager Saranjit Singh. The fire department has also urged patrons to behave responsibly to avoid any untoward incident. The party goers have been asked not to panic at the time of any fire incident.



Indigo Airlines bus catches fire at airport



CHENNAI: An electric bus belonging to Indigo Airlines caught fire near the runway in Chennai airport on Friday. No passengers were injured as the bus was returning after dropping them when the accident took place. Spotting the smoke, driver Loganathan, 30, got off the bus and alerted the fire personnel through his wireless mike. Police said the fire started due to an electrical short circuit at the battery. The accident happened after the driver dropped passengers near a Delhi-bound Indigo flight parked near the taxiway. The fire and rescue personnel normally park two fire tenders on the taxiway close to the runway for any emergency. Police personnel have asked the airport authorities to check if the buses deployed by the private airlines officials have undergone fitness certificate (FC) through the regional transport office (RTO).



Thieves decamp with cash, valuables worth Rs 15 lakh



AHMEDABAD: A Chandkheda resident has filed a complaint with Chandkheda police for theft of valuables worth Rs 15.25 lakh. The theft occurred in a matter of three hours. The thieves circumvented door having a password-protected lock and entered the house after breaking a window. According to investigators, Arvind Patel, 43, a resident of Amrakunj Lakeview Bungalows, lives in a joint family. On December 26 he along with his family went to a relative’s residence for dinner from 7pm to 10pm. When they came back they found a window ajar with stopper and frame broken. “The thieves entered the bedrooms and broke the wooden cupboards to steal Rs 4 lakh cash along with gold ornaments worth Rs 11.25 lakh belonging to different family members. Probe has been initiated with help from forensic experts,” said an official.



International News



Gunman kills 9 in attack on Egypt church

Policemen surround the Mar Mina church in south of Cairo where at least nine people were killed.



CAIRO: A gunman opened fire on a church south of Cairo on Friday, killing at least nine people before policemen shot him dead, officials and state media said. Health ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told state television that the gunman who was shot dead had killed nine people and wounded others, including a police officer. The gunman had tried to storm the building when police shot him dead, police officials said. State television reported that a second assailant who escaped had been arrested. Cellphone footage posted on social media appeared to show the bearded gunman wearing a bulky ammunition vest sprawled on a street, barely conscious, as people restrained his arms and then handcuffed him. Police later cordoned off the crime scene as onlookers crowded around the church, while a forensic team combed the area. Congealing blood could be seen at a guard post in front of the church. The Islamic State (IS) group’s affiliate in Egypt has killed dozens of Christians in church bombings and shootings over the past year, and has threatened further attacks against the minority. Egypt’s Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of the country’s 93 million people, and are the largest religious minority in the region. IS had claimed a suicide bombing of a Cairo church in December 2016 followed by bombings of two churches north of the capital in April. A month later, IS gunmen shot dead about 30 Christians south of Cairo as they travelled to a monastery.


The jihadists are believed to have also carried out a massacre of Muslim worshippers in Sinai last month, killing more than 300 in an attack on a mosque associated with the mystical Sufi strand of Islam which IS views as heretical. Egypt imposed a state of emergency following the church attacks and shootings, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi demanded the army quell the jihadists with “brutal force” following the mosque massacre. The group has been waging a deadly insurgency based in the Sinai peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers. They have increasingly targeted civilians as attacks on the security forces have become more difficult. The army has poured in thousands of troops backed with armour and jets in a bid to crush the Sinai-based jihadists, but attacks have continued. The attack on the church came a day after six Egyptian soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Sinai. Last week, IS claimed responsibility for firing an antitank missile at a helicopter in a North Sinai airport as the defence and interior ministers were visiting. The attack killed an aide to the defence minister and a helicopter pilot, but both ministers returned to Cairo unscathed.



Authorities say 2 dead including gunman at California office

Photo shows police at the scene of shooting in Long Beach.



LONG BEACH: Two people including a gunman were killed Friday and another was injured in a shooting at a Southern California law office that authorities called workplace violence. A murder investigation was underway at the scene, Long Beach police said. The wounded person was taken to a hospital, said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who described the person’s condition as stable. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the gunman shot himself or was shot by police. Authorities emphasized that it was not an active shooter situation, despite initial reports they received at about 2:25 p.m. “This was a workplace violence incident,” Long Beach police tweeted. Video showed people running from a two-story office building shouting about a shooting inside. The building is home to several law offices, but authorities have not specified which firm it was. The shooting brought a massive response from police, who filled the surrounding blocks after the shooting. The office is about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles in Long Beach, a city of about 460,000 people on the southern tip of LA County.

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