News Flash – 30 January 2018

National News



2 minors loot jeweller of Rs 43 lakh cash, gold as CCTV conks off



MUMBAI: Two teenaged cousins, one of them employed at a jewellery store in Malad (E), were arrested for stealing cash and gold worth Rs 43 lakh from the store recently. Both the accused, aged 17, were nabbed from Rajasthan and brought to Mumbai, where they have been sent to the Dongri observation home. The theft was reported at Rooplaxmi Jewellers at Santosh Nagar on January 21. The store owner, Khalilal Kothari, had hired one of them from his hometown in Rajasthan three months back. He trusted the teen and gave him accommodation at his residence. While working at the shop, the teen figured out that the CCTV cameras were not functioning. He also found out where Kothari kept the store keys at his house. After Kothari locked up the shop and went home to rest in the afternoon, the teen pocketed the keys from his house on January 21. He then met his cousin, who he had contacted earlier, at the shop. The two emptied the store of gold jewellery and cash. They then left for Rajasthan by road and kept changing vehicles to throw anyone chasing them off track.


After Kothari lodged a police complaint, the cops used technical surveillance to track down the duo to Rajasthan. They had apparently called a friend in Rajasthan 36 times. The two were nabbed from a guest house where they were hiding and the entire loot was recovered from them, police said. During questioning, the duo told police that they had planned to start their own jewellery business with the loot. The accused have been booked under sections 381 (theft by servant) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Dindoshi police have appealed to Jewellers to run background checks before hiring employees. “Jewellers also need to ensure that the electronic surveillance systems at their establishments are functioning properly,” said senior inspector Rajaram Vanmane.



Zero visibility delays 100 flights



NEW DELHI: Over 100 flights were delayed and three diverted on Monday morning after the visibility fell to near zero at IGI airport, resulting in a backlog. However, there were no cancellations, an airport official said. The flight operations were disrupted for nearly three hours from 6.30am after the runway visual range (RVR) fell below 100m, the officials added. Airport met official said the runway visual range was hovering between 100m and 150m from 6.30am and the conditions returned to normal only around 9am. “CAT-IIIA and B procedures were initiated as visibility fell below 100m at one point. Flight operations were severely affected for 3 hours,” said a met official. Flights cannot take-off when the visibility is below 125m, while landings can take place even when it is around 50m. Flight operations have been affected for the past several days, owing to airspace restrictions till January 26 and dense fog. Forecast for Tuesday, however, shows improvement with ‘shallow to moderate’ fog, an official said. IGI airport witnesses around 67 air traffic movements per hour between 8am and 11pm daily. On average, it handles around 1,300 flights each day.



Police to scrap drive against non-ISI helmets



BENGALURU: Headgear is no longer a headache for two-wheeler riders. The Bengaluru Traffic Police has decided to scrap its drive to crack down on riders not using ISI mark helmets. The drive was to start on February 1. The volte-face comes in the backdrop of the Bureau of Indian Standards clarifying that the quality of helmets cannot be assessed by mere visual examination. R Hithendra, additional commissioner of police (traffic), said traffic police won’t be able to assess the quality of helmets by stopping motorists and examining the headgear. We decided not to carry out the drive against non-ISI helmets. But we’ll continue to create awareness on using helmets which meet safety standards,” he added. The Bureau of Indian Standards told police that when a licence is granted to the manufacturer, the latter has to follow the testing procedure as per police’s testing and inspection documents. “Helmets conforming to the requirements are marked with the standard sign. Hence, BIS conformity cannot be verified through visual examination,” a source said. Traffic policemen, too, are relieved. A traffic police officer said they are wary of stopping two-wheelers for using substandard helmets. “Given the number of two-wheelers in Bengaluru, a drive could lead only to angry exchanges. In terms of logistics, there’s no way to verify if the ISI mark is genuine. If we need to prove a helmet is substandard, we’ll have to take the helmet to a laboratory and subject it to a break-strength test. Who will bear the cost,” he said.



Kolkata: 36 killed as bus plunges into Murshidabad creek


BEHRAMPORE: Thirty-six people died after a bus plunged 25 feet into a creek from a bridge in Daulatabad, 12 kilometres from Murshidabad district headquarters Behrampore, early on Monday. Most of the dead were state government employees, primarily schoolteachers. One was a WBCS probationary officer on his way to join duty at Samshergunj in Murshidabad. The bus careened off the bridge while trying to avoid a last-minute, head-on collision with a truck. Witnesses said the driver was speaking on his phone while driving and refused to heed repeated pleas by passengers not to do so. Seven persons, who were near the door, jumped off even as the vehicle broke through the bridge’s concrete barrier; one of them later died at a hospital and the other six were being treated for serious but not life-threatening injuries. Rescue operations continued well after dusk as divers searched for more bodies or survivors from the deep creek. Officials said the search would resume on Tuesday morning but admitted that the possibility of finding survivors was extremely slim. One of those who jumped off the bus and survived was Swapan Haldar. “The driver went on speaking on his phone and ignored our pleas to disconnect,” he said from hospital. “The fog was dense and all of us feared a head-on collision with another vehicle”. The driver, whose identity was yet to be established by the administration, somehow managed to avoid this collision but, in the process, drove the bus into the Balirghat bridge’s concrete barrier.


The NBSTC bus was scheduled to leave Nadia’s Karimpur at 5.20am for Malda. It left 25 minutes later, at 5.45am. It was on the bridge at 6.55am. Ziarul Haq, who saw the accident happen, said: “It was foggy, so all I saw was the truck, coming from the opposite direction, draw perilously close to the bus. Desperate to avoid the truck, the bus swerved to the right and fell over the bridge. It smashed a 20-foot concrete railing and fell headlong into the creek.” Golam Nabi Sarkar, who was with Ziarul, said: “The bus fell roughly 25 feet into the water and got stuck. Local residents started gathering, and some boatmen also rushed in”. The locals, who immediately started rescue operations, spotted three bodies and seven survivors. Of these seven, Parbati Haldar, 60, died minutes later. The first team of cops took 40 minutes to reach the spot, but was visibly unprepared. It was only around 9am — two hours after the accident — that a large police team arrived. Locals, who had been waging an uphill search-and-rescue battle all on their own, let loose their frustration, attacking the cops and setting ablaze two government vehicles. As the situation threatened to spiral out of control and take the focus off the rescue operations, Nabanna acted with alacrity. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled all her prior engagements and decided to head to the spot with transport minister Suvendu Adhikari and principal secretary (transport) Alapan Bandyopadhyay. Before leaving, she announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to each dead person’s family, Rs 1 lakh to the seriously injured, and Rs 50,000 for survivors.


The Murshidabad administration alerted the state Disaster Management Group and the National Disaster Relief Force and dispatched four cranes to the spot along with four Gemini rescue boats. The cranes were finally able to pull the bus out of the sludge around 5pm, a full 10 hours later. Even with the cranes, the rescue operation was not smooth. The crane wires snapped thrice. It was sheer luck that there was still enough daylight by the time the cranes managed to haul the bus up. The rescuers broke open the windows and dragged the bodies out. After that, it was a death march: body after body was being pulled as dusk finally settled. Till reports last came in, the count stood at 36. The CM supervised rescue operations for nearly 15 minutes before heading to Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, where the bodies were being taken. Among the anxious survivors who thronged the hospital was Mofizul Islam, a schoolteacher from Jalangi. He had learnt the worst. His wife Sukhia Mumtaz, 26, was on the bus, going to Joykrishnapur ABS High School, where she taught. Sukhia had joined barely a year ago. “She always took this bus from Jalangi to her school,” Mofizul said. “She used to say this bus was perfect for reaching in time. Today was no different, only she will never return”. Pritikona Chatterjee was yet to find her brother. “My brother Krishna Das Chakraborty, 40, had taken the bus from Jalangi. He was headed to the Madhupur Raja Sasanka High School, where he is a teacher. I still can’t find him. They told me there were none left in the bus to rescue. So I’m here,” she said, maintaining vigil as the body bags were being stretchered into the hospital morgue.



International News



Britain sees first Bitcoin armed robbery: Reports



LONDON: Armed robbers have raided the house of a British virtual currency trader, forcing him to transfer Bitcoins after tying up his wife and threatening him with a gun, British media reported on Monday. The robbery happened on January 22 at the couple’s home in the village of Moulsford in southeast England, according to the Daily Mail, which said the cryptocurrency crime was the first of its kind. Four robbers wearing balaclavas broke into the house of Danny Aston, 30, and his wife Amy Jay, 31. A Thames Valley Police spokesman quoted by the Daily Telegraph said only that police were investigating an “aggravated burglary” in Moulsford last week and that the occupants of the house had been “threatened”. According to company registry records, Aston and Jay are directors of Aston Digital Currencies, which specialises in managing virtual currency portfolios.


The company was created in June 2017 at a time when Bitcoin was trading at around 2,500 euros. It has since risen sharply to a peak of 16,323 euros on December 17 before falling back below 10,000 euros. No arrests have been made but the reports said that Aston may have been targeted because of his high profile in the cryptocurrency community. Using a pseudonym, Aston has carried out more than 100,000 transactions with 16,375 partners. Some of them referred to him online using his real name, which may have led robbers directly to him. Bitcoin is a virtual currency created from computer code that allows anonymous transactions. Unlike a real-world unit such as the US dollar or euro, it has no central bank and is not backed by any government.



Pakistan: Rescuers save French climber trapped on ‘killer mountain’

Helicopter leaves to rescue two climbers on Nanga Parbat Himalayan Mountain.



ISLAMABAD: An elite group of climbers saved a French mountaineer in a daring high-altitude rescue mission on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), one of the highest mountains in the world, as officials called off the search for a second missing alpinist today. The group of Polish climbers with support from the Pakistani military launched the effort Saturday afternoon to rescue stranded French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol, but were unable to reach Polish national Tomek Mackiewicz on Nanga Parbat, nicknamed “killer mountain”. “The rescue for Tomasz is unfortunately not possible – because of the weather and altitude it would put the life of rescuers in extreme danger,” wrote Ludovic Giambiasi, a friend of Revol, in a series of updates on Facebook. “It’s a terrible and painful decision”. The rescue mission involved four mountaineers who were flown by the Pakistani military from the base camp of K2 — the world’s second-highest peak — to reach the stranded climbers. “The K2 climbers who stopped their historic effort for a winter K2 summit will descend with Elisabeth Revol – one life saved,” said Karar Haideri, spokesman for the Alpine Club of Pakistan, in a statement today. The team is in the process of being evacuated by helicopter after a five and a half hour descent down the mountain to Nanga Parbat’s camp one early today, where they are set to airlifted to a hospital in nearby Skardu.


“(Revol) has frostbite and some (snow) blindness,” said Asghar Ali Porik from Jasmine Tours who helped organise the K2 expedition. Pakistani climber Karim Shah, who was in contact with the expedition, said the rescue effort was unmatched in the history of mountaineering, with the team ascending 1,200 metres in complete darkness along a treacherous route without a fixed rope. “No one did such a climb before,” Shah told AFP. “Most people it takes two or three days and they did it in eight hours in the darkness”. The rescue mission was launched after the missing alpinists were located on Friday when fellow mountaineers using binoculars spotted Revol attempting to climb down while Mackiewicz appeared to be crawling due to frostbite. Nanga Parbat, in PoK, is the world’s ninth-highest mountain at 8,125 metres (26,660 feet). It earned the nickname “killer mountain” after more than 30 climbers died trying to conquer it before the first successful summit in 1953. In July last year, a Spaniard and an Argentinian were presumed dead after they went missing while trying to summit Nanga Parbat.



Air strikes kills more than 30 in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor



BEIRUT: Air strikes in the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwestern Syria have killed at least 33 people since Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rescue workers in Idlib said on Monday. Most of the dead were in Saraqib, a town on the main highway linking to the government-held city of Aleppo and some 20 km (12 miles) northwest of an air base recently captured from insurgents by government forces and allied militias.



90,000 flee Philippine volcano stretching relief camps


LEGAZPI, PHILIPPINES: The number of Filipinos fleeing from the erupting Mayon volcano to safe zones has swelled to nearly 90,000, officials said Monday, worsening a sanitation crisis in the already stretched relief camps. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte flew to the central city of Legazpi on Monday to assess the disaster zone, some two weeks after the country’s most active volcano began belching spectacular but potentially lethal ash columns, lava and rocks. Authorities have thrown a nine kilometer (5.6 mile) no-go zone around the mountain with the vast majority of those living in its shadow now safely outside that radius. But sanitary conditions in the safe-zones are far from ideal. Al Francis Bichara, the governor of Albay province, said authorities expect the evacuees will need to stay at the camps for at least a month. But he warned limited local government resources were being stretched, citing the lack of toilets at the shelters, where he said an average of 200 people now took turns using one. “We lack 1,222 toilets,” he said, adding the ideal was one toilet for every 50 evacuee (1,800 total). After being briefed by officials Duterte said he was worried about the lack of toilets. “One worry really is the sanitation,” he told the officials, adding his government would try to send as many portable cabins as possible in the coming days.


Officials said they were confident the no-go zone radius was large enough to keep people safe from even a large explosive eruption. “Even if that happens we think the people are already safe,” state volcanology institute chief Renato Solidum said. He stressed the eruption was not over despite a relatively quiet weekend, estimating some “50 million cubic metres” more debris had the potential to be ejected from the crater in the coming days and weeks. If cooling lava blocks the crater gas pressure would build up and cause the magma inside to explode, producing eruption columns far taller than the five-kilometres-tall clouds seen in previous days, he said. Officials have also told AFP farmers are also going back to the danger zone to tend to their crops and livestock, putting them within range of white-hot volcanic debris shooting down Mayon’s flanks at great speed. Solidum said local authorities were also making sure loose volcanic debris deposited on Mayon’s flanks would not threaten lives and properties should they be dislodged by heavy rain and turn into mudslides. The 2,460-metre (8,070-foot) Mayon, a perfect cone rising 330 kilometres southeast of Manila, is the country’s most active volcano – now on its 52nd eruption in four centuries. It killed 1,200 people when it buried the town of Cagsawa in 1814.

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