News Flash – 30 January 2020

National News



Bengaluru has World’s Worst Traffic Congestion


Bengaluru: Bengaluru has overtaken Mumbai as the city with the highest traffic congestion and emerged on top of the list globally. According to a report released by a major global location technology specialist, drivers in the southern city spent an average of 71% extra time on the road due to congestion in 2019, while in Mumbai, drivers spent 65% more time in vehicles thanks to the city’s traffic snarls. While Mumbai has slipped to fourth rank among 416 cities in 57 countries after topping the list for two consecutive years 2017 and 2018 Delhi has also improved its position from second most traffic congested city in 2017 to eighth in the 2019 ranking. The ninth edition of Tom-Tom Traffic Index saw Pune, which was included for the first time in 2019, ranked fifth where drivers spent 59% extra time because of traffic jams. Indian cities were included in the global ranking for the first time in 2017. Friday evening (7-8 pm) was the worst period for commuters in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. One could save up to five hours annually for a 30-minute commute by deferring the journey post-8pm on these days.



According to the report, on an average, Delhiites driving during peak hours spent an extra 190 hours or seven days and 22 hours in traffic during 2019. In the case of drivers in Bengaluru, the extra time spent on roads was 243 hours or 10 days and 3 hours while time wasted in congestion on Mumbai roads was equivalent to 8 days and 17 hours. Pune commuters wasted around 8 days and one hour due to idling on roads. The report says October 23 last year saw the worst traffic congestion on Delhi’s streets. One of the major reasons for acute congestion in Delhi was the protest by nearly 200 physically challenged people, who had taken over Mandi House, leaving central Delhi gridlocked. The protesters were demonstrating against the railways for failing to give them jobs. Mumbai witnessed its worst traffic jam on September 9 while in Pune, August 2 was the worst day for the commuters on the city roads. In the case of Bengaluru, August 20 saw maximum traffic congestion. “We get the data from multiple sources across the globe and in every few seconds, we get updates from nearly 600 million devices,” said Tom-Tom’s strategic business development manager, Vinod Kumar P.



India Shares ‘Evacuation Consent’ Forms with Desi’s Stuck in Wuhan



New Delhi: The Indian embassy in Beijing on Wednesday started sharing “evacuation consent” forms online with Indians stuck in the coronavirus hit Chinese city of Wuhan. A day earlier TOI had reported on the plight of Indians trapped in the city which is the epicenter of the virus outbreak. China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. Many Indians TOI spoke to said they were running out of food and other provisions while strict limitations on their mobility had taken a mental toll. The form, shared with TOI by a member of the WeChat group ‘Indians in Wuhan’, read that those evacuated will undergo “a mandatory 14 days quarantine” on arrival in India. It added that the “individuals would be directly informed about the date and logistics of the evacuation”. The form asked for full name, passport numbers, pick up location, details of contact person in India and whether the person was exhibiting any symptoms. It added that on the basis of medical checks as part of the evacuation process, a person could be rejected for evacuation or placed in quarantine in China. This clause seems to have added to their anxiety and confusion. Some said they have decided to opt out of the evacuation process. Gaurav Nath, a student at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told TOI, “What if they suspect us to be infected during the evacuation and put us in the hospital and we actually catch the infection there? It’s better to stay at the university”. Others who did not want to sign the form were concerned about missing their studies and worried about when they would be allowed to return. Earlier in the day, three students from Pakistan at WUST were admitted to the hospital on suspicion of infection. They were later cleared. The World Health Organisation has, however, said that the it “does not recommend the evacuation” of foreign nationals from virus-hit Hubei province.



Nine-Hour Power Cuts Add to Misery of Valley’s Long Winter

HARSH REALITY: A man removes snow from the top of a mud house after snowfall on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday.



Srinagar: Kashmir is going through one of its longest and harshest winters with barely half of its daily electricity requirement of 2,000 megawatts, resulting in nine hours of power cuts on an average each day in the metered areas and up to 12 hours in places where rural consumers are billed at flat rates. Ajaz Dar, chief engineer (maintenance) of the J&K power development department, partly blames the early onset of winter for the massive shortfall in electricity generation. “As of now, we have 1,200MW available for distribution in the Valley, including the power we import. The Alesteng transmission line should provide us 200 to 250MW more after it is commissioned, hopefully soon,” he told TOI. The Alesteng project was scheduled to be operational in December. While power cuts have always been a feature of winter in the Valley, the electricity available for distribution in previous years has seldom fallen short by more than 200-250MW a day, officials said.



In 2018-19, the average daily requirement was 1,800MW while supply was in the region of 1,450MW. Power cuts in both urban and rural areas through the season was never beyond three to four hours a day. Besides homes and businesses, public health centres in north and south Kashmir have borne the brunt of the power cuts this season. “We have procured diesel generators for primary and sub-district hospitals in the far-flung areas, but we can’t have power back-up all the time,” said a senior health care official who did not want to be named. Zahoor Ahmad Mir of Watnoo in Tangmarg, a town in Baramulla district, has shifted his ailing father, 88-year-old Mohammad Maqbool Mir, to his elder brother’s house in Srinagar let there be a medical emergency. “Which health care centre do I admit him to? Even the Tangmarg sub-district hospital does not have electricity for most of the day?” he said. In Srinagar, the major hospitals have been included in the power department’s priority network, although that does not guarantee uninterrupted supply. Muneer Ahmad, the deputy medical superintendent of SMHS Hospital, said the power crisis was so acute that it was impossible for any health care institute to function without adequate back-up.



International News



6,061 People now Infected in China, 30% Jump in a Day


Beijing: Countries began evacuating their citizens on Wednesday from the Chinese city hardest-hit by a new virus that has now infected more people in China than were sickened in the country by SARS. The number of confirmed coronavirus infections has gone up to 6,061, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China during the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. The number of deaths rose to 132, according to figures provided by the National Health Commission on Wednesday. The number of infected have grown by 1,500 since Tuesday, logging a 30% jump. Although not revealed, the number of people kept under close watch is much larger than the confirmed cases. Chinese authorities have found a suspected case in Tibet which has so far been the only province that was unaffected. With this, all 31Chinese provinces have cases of infections or suspected infections. Beijing, which is 1,100 Kms from Wuhan, has recorded 111 cases and witnessed one death. Four of the infected patients have recovered in the city.



The first case in the Middle East was confirmed on Wednesday, a family of four from Wuhan that was visiting UAE. Finland too reported its first case, also the first in the Nordic region. A 32-year-old woman was being treated at an isolation ward at a hospital in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Australia and Singapore were among those reporting new cases, as the number outside China topped 70. Four Pakistani students studying in Wuhan have tested positive to the coronavirus. Planes carrying about 200 evacuees each arrived in Japan and the US early Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from Wuhan. The WHO said its emergency committee would reconvene on Thursday to decide whether the spread of the new virus now constitutes a global emergency.

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