News Flash – 4 January 2018

National News



Fire breaks out in north Mumbai building, 4 killed


MUMBAI: Four people were killed and five injured in a fire that broke out in a residential building in northern Mumbai’s Andheri early on Thursday morning, police said today. The cause of the fire, that broke out around 2 am in Andheri East’s Mamoon Manzil, is yet to be ascertained. The blaze was brought under control three hours later around 5 am, police said. Those killed include two minor children aged 10 and 14, and an 80-year-old. The five injured were admitted to Holy Spirit Hospital and are said to be stable, said officials. According to preliminary information, the fire broke out in the ground-plus four-storey building in Andheri’s Bhori Colony. Five fire engines and water tankers were rushed to the spot. This is the second major fire in Mumbai in a week. Last Friday, a major blaze at two eateries in Mumbai’s Kamala Mill killed 14 people.



Maharashtra bandh: 12 flights cancelled, 235 delayed at Mumbai airport



MUMBAI: Flight operations at the Mumbai airport were badly hit due to the Maharashtra Bandh called by Dalit leaders today, with 12 flights getting cancelled and 235 delayed. The shut-down, called to protest the state government’s “failure” to stop the violence against celebration of 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in Pune district, disrupted normal life across Maharashtra, including Mumbai. The shut-down was withdrawn later this evening. As many as 182 flight departures and 53 arrivals at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) were delayed till around 1600 hours, according to a website tracking real-time flight status at airports across the world. Of the 12 cancelled flights, seven were departures and five were arriving ones, as per the website. When contacted, a Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson said the “flights (are) landing and taking off on time”. The spokesperson, however, said the arriving passengers were stranded at the terminal, despite the airport operator arranging civic-run BEST buses for them, as the buses were stopped (by protesters) from coming to CSIA. The transferred passengers from domestic to international and vice versa were being taken to the respective terminals using the ‘air-side’ (internal route), the spokesperson added. Crew members of various airlines also reported late at the airport due to traffic disruptions. Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar had called for a ‘Maharashtra Bandh’ today to protest the state government’s “failure” to stop the violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district on Monday. The event to mark 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune district, in which forces of the East India Company defeated Peshwa’s army, was marred by incidents of violence in which one person was killed.



Blaze guts three homes, woman seriously hurt

Houses in Baranagar gutted by the blaze on Wednesday morning.



KOLKATA: A fire that possibly started from an electric meter box of a house at Baranagar‘s Tantipara area gutted at least three houses and left a woman severely injured on Wednesday morning. It took two hours for four fire engines to douse the blaze. According to police, the fire was caused by a short-circuit in a meter box. “Within minutes the fire spread to the two adjoining houses at Ward No. 7 of the Baranagar Municipality. Bebi Das, residing in one of the houses, was severely burnt when the gas cylinder burst due to the fire. Locals called the fire brigade after they failed to douse the fire,” said Tapan Ghosh, a local resident. Das is undergoing treatment at Baranagar State General Hospital. Locals panicked as the area is congested and the fire spread quickly. A fire department official said, “We are investigating the exact cause behind the fire”. “The area is very congested. We evacuated the residents of nearby houses quickly,” a senior officer of the Barrackpore Commissionerate said.



All mosquito-borne diseases on upswing in Tamil Nadu, malaria up 18%


CHENNAI: It was not just dengue cases that went up in Tamil Nadu during the 2017 epidemic. There was an increase in the incidence of at least three other mosquito-borne diseases, shows data provided by the state health department to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme. There was an 18% increase in cases of malaria, incidence of which had been on the decline since 2010, although the number of people tested for the disease came down by nearly 6 lakhs. Chikungunya cases rose to 113 from 86 cases the previous year and cases of Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) also increased until December 24, the report said. The increase in cases of these diseases, public health experts said, was due to the harsh weather and severe drought in several parts of the state which offered a fertile breeding ground for several of these species, including the malaria-causing anopheles. Entomologists say there was a steep increase in the mosquito population throughout 2017. State chief entomologist Abdul Kader said, “The monsoon rain and waterlogging increased the likelihood of eggs surviving, especially for dengue-causing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. “While studies show many of them are able to survive even the strongest of repellents, we now see a huge change in their behaviour too”. “The state was once a hotbed for malaria, but the incidence came down because of both vector control measures and natural decline in the population of the anopheles species. We did not expect the numbers to go up, but during this stage it is vital to intensify measures to keep cases under control and increase awareness among people,” said director of public health Dr K Kolandaswamy.


For instance, after the 2015 floods, sanitary inspectors reported a huge increase in the population of aedes albopictus mosquito, a forest breed, in urban areas. In several rural areas, health workers found anopheles and aedes breeding together in wells. “We don’t normally see them breed together. These are probably acts of survival,” he said. Doctors’ bodies and health activists, however, claim the state has been drastically under-reporting cases and deaths. In the last five years, there were no reports of deaths due to malaria and no deaths due to JE or AES in 2017, due to “better surveillance and treatment.” The state recorded 63 dengue deaths. But Indian Public Health Association state wing president and former director of public health Dr S Elango, said a study by his association, showed 12,500 cases of dengue in 10 districts since March against the government figures of 11,500 across the state since January. “We recorded more than 80 dengue deaths, but the state has till now reported just 63. The remaining, they say is haemorrhagic shock. The only disease known to cause such shock in our state is dengue,” he said. Senior doctors and office bearers of the Indian Medical Association also said under-reporting was worsening the situation. “Vector control is the job of municipal authorities. The state has to network with local bodies to bring down the mosquito population,” said IMA former state president Dr T N Ravishankar.



International News



Suicide bomber kills 11 people in mosque attack in northeast Nigeria

AFP photo of Boko Haram terrorists.



ABUJA: A suicide bomber killed 11 people on Wednesday in an attack on a mosque in northeast Nigeria, the epicentre of the conflict with Islamist insurgency Boko Haram, military officials and an aid worker said. The bomber hit the mosque in the town of Gamboru in Borno state, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, during dawn prayers, said Ali Mustapha, an aid worker. “I was on my way to dawn prayer, then I heard the sound of a loud bomb explosion inside the mosque,” Mustapha told Reuters. “The mosque was destroyed and burnt,” he said. “After some hours, when we came to evacuation of the people, we saw 11 corpses, with the suicide bomber making (the total number of dead) 12”. Pictures of the aftermath of the blast showed the bodies of the dead uncovered and lined up on the ground. A building had been reduced to rubble, with only a few sections of wall left standing. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bears the hallmarks of Boko Haram, a jihadist group which frequently uses suicide bombers, often women and girls, to attack crowded public spaces such as mosques and markets. Despite repeated government and military assertions that the insurgency has been defeated, Boko Haram continues to carry out lethal attacks on the military and civilians. Last week four civilians were killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on Maiduguri, the Nigerian city at the centre of the conflict with the Islamists. In November a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people in an attack on a mosque, in one of the deadliest bombings of recent years.



Norway suspends arms, ammo exports to UAE amid war in Yemen

Wreckage of a building hit by air strikes in Sanaa.



COPENHAGEN: Norway said Wednesday it has suspended exports of munitions and arms to the United Arab Emirates as a “precautionary line,” based on its assessment of the situation in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Shiite rebels for the past three years. The UAE is part of the coalition. Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said she has “no information” that any of Norway’s military exports have been used in Yemen but that there’s “great concern” over the humanitarian crisis. On Tuesday, Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang published a video by the Yemeni rebels, known as the Houthis, in which they claim to have seized “a US spy submarine”. The Norwegian newspaper said it was a REMUS 600 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle made by Norway’s Kongsberg group. There was no immediate comment from Kongsberg or from the Saudi-led coalition. It was not immediately clear when it was seized. Eriksen Soreide added that since 2010, Norway has allowed sale of weapons and ammunition to the UAE. The decision to suspend sales for so-called A-material – munitions and arms – was made December 19 and announced on Wednesday. The Houthis, who are allied with Saudi Arabia’s rival, Iran, have forced into exile the Saudi-backed and internationally recognised government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Despite a fierce air campaign against them, the rebels still control Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north along the border with Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, the Houthis killed Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after he broke off his alliance with the rebels and appeared ready to switch sides. Yemen’s war has killed more than 10,000 civilians and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

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