News Flash – 5 December 2019

National News



18 Indians Feared Killed in LPG Tanker Blast in Sudan Ceramic Factory


New Delhi: Eighteen Indians were feared killed in an LPG tanker blast in a ceramic factory in Sudan. While there was no official confirmation of the deaths, mainly because many of the bodies were charred, the Indian embassy in Khartoum released a list with names of 16 missing Indians. The embassy clarified that some of the missing may be in the list of dead, which it was still to get, as identification was not possible because the bodies were burnt. “As per latest reports, but so far not confirmed officially, 18 are dead,’’ it said. The embassy also said seven people had been hospitalised, four of them in critical condition. On the list of the 16 men missing, four are from Bihar and three each from UP and TN. The others are from Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Twenty-three people in all were killed in the blast at the Seela Ceramic Factory. About 70 Indians were employed in the factory in Khartoum Bahri. Anguished by the blast in a ceramic factory in Sudan, where some Indian workers have lost their lives and some are injured. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured. Our embassy is providing all possible assistance to those affected,” PM Narendra Modi tweeted.



At least 34 Indians who survived the blast have been accommodated at the Saloomi Ceramics Factory residence. “Deeply grieved to learn that some Indian workers have lost their lives while some others have been seriously injured,” foreign minister S Jaishankar tweeted. “The embassy representative has rushed to the site. A 24-hour emergency hotline +249-921917471 has been set up by our embassy in Khartoum. Embassy is also putting out updates on social media. Our prayers are with the workers and their families,” he added. An AFP report quoted the Sudanese government as saying that 23 people were killed and more than 130 injured in the incident, which, according to preliminary reports, indicated that necessary safety equipment was missing at the site. “There were also inflammable material improperly stored, which led to the spread of the fire,” the Sudanese government said, adding that a probe had been launched.



Crime Map Widens as more Skimming Complaints Pour in


Kolkata: City cops have started a joint combing operation in collaboration with Delhi Police in the southern and eastern pockets of the Capital after specific inputs on the movement of three suspects involved in the ATM skimming racket, top Lalbazar officers told TOI on Wednesday. The operations are largely concentrated on hotels, guesthouses and certain buildings that have been rented out to foreigners. All possible CCTV footage are being scanned. The development comes on the day when the geographical spread of the crime was revealed to have widened to touch Ultadanga in the east and Behala in south. The total number of complaints has now touched 70 and the loss count crossed Rs 15 lakh. A year ago, a total of 82 cases had been reported. While fresh complaints poured in from Jadavpur for the third consecutive day — taking the complaints from the area to 49 — three more cases have also been reported at Charu Market. The total number of complaints here now stands at 16. Netaji Nagar has reported two cases and Karaya, Ultadanga and Parnasree reported one case each. The anti-bank fraud section, though, said that not all 70 cases can be attributed to skimming, with at least 10 of them likely to end up as phishing cases. Among the fresh cases reported was that of a senior citizen who lost Rs 70,000 in Netaji Nagar and another trader losing Rs 40,000 in Ultadanga. “Gouri Chowdhury (71), a resident of Naktala Road, said that on December 1, the accused withdrew Rs 20,000 (Rs 10,000 twice) through an ATM at Kailash Colony in southeast Delhi by cloning her ATM card,” the FIR stated.



Cops have also contacted the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) to try and ascertain how many East Europeans — especially Romanian citizens — have entered India since April and then have either returned or proceeded towards Nepal or Bangladesh. “Last time, all eight Romanians arrested in the skimming racket had come to India with valid visas. Most of them had visited big cities, including Kolkata and Goa, and had gone to Nepal as well. Hence, we need updates on the whereabouts of the foreigners,” said a senior officer at Lalbazar. The chief of that gang, who was close to the arrested Adrian Liviu — who in turn led the Kolkata operations — is still elusive, making him the main suspect in the present cases. Police have also started a detailed analysis of all those who withdrew money between April 7 and 13 at the Punjab National Bank branches at Sulekha (Jadavpur) and Tollygunge Phanri. “We are drawing up a list of all those who are at risk of having their ATM/debit card data compromised. We will ask banks to ensure that all security measures are implemented to protect those who have still not become victims,” an officer said. Anti-bank fraud wing officers were shocked to find that this gang was able to use up to five PIN numbers on one plastic card. “They used one PIN to withdraw as much money as possible — either up to the maximum limit allowed in a day or till the card got blocked — before wiping out that PIN data to install another,” said a senior official.



October Rainfall Hits Crops on 10.2 Lakhs Hectares; Karnataka Worst Affected


Bengaluru: Unseasonal rains in October affected 10.2 lakh hectares of farmland in Karnataka, damaging standing crops and causing more pain to farmers already reeling from drought and monsoon floods. Karnataka, in fact, is the worst hit, on the count of losing standing crops, among nine states which received high unseasonal downpour in the said month, according to data from the ministry of home affairs and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Kerala are the other eight states. In formal terms, the central ministry attributed the crop damage to “prolonged rains in October owing to the delayed withdrawal of southwest monsoon”. Eleven states received “large excess” rainfall this year, while seven recorded “excess rainfall”. The term “large excess” is used when the showers are 60% more than normal, whereas “excess” refers to 20% and 59% more than normal. Karnataka received 268.8mm of rain in October, 105% more than the forecasted level of 131%. Some states are still determining the impact, while a few others have showed a much smaller area of affected farmland than Karnataka.



“The figure [10.2 lakh hectares] given by NDRF includes all kinds of farmlands, including horticulture area and so on. So far, our department has information about crop loss on 2.35 lakh hectares,” said BY Srinivas, director, the state agriculture department. “We are waiting for joint survey reports from all districts, though our information will not include area under horticulture”. Sunflower, corn, groundnut, paddy, cotton, and paddy grown on 170-180 hectares in Belagavi and surrounding areas are among the crops that have suffered. “These are the crops we’ve identified so far; we will have to wait for the final report,” Srinivas said. Other department officials said unseasonal showers had caused two problems: they hit standing crops from the previous sowing season and led to flooding in fields where the new sowing cycle had begun. “NDRF generally makes an accurate assessment about damage. Coastal and north Karnataka districts have been the worst affected. Belagavi, Kodagu, Bagalkot, Vijayapura and Uttara Kannada alone have lost crops on about 7-8 lakh hectares,” said Maruti Manpade, who takes up issues of farmers’ interests with authorities.

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