News Flash – 5 October 2018

National News



High Alert in Tamil Nadu & Kerala braces for more Rain

NDRF TEAM RUSHED TO KERALA: All the four shutters of Malampuzha reservoir, the biggest irrigation dam in Kerala, were opened on Thursday.



Thiruvananthapuram: A rain-ravaged Kerala is bracing for more downpour even as a low-pressure area is likely to form over southeast Arabian Sea on Friday. The Kerala state disaster management authority (KSDMA) has stepped up its preparedness to tide over heavy to very heavy rain, as predicted by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The National Disaster Response Force has dispatched teams to the state, based on a request by the state government. KSDMA, on Thursday, advised Malappuram and Idukki to be on red alert on Sunday. The red alert issued to Palakkad and Thrissur earlier for the same day has been downgraded to orange. The Thrissur district administration, however, decided to evacuate families living in land slide prone areas, if the rain intensifies in the coming days. Besides Thrissur and Palakkad, Idukki, too, has been put under orange alert on Friday, Saturday and Monday. KSDMA member secretary Sekhar Kuriakose said the alerts might change based on the weather condition. He added that all district collectors have been alerted about the weather conditions. A high-level meeting chaired by the chief secretary has asked the authorities concerned to follow the standard operating procedures, including alerting and getting the approval of district collectors, before opening dam shutters. With the neighbouring Tamil Nadu too in high alert, the reservoir levels of dams maintained by that state, are a matter of concern for Kerala.


IMD director K Santosh said the low-pressure area could intensify into a cyclonic storm, triggering heavy to very heavy rainfall in several parts of Kerala. Heavy rain in the range of 7 to 11cm to very heavy rainfall in the range of 12 to 20 cm are likely in parts of Kerala till October 8. Heavy rainfall of over 21 cm and above is likely to occur in parts of Kerala on Sunday. IMD and KSDMA have also warned of rough to very rough sea on Saturday, with strong winds gusting up to 60 kmph. Earlier, the authorities had asked fishermen to return by Friday noon, and advised them not to go fishing from Friday. The Navy and coast guard, too, are on alert. Meanwhile, many parts of Idukki continued to receive isolated heavy rain, forcing authorities to open the shutters of Mattuppetty, Kallarkutty and Malankara dams on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The district administration also banned tourists from visiting Munnar, and restricted night traffic through hilly areas. The water levels in Idukki reservoir and Mullaperiyar were 2387.76 feet and 129.10 feet, respectively, on Thursday. In Palakkad, the shutters of Malampuzha, Pothundy and Mangalam reservoirs were opened on Thursday.



5 die of dengue in Sept, monsoon diseases have killed 23 this year


Mumbai: Monsoon diseases claimed 23 lives this year with leptospirosis and dengue emerging as the leading killers. While the withdrawal of monsoon is likely to bring respite from leptospirosis, doctors say dengue cases will continue to rise till November. The city already accounts for 50% of dengue deaths in the state so far this year. The BMC’s health report, released on Thursday, states that the 12 lives claimed by leptospirosis, nine by dengue and two by malaria this monsoon is a decline from 2017 when 30 lives were lost to these diseases. Leptospirosis deaths, though, have nearly doubled since last year, though the majority of hospitalisations this year were for dengue. In September alone, the mosquito-borne disease contributed to 5,000 hospitalisations in the public sector and through the monsoon 3,000-4,000 admissions were due to dengue-like illnesses. The bi-weekly BMC report said there were five dengue deaths in September compared with three in August and one in July. The latest deaths were spread across all age groups and areas in the city, including Walkeshwar, Kandivli East, Kumbharwada, Agripada and Malad. The Walkeshwar victim was a 42-year-old Raj Bhavan employee who lived on the campus. The BMC said the deceased had a history of travel to London in the first week of September. By the time she was hospitalized on September 20, she had already been suffering from fever with chills and body ache and nausea for four to five days.


She died of dengue shock syndrome with multi-organ failure. Similarly, the Kandivli victim, a 13-year-old boy, was transferred to a public hospital after undergoing treatment at a private centre. He too had four to five days of fever and was admitted with liver, kidney failure and low platelet count. He died within two days of hospitalisation. The 58-year-old victim from Kumbharwada in Dharavi had underlying diabetes, hypertension and hypothyroidism. The civic report said she died of cardiorespiratory failure with breathing distress. The 42-year-old Agripada resident had died within a few hours of hospitalization. The death committee found that even though he was advised hospitalisation after a low platelet count, he chose to stay home. Dengue fever has been raging not just in Mumbai but across the state. A state official said that over 6,000 confirmed cases have been recorded till the end of September. “Mumbai has recorded 50% of the deaths in Maharashtra. Dengue fever will continue to affect till November,” said the official. A BMC official said that inspections were carried out across 6.5 lakh households, of which breeding of aedes aegypti was found in nearly 5,000. Breeding of malaria-causing anopheles mosquito was found only in 375 places.



After polio vaccine scare, Centre says nothing to fear


Mumbai: Putting to rest the fears of anxious parents, the union health ministry has said the chance of any child developing a serious illness due to polio vaccination is “practically nil”. Following reports that parents were afraid to immunize their children, doctors have said the use of oral polio vaccine (OPV) and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is safe and should be continued as per the immunization schedule. The trigger for the anxiety is discovery of traces of p2 vaccine-virus in environmental samples in Mumbai and stool samples of two children in UP. The centre discovered contamination of some vials of bivalent OPV, supposed to contain type 1 and type 3 strains, with the p2 strain. The use of the strain had been discontinued in vaccines world over since 2016. Speaking to TOI, a senior union health ministry official said, “People need to understand that the wild form of the p2 virus was eradicated in 1999. A weak form of the virus is used in vaccines so that it can replicate in the gut of children and give them immunity. The contamination that happened was with this weak vaccine-virus which, till 2016, was given to children as part of the national programme. So, something that was not harmful then wouldn’t cause grave issues now”.


Maharashtra government has confirmed that none of the contaminated vials have come to the state. Doctors also rubbished messages doing the rounds on social media groups that the vaccine-virus can mutate. “The risk of any child getting vaccine-derived polio is practically nil,” a statement from the union health ministry said. “Surveillance has been heightened everywhere. We haven’t come across a single case where a child has developed weakness in the limb or paralysis following vaccination. In short, there is no stopping of polio vaccination,” said Dr Bela Verma, head of Paediatrics at JJ and president Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Mumbai. Paediatrician Dr Samantha Castelino said parents of children born after 2016 are worried their children are not immunised against the p2 strain. “They should know that the injectable IPV vaccine protects them against all three strains,” she said. Over 90% children in the city are vaccinated with two to four shots of IPV.



Dust Storm coming, may bring haze and spoil air



New Delhi: A dust storm could soon be headed towards northern India engulfing the capital’s air in a haze between October 10 and October 14 and sending Delhi’s air quality to very poor or severe, the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) told the Union environment ministry. According to EPCA, European forecasters show an anti-cyclonic circulation, which is currently over Lakshadweep, to move across Iran and Pakistan and enter the northern part of India — bringing a haze of dust with it. Following the observations, EPCA has informed the ministry of environment and forest and the body said a meeting is likely to be held on Friday with scientists from the ministry to investigate the impact. “Precautionary measures can be taken once we know the extent of the dust storm and how it could impact north India and Delhi in particular. Once we get clarity from the ministry, EPCA can also take certain precautionary measures on its own,” said Sunita Narain, member of EPCA and director general at CSE.


According to the forecast, the anti-cyclonic circulation is likely to reach India by October 10 with its impact lingering close to October 14. At the same time, EPCA says a low pressure system is developing in the Bay of Bengal, which could also cause stormy weather in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Delhi’s air quality has largely been hovering between “moderate” to “poor” over the last one week with PM 10 levels on the higher side — largely due to dust suspension. Officials from CPCB said there was no need to panic, with Delhi still in a transition phase after the monsoon season. “Wind speeds had reduced, but this is normal for this time of the year and there is no reason to panic. The air quality this year has already been better than what it was last year,” a CPCB official said.



Your face will give you access to flights at 6 airports by April



New Delhi: Your smile is all set to become your boarding card for domestic flights at Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports by next February. And a month later, Varanasi, Kolkata, Pune and Vijayawada will join the list of airports where “passengers will be taken at face value,” said Union aviation minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday while giving details of the voluntary facial recognition-based access system. TOI had earlier reported about the development in its Thursday edition. “These six airports will be the first,” aviation secretary R N Choubey said about this Digi yatra (DY) project. After these six, Delhi and Mumbai and then other airports will get the system under which paperless boarding will be a reality. Flyers who wish to opt for voluntary DY will need to generate a unique DY ID by giving details on an aviation ministry portal and then give this number while booking air tickets. On the first visit to airport, flyers will need to get their ID card, given at the time of generating their unique number, verified. Those who opt to give their Aadhaar number can do the verification online. Once verified, the flyer’s photo will be added to their DY profile in a secure data base. Whenever flyers who opt for DY go to airports subsequently, they will scan the code of their e-boarding card and DY ID will verify their ID using face recognition. Once confirmed, e-gates will open and let flyers access points where they currently show a physical ID card and boarding card.



Day after: Patients bear the brunt, agencies grope in dark


Kolkata: More than 36 hours of investigation by three agencies the police, the fire department and the PWD — failed to throw up a clear cause of the fire that sparked the biggest evacuation operation in the country’s oldest medical college and hospital on Wednesday. Two pharmacy department staffers, pharmacist Shirshendu Bikash Das and Group-D staffer Ramayan Chaudhuri, were in the air-conditioned emergency medicine counter when the fire broke out a little before 8am. Cops questioned them, but different stakeholders — agencies probing the fire and Medical College and Hospital officials — worked on different theories through Thursday without anyone being able to pinpoint the cause of the fire. The forensic team, which went through the fire-ravaged store on Thursday, said the fire could have started from a desktop computer that was connected directly to the power line. “The computer was badly burnt and mangled. Cotton was stacked next to it. We suspect a massive power surge caused the computer to overheat and ignite. The cotton kept next to it then caught fire, fanning the flames,” a forensic official said. However, pharmacy department officials came up with a different explanation.



Pharmacy staffers said they suspected that the fire could have started from a spark in the wiring that led to the exhaust fan in the store room, where medicines and consumables like cotton gauge and swabs were stocked. This exhaust fan had been a cause of concern for some time, they added. “We have noticed sparks where the wiring from the switch joins the wire from the exhaust fan. The matter was even raised at a Rogi Kalyan Samiti (patient welfare committee) meeting in August. We have noticed sparks on three occasions since then. The public works department in the hospital was told about the problem but nothing was done. We suspect a spark may have ignited the cotton gauge and led to the fire,” a pharmacist said. But fire department officials insisted that their initial probe did not point to an electrical fire. The building was nearly two centuries old but the wiring was done recently (when the building was revamped and refurbished), a fire official said. “Circuit-breakers were installed, which would have been tripped by a short circuit. But our inspection revealed that they had not tripped,” he added.


A PWD electrical engineer said the exhaust fan may not have been connected to circuit-breakers but supported the fire department contention of a nonelectrical fire. The board to which the charred computer was plugged did not show any sign of burns as would have happened in case of short-circuit or electricity surge. “So, if it is not an electrical fire, it has to be an accident or arson. We do not yet have any proof for the latter (like a match that ignited the fire or any accelerant that fueled it). Moreover, the place where the fire started had controlled and restricted access, making it difficult for an outsider to enter and cause mischief. So, at this point, it looks like an accidental fire. But we are yet to conclude what caused it,” the official said. Trinamool MLA and Rogi Kalyan Samiti chairperson Nirmal Maji said: “Fingers are being pointed at some people. There are indications that there was a conspiracy behind the fire. A six-member committee will conduct a probe”.



New fire-safety measures must for city markets



Kolkata: Coming under pressure from opposition councilors, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation authorities on Thursday said that no municipal or private market will be allowed to run without upgrading to latest fire-fighting norms as recommended by a high-powered committee on fire prevention. CPM councilor Mrityunjoy Chakraborty, Congress councilor Prakash Upadhyay and BJP councilor Meena Devi Purohit on Thursday brought a resolution at the KMC monthly meeting seeking replies from the civic authorities whether the civic administration was contemplating action against those guilty in the Bagri market fire incident. They also sought to know what would be the future of Bagri Market and some other major markets located across the city that are running without bothering to undertake fire prevention measures. While giving reply to queries from opposition, mayor Sovan Chatterjee said the civic body would take a decision on re-opening and renovation of Bagri market after talking to experts from IIT (both Kharagpur and Roorkie). But, Chatterjee made it clear that under no circumstances the civic body would compromise with the fire safety of Bagri or any other markets. “We have a set format for adopting fire safety norms for the owners of private markets as well as the management of our own markets. We have already sent circulars to all market superintendents asking them to upgrade the fire-fighting system,” Chatterjee told the opposition councilors.



Heavy rain likely in Pondicherry & TN on Oct 7, red alert issued

DARKNESS AT NOON: Gloomy sky during the day coupled with very heavy rainfall reduced visibility in Ariyanoor forcing vehicles taking the Salem-Coimbatore National Highway to turn on their headlights as a precaution.



Chennai: The India Meteorological Department on Thursday issued a red alert for Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry on October 7 saying, “heavy to very heavy rain with extremely heavy falls likely to occur at isolated places” due to a cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea. As per the naming convention of systems in Indian Ocean, the next cyclone will be named Luban by Oman. Incidentally, as per the IMD forecast, a depression is likely to be formed in the Arabian Sea on October 5 and is expected to strengthen into a cyclone and move towards Oman coast. “Heavy to very heavy rain is likely in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry,” said deputy director general of meteorology S Balachandran. Chennai will experience rainfall with a break now and then. At times heavy rain is also possible in some areas, said Balachandran. “A low pressure is likely to be formed in the Southeast Arabian sea on Friday and this could intensify into a cyclonic storm. Rain is likely in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the next three days, with the possibility of heavy rainfall in one or two places,” he told reporters. “Fishermen are advised not to venture into the sea from October 5-8 over the south Kerala coast, Lakshadweep area, Comorin area, South-East Arabian sea and Central Arabian sea. Those who are in deep sea are advised to return to the coast by October 5,” he said.


An upper air circulation over south-west Bay of Bengal adjoining Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka brought heavy rain to many parts of the state and Puducherry in the last 24 hours ending 8am Thursday. Rain will continue for the next three days. In Tamil Nadu, Kattummannarkoil in Cuddalore district and Kullambady in Trichy district recorded the highest rainfall of 11cm each as of 8am on Thursday. The state government directed collectors to stay prepared and position rescue teams on the eve of October 7, or ahead if the situation demanded. “The state disaster response force and the trained policemen in coastal and non-coastal districts have been alerted. Inter-departmental teams have been formed across the state,” revenue administration and disaster management and mitigation commissioner K Satyagopal told TOI. Red alert control room numbers: Kancheepuram control room numbers: 1077, 044-27237107, 27237207; Tambaram control room numbers: 044-22410050; WhatsApp numbers; Kancheepuram: 9445051077; Tambaram: 9445071077.



International News



In Argentina, ATM’s to now buy and sell crypto currency



Buenos Aires: Argentina could get up to 30 automated teller machines that buy and sell bitcoin by the end of the year, industry representatives said, an expansion of the cryptocurrency market amid an economic crisis that has seen the peso’s value tumble. Athena Bitcoin, a US company that specialises in cryptocurrency ATMs, launched Argentina’s first bitcoin ATM last month in a Buenos Aires shopping mall, a company spokesperson said. US-based Odyssey Group said of the 150 ATMs it aims to install by the end of the year in Argentina, 80% of those will be bitcoin-operational within the first months of 2019. Cryptocurrencies are virtual currencies not backed by any central bank or hard asset, with bitcoin the world’s best-known. “Today, the cryptocurrency ATMs in the world are growing exponentially. In Argentina, there were no commercial ATMs and the idea was to be the first to capture the market,” said Dante Galeazzi, Argentina operations manager for Athena Bitcoin. Athena Bitcoin already has 12 ATMs in Colombia, and the Argentine financial crisis, with inflation expected to exceed 40% by the end of the year, presented a growth opportunity in the cryptocurrency market, Galeazzi said. The peso has lost more than 50% of its value against the dollar so far in 2018.

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