News Flash – 5 September 2018

National News



Fires in city claimed 614 lives in 10 years



Mumbai: In the last 10 years, fires in the city have claimed 614 lives, including those of five fire personnel, shows data obtained through a Right to Information (RTI) query. Also widespread are fires at high-rise residential and commercial buildings in the city with 1,568 incidents being reported in the past decade. In the past four months, two major blazes were reported at two prominent high-rises—Beaumonde in Prabhadevi and Crystal Towers in Parel. At Crystal, four persons died. The cause of both these blazes was electrical short-circuit. According to data obtained by NGO Adhikar Foundation through an RTI query, the total number of fire calls received by the Mumbai Fire Brigade since 2008 have been 48,434, of which 18% (8,737) have been in residential premises, while 3,833 in commercial structures. One of the most common causes of the fires has been defective electric circuits; 32,516 fires were caused due to this. The RTI reply also points that property damage due to fires was approximately Rs 89 crore in 10 years.


Fire officials said that the value of property damage is calculated on an approximate basis. Shakeel Ahmed, the founder of the NGO, who had filed the RTI query, said that with fires in the city increasing by the day, he wanted to know the data over the past decade. “Fires have increased at high-rises over the past many months therefore it’s imperative that steps are taken to curtail the same. Last year, Mumbai witnessed a major blaze at Kamala Mills, which killed 14 people,” he said. Four officers died in a massive blaze at Gokul Niwas in Kalbadevi in 2015. Chief fire officer PS Rahangdale said the data includes major as well as minor fires. “Besides anything above seven storeys is considered to be high-rise. Mumbai has lakhs of high -rises by that logic and we are taking steps to ensure that blazes can be avoided,” he said.



Fire at chemical factory kills two, injures eight


New Delhi: Two men were killed and eight injured when a major fire gutted a warehouse in outer Delhi’s Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar on Tuesday evening. The factory, operating out of a three-storey building, had among stored items highly inflammable chemicals. The fire started when the compressed natural gas kit installed in a mini truck exploded. Two men who were unloading chemical compounds from the truck died on the spot, while eight men working on the first floor suffered injuries. Police said the warehouse was running illegally as its owner failed to provide any valid documents of the property. The fire service and police were informed about the blaze at 4.20 pm. Ten fire tenders were sent to the site, but when the inferno could not be controlled even after over an hour, seven more tenders were pressed into service. It took two more hours before the flames were doused. Police said the deceased were identified as Kuldeep (53) and Balkishan (45), the former the driver of the Tata Ace minivan, the latter the helper. The injured men were Vinod, Fitrat, Rakesh, Satyaveer, Jai Pal, Bittu, Panna Lal and Hira Lal.


“The fire started when a highly flammable thinning compound was being unloaded from the van,” said Rajneesh Gupta, DCP (Rohini). He added that the cause of fire was leakage of gas and a defect in the CNG kit of the Tata Ace. Recalling the incident, eyewitness Tejpal told TOI of his close shave after a big metal piece from the van flew towards him when he was a few metres from the blast site. “Two men were loading something on their van when there was an explosion. I was thrown from my bicycle by the impact,” Tejpal said. “The men I saw seconds earlier were nowhere to be seen. A crowd gathered, but before we could figure out what had happened, we noticed the ground floor of the godown was on fire”. Police said the forensic science lab had collected samples and the district administration had sealed the building, now rendered unsafe. The injured were shifted to Safdarjung Hospital. The bodies of the two victims were taken to the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital mortuary pending investigations.



Rat Fever claims one more life; 7 Deaths in 4 days



Kochi: Leptospirosis (rat fever) claimed the life of another patient on Tuesday, taking the death toll to seven in September alone. At least 115 confirmed and 141 suspected cases of the disease were reported from various hospitals across the state on the same day. Since January 1 this year, 42 people have died due to leptospirosis while a total of 1,913 suspected and 1,006 confirmed cases of leptospirosis were reported from different parts of the state. Majority of the cases have been reported from the northern districts like Kozhikode.



Traffic cops kick off drive to clamp down on ‘autocracy’, book 2000 cases in 12 days


Hyderabad: Flooded with commuter complaints about the ‘autocratic’ behaviour of auto drivers, Hyderabad traffic police have started clamping down on errant drivers in various parts of the city and may even extend the drive to putting a cap on the illegal surge in auto fares. From plying without proper registration and driving license to blocking major thoroughfares during peak hours and misbehaving with passengers, the list of violations by auto operators, runs long. Hyderabad traffic DCP Babu Rao told TOI they have been carrying out special drives every week at various locations to crack down on violations by three wheelers. In the drive conducted from August 23 to September 3, the traffic police booked 2,593 cases against auto drivers. According to city traffic police department records, violations by auto operators are more in South district than North district. Cops have booked around 1,335 cases at 12 different locations under South district traffic police jurisdiction.


Till date, the highest number of cases (215) in this district have been slapped on autos plying in Charminar followed by 165 cases against those operating in Asif Nagar. Tolichowki witnessed the lowest at 24 cases in this district. Though the South district traffic police personnel may have booked a higher number of cases, most of the auto violations in the city are found in Banjara Hills, Chikkadpally and Abids, which come under the ambit of North district traffic police. While 271 cases have been registered against auto drivers in Banjara Hills, it is 267 cases at Chikkadpally, 157 cases at Abids and 156 cases at S R Nagar. In Gopalpuram, only six cases were booked during the 12-day drive. Though many riders of app-based cabs are facing problems due to hidden surge pricing and refusals by drivers, the government and administration seem to be turning a deaf ear to the woes of people. When contacted, Transport commissioner Sunil Sharma told TOI, “We shall look into the issue and take action”.



Museum theft: Burglars caught on CCTV but images lack clarity; thieves still on the run


Hyderabad: Two burglars fleeing with stolen goods from Nizam’s Museum at Purana Haveli were caught on CCTV camera located in front of a mosque in the area, but images lacked clarity. Images showed a lean figure wearing a mask and the other person hiding his face. They were seen parking their new Pulsar bike in front of the mosque and walking back from the museum and fleeing. One of them carried a backpack. An officer said: The CCTVs at the museum can store footage only up to three days. It is difficult to verify if they had visited the museum in the last week. In the museum CCTV, too, their faces were not clear. “The bike has no number and it appears to be new. A team is checking the showrooms to identify persons who have bought such a bike recently. Another team is analyzing call data of museum inmates, including guards and data of a cell phone used in the tower at the time of burglary,” he said. “One of the chance prints taken from the scene matched with the caretaker. He may have touched it to clean it. Another fingerprint is yet to be matched. Fingerprints of 20 persons, including guards at the museum, were tried, but nothing matched. We will match them with that of known offenders and by Thursday we may get clarity,” said an official. Additional commissioner of police, crimes, Shika Goel and CCS deputy commissioner of police, Avinash Mohanty, visited the scene of the offence on Wednesday.



Another bridge crashes, 3rd in city in 6 years


Kolkata: A 20-metre deck of the Majerhat bridge caved in on Tuesday evening, the city’s third bridge or flyover collapse in six years, killing one person and sending at least 21 people to hospital. Two of the hospital admissions were critical and rescue officials did not rule out the possibility of more people being trapped under the debris. Biker Soumen Bag, who happened to be crossing the bridge spanning the Sealdah-Budge Budge railway tracks and a canal, died after he fell headlong into the wedge as the deck split into two. His was one of the three bikes that fell in this wedge; a minibus and five cars suffered the same fate, accounting for most of the hospital admissions. The casualty figures could have been much higher had the crash happened barely an hour later, when the bridge would have been chock-a-block with vehicles carrying office returnees along Diamond Harbour Road. The bridge is the most important link between the rest of Kolkata on one hand and Behala and the most densely populated zones of South 24-Parganas district on the other, with an estimated 4,000 vehicles using it during peak hours; Behala alone has a population of nearly 10 lakhs.


People, who saw the crash first-hand, gave spine-chilling accounts of how a section of the bridge’s northern slope (towards Alipore) suddenly gave way around 4.40pm. “A minibus and cars that were ahead simply disappeared,” Rahul Rai, who was heading southward to Behala Chowrasta in a cab, said. “The rest of the bridge shook as my cab screeched to a halt and I stepped out. We were met with the surreal sight of cars and buses perched on the road that had crashed down two-and-a-half storeys,” he added. A cabbie, who was headed northwards to Mominpur from Taratala, said he suddenly felt the road beneath give way. “There was darkness around and a lot of dust. Trapped cars, bikes and a minibus came into view as the dust settled down gradually,” Sumanji Jha said. The first to respond to the emergency were residents of Mahadevtala slum located across Burdwan Road. They pulled commuters out of the bus and helped injured bikers. But one pedestrian, later identified as Darshan Kheti, who got trapped when the bridge collapsed, might still be missing, his friend said. CM Mamata Banerjee, who was stranded in Darjeeling when the bridge crashed, set up a probe team headed by chief secretary Malay De. “We are very worried. Our priorities are relief and rescue,” she said. De has sought a report from PWD secretary Arnab Roy.



City likely to get more showers today



Kolkata: A cyclonic circulation-triggered downpour left Kolkata drenched and waterlogged on Tuesday afternoon. The shower started around 1pm and lasted for more than two hours. The city received 71.7mm rain till 5.30pm on Tuesday. Even though the rain was predicted earlier, commuters were caught unawares across the city. Several streets, including MG Road, Sukia Street, Muktaram Babu Street, Camac Street, AJC Bose Road, Russell Street went under ankle-deep water. The Met office has predicted more showers on Wednesday. A cyclonic circulation over north Bay of Bengal and adjoining Bangladesh led to the heavy rains on Tuesday and it is set to intensify into a low-pressure over the next 24 hours, said weathermen. “Circulations over north Bay tend to affect Kolkata and south Kolkata more. Now that it’s turning into a low-pressure, we expect heavy showers on Wednesday,” said Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) director GK Das. Kolkata had a rain deficit of 20% in August. Low-pressures forming over north-west Bay of Bengal didn’t affect the city last month. “Systems were fewer and they didn’t form or move into areas that would have affected the city. This left Kolkata comparatively dry. Although the city received steady drizzles, there was not a single spell of heavy downpour,” said Das. The RMC, however, said the brewing low-pressure could lead to heavier showers. But the intensity and the volume of rain will depend on the direction in which the low-pressure system moves. The Met office expects moderate to heavy showers over the next 24 hours.



What ails city police’s effort to ensure helmet rule compliance


Chennai: Whenever the Madras high court cracks the whip, the Chennai traffic police go on an overdrive to implement the ‘helmet rule’. But with 40 lakh-plus two-wheelers in the city, and 2.14 crore across Tamil Nadu, the overnight enforcement of the rule about both riders wearing helmets, almost as a kneejerk reaction to the court’s tough talking, serves little purpose. While several thousand cases have been registered to show compliance of the court order in recent times, there has been no whisper about the Motor Vehicle Act that mandates manufacturers to supply bikes and scooters with helmets and a provision to lock the headgear. Road transport officers (RTOs) do not insist on the free helmet along with new vehicles at the time of registration. “In 2016, Madras high court Justice N Kirubakaran issued an order directing all manufacturers to install helmet locks on two-wheelers so that people could secure the gear when the vehicle is parked,” said V S Suresh, a motor accidents claims tribunal lawyer of the Madras high court. Every day, manufacturers come in contempt of the order by not doing what’s mandated, he said.


Also, there is no common yardstick for the helmet’s quality save a BIS certification. “The government and the bike manufacturers are not worried about the safety of two wheeler riders,” said bike dealer who runs a showroom in Adyar. Another dealer from Triplicane said customers often refuse to take helmets even if offered. “They insist on deducting the price of the helmet from the overall price of the two-wheeler,” the dealer said. “There is no standard directive on the specifications of a safe helmet,” the dealer said adding that many riders buy substandard headgear just to keep the police away. When it comes to enforcement, the Chennai police can take a leaf out of the Bengaluru police’s book. In the Karnataka capital – which has 52 lakh two-wheelers the drive against helmet-less riding has been sustained. In 2016, the traffic police in that city booked 17.34 lakh cases of pillion riders without helmet, 16.99 lakh were pulled up in 2017 and 5.84 lakh cases have been registered till June this year. “The reduction in cases indicates compliance of the rule,” said a senior traffic police officer in Bengaluru adding that police mainly relied on CCTV cameras to catch violators. “Nearly 60% of fatal accidents involve two-wheelers. Riders are always in danger on the city roads,” additional commissioner of police (traffic) R Hithendra said.



International News



Strongest Typhoon in 25 Years Batters Japan


Japan: Strongest typhoon in 25 years slammed into the country’s western region on Tuesday, leaving at least eight people dead. More than 700 flights were cancelled, according to media tallies as typhoon Jebi, or ‘swallow’ in Korean, made landfall. More than 1 million households remained without power in Osaka. Evacuation advisories for more than a million people were issued. Powerful gusts ripped sheeting from rooftops, overturned trucks on bridges and swept a tanker anchored in Osaka Bay into a bridge. A 71-year-old man was found dead under a collapsed warehouse, likely due to a strong wind, and another man in his 70s fell from the roof of a house and died. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 150 people were injured.



News agencies slam Google and FB for ‘plundering’ content



Paris: Europe’s biggest news agencies accused Google and Facebook of “plundering” news for free on Tuesday in a joint statement that called on the internet giants to share more of their revenues with the media. In a column signed by the CEOs of around 20 agencies, including France’s Agency France-Presse, Britain’s Press Association and Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur, they called on the European Parliament to update copyright laws in the EU to help address a “grotesque imbalance”. “The internet giants’ plundering of the news media’s content and of their advertising revenue poses a threat both to consumers and to democracy,” the column said. European Parliament lawmakers are to set to debate a new copyright law this month that would force the internet giants to pay more for creative content used on their platforms such as news, music or movies. A first draft of the law was rejected in July and the plans have been firmly opposed by US tech firms, as well as advocates of internet freedom who fear that the regulations could lead to higher costs for consumers.


“Can the titans of the internet compensate the media without asking people to pay for access to the internet, as they claim they would be forced to? The answer is clearly ‘yes’,” the column said. The statement said Facebook reported revenues of $40 billion (34 billion euros) in 2017 and profits of $16 billion, while Google made $12.7 billion on sales of $110 billion. “Who could reasonably argue that they are not in a position to make fair payment for the content they use?” the agencies asked. “What we are really talking about is introducing a fair payment by those who have ripped off the news,” they added. The column marks a new lobbying effort by media groups, backed by artists such as Paul McCartney, to sway European lawmakers as they prepare for a second vote on September 12. Critics argue that the reform would lead to blanket censorship by tech platforms because of copyright problems, reducing their role as a hub for creativity, especially YouTube.



Brazil’s ‘First Human’ lost in Museum Fire



Brazil: Monday mourned the loss of the “first Brazilian,” Luzia, after the 12,000-year-old fossil was destroyed in a fire that ripped through Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum. The jewel in the crown of the museum’s collection of 20 million valuable pieces, Luzia was the first human fossil found in Brazilian 1970. “Luzia is a priceless loss for everyone interested in civilization,” Paulo Knauss, director at Brazil’s national history museum, said. The former imperial palace housed a dinosaur skeleton and 26,000 fossils of extinct species, including the saber-toothed tiger.

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