News Flash – 6 November 2018

National News



650 to 19,500 in five years: Pickpocketing picks up as suburban trains get crowded


Thane: With the boom in commuters on Mumbai’s suburban routes in the past five years, the number of pickpocket incidents too has shot up from a measly 654 in 2013 to 19,458 in 2018 (till September). Simply put, five years ago, an average of two cases of valuables being flicked from passengers’ pockets were reported daily; the number has gone up to 72 in 2018. The incidents have been reported on Mumbai GRP’s jurisdiction-—from Churchgate to Dahanu, CSMT to Khopoli and Kasara, and CSMT to Panvel. The Mumbai GRP said the dense rush on platforms is to be blamed as nearly 95% pickpocketing happens in crowded places like coaches or platforms or bridges where criminals disappear easily. “Pickpockets need a crowded and moving environment where the victims can be distracted,” said Niket Kaushik, commissioner, Mumbai GRP. Kaushik also attributed the spike in numbers to the instant registration of crime unlike in the earlier days when most junior officials would reportedly dissuade victims from filing complaints or register them as missing reports. “Additional director general of police (railways) Jaijeet Singh had in fact issued orders to register offences whenever reported, following which the numbers swelled up,” said another official. Explaining the modus operandi, officials said pickpockets usually loiter on station premises and identify targets on platforms or at ticket windows. “Once that is done, they chase them to crowded places like bridges or coaches. They work so quickly that it is almost impossible for victims to realize their pockets have been picked. By the time they realize, the train has left the station or the suspect has disappeared into a sea of passengers,” said an official.


A pickpocket who was nabbed by the Thane police said that bulging wallets or commuters groping their pockets to check if valuables are safe are indicators. “Victims are targeted while alighting or boarding crowded compartments when their attention towards their pockets is least,” said an investigating officer who has worked in the detection unit at the Thane railway police zone. “Some criminals also work in groups. One diverts the attention of a victim by pushing him or something like that while an aide stealthily relieves the commuter of his or her purse. The valuables are then handed over to a third accomplice waiting nearby,” he explained. Another police official who has solved several such cases said, “Commuters usually check their pockets and valuables minutes before alighting but the moment the train stops, their focus wavers and this is when they are targeted. Many thieves follow the victim to the compartment door, target him and then go back. They get off at the next station to avoid detection at the crime spot”. A collegian from Mumbai who recently lost her purse to a pickpocket while travelling to Thane said she was targeted while alighting. “I was busy trying to find a foothold, this is when the robber must have done her job,” she said. The Thane GRP has deployed teams from Thane to Diva and Kalamboli, Airoli to keep a check on pickpockets during festive season. “We have deployed both uniformed and plainclothes staff,” said an official. Activists say the solution is in reducing train congestion, putting cameras in all coaches and at blind spots on platforms.



4 hurt as Fire Causes Blasts at Chemical company in Ambernath

It took the fire brigade 3 hours to control the Ambernath blaze.



Mumbai: Four workers sustained burns after a fire broke out at a chemical company, Persia, in Morivli MIDC in Ambernath on Monday afternoon. The company is located 100m from the railway tracks and hence, services between Badlapur and Ambernath were suspended for around 30 minutes as a safety measure. Following the fire, the drums that contained chemicals exploded, the police said. A total of 13 workers were inside the company when the incident took place; the remaining nine escaped unhurt. Fire officials said that incident took place at 2.15pm during lunch break. B P Patil, chief fire officer of Ambernath fire brigade, said, “We called in additional fire brigade teams from Ulhasnagar, Kalyan and Badlapur. It took us three hours to control the fire. We are not aware of the reason behind the fire. Residents in the area said they heard the explosion 2km away.



After cleanest Nov day in years, city sees worst pollution of the season


New Delhi: In one of the most dramatic deterioration in the city’s air quality, Delhi saw its most polluted day of the season on Monday just 24 hours after having recorded the cleanest air in November in at least three years. Air quality plummeted from an AQI of 171 (moderate) recorded on Sunday to 426 (severe) on Monday, a difference of more than 250 points. Residents of Delhi and NCR cities woke up to a toxic haze on Monday morning along with a burning sensation in the eyes brought on by a sudden rise in incursion of pollutants from crop-burning in Punjab-Haryana, a drop in temperatures, a rise in moisture levels and related meteorological conditions. Experts said Monday’s conditions were indicative of what NCR residents can expect in the coming days. Forecasts show that while some improvement could take place on Tuesday, the effect will be minimal with high moisture content and low temperatures likely to continue.



Metro stations in city address H1N1 scare



Bengaluru: With the H1N1 scare gripping the city, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) is using its public address systems to make commuters aware about the disease. Messages that read ‘H1N1 fever … Do not panic’ and ‘It is curable’ are being beamed on display boards that provide information about trains to passengers on platforms as well as other areas of the stations. Doctors said the awareness campaign is timely owing to high risk of spread of the disease, especially in crowded spaces. “Creating more awareness about the symptoms and spread of H1N1 virus is the need of the hour. The initiative rolled out in Metro stations should be extended to bus stands, railway stations, malls and multiplexes. Awareness messages should include some precautionary measures that can be followed, like wearing nose masks or using handkerchiefs. On any average day, six to seven patients get admitted to our hospital,” said Dr C Nagaraj, director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases. It has recorded 14 swine flu deaths so far. As of November 3 this year, 17 H1N1 deaths have been recorded in the state as against 15 in 2017. Of the 7,061tests conducted, 1,008 were positive, show official records.



Blaze scare returns to haunt Park St as fire guts server room at Apeejay House


Kolkata: The ghost of Stephen House tragedy was back on Park Street after a fire broke out on the fifth floor of Apeejay House, a landmark building on the road. Almost all offices in the building reported a near-normal attendance when the fire was first spotted at 11.05am on Monday. The incident did trigger panic, but a proper firefighting system managed to keep loses to a minimum. No one was reportedly trapped or injured even as the fire department pressed into service 10 fire tenders and struggled for one and a half hours to bring the situation under control. The fire was put out by 12.40pm. Traffic around Park Street-Theatre Road-Jawaharlal Nehru Road was affected for a few hours. Initial investigations revealed the seat of fire was a server room on the fifth floor. It soon razed two rooms on the floor and climbed up to the sixth floor, engulfing two more rooms. Witnesses claimed the spark took place from a fan in the server room but no official in police or fire brigade acknowledged it till late evening. The losses are still being calculated. “The damage — according to preliminary estimate — include chairs, tables and several papers and documents,” a police release said. Incidentally, a fire had broken out at a server room of a private bank on the sixth floor of the building in 2012 on the very first day of the year. The firefighting system at the Apeejay House won praises all around. Mayor and fire minister Sovan Chatterjee and DG (fire services) Jag Mohan stated that the firefighters found the smoke alarms and sprinklers in perfect condition. “We also had no problem in withdrawing water. We are, however, aware that there was some problem getting the ladder in. This is an old building that has a parapet. We will discuss this aspect with the authorities,” said Chatterjee. Jag Mohan refused to ascertain the cause of fire, stating an inquiry had been initiated. “The employees and other people in the building left it through its multiple exit points after the fire alarms went off.


The security guards ran up and started dousing the flames with the building’s pre-installed hydrants and fire extinguishers even before fire tenders came in,” said Jag Mohan. The 10-man DMG team, who helped the fire brigade gain access to the seat of fire, said they had to place a ladder from the fourth floor, which was used by DC Nagendra Tripathy to take his team closer to the source. “We then broke glasses and pulled down a wall to access the server room,” said a DMG official. “The commercial building has a robust fire-safety system, which was pressed into service immediately after everyone was evacuated. There was no injury or casualty. The fire broke out from the office of Kotak Securities, a tenant with offices on the fifth floor in Block C,” said a Apeejay Surendra Group spokesperson. Kotak Mahindra Group chief communication officer Rohit Rao, too, said: “There was neither any casualty nor any loss of human life in the fire. All records, including customers’ records, are safe. However, office infrastructure has been affected and we are making alternate arrangements from other branches in Kolkata. We are working towards speedy restoration of services at the office”. “I was just settling down at office and waiting for a Diwali programme to begin. Suddenly, we heard fire alarms. Initially, I thought it was part of a drill. However, the alarms kept ringing. We found others rushing down to the ground floor using the stairs. Once we started going down, we noticed smoke from the extreme right corner of the fifth floor,” said Barun Das, an employee of a private firm whose office is located on the same floor but in Block A. “There was no major panic or scare because we are used to regular fire drills. By the time we were downstairs, the fire brigade had arrived. It was only around 11.40am, almost 20 minutes after we evacuated the spot that we found flames leaping out of the fifth floor windows. I then realized that this was a major fire,” said Sumit Sarkar, another private company employee.



IndiGo flight makes emergency landing at Chennai Airport



Chennai: A Rajahmundry-Chennai IndiGo flight (6E 7123) made an emergency landing at the city airport on Sunday after the ATR plane’s left engine failed. The flight landed safely around 6.20pm. An airport official said the pilot first requested for a standby but later called in and declared a full emergency when the flight neared Chennai airport. The flight was scheduled to reach Chennai at 5.45pm but it landed only at 6.20pm. The flight, which was set to touch down on the second runway, was assigned to land on the main runway when the pilot declared an emergency. The flight went around after it tried to approach from the Manapakkam-end of the second runway and then climbed up 4,000feet and touched down on the main runway from the Pallavaram-end. “We had all the crash tenders, ambulance and rescue personnel ready by the side of the runway. Nearby hospitals were also intimated as per the standard operating procedure. But the plane landed safely using just one engine,” he added.


The flight which usually takes one hour and 16 minutes to cover the distance from Rajahamundry to Chennai took one hour and 40 minutes to arrive at the destination, especially because it circled for some time before touching down. ATR is a turboprop plane which uses two propeller engines to fly. “It’s a huge concern when one engine fails because if the other engine also fails it could result in a problem. But flights can fly comfortably on a single engine to make an emergency landing,” he said. IndiGo in a statement said, “The flight suffered a technical glitch on one of its engines just before landing at Chennai. The aircraft landed safely”. In another incident, the pilot of a Chennai-Tuticorin flight of the same airline had declared an emergency soon after take-off but decided to continue the flight as systems were found to be fine on Saturday. It was also an ATR plane but was a different from the aircraft which developed engine trouble on Sunday.



Just 15 days’ water in reservoirs, city could face crisis if rain fails


Chennai: The water in the four reservoirs that serve the city could run out in 15 days if it does not rain soon in the catchment areas in Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts. In fact, Cholavaram and Chembarambakkam are almost dry, holding just 2% and 6% of their total storage. The combined storage in the four reservoirs on November 3 was 1,758 million cubic feet (mcft) against 2,114mcft recorded the same time last year. Water managers say the present storage is enough to supply the city for another 15 days. Various other sources such as the Veeranam lake, agricultural wells and desalination plants will ensure supply for another two months. But after that, there will be a crisis if the monsoon continues to play truant. “We expect rain in November-end and in December. Even if it rains for 15 days at night alone, these reservoirs will reach half capacity, which is enough for us to sail through summer,” said a Metro water official.


The city currently received 675MLD (million litres a day) of water from Metro water of which 520MLD is for households. Generally, the supply was around 830MLD. This year, 165MLD was being pumped from Veeranam reservoir every day, 100 MLD from Nemmeli desalination plant and 100 MLD from Minjur desalination plant. “We will continue to supply water to residents every alternate day and there is no rationing. We have started looking at various alternative sources already,” said an official. Metro water has called for tenders to pump water from the quarries located near Chembarambakkam reservoir. These 22 quarries that are 70m deep will help the city with a minimum of 30MLD water. Another 80MLD will be pumped from agricultural wells. Apart from this, Metro water has also called for tenders to pump from lakes in Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur.



International News



Separatists kidnap 78 schoolkids in Cameroon



Yaounde (Cameroon): Armed separatists have kidnapped at least 78 students and their principal from a Presbyterian school in Nkwen in Cameroon’s restive northwest region, a governor said on Monday. A video purportedly of the kidnapped children has been released on social media via men who call themselves Amba boys, a reference to the state of Ambazonia that armed separatists are trying to establish in Cameroon. In the video, the kidnappers force several male students to give their names and names of their parents. The children say they were kidnapped on Sunday and they don’t know where they are being held.

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