News Flash – 7 September 2017

National News



6 dead, 11 injured in under-construction building fire in Mumbai


MUMBAI: Five labourers and a child were killed in a fire that broke out in an under-construction building, Prarthana, at JVPD Scheme in Vile Parle (W) on Wednesday night. At least 11 were admitted to nearby R N Cooper Hospital with severe burn injuries. Of these, eight are critical, said doctors. Some labourer are still buried in the debris even as the fire brigade is searching for them. Four persons are still missing. Most of the victims are labourer from West Bengal. Police are yet to ascertain the cause of the blaze that started on the ground floor of the 13-storey building, but suspect leakage in an LPG cylinder triggered the tragedy. An eyewitness said a loud sound, like a cylinder blast, was heard seconds before the fire erupted. Damaged LPG cylinders and stoves were found at the site. Police were yet to identify the deceased. “We have not been able to ascertain the age as the bodies are charred,” said a doctor, adding that most of the injured—nine men and two women—sustained more than 60% burns. “Most of them are critical. They are being stabilized,” said the doctor. Three engines were rushed to the spot near Kishore Kumar Garden after locals alerted the fire brigade. The blaze was soon brought under control, said senior inspector Sunil Ghosalkar of Juhu police station. Police said the fire was confined to the ground floor, where scrap material had been stored. The labourers were housed in the stilt portion in 15 -17 makeshift residences. Police are recording statements of the injured and will file an accidental death report after postmortem is completed. Police will check if there was negligence on anyone’s part.



Using mobile while on wheel kills 2,100 in a year


NEW DELHI: The use of mobile phones while driving claimed 2,138 lives last year while faulty speed-breakers, potholes and under-construction roads accounted for 26 deaths on the roads every day, according to data released by the transport ministry. The maximum deaths due to use of mobile phones while driving were reported from UP, followed by Haryana. Delhi reported two deaths while Maharashtra registered 172 fatalities on this account. This was the first time that the road transport ministry collected such data from each state. According to the report, 17 people died every hour in road accidents, which TOI had first reported on April 24. Officials admitted there is under-reporting of accidents caused due to use of mobile phones by drivers and also by pedestrians. “People using mobile phone and taking selfies while driving are increasingly posing a greater risk to themselves and others as well,” road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said. According to the World Health Organisation, those using mobile phone while driving face four times higher risk of crash.


Delhi police special commissioner (traffic) Ajay Kashyap told TOI, “Texting or taking selfies while driving or walking on the road is a big traffic risk. People are addicted to them. There is under-reporting of such offences as it’s difficult to specify the cause”. A survey by Save Life Foundation earlier this year had found that nine out of 10 drivers felt using mobile phones while driving was unsafe, but 47% admitted to having received calls while behind the wheel. The report also mentions how 3,396 people died in accidents caused due to faulty speed-breakers, another 2,324 lost lives due to pothole-related accidents while 3,878 people died in accidents near or on roads under construction. “Ill-designed speed-breakers have become a menace and more people are left injured for no fault of theirs. These are illegal. We will soon come out with a new design of speed-breakers,” Gadkari said. UP accounted for the most number of deaths in all three accounts. Maharashtra had the second highest number of pothole-related deaths (329) while Haryana had the second highest fatalities (214) due to faulty speed-breakers.



Ghatkopar building tilts, evacuated


MUMBAI: Municipal officials, with help from the police, got a ground-plus-three building in Ghatkopar (east) evacuated late on Wednesday evening. No one was injured in the incident. Residents of Damji Sadan rushed out of their homes with whatever they could lay their hands on as they got to hear their building had started to tilt. The building was vacated to pre-empt any eventuality. Assistant municipal commissioner Bhagyashree Kapse said they had received a call that a pillar of the building had broken. “We rushed to the spot and vacated the building,” said Kapse. “We have called a structural consultant to examine it”. To avoid the building from collapsing, the BMC is exploring the possibility of demolishing the balconies of flats located on the side the building had tilted. “This could possibly help restore the balance of the structure,” said an official. Kapse said, “If required, we’ll take a call on demolishing the entire building”. A local said on hearing about the building leaning onto one side, residents started rushing out with whatever they could lay their hands on. Some suspect mischief. “This could be a ploy on the tenant’s part to get the building vacated. There is a dispute between the tenants and landlord,” said a resident. Some other residents said the condition of the building was “not that bad”. While residents insisted on entering their homes, civic staff did not allow them. Local corporator Rakhi Jadhav (NCP) claimed that the building had been leaning on one side for the last three years. “The civic body was in correspondence over the issue only with the landlord.,” she said.



Mutated swine flu strain infects 70 within a week



HYDERABAD: The newly-mutated `Michigan’ strain of the H1N1virus, detected in the city two months ago, has left 70 people (largely in and around the city) infected over a span of a week. And with experts identifying the mid-winter period as the peak swine flu season, they fear that the worst is yet to come. The Michigan strain (A Michigan452015) was detected in three samples from Hyderabad in July. Experts, however, suspected that the mutation happened much earlier, during the onset of the summer season -between March and April -which saw an unusually high number of swine flu cases being recorded from the city and its surroundings. Given the spread of this strain, doctors now worry that the number of H1NI cases might shoot up drastically by the end of the year. This could add to the existing burden of the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) that is already flooded with a large number of `suspected’ swine flu samples, they add. At present, there are 160200 samples being tested each day at the IPM, of which 10-17 samples, on an average, test positive for the virus. On September 4 alone, 17 samples tested positive for swine flu taking the total number of such cases reported this year -from January 1 to September 4 -to 1,770.



The total count of samples tested during this period is 10,903. Even the death toll, so far this year, has already touched 17. According to officials of the state health department, the figures indicate a massive 10-fold jump in H1N1 cases in 2017, in comparison to last year, when only 173 positive cases were reported from the state. While attributing this steady rise in numbers to increasing awareness among people about the virus, and more samples being collected by hospitals, they agree with the probability of this count increasing further over the next few months. However, authorities say that the virus might not have become more virulent yet. “Most of the deaths were reported from among patients who already had co-morbid conditions when attacked by the swine flu virus. Patients with normal immunity have been able to recover completely. We can, therefore, say that the virus has not turned more virulent,” said a senior official from the health department.



When it rains, these families spend sleepless nights on Ejipura pavements

Several families have been living on footpaths in Ejipura for the past four years after their EWS houses were demolished in 2013; (right) 12-year-old Elil with her sheep.



BENGALURU: Heavy rain over the past two weeks has made life hell for several families living on footpaths in Central Bengaluru’s Ejipura. Many of them were residents of EWS quarters demolished in 2013 after the BBMP inked a deal with a private builder to construct houses for the poor, work on which has started only recently. For the past four years, Elil Arasi, 12, is living with her family in a small shanty on the footpath right in front of their demolished EWS quarter in Ejipura. When it rains, she collects water seeping inside in a tumbler all night. “How can you sleep when rain drops fall on you? We have covered the shanty roof with polythene sheets. Like my mom, I sit with a tumbler in my hand all night and collect water when it rains. But I’m more concerned about my three-month-old sheep Vijay. I cover him with plastic sheets to prevent him from catching cold,” says Elil. Her mother Teresa rears the family’s ten sheep’s during the day and sells tea to cab drivers at Ejipura Circle in the night. Elil has to keep her school bag wrapped in a plastic cover all the time. Shantha Mary, who also lost her EWS house, is now living in a shanty on the same footpath. She says that some local goons have been asking them to pay Rs 15,000 to move into the rehabilitated homes, construction of which has not even started behind a proposed mall. “The minister recently told us that we should not give money to anyone,” she says.


Alla Bhaksh, 70, lives in a small 6×4 feet hut. He suffers from asthma and severe wheezing. “It’s so cold in the night that I can barely breathe. I keep using a nebulizer,” he said. Alla is an electrician but doesn’t work owing to his health conditions. “I cannot breathe easily and so can’t work. I have no family. My condition worsened after I started living here on the footpath,” says Alla who gasps as he speaks. His only asset was his house in the EWS slum that was demolished. A family living here moved to their relative’s house last week after they found a snake in their shanty. “They and their two kids could not have lived here after sewage water entered their house and they found a snake inside. It’s the story of every bothered to talk to us about our problems,” says Shantha Mary. Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, a public health expert who has been following up with the EWS residents, says the government is not even bothered to check if children here are vaccinated. “Rodents enter their houses and there have been many cases of rat bite. Despite repeated requests, no fogging has been done. Not a single health officer has visited them ever,” he says.



Flipkart carton spills stones, not Canon cam

Two toy cameras and a stone (in red circle) were found in the package of businessman Vinay



HYDERABAD: A 24-year-old businessman who ordered a Canon DSLR camera on ecommerce giant Flipkart‘s portal got a shock of his life when he received a parcel containing a stone and dud cameras. Unable to get any relief from the customer care service of the e-tailer, the victim has lodged a complaint with police. The victim, Vinay, a resident of Mamata Nagar Colony in Nagole and runs a factory manufacturing rice mill machinery, is a digital photography enthusiast. On September 4, Vinay had placed an order for Canon digital camera (Canon EOS 700D) on Flipkart by paying Rs 41,000 through credit card. “On September 5 evening, Vinay received a parcel through a delivery executive. Vinay opened the parcel and found a stone along with two compact dummy cameras sold as child toys instead of the Canon DSLR camera,” LB Nagar sub-inspector (SI) K Saidulu said. Vinay immediately contacted the customer care of Flipkart to report the fraud. “After verifying the database, the customer service staff told Vinay that their records clearly indicate that genuine Canon DSLR camera was shipped to Vinay’s address. Vinay then contacted the delivery executive and he told him that he did not open the parcel,” the SI said. Unable to get a refund or a new camera, Vinay lodged a complaint with the LB Nagar police on Wednesday. “We are referring the case to Cyber Crime police of Rachakonda commissionerate,” the SI said.



Erratic lifestyle of accused in NRS violence leaves cops flummoxed

The official address of Bijay Singh, 5 Bijay Basu Road at Bhowanipore, turned out to be the residence of his maternal uncle; (right) the agitation at NRS last Monday.



KOLKATA: The main accused in the NRS vandalism case, Bijay Singh (34), is in police custody for now. But sleuths questioning him say he might have been a habitual troublemaker. Police have confirmed he had little connection with the Mullickbazar patient Ajay Mullick who died. “He has been changing his statement often. For now, he will claim he knew Mullick but the next moment he will say he was a mere participant in the attack,” said an officer. Lalbazar officials said Singh fitted the set pattern of hospital vandals who have been arrested over the past one year — “little respect for either authority or law and the eagerness to be part of a mob, often at the instigation of someone else”. When TOI independently tried to contact his family, it realized Bijay had effectively tried to erase his trail even in front of the cops. His official address — Bijay Basu Road at Bhowanipore — is the residence of his maternal uncle. “He had been a regular here till the age of 14. He studied in the South Suburban School and his official documents carry this address. But for the past four years, he has not bothered to even visit us once,” said his aunt Shova Singh.


Shova says a lot has changed in these four years and not many — even Bijay’s relatives and friends — were aware about his present state. “His mother Rukmini Singh passed away three years ago. His father Ganesh Singh died a year after. He initially put up in the Pyarabagan area, then moved to his ancestral property in the Beadon Street area. However, I am told nowadays he has been staying at Bansdroni. I do not know why he kept shifting from one place to another,” she said. Bijay’s relatives told TOI he had “changed” after his parents’ death. “He took to drinking. My husband is physically disabled and we did not want any problem in our locality,” said Shova. Bijay’s childhood friend Abhijit Singh though was more forthcoming. “He was a nice chap when I pushed for his job at a pizza delivery chain. However, he did not inform me why he left that job and shifted to a Chinese restaurant on Sarat Bose Road. I am told he had said to cops he was working as a pizza delivery boy. I do not know if he had switched jobs yet again,” said Abhijit. The police say they have taken the accused in custody. “We did it to ascertain his real motive. We are also trying to find out all names of those who were involved in the violence,” said a cop.



With Japan aid, state government to study rainwater harvesting



Chennai: People in the city and across the state and, for that matter, in the government itself, are not completely sure of the benefits of rainwater harvesting(RWH) systems or what happens in tanks beneath the ground in which RWH systems collect precipitation. Are the sumps clogged, has the water leached out into the surrounding soil — who’s to know?. To check for itself and, once it’s a certain thing, to demonstrate to the public that it’s a good idea to set up large RWH systems in a city in which the only constant about water supply is that it’s never constant, the government will in collaboration with a Japanese firm construct a large RWH structure at the PWD’s State Ground & Surface Water Resources Data Centre in Taramani. The Japanese company, Tokyo-based Totetsu Manufacturing Co Ltd, a firm with advanced technology in the field, will construct an RWH system as part of a pilot project called Aqua Palace. A vast underground plastic tank, part of a community-based “universal underground storage system”, will collect rain that falls on the campus and, once the system filters this water, it will be used for drinking.


CM Edappadi K Palaniswami took part, through teleconferencing, in an August 24 foundation stone-laying ceremony for project on the Taramani campus. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-backed project will survey the prospects of storage and reuse of rainwater, a study that the Tamil Nadu government and Totetsu Manufacturing Co will jointly conduct. JICA selected Chennai for the project because there are RWH systems across the city, the government having made it mandatory in 2003 for every building in the state to have such systems. “The water issues of Tamil Nadu are a longstanding challenge,” JICA India’s Takema Sakamoto said. “In addition to traditional approaches, we should not give up our search for complementary means that could potentially alleviate the problem”. Totetsu’s technology is different from other existing technology for water conservation, he said. “The products have a spacious walk-in structure for maintenance,” Sakamoto said. “Indian local sources can provide the materials [for the RWH systems], keeping the implementation cost affordable”.



International News



Harvey’s Floodwaters Could Pose Serious Health Hazards



Houston, USA: Extreme rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Harvey has left thousands in Houston and surrounding communities stranded. Some parts of the city have experienced over 40 inches of rain , and forecasters say that number is expected to rise over the coming days. Currently, the storm has repositioned itself in the Gulf of Mexico , where it will collect more moisture before striking land again. When it does, some areas of Texas and Louisiana could see an additional 20 inches of rain . On top of all this, flash flood warnings are still in effect as of this morning.Floodwaters pose many immediate threats to people, animals, and property. According to reporting by the Washington Post, officials warn that roughly 30,000 people will be forced from their homes across Texas and Louisiana. But there are less obvious and equally dangerous health risks associated with floodwater-including exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Some Houston residents are already reporting an “unbearable” chemical smell in certain areas that could be related to the city’s oil refineries, gas facilities and chemical plants. Renee Funk, Emergency Management Director at the Centers for Disease Control, told Gizmodo that folks who come into contact with floodwaters must take precautions to make sure they aren’t impacted by anything the floodwaters might have dredged up, from weed repellant to animal feces. “Chemicals can certainly be in the water,” she said. “A lot of times, people keep pesticides in their garages. When that floods, those containers are floating down the street and so if people come into floodwaters at all, they need to shower and wash their hands and get it off of them as soon as possible”. There’s also a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from generators left on in garages.



Funk said this is tragically common in any extreme flooding situation. “Initially in this phase of active flooding…we’re concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators,” she explained. “The floodwaters lead to power outages and unfortunately, there will be people who die from this kind of poisoning I’m sure”. The public health situation with regard to floodwater is so serious that public health officials in Texas are urging Houston-area residents to get Tetanus shots immediately , according to NPR. Fecal matter floating in flood water could easily infect wounds and pose other threats to people who drink water out of desperation. Gizmodo has reached out to the Texas Department of State Health Services and Houston’s Public Health Department for more information and will update this post if we hear back. In some cases, standing water can also pose a risk for insect-borne illnesses , as it can act as a breeding ground for mosquitos and more. But Funk says that’s not an immediate threat. “Initially, the flooding helps wash away the mosquito larvae and so it’ll take a couple of weeks for mosquitos to come back,” she said. “At that point, there will need to be some mosquito control”. While the end of this cataclysmic storm is finally in sight, the next few days will undoubtedly be hell, especially for the thousands of folks still seeking rescue. For more information on how to stay safe after a hurricane, you can check out the CDC’s resources here . If you are in Texas and seeking medical attention due to the storm, you can find help here.



Blast at Bagram Airfield results in causalities



KABUL: At least six people have been wounded when a suicide bomber targeted the Bagram Airfield in Parwan province on Wednesday, an Afghan official said. Mohammad Asem, the provincial governor for Parwan, said the attacker was riding a motorcycle and detonated his explosives at the third security gate of the airfield. The wounded were taken inside the US military base at the airfield for treatment. Asem added that as yet there were no details on casualties among foreign forces. Earlier Wednesday, a US commander had apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam. The leaflets dropped Monday night, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it, and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.



“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province. Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error”. Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country, and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.



South Korea deploys US anti-missile launchers



SEOUL: Protesters clashed with thousands of police at a South Korean village on Thursday as Seoul deployed the four remaining launchers of the US anti-missile THAAD system designed to protect against mounting threats from North Korea. The South’s defense ministry confirmed on Wednesday the launchers would be installed on a former golf course near Seongju City some 217 km (135 miles) south of Seoul. Two launchers and a powerful radar are already in place at the site as part of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. Early on Monday, around 8,000 South Korean police gathered in the village of Soseongri, along the only road that leads up to the golf course, to break up a blockade of around 300 villagers and civic groups opposed to THAAD. Some 38 protesters were wounded in tussles with police, with 21 sent to hospital, according to a Seongju Fire Station official. None of the injuries were life-threatening, said Kim Jin-hoon. The Soseongri residents say they do not have a political motive but are against the deployment of THAAD as their lives have been disrupted by the dozens of military helicopters, buses, trucks that travel through the small melon-farming town of 80 residents.


The decision to deploy THAAD, designed to shoot down short- to medium-range missiles mid-flight, has drawn strong objections from China. It believes the system’s radar could be used to look deeply into its territory and will upset the regional security balance. South Korea‘s defense ministry has said the deployment is necessary due to the imminent threat from North Korea, which has launched numerous missiles since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in early May. Pyongyang also conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, prompting vehement reprimands from neighboring Japan and the United States. According to a United Nations draft resolution seen by Reuters on Wednesday, the United States wants the United Nations to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban the country’s exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean laborers as part of new sanctions on the North.

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