News Flash – 8 February 2018

National News



As haze spreads, air in Mumbai worse than Delhi’s



MUMBAI: For yet another day, haze continued to envelop many parts of the city as pollution levels rose marginally. On Wednesday, an average air quality index (AQI) of 275 was recorded, compared to 271 a day ago. An AQI of between 201 and 300 is considered poor, meaning such air could be harmful to sensitive people. The day’s air quality was worse than in Delhi, which recorded an AQI of 211. Delhi’s AQI was a significant improvement over the previous day, when it was in the very poor category. Meanwhile, minimum temperatures in Mumbai rose. While Mumbai’s overall AQI was 275 (which falls in the poor category), among the 10 specific locations monitored by Safar in the city, six recorded an AQI in the very poor category (between 301 and 400). These were Mazgaon (342), Bhandup (327), Bandra Kurla Complex (327), Borivli (319), and Colaba (320). Navi Mumbai’s AQI too was similar—309. As for temperatures, at the IMD’s Colaba observatory, the minimum recorded was 23 degrees Celsius, compared to 21.5 degrees a day before. At Santacruz, the comparative readings were 21.5 and 19 degrees. Humidity levels recorded at Colaba and Santacruz were 80% and 51%. Explaining the rise in minimum temperatures in Mumbai, IMD scientist Ajay Kumar said, “Winds are easterly to north easterly in the night, which bring in warm air. Owing to this, temperatures are on the rise. Besides, there is a westerly trough, which is moving northwest of the country.


This is pulling in a lot of moisture from the Arabian Sea”. The city’s AQI, measured by the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (Safar), dipped owing to a spike in pollution. Marine Drive resident Mahendra Hemdev, who travelled widely during the day, said haze was spread across the city. “I was in Bandra and then in the evening came towards south Mumbai and noticed that the haze was everywhere. It was difficult to see things at a distance. The weather has been very gloomy and if felt that it would rain too at some point. The kind of weather Mumbai has been witnessing has not brought any respite from heat,” he said. Officials from Safar said air quality will improve from Friday. Dr Gufran Beig, project director, Safar, said, “While the air is in the poor category now, we are expecting the same to improve as the day progresses. There is a western disturbance which is pulling in a lot of moisture, but as the sun comes up, its heat would reduce moisture and pollution levels, thereby improving air quality”. An AQI of above 300, as recorded at various places in the city on Wednesday, falls in the very poor category and people with heart or lung diseases, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.



Hi-tech baggage scanners to be installed at 9 airports


NEW DELHI: In a bid to enhance passenger convenience at airports, the AAI has placed an order worth over $50 million with global leader Smiths Detection for hold-baggage scanners, which will be installed in nine airports across the country. The in-line baggage screening system means air travellers will no longer have to queue-up near the X-ray machines to scan their baggage before check-in and will also result in smooth passenger flow at these airports. “Smiths Detection won the bid to install and integrate high-speed explosives detection systems (EDS) for hold-baggage screening at 11 sites of nine airports across India,” according to a statement from Smiths Detection. The scanners will be installed at nine airports, including Chennai and Kolkata, it said. “Smiths Detection is honoured to partner with the AAI — supporting the airports to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape with a technological solution that is fully-compliant with regulatory requirements,” Jerome de Chassey, general manager of Smiths Detection in India, said. The CTX 9,800 high-speed explosives detection system can scan 1,800 bags per hour and is certified by the US Transportation Security Administration and the Civil Aviation Administration of China. London-based Smiths Detection has installed over 4,000 hold-baggage solution units worldwide at some of the world’s 100 largest airports.



Blaze at GHMC central zone office: Property worth Rs 10 lakh damaged


HYDERABAD: A major fire broke out at the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s central zone office at Khairatabad early on Tuesday morning. It took two fire tenders nearly one and a half hours to douse the fire that left GHMC property worth nearly ?10 lakh damaged, said fire department officials. The blaze, sparked off by a suspected short circuit, is believed to have started at around 6am in the audit room, on the first floor of the GHMC office. Fire department officials said several pieces of furniture, computers and files were damaged in the fire which was contained to the first floor as the fire department reached there before it could spread. “Two fire tenders and nearly 12 firemen were sent to douse the fire. We got the news only around 7am, when one of the security guards arrived at the GHMC office and noticed the smoke, which was so dense that the firemen had to don oxygen masks to enter the premises,” said Srinivas Reddy, Hyderabad district fire officer, Telangana State Disaster Response and Fire Services Department According to GHMC officials, the chamber of the examiner of accounts, central zone, was extensively damaged. Nearly five almirahs packed with files and paper related to stock files, PRC bills and the like were completely gutted.


Nine computer systems, including CPUs and monitors, three printers and a scanner were also damaged. “Around 295 running bills along with attached documents and measurement books, which were pending for processing and left at the work stations were also destroyed,” said a GHMC official. The latest incident comes a day after some welding work sparked off a minor fire on the first floor of the Hi-Tec City Metro rail station on Monday. “It was a minor fire. By the time the tender reached, the fire was doused by a Metro rail worker,” said GV Prasad, ADFO, Rangareddy district. “While welding work was being done yesterday evening, some sparks caused a small fire at the HiTec City Metro station. It was immediately controlled & extinguished. I have instructed L&T to further improve safety measures to prevent such incidents in future,” said NVS Reddy, managing director, Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited. No casualties were reported in the two fire accidents.



How Chennai police captured 6 dozen wanted men in 1 raid


Chennai: The city police, in one lucky raid reminiscent of the celebrated arrest by US law enforcement officers of more than 60 mafia gang bosses in a raid in Apalachin near New York in 1957, apprehended more than six dozen criminals celebrating their boss’ birthday near Mangadu early on Wednesday. Senior police officers including commissioner A K Viswanathan took just 30 minutes to set ‘Operation Birthday’ into action, on information from ‘Pallu’ Madhan, a long-time sidekick of gang leader P Binu, 45, before assigning more than 60 policemen and officers to surround and raid a truck stop, ‘Velu Lorry Shed’, where the suspects had gathered to celebrate the gangster’s birthday, an investigating officer said. Chennai joint commissioner of police Santhosh Kumar planned the raid, commissioner Viswanathan said. “The police teams got in place between 7pm and 11.30pm on Tuesday, and had surrounded the spot from all sides so no one could get away,” he said. “We had by 10pm confirmed the suspicious movement of a large number of vehicles in the otherwise desolate spot near Malayambakkam village and deputy commissioner of police, Ambattur, S Sarvesh Raj, leading the operation, kept the police chief constantly posted between 11pm and 12.30am, till just before the raid”.


Mangadu police inspector Charles contacted leaders in Malayambakkam village and enlisted them to help prevent the suspects from escaping, even as another police team led by an assistant commissioner of police used boats or swam across Chembarambakkam Lake to maintain surveillance from its banks. “When we barged into their party uninvited at 12.35am, the 200 men present made a desperate attempt to escape,” the officer said. “We arrested at least 40 suspects on the spot at gunpoint and fanned out after the others.” By the time they were done, around 9am on Wednesday, the police had rounded up 100 men. They arrested 76 with lengthy criminal records and let off the rest with a warning. “We collected a great deal of evidence against the arrested gangsters during the raid, not to mention images of Binu cutting the cake with a chopper, which several of the arrested suspects photographed on their cellphones,” he said. “Binu successfully evaded arrest for a year after appearing in court in a murder trial,” the officer said. “We have booked cases against the 76 arrested men under CrPC Section 151 (arrest to prevent offences) and 7 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932 (whoever [a] obstructs or uses violence with intent to cause any person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such person has a right to do or to abstain from doing) “. Police have launched a search for the owner of Velu Lorry Shed, who has gone on the run, he said.



Jam on ground, Poison in Air


AHMEDABAD: One and half years ago, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune had studied 38 major road stretches in the city for a duration of 18 hours in a day and had found that on some of the busiest stretches where vehicles were around 1.7 lakh or a little less, four-wheeler petrol vehicles constituted 48% and diesel vehicles 30% of the total traffic while the rest were CNG and a small percentage of these were electric or manual vehicles. The amount of emissions that is being injected into the city’s air is high says the IITM study. The IITM study was documenting the emission inventory for Ahmedabad and found that 90% of most polluting light commercial vehicles (LCVs) and 86% heavy commercial vehicles were run on diesel. The high court has directed the state government to ensure that all vehicles plying in Ahmedabad roads should be converted to CNG to curb air pollution.


Naresh Lamba, an environmental engineer in Ahmedabad says, “You may think that your car burns more fuel when you go faster. But the truth is that your car burns the most fuel while accelerating to get up to speed,” says Lamba. He adds, “The constant acceleration and braking of stop-and-go traffic burns more gas, and hence pumps more pollutants into the air”. In the last 10 years, Amdavadis have added 24.59 lakh more vehicles on city roads. Back in 2007, there were 16.3 lakh vehicles registered since early 1950s. The road network for the city has remained 2,600km and will not grow in length any further in near future. Today, the city has 43 lakh registered vehicles! This has put a tremendous burden on the city’s ambient air quality. If one looks closely at the year-on-year vehicle registration data, it reveals that the change came in 2007-08 when the number of registered vehicles increased from 32,000 in 2007 to about a whopping 1.14 lakh in 2008. Jams became a reality in the city from then on.



International News



Aftershocks rattle Taiwan as quake toll rises to nine, 62 missing


HUALIEN: Aftershocks hampered rescue efforts on Thursday as emergency personnel combed through collapsed buildings in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake killed at least nine people near Taiwan‘s popular tourist city of Hualien. Nervous residents endured a series of aftershocks, including a 5.7 quake late on Wednesday and smaller tremors early on Thursday. The coastal city of Hualien was hit by a magnitude 6.4 quake just before midnight (1600 GMT) on Tuesday that killed nine people and injured 265. Four buildings collapsed, officials said, and about 62 people were still missing. It was initially feared as many as 150 people may have been missing in the rubble. The death toll had been put at seven overnight. Many of the missing were believed to be trapped in a 12-storey residential building that was tilting at a 45-degree angle. Tenants and their furniture were flung across their apartments in the damaged building. Hualien is home to about 100,000 people. Its streets were buckled by the force of the quake, with large cracks along major roads. Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory, lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes. An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1struck nearby on Sunday. More than 100 people were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and some Taiwanese remain scarred by a 7.6 magnitude quake that was felt across the island and killed more than 2,000 people in 1999.



Snow blankets Paris and northern France, transport disrupted


PARIS: Heavy snowfall across northern France overnight caused widespread travel disruption on Wednesday with hundreds of motorists spending the night in their cars and around 700 travellers sleeping in two Paris train stations. French authorities set up makeshift shelters at roadsides across the Paris region, near Orly airport to the south of the capital and at the Austerlitz and Montparnasse stations in the city. In all, around 1,500 people had to be sheltered between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Some flights were cancelled at Orly, according to the airport’s travel information. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said authorities had worked to prevent travel chaos as much as possible but that grit on roads was not effective with heavy dumpings of snow. “We’re facing an exceptional episode,” he told RTL radio, warding off calls to overhaul France’s transport network. “We’re not going to adapt our infrastructure for an exceptional occurrence, for two big snowfalls that happen every four or five years”. At least 15 cm of snow fell around the capital’s outlying suburbs, the biggest dump since 2013, the government said.


For children and the more adventurous, the weather was a godsend: some carted skis to the top of Montmartre, the steep hill in northern Paris where the Sacre Coeur is located, while impromptu snowball fights erupted on the way to schools. But mostly it caused disruption for tourists and commuters. The Eiffel Tower was shut to visitors on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the heaviest snowfall, and Parisians were braced for several more days of snowstorms and freezing temperatures, with forecasts of -7 degrees centigrade on Thursday night. Regional train services were interrupted, leaving many commuters outside Paris stranded, while inner-city bus services were cancelled and some metro lines heavily disrupted. In L’Etang-la-Ville, a village 20 km west of Paris, people arrived at the station to find the tracks buried under snow and scant information on whether there would be any services. “They’re saying the trains are running at a reduced speed. But they’re lying, there are no trains,” said IT technician Jean-Michel Blanchet, blaming weak investment in regional rail networks for a lack of snow-clearing equipment.

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