News Flash – 8 October 2018

National News



5 Hour Traffic Jam on Sion-Panvel highway as Crane, FOB crash during overhaul

The crane and a portion of the FOB were blocking the highway for over three hours before another crane was brought to remove them; as vehicles crawled till around 8.30 pm, some motorists used the time to take snaps of the incident; a photo sent by TOI Citizen Reporter Isaac Gudkar.



Mumbai: Thousands of motorists heading towards the city by the Sion-Panvel highway on Sunday evening were stranded for hours after a portion of a foot over-bridge that was being dismantled for repairs toppled along with a crane at the Mankhurd-end of the Vashi creek bridge around 3.15 pm. The Mumbai-bound carriageway had a nearly 4-km-long traffic jam after the incident, and vehicles were crawling on either side of the Vashi creek bridge till post-midnight. Chembur businessman Rajesh Joshi returning home from Vashi by car said he was stuck on the Vashi bridge for nearly three hours. “It was frustrating… what would have happened if an ambulance was stuck in the traffic jam,” he said. Vighnesh Pujari, a resident of Vashi, said his ailing mother missed her appointment with doctors at a Chembur hospital as they were stuck in the jam. “Now my wife will have to take her to the Doctors tomorrow,” said Pujari. Others complained about friends’ missing their flights after being caught in the jam. Though police claimed that traffic was back to normal after 6.30 pm, there were snarls on the stretch till around 8.30 pm. Toll plaza officials said they were instructed by police to not stop vehicles to collect toll to avert congestion; vehicles were also diverted to other routes. Narrating the incident, a PWD engineer at the spot said they had to bring the FOB portion down and take it for repairs. However, the crane-hook lost balance and toppled over along with the FOB viaduct causing it to fall.


The crane operator jumped out when it started tilting; workers at the spot escaped injuries. Since the area had already been cordoned off for traffic, there was no damage to vehicles either. “Our recent survey suggested that the FOB portion had weakened. The portion on the other side of the road had already been removed after it was hit by a truck last year. After two weeks of repairs, they were to be installed back. Now we will have to engage more cranes to put them back,” said the PWD engineer claiming that the same crane was used to shift the other FOB portion last year. Vashi traffic unit senior inspector Satish Gaikwad said the PWD authorities had not taken prior permission of traffic police for the work. “The PWD team brought two hydra cranes at 12.30pm and told the Vashi traffic unit to manage traffic movement. We would have asked them to deploy four cranes and use gas cutters to remove the FOB. As the PWD didn’t take necessary measures, the mishap occurred. Also, we would not have given them permission to carry out work during the day. Only because of the negligence and improper planning by PWD, there was traffic congestion for more than five hours.” However, PWD officials said they had informed the traffic police about their operation in advance. Shahji Umap, zonal DCP, said no police case has been registered. “Some portion of the FOB had collapsed earlier and the police were also trying to remove it with the authorities,” said Umap.



Deadly heatwaves could hit India: Climate change report


Nagpur: India could face an annual threat of deadly heatwaves, like the one in 2015 that killed at least 2,500 people, if the world gets warmer by 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, says the much anticipated world’s biggest review report on climate change to be released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday. TOI had a sneak preview of the report. Its implications will be discussed at the Katowice climate change conference in Poland this December, where governments will review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. Being one of the largest carbon-emitting nations, India is expected to be a key player at the event. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C warns that average global temperatures could breach the 1.5-degree level as early as 2030.



Flyers stuck at airports for hours as IndiGo system fails



New Delhi: There were long queues at check-in counters across Indian airports on Sunday afternoon as the system of IndiGo – which accounts for 41% of domestic air traffic — went on the blink for over 90 minutes. The problem was across all airports on IndiGo network. The system glitch started at 12.35pm that crippled the airline’s check-in process –issuing boarding passes and check-in baggage tags. This led to formation of long queues across airports. As angry passengers took to social media to register their complaints with the Active-On-Twitter aviation minister Suresh Prabhu and his deputy Jayant Sinha, the airline tweeted: “Our systems were down at all the airports for a while. We are expecting the counters to be crowded more than usual. Seek your patience and cooperation”. Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru as well. Passengers started piling up at the check-in counters around 12 noon. Many of them were anxious that they would miss their flights.


Baffled by long queues that were not moving, IndiGo passengers took to Twitter. “IndiGo Airlines server is down at Bangalore airport. #Chaos inside the terminal,” tweeted Abhitav Ranjan. While the issue resolved after 2pm, there was such a backlog of stranded passengers that delays continued till evening. IndiGo said in a statement: “We regret the inconvenience caused to our passengers on Sunday afternoon due to system being down across airports for around ninety minutes. Our flights and check-in systems are operating normally now.” The failure of IndiGo’s check-in system had significant impact as the airline has over 1,000 daily flights and handles almost 50 lakh domestic passengers in a month. Security agencies, as of now, do not suspect any foul play or cyber-attack in Sunday’s system crash. “IndiGo has told us it was a technical glitch,” said a senior security official.



Cracker unit explosion kills 19-yr-old worker, injures 10


Kolkata: A powerful blast on Sunday afternoon in a cracker manufacturing unit in Sonarpur killed a 19-year-old worker and injured 10, two of them grievously. The blast site in Sonarpur’s Gobindopur, around 28km from Kolkata, had witnessed a similar explosion in 2016. Police have detained the factory owner; his son is on the run. The critically injured have been shifted to Calcutta National Medical College Hospital (CNMC). Infuriated locals vent their anger at police as they were escorting out the factory owner, Tarun Banerjee. Alleging that the administration was hand in glove with the father-son duo who ran the “illegal” cracker unit, they refused to let the cops leave until they were chased away. The site is in a crowded locality. At 12.45pm, three separate explosions — heard from half a kilometre away — rocked the factory. The force tore out the overhead tin shed and flung it several metres in the air, mauled the iron beams which held the shed and trigged a wall collapse. Those inside were all injured, while some who flung themselves to a nearby pond managed to dodge the blaze. Police later rescued 11 persons from the site and took them to hospital. Debasis Sardar, 19, died after being taken to CNMC. Two others admitted there are critical.


“This is not the first time something like this happened. The first time was in 2016. Father and son had been questioned then. A few months back, they re-started their illegal factory,” said an officer. Police said probe into the 2016 blast had revealed that the factory had a valid license to operate. “We are checking whether they had the same now,” an officer said. Local Trinanmool MLA Jibon Mukhopadhyay echoed the local anger, claiming the unit was illegal. “These illegal units operate without valid trade licences. Moreover, they employ unskilled youths. This causes the accidents. In 2016, they were illegally manufacturing crackers and fireworks here. Police had acted against them. I thought they had stopped work; today I realised they didn’t,” he said. Baruipur police superintendent Avijit Sinha said: “We have detained Banerjee”. Pratima Naskar, who stays a stone’s throw from the factory, said: “My house trembled in the shock wave. The window pane was shattered and I saw the tin shed in the air”.



Data on criminals a touch away for cops


Chennai: Policemen across Tamil Nadu can now identify culprits a little faster as 36 stations have been linked to the data base of the crime records bureau that has more than five lakh fingerprints. This will help crack down on not just criminals involved in heinous crimes, but also those behind cyber and white-collar crime who often change their names and profiles and shift their area of operation, according to top police officers. Tata Consultancy Services installed the fingerprint reading devices at all the district headquarters and police commissionerates, linking them to the state crime records bureau’s (SCRB) data base in Chennai. The system that cost Rs.1.70 crore has been functioning since Thursday. SCRB director and additional director-general of police Seema Agarwal said, “Very soon, we are planning to extend the system to all field-level officers to check the identity of any suspect instantly by feeding in fingerprints”.


For now, fingerprints lifted from a crime scene or taken from suspects are taken to the district headquarters and fed into the ‘Fingerprint Analysis and Criminal Tracing System (FACTS) version-7 installed there. Once the data is entered in the system, the details can be viewed by officials across the state. A police officer said they were in talks with software experts to make the gadgets more user-friendly and faster. Police officers say quick access to the fingerprints data base is crucial for crime detection. A case in point was the arrest in May of Sekar alias ‘Powder’ Sekar, who had done an MSc in Psychology and ran a rehabilitation centre in Thiruverkadu. Three Naxals, Dasarathan, 38, his wife Shenbagavalli, 36, and brother Jagaveerapandian, 34, who had been living in disguise as farmers on the outskirts of Chennai for 17 years, were also identified using their fingerprints in February. Also in February, police identified and arrested Ramkumar, who was involved in nine cases including three murders, and had evaded them for five years by shifting base to south Tamil Nadu.



International News



5,000 feared missing in Indonesia as Quake-Tsunami toll rises to 1700



Jakarta: As many as 5,000 people are believed missing from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia’s Palu city, an official said on Sunday, an indication that far more may have perished in the twin disaster than the current toll suggests. Indonesia’s disaster agency say they have recovered 1,763 bodies so far from the 7.5-magnitude and subsequent tsunami that struck Sulawesi on September 28. But there are fears that two of the hardest-hit neighbourhoods in Palu — Petobo and Balaroa — could contain thousands more victims. “Based on reports from the (village) heads of Balaroa and Petobo, there are about 5,000 people who have not been found,” agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday. “Nevertheless, officials there are still trying to confirm this and are gathering data. It is not easy to obtain the exact number of those trapped…” He said the search for the unaccounted would continue until Thursday, at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead. The figure increases the estimates for missing people since the disaster struck 10 days ago. Officials had initially predicted that some 1,000 people were buried beneath the ruins of Palu.



Limo crash at NY tourist spot kills 20 people



Schoharie (US): A crash involving a limousine at a popular New York state tourist spot killed 20 people, officials said on Sunday. Officials told the Times Union of Albany that a limo speeding down a hill hit bystanders on Saturday at a general store in Schoharie County near Albany, about 270km north of New York City. State police confirmed on Sunday that the toll was 20 and said the crash involved two vehicles. The store is a popular stop for tourists on fall foliage trips. Authorities on Sunday didn’t release names of victims or other specifics.



Taliban strike highway bridges near Kabul



Kabul: The Taliban destroyed highway bridges southwest of Kabul during a wide-ranging assault on security forces, cutting off road traffic between the capital and three provinces on Sunday, officials said. Interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said 14 police were killed as the insurgents tried but failed to capture the Sayed Abad district headquarters in Maidan Wardak province. Hekmat Durani, the provincial police chief’s spokesman, said around 20 Taliban fighters were killed and wounded during the battle. The highway between Kabul and Kandahar has since been reopened.

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