News Flash – 8 September 2017

National News



Rajdhani derails near New Delhi station, third city mishap in 32 days


NEW DELHI: In the third train scare in the capital in nearly a month, the engine and generator car of the Ranchi Rajdhani express derailed at Minto Bridge, a few hundred metres from the New Delhi station on Thursday morning. One passenger was injured in the accident at 11.45am while other travellers just received a jolt as the train had slowed considerably on approaching the station, railway officials said. Sources said a problem was reported on the track over an hour before the mishap, when the driver of 12301-Howrah Rajdhani alerted railway officials at 10.30am about a ‘sound’ he heard as the train crossed the stretch near Minto Bridge. Following the alert, sources said train drivers were asked to be “careful” on the stretch. They admitted that probably the track needed repair. The Ranchi Rajdhani was the fourth train to cross the stretch after railway officials were informed about the potential problem. “Three trains went over that area safely before this train derailed and came off the track. Its speed was very slow and trains had been asked to drive carefully over this portion,” said a source. Officials said Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel as well as a medical team rushed to the spot even as the passengers quickly got off the train. Senior railway officials said an enquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of the derailment and how the track got damaged. “The priority was to first get the track repaired and functional.



An enquiry has been ordered to ascertain how it was damaged and what may have been the cause. Suitable action will be taken after that,” said Anshul Gupta, divisional railway manager, Delhi division. A portion of the track broke during the accident. After repairs were carried out, the engine was re-railed around 5.40pm. The accident caused several diversions and cancellation of trains bound for the New Delhi station. “At least nine trains were diverted through Old Delhi and nine others were cancelled. Two trains had to be regulated between Ghaziabad and New Delhi railway station for nearly 2 hours each and the starting station of one train was changed,” said a railway official. This was the fourth train accident since June this year and the third in the past month or so. On August 22, an EMU train 64071 from Ballabgarh to Shakurbasti station ’tilted’ to one side after hitting a piece of railway equipment on the track at the New Delhi Railway station. On August 6, one coach of an EMU train to Ghaziabad derailed while entering platform 16 of the New Delhi railway station, while a similar incident took place in June, when a coach of a Palwal bound EMU train derailed at platform number three. Meanwhile, new railway minister Piyush Goyal chaired a high-level meeting on Thursday to discuss safety in train operations with railway board officials.



Panic in Dongri as sand begins to slide down rickety building



MUMBAI: In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, residents of Kesarbai Mansion at Dongri filed out of their homes. Sand had begun to slide down the walls and columns of the building. Afraid it may meet the same fate as Bhendi Bazaar‘s Husaini building, residents lost no time in shifting out. Panic seems to have gripped the residents of dilapidated buildings as many have begun to approach the local MLA, the BMC and the Mumbai Repair and Reconstruction Board to repair their structure or seek permission for redevelopment. On Thursday, the 52 tenants of Kesarbai Mansion were amongst many who gathered at Habibi School in Dongri to discuss the alternatives before them as authorities refused to guarantee the safety of their building. Zeenat Rupani, among those who wished to shift to a transit camp at Gorakhdev, Mazgaon, said, “Those with children in school must be given tenements closest to our residence. Nearly 60% of residents have sub-let their rooms, they can be given accommodation further out”. Not all were in agreement with her. Some demanded that repairs be carried out without residents having to move. Others wanted Mhada to acquire the property and redevelop it. Mhada engineer S N Bhagat shot down the last proposal pointing out that in the past 15 years, the housing authority has not constructed a single building. “Acquiring the buildings is a long procedure. Besides, owing to the Supreme Court order of keeping six metres of open space on all sides, redevelopment is unviable as these plots are very small,” he said.



Local MLA Amin Patel cautioned residents that obtaining building proposal clearance was a tedious task and advised them to opt for repairs. “If you agree to move out for a few months, it will be easier and faster to carry out repairs,” he advised. But it was an option not many were willing to take. Safdar Karmali, landlord of Kesarbai Mansion and Kesarbai building, said the structures were owned by Aloo Padu Trust. “We own three buildings in Kesar Baug and are willing to bear 50% of the repair costs provided the tenants pay the other 50%.” Karmali said their other trust, Khoja Shia Isna Asheri Trust, which owns 21 buildings in the area, will pay 25% for each. Patel said this is a one-off case where a landlord has offered to bear part of the cost. Residents of Patka Mansion said their building had been partially repaired and they do not wish to move out. Rafiqa Saboonwala said there were at least four weddings in October in their building of 90 tenants. Shameen Rangani of Haji Qasam building at Null Bazaar said residents had coughed up Rs 40 lakh over three years but repairs were incomplete. “The contractor appointed with Mhada’s consent refuses to give an account of money. The section where my tenement is located is tilted”.



Swine flu claims 15 lives in Delhi



NEW DELHI: The death toll due to swine flu at Safdarjung Hospital touched 15, with the death of two more patients. Sources said a 24-year-old man from Muzaffarpur and a 62-year-old woman from Aligarh succumbed to the disease recently. “Both were referred cases. Our doctors tried their best to save the two patients but due to severe complications the patients could not be saved,” said an official. Countrywide, more than 1,100 people have died due to swine flu this year. Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat are the worst affected states. In Delhi, the state government claims only five people have died due to the viral illness but hospitals have reported nearly three to four times more deaths. “Many patients are referred from other states,” added officials. The National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi have found that the H1N1 strain in circulation this year is different from the one in circulation previous years. “The virus in circulation is of Michigan strain. Earlier, it was mostly the California strain,” Dr A C Dhariwal, director of NCDC, said.



India’s first smokeless village enters Limca Book of Records



BENGALURU: The country’s first smokeless village – Vyachakurahalli in Chikkaballapur district in Karnataka has entered into the Limca Book of Records-2017. S Varadachari, state level coordinator (Oil Industry) and executive director, Indian Oil said, “It is a proud moment for us and people of Vychakurahalli for entering into the Limca Book of Records 2017 as country’s first smokeless village. This will encourage us to continue our endeavour in improving the lives of rural people under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)”. In December 2015, the Union petroleum ministry declared Vyachakurahalli as India’s first smokeless village after it switched from conventional fuel to LPG. Varadachari said declaring a “smokeless village” involves various steps including assessing population of the village, estimating total number of households, including those that were using LPG, identifying the number of BPL families, analyzing the economic conditions of villagers and converting households to LPG usage with door-to-door campaigns and physical demonstrations.


“All these efforts were done with the active involvement and participation of the local panchayat leaders, block level officers, local MLA’s or MP’s etc. Indian Oil LPG distributors were also committed and dedicated towards this cause. The villagers were also educated about safe use of LPG with demonstrations carried out as part of the programme”, said Varadachari. In Karnataka, over 7 lakh LPG connections have been approved and 5.5 lakh connections have been released under PMUY so far. “Indian Oil pioneered the ‘smokeless village’ concept to achieve 100% LPG usage across the country, especially in rural parts of the country under PMUY schemes” said a press release from Indian Oil on Thursday. “PMUY- security deposit free LPG connections scheme was launched in June 2017 and efforts to achieve smoke-free kitchens in Karnataka has been taken up on a war footing since then. Presently, all the beneficiaries who have been given Ujjwala connections since the launch, have been given hot plate and first refill under an EMI scheme”, the release from Indian Oil adds.



India’s first Hyperloop to connect twin Amaravati and Vijayawada


VIJAYAWADA/HYDERABAD: Fancy travelling from Vijayawada to Amaravati in five minutes flat? Come 2020-21, this flight of fancy is all set to become a reality, with US-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. (HTT) gearing up to roll out India’s first Hyperloop project connecting Vijayawada and Andhra Pradesh‘s capital Amaravati. The project is expected to catapult India’s startup state of Andhra Pradesh and its proposed world-class capital into the global league. Hyperloop, which uses a low pressure tube to transport people at speeds as high as 1,200 km per hour, will cut down the nearly one-hour travel time for the Vijayawada-Amaravati ride to just 5-6 minutes. While by road, the Vijayawada-Amaravati distance is around 20 km, the HTT plans to build a 16-km long tube for the project. According to sources, the project, to be taken up on a public private partnership (PPP) mode, will cost between $200-250 million (Rs 1,300-1,600 crore) and create over 2,500 jobs. The PPP project will be set up with funding primarily from private investors and the first phase of the project will kick off by October this year with the commencement of a six-month feasibility study. After conducting initial six month feasibility study, phase-2 of the project will see HTT build its first Hyperloop in India. Sources said as part of the feasibility study HTT will offer 4-5 possible routes for the project, that is tipped to cut down the travel time from Vijayawada city centre to Amaravati city centre from about an hour currently to just 5 minutes. Once it gets the AP government’s nod it will proceed with selected route.


Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) along with the AP government will assist HTT with all regulatory requirements and develop and implement the Hyperloop project in Amaravati, HTT said. The Hyperloop player said it has signed an MoU with the APEDB on Wednesday to facilitate the development of India’s first Hyperloop transportation system in AP. HTT chairman and co-founder Bibop Gresta, who specially flew down to AP for MoU signing on Wednesday said, “We are extremely delighted to have entered into a MoU with Andhra Pradesh to bring the HTT Hyperloop to India”. APEDB CEO Krishna Kishore, who signed the MoU, said, “Major cities of the world have seen a decline in livability, and transportation has been a major contributor due to congestion, air pollution and accessibility. Andhra Pradesh is shaping the way it approaches transportation in future. By collaborating with Hyperloop, Amaravati is embracing a prototype for the mobility of tomorrow”. HTT said with AP being India’s seventh largest with a population of over 50 million people, connecting the two emerging development regions of Vijayawada and Amaravati with ultra-high speed transportation would establish the state as a leader in technological innovation and sustainable development.



Karnataka to witness heavy rainfall for 5 days



BENGALURU: Karnataka is expected to see heavy rainfall (65 mm) from September 8 to 12. From Friday and Saturday, there will be rain at isolated places in Bengaluru Rural, Bengaluru Urban, Mandya, Mysuru, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Tumakuru and Ramanagar districts of south-interior Karnataka; Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttar Kannada districts of coastal Karnataka; Raichur, Koppal, Dharwad and Haveri districts of north-interior Karnataka. On Monday and Tuesday also, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada will see downpour. “A cyclonic circulation has developed over south Andhra Pradesh and neighbourhood, another over east-central Arabian sea and coastal Karnataka and the third over east-west shear zone. One more may develop over east Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood in the next 24 hours,” said Sundar M Metri, director, India meteorological department, Bengaluru.



Kolkata records 8% dip in fatal accidents: Report



KOLKATA: The city has managed to significantly bring down the number of accidents -both fatal and non-fatal -in 2016 in comparison with the previous year. The launch of the Safe Drive Save Life campaign, coupled with strict enforcement of speed rules in the city seem to have made the difference, claim top Lalbazar officers. According to the latest road accident report -based on leading cities of India -prepared by the Union ministry of road transport and highways, 2016 witnessed 388 fatal accidents on Kolkata’s streets. There were 421 fatal accidents in 2015 and 431in 2014. In 2016, 407 people lost their lives in road accidents. Not only did the number of fatal accidents fall by 7.8% but also the total figure of non-fatal accidents dropped by a substantial 18%. A comparison with other cities will put things into perspective. In 2016, Delhi saw 1,591 people dying on roads and Chennai witnessed 1,183 deaths. Mumbai, however, has performed better on nonfatal accidents than Kolkata. DC (Traffic) Solomon V Nesakumar said they were hoping for even better performance in 2017. “Since 2014, Kolkata has witnessed 25 to 30 deaths every month. However, after we introduced the compoundable traffic offences in August and put up speed guns across the city, we have recorded just 17 fatal accidents in August,” said Solomon.


Similarly, there were a total of 4104 accidents in the city in 2016 compared to 4981 in 2015. The severity of accidents (number of persons killed per 100 accidents) is at an all-time low of 9.9, much lesser than Mumbai (16.6) or Delhi (21.6).The national average is 19.8. Between July 8 and December 31, 2016 -after the safety drive was launched on July 8 -32 helmetless bikers and pillion riders died on city roads. The figure during the corresponding period in 2015 stood at 61. During the drive, a total of in the city, in which 195 people were killed. 55 among the dead were bikers and pillion riders. The same period also saw deaths of 95 pedestrians. The corresponding period in 2015 saw 216 accidents, in which 220 people died. 72 among them were bikers with and without helmets. Certain areas remain a concern for the Kolkata Police. Unlike Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad, where most accidents took place from 3pm to 9pm, Kolkata registered maximum collisions after the rush hours, generally when trucks are allowed into the city after 10pm. Times View: The situation has become better, significantly in some areas. This, in all probability, indicates some amount of success for the police’s “Safe Drive Save Life” campaign. Authorities now need to ensure this drive does not lose its momentum.



Five killed as bus stand roof collapses near Coimbatore



A portion of the bus was damaged following the incident.



COIMBATORE: Five including two women were crushed to death after a bus stand roof came crumbling down at Somanur in rural Coimbatore on Thursday afternoon. While about 10 people were rescued from the debris following the incident, fire and rescue services personnel and eyewitnesses said that some more people could be still trapped under the debris. One of the deceased is said to be a driver of the government bus that was parked at the bus stand. A portion of the bus was damaged following the incident. The deceased are yet to be identified, police said. Eyewitnesses said the concrete ceiling of the bus stand for a length of about 50 foot collapsed, trapping men and women waiting for buses. Three ambulances rushed to the spot and took the injured to private hospitals and Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital. Residents of Somanur said the roof had weakened after the recent spells of rain. “Water was dripping from the roof and the cement plastering was coming off in the past few days,” said an elderly man.



International News



Hurricane Irma kills 14 in Caribbean, heads for Florida


PROVIDENCIALES: Residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Thursday hunkered down for Hurricane Irma, which has smashed through a string of Caribbean islands as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, killing at least 14 people en route to Florida. With winds of around 185 miles per hour (290 km per hour), the storm the size of France has ravaged small islands in the northeast Caribbean in recent days, including Barbuda, Saint Martin and the British and US Virgin Islands, ripping down trees and flattening homes and hospitals. Winds dipped on Thursday to 175 mph as the Irma soaked the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and brought hurricane-force wind to the Turks and Caicos Islands. It remained an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm, the highest designation by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Irma was about 40 miles (65 km) south of Turks and Caicos and is expected to reach the Bahamas later Thursday, before moving to Cuba and plowing into southern Florida as a very powerful Category 4 on Sunday, with storm surges and flooding due to begin within the next 48 hours. Across the Caribbean authorities rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of residents and tourists in the path of the storm, while on islands in its wake, shocked locals tried to comprehend the extent of the devastation while simultaneously preparing for another major hurricane, Jose, currently a Category 3 and due to hit the northeastern Caribbean on Saturday. It was the first time the Turks and Caicos islands had experienced a Category 5 storm, said Virginia Clerveaux, director of Disaster Management and Emergencies.


“We are expecting inundation from both rainfall as well as storm surge. And we may not be able to come rescue them in a timely manner,” she said in comments broadcast on Facebook. The few tourists who remained on the Turks and Caicos islands were in hotels, as were some locals. “Right now I’m at the hotel with my family. There are a lot of people in the hotel. It’s boarded up,” said island resident Sofia Simmons, speaking from the Royal West Indies Hotel on Providenciales island. “Most of our shelters are packed to capacity. We had to open more shelters”. Florida emergency management officials began evacuations, ordering tourists to leave the Keys. Gas shortages in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area worsened on Thursday, with sales up to five times the norm. In Miami, hundreds of people lined up for bottled water and cars looped around city blocks to get gas in panicked preparations for Irma. “To the people of Florida, we just want you to protect yourselves, be very vigilant and careful,” said US President Donald Trump, who owns the waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida as well as a property on the French side of Saint Martin, an island devastated by the storm. A mandatory evacuation on Georgia’s Atlantic coast was due to begin on Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal said.



Deaths rise: In the US Virgin islands, four people died, a government spokesman said, and a major hospital was badly damaged by the wind. A US amphibious assault ship arrived in the US Virgin Islands on Thursday and sent helicopters for medical evacuations from the destroyed hospital. Barbuda, where one person died, was reduced “to rubble”, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne. In the British overseas territory of Anguilla another person was killed, while the hospital and airport, power and phone services were damaged, emergency service officials said. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said four bodies were recovered on the tiny French-Dutch island of Saint Martin, which was hit hard. “It is an enormous disaster. Ninety-five percent of the island is destroyed. I am in shock,” Daniel Gibbs, chairman of a local council on Saint Martin, told Radio Caribbean International. Television footage from the island showed a damaged marina with boats tossed into piles, submerged streets and flooded homes. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday to coordinate an emergency humanitarian response. Three people were killed in Puerto Rico and around two-thirds of the population lost their electricity, Governor Ricardo Rossello said after the storm rolled by the US territory’s northern coast. A surfer was also reported killed in Barbados.


Cuba evacuating tourists: The storm passed just to the north of the Hispaniola island shared by Dominican Republic and Haiti, causing some damage to roofs, flooding and power outages as it approached the impoverished Haitian side of the island, which is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and rain, although it did not make landfall. While the strongest winds should not hit Haiti, authorities and aid agencies were bracing for heavy rainfall from the storm just 90 miles (145 km) north of the coast, which could cause deadly landslides and flooding. Cuba started evacuating some of the 51,000 tourists visiting the island, particularly 36,000 people at resorts on the picturesque northern coast. That included all Canadian tourists, who Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero estimated made up 60 percent of foreign visitors in the country’s keys. In Caibarien, a town in the hurricane’s predicted path, residents secured roofs with sandbags. Irma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and one of the five most forceful storms to hit the Atlantic basin in 82 years, according to the NHC. The storm activity comes after Harvey claimed about 60 lives and caused property damage estimated to be as much as $180 billion in Texas and Louisiana.



3,500 more US troops headed to Afghanistan



WASHINGTON: The US will deploy additional 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, taking the total number of soldiers stationed in the war-torn country to 14,500, a defence official has said. Defence secretary Jim Mattis authorised the new deployment which is in line with President Donald Trump‘s Afghan policy, which did not set a timeline for the withdrawal US troops from the country, defence department official said on Wednesday. Trump last month ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to end America’s longest war. Mattis has authorised about 3,500 additional troops to Afghanistan, the official said on condition of anonymity. Last week, the Pentagon had revised its earlier figure of 8,400 troops to about 11,000 troops. On Friday, Mattis had told reporters that he had signed paper work for deployment of additional troops in Afghanistan but did not reveal the exact figures. The additional troops deployment come after Mattis, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, briefed members of the Congress on the new Afghan strategy and also about North Korea.



They were joined by General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “The US military presence in Afghanistan should be based on our national security interests, the advice of our commanders, and the facts on the ground. We must ensure that terrorists can never again use Afghanistan as a training ground and launching pad for terrorist attacks against our homeland,” Senator Todd Young said. “Afghanistan is not a short-term circumstance we face. Despite encouraging signs, I saw, it doesn’t mean we are departing from Afghanistan soon,” Senator Jerry Moran was quoted as saying by Military Times. The House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday announced plans to hold a Congressional hearing on budget request for Afghanistan and Pakistan on September 13. Alice G Wells, acting assistant secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, will testify before the Congressional Committee.

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