Thursday, June 20, 2013

Uttarakhand Disaster authority fears casualties in thousand

The National disaster appear to be the Himalayan tragedy, massive loss of life the natural catastrophe unprecedented  in the last three to four decades continue to unfold on Thursday with fears that thousands of pilgrims staying in 90 rest houses in Uttarakhand may have been washed away in flash floods even as rescue operations were stepped up with additional IAF choppers pressed into service. 

A state Authority Uttarakhand State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in its report to Union Home Minister has said that casualties in the affected areas may run into thousands with about 90 'dharamashalas' (rest houses for pilgrims) swept away in the flash floods. preliminary  the toll has been kept officially at 150.

With the weather clearing up, the focus was on rescue operations both in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where two IAF and one state chopper was making sorties to rescue 600 stranded tourists.

 Uttarakhand, over 15,000 people stranded in Kedarnath and Govindghat on way to Hemkund Sahib have been evacuated so far to Joshimath relief camps through air and road routes, IG police R S Meena said.

"Apart from the 12 helicopters already engaged in rescue operations in affected areas, eight more have been roped in for the purpose to step up the process," Meena said.

Rescue efforts are being concentrated as of now on Kedarnath shrine and its adjoining areas in Rudraprayag district which has been the worst hit with about 90 dharamshalas in the temple area, where pilgrims were staying.Having been swept away by the flood waters, he said. Two helicopters have flown from Dehradun to evacuate stranded people.

Army has also deployed its mountain rescue teams to evacuate the pilgrims. Scores of villages remain under water and cannot be tracked.Hence there is uncertainty about the casualties caused, he said, adding the "devastation is massive".

Rescue efforts also picked up in rain-battered tribal Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh with two IAF and one state chopper making sorties to rescue 600 tourists and others stranded in remote areas.

The sorties started at 6.30 AM in the morning and people stranded at various places for past five days are being dropped at Rampur, official sources said.

In all, 278 people were evacuated till Wednesday evening and about 600 tourists and other people were still stranded at various places.

In Uttar Pradesh, the water levels in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Sharda, Ghaghra, Rapti and Kuanon continued to rise at several places.

The Mavi Satpudha Dam breached on the left bank of the Yamuna river in Shamli district on Wednesday and efforts were on to plug it with the help of locals, officials said.

Some areas in Saharanpur city were still submerged, while rail traffic on the Saharanpur-Ambala route was disrupted due to waterlogging. In Bijnore, the water level of the tributaries of the Ganga was rising.

Relief and rescue operations continued on a war footing and people were being shifted to safer places in Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich and Farrukhabad districts, officials said.

However, the weather remained dry in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with no report of fresh rainfall in the region.

The flow of water through Hathni Kund barrage over Yamuna river near Yamunanagar in Haryana has also decreased as against the unprecedented 8.06 lakh cusecs water discharge over the weekend.

Revenue department officials of Haryana are conducting a survey to ascertain the damage caused to crops due to heavy rains last week in districts of Yamunanagar, Karnal and Panipat recently.

A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi directed the governments to deploy sufficient number of helicopters to rescue flood-affected people in the area. "We direct as an interim measure that all stranded people be provided immediate relief by the state and district authorities by giving them food, medicines and other essential things including fuel," the bench said.
It asked the Centre and National Disaster Management Authority to provide all required resources to the state governemnt. The court passed the order on a PIL filed by a lawyer Ajay Bansal seeking its direction to Centre and state governemnt to rescue people stranded in the state.
The bench also said that authorities should not discriminate among the affected people in relief and rehabilitation operations after the petitioner alleged that government agencies are neglecting people stranded in Gangotri. It also asked the Centre to file a report on the relief and rehabilitation work in the state on 25th June when the case will be taken up for further hearing.
"We also direct, depending on the availability of helicopters, sufficient number of helicopters be deployed for picking up the stranded persons," the apex court said in its order. Although the official toll is over 150, it is feared that thousands of pilgrims staying in 90 rest houses may have been washed away.

Uttarakhand The Rescue Operation


Uttrakhand state government  said that Rudraprayag was the worst affected district and about 500 roads and 175 bridges have been washed out in flash floods in different parts of the state. State Government has set up helpline numbers at Dehradun to provide information about flood-hit areas and people.

The helpline numbers are 0135-2717300, 2716201, 2710925, 09411112985 and 09412054085.
The state Government has also put up the names of people rescued from flood-hit areas on the state Police website
Private Helicopters stranded at Dehradun do not have the permission to fly for help of victims at devastated Uttarakhand  as per the reports on E Channels. However the government is working on war footing in Uttarakhand, the army has begun air evacuation of isolated pockets along Govindghat -Badrinath road and Ghagriya -Hemkund track. Nine Army helicopters have been pressed into service and an additional six helicopters would be operational from today. The Army has conducted two days of uninterrupted humanitarian assistance to stranded people in Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts. Most of the roads and many villages are still submerged in water, make journey difficult to the devastated state, rescue operations are moving with the help of para military and army units.  Army has also inducted 12 medical teams and opened an emergency medical helpline. Over 10,000 personnel of the armed forces have been deployed for relief and rescue operations in the stateReports suggested that the famous Kedarnath shrine, where 50 people died in the landslide that accompanied torrential rain and flash floods, is intact notwithstanding the heavy damage all around.
With clear sky  in the last two days, no fresh incidents of landslides and flooding. Accompanied by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an aerial survey of the worst-hit areas while Union Home Secretary RK Singh also undertook a similar mission separately.
Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Om Prakash said the death toll in the state has gone up to 150 but was not in a position to give the exact estimate since several villages in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts in the upper reaches were still under water.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told reporters that he was also not in a position to give the exact estimate of death and destruction which he said was unprecedented in the state. It would take one year to restore normalcy on the road to Kedarnath from the after effects of the cloud burst which he described as a “Himalayan tsunami”.
The first priority is to rescue the stranded people especially those on pilgrimage from various parts of the country, distribution of medicines and rehabilitation and compensation for the affected, he said.
The Chief Minister said very heavy casualties are feared, electric poles have been uprooted and several roads have been damaged in the calamity, the scale of which was not imagined.
5,000 people are in Gauri Kund. With the weather clearing in most places, operations commenced in full swing to rescue the stranded, especially in Badrinath shrine where 12,000 pilgrims are still stuck. While 1,500 pilgrims and locals were rescued from in Chamoli district, 1,200 stranded tourists were evacuated in Rudraprayag.
Officials said that evacuating people to safer places was their priority as recovery of bodies can be taken up later.
On the steps being initiated by the government to provide succour to the victims, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in New Delhi that IAF helicopters have been deployed to evacuate stranded people from Gaurikund while a control centre has been established in Badrinath.
“Fourteen teams comprising 540 persons of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Uttarakhand. 62,790 people are stranded in Uttarakhand. 5,000 people have been rescued by the Army,” Shinde said.
Rescue operations were also on in rain-ravaged tribal Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh for the second day on Wednesday and one state and two IAF choppers were evacuating stranded people at various points in Kinnaur district and adjoining Kaza area of Spiti.
“The exact number of people stranded at various places is not known, but the priority is to evacuate tourists and the aged and ailing persons first,” HP Principal Secretary (Home), Tarun Sridhar said.
ITBP DG Ajay Chadha said that it was difficult to give exact figures of those rescued as a number of agencies were involved in the relief efforts.

Miroslava Nemcova new Czech PM


Nemcova proposed by ODS as new Czech prime minister

Předsedkyně Poslanecké sněmovny Miroslava Němcová.
Prague – Czech Chamber of Deputies chairwoman Nemcova Miroslava is candidate of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) for prime minister after the resignation of Prime Minister Petr Necas, ODS acting leader Martin Kuba told journalists after a meeting of the party board todayPRAGUE, Czech Chamber of Deputies chairwoman Miroslava Nemcova is nominated by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) as prime minister after the resignation of Prime Minister Petr Necas, ODS acting leader Martin Kuba said after a meeting of the party board on Wednesday. Necas resigned due to the scandal involving his closest aide Jana Nagyova on Monday. The ODS has already informed TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg and LIDEM leader Karolina Peake about her nomination.
TOP 09 and LIDEM have said Nemcova is acceptable for the post. But Bohuslav Sobotka, leader of the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), said the nomination of Nemcova is a risk for the whole nation.
Nemcova said the decision to accept the candidature was not easy. “Simply a moment comes in one’s life when you have to summarise the support that was given to you and you find out that you have to give something in return,” Nemcova said.
Along with Kuba, Nemcova will attend the Friday meeting with President Milos Zeman at which they will try to convince him that not early elections, demanded by the opposition, but the renewal of the current government is the best solution to the current crisis

World News at Glance

22 killed in Islamist attack on UN compound in Somalia

An assault on a UN compound in Somalia has left at least 22 people dead. Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the assault in which a car bomb exploded outside the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) center. A fierce battle erupted with security personal as gunmen tried to force themselves into the compound. Soldiers from the African Union force were sent in armored vehicles to take control of the territory after a 90 minute gunfight.  Local guards and insurgent fighters were also among those killed in Wednesday’s attack, including seven civilians.

Dolce&Gabbana sentenced to prison for tax dodge

The founders of the famous fashion house Dolce&Gabbana have been sentenced to one year and eight months in jail for tax evasion of 200 million euros ($268 million), an Italian court ruled on Wednesday. The court in Milan also ordered the fashion house to pay a fine of 500,000 euros to Italian national tax agency. The lawyers for the duo immediately said they would appeal. Dolce&Gabbana fashion house was accused of having transferred control of their brands to a shell company, located in Luxembourg, in 2004 and 2005 to avoid paying taxes in Italy.

2 injured as protests continue in Brazil

At least two demonstrators are reported to be injured in clashes with police near the stadium in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza on Wednesday. About 10,000 protesters threw stones at the security forces, who used tear gas and rubber bullets in return. One person suffered an eye injury and another was taken away on a stretcher. The protesters march against government spending on the World Cup and the Olympics. Brazil was to play a Confederations Cup match with Mexico later in the stadium.

Friends of Syria to meet in Doha on Saturday

The foreign ministers from eleven countries, which form the core group of the Friends of Syria, will meet on Saturday in Doha to discuss help for the Free Syrian Army, a French foreign ministry official reported Wednesday. The meeting will be held after recent successful operations performed by government forces. Representatives of France, the United States, Britain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will take part in the discussion, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Elderly woman killed by floods in southwestern France

An elderly woman has been killed in flash floods in southwestern France. A woman in her seventies was washed away overnight by floodwaters after getting out of her submerged car at Saint Beat near Lourdes. Her husband was rescued by firefighters. Lourdes is a popular tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors every year. Due to the flooding, the Roman Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes has been closed, and tourists in the town were relocated from hotels to higher ground.
Reports that US is ready for war in Syria ‘exaggerated’ – Obama
Reports that the US is readying to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war have been called ‘exaggerated’ by US President Barack Obama. “Some of the stories that have been out there publicly have gotten a little overcranked in terms of the idea that somehow the United States is preparing to go all in and participate in another war. What we want to do is end a war,” he stated publicly on Wednesday. He also confidently reiterated US claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, noting Russia’s skepticism on account of the lack of evidence in the public sphere.

N. Korea slams ‘Mein Kampf’ accusation

North Korea has harshly criticized a report that its leader Kim Jong-un handed out copies of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ to senior officials on his birthday in January. The report was posted on News International, a website run by North Korean defectors, which cited an anonymous but supposedly ‘trusted source.’ Pyongyang threatened that it is “determined to take substantial measures to physically remove” the report’s writers, who they labeled “human scum.” The report has been called a “smear campaign,” with the aim of holding back the country’s progress. Hitler wrote the book in the early 1920s, chronicling his early life and political ideology, including his nascent anti-Semitism.

48 dead in a militant attack in northern Nigeria

Unidentified gunmen have killed 48 people in an attack on the small town of Kizara in northern Nigeria, AFP reported. Further details are not available at this time. Earlier on Tuesday, nine students were killed in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri when suspected Islamist militants belonging to Boko Haram opened fire in the second such deadly attack on schools in three days.

Russia urges West to pressure Syrian rebels to join talks

Western nations must use their clout with the Syrian rebels to convince them to participate in the planned peace conference in Geneva, just as Russia did with the Syrian government, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said. Unlike Damascus, the rebels did not agree to attend, to present their negotiators or to unveil a platform that they would bring to the table, Gatilov stressed. “The ball is in our partners’ court now and we expect them to actively work with the opposition,” he said.

Syrian rebels claim Lebanon attack

A Syrian rebel group has claimed responsibility for killing four Shiites in Lebanon this week. The men were killed as they attempted to enter Syria, the group said in a video statement, adding that the four were Hezbollah fighters. Another video posted by the same group showed IDs and weapons that the four were allegedly carrying. Hezbollah voiced public support for the Syrian government last month and sent fighters to aid in their battle against the rebels.

Gunmen, suicide bomber attack UN office in Somalia

A suicide bomber and several gunmen attacked an office of the United Nations Development Program in the Somali capital Mogadishu, a senior police officer and a witness told Reuters. "A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of the UNDP and then several armed fighters went in and opened fire inside," police official Abdikadir Mohamed said. The UNDP compound is only several hundred meters from the city's fortified airport that serves as the main base for an African peacekeeping force battling Islamist militants in the country.

Singapore air pollution hits 16-year high

Singapore's main indicator of air quality moved into the ‘unhealthy’ range after smoke from fires on Indonesia's Sumatra Island wafted across the sea and cast a gray pall over the city-state's skyline. The readings on the Pollutant Standards Index held steady between 104 and 123 on Tuesday. An ‘unhealthy’ measurement is between 101 and 200. The index hit 155 on Monday night, the worst pollution reading since it soared to 226 in late 1997. Smoke haze is an annual headache for Singapore, often beginning midyear when farmers in Indonesia clear land by igniting fires. This sometimes causes diplomatic strains, with Singapore calling on Indonesia to do more to prevent illegal burning.

Afghan Taliban claim killing of 4 US troops

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for an attack in Afghanistan that killed four US soldiers, just hours after the militant group said it would hold talks with the US on finding a political solution to ending the country’s nearly 12-year war. Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said on Wednesday that the insurgent group launched two rockets into the Bagram Air Base late Tuesday, AP reported. US officials confirmed the military base had come under attack by indirect fire and that four US troops were killed. The attack highlights the challenges ahead, after the Taliban and the US announced they would hold talks in Qatar as early as this week in an effort to end the violence while Washington prepares to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan next year.

Body of Todashev flown to Russia after FBI slaying

The body of Ibragim Todashev, a man of Chechen origin who lived in the US and was killed by FBI agents while being questioned about the Boston Marathon bombings, was flown home to Russia almost a month after he was fatally shot. Todashev, 27, lived in Orlando and was a friend of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston Globe reported. During a final interview about their relationship, Todashev was shot multiple times and killed by an agent who said the man attacked him. The details of the incident remain classified. Todashev’s family has faced delays in shipping his body back to Russia as the FBI has yet to release his green card and passport, which made booking a flight difficult.

9 students killed in suspected Islamist attack in Nigeria

Nine students were killed in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri when suspected Islamist militants opened fire in the second such deadly attack on schools in three days. "I saw five students sitting the exams killed on the spot. Four others were killed as they were entering the school premises," witness Ibrahim Mohammed told Reuters. Boko Haram, whose name means ‘Western education is sinful,’ has attacked several schools in the past. Seven students, two teachers and two insurgents were killed when the militants attacked a school in the town of Damaturu on Sunday. Although Nigerian forces claim their month-long offensive has helped them wrest control of the country’s remote northeast from Boko Haram, the two latest attacks raise concerns that the offensive has only pushed the militants into hiding.

Blasts at Russian ammo depot end

Russian emergency services have reported that a string of blasts at an ammunition depot in the Samara region have ended, after the base first caught fire on Tuesday. The assessment was made after no blasts were reported for about two hours. There are two sites where the fire continues, but both have been contained by firefighters.

Indian high court rules couples who engage in premarital sex are ‘married’

The Madras High Court with jurisdiction over more than 70 million Indian residents living within the states of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry has determined that any unmarried couples of the proper legal age that “indulge in sexual gratification” will be considered married. According to the court’s ruling, if an unmarried man of at least 21 years of age and an unmarried woman of 18 consummate their relationship it will become “a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations.” Justice CS Karnan passed the order on Monday while overseeing the appeal of an unmarried woman who was seeking financial support from the man who had fathered two children with her.

US House passes late-term abortion bill with incest, rape exception

The US House of Representatives has adopted legislation that would ban late-term abortions. The bill is designed to make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks after fertilization, but would exempt victims of rape or incest on the condition that they first report the crime to authorities. With the Democrat-controlled Senate and the threat of a White House veto, the Republican-designed bill, observers argue, is likely to fail.
Media agencies.

Competitiveness, climate, security Finn’s priorities Ministry of Finance release Finnish road map of EU presidency. Finland i...