UTTARAKHAND GLACIER BURSTS: 150 MISSING, 10 BODIES FOUND - The Daily Guardian
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UTTARAKHAND GLACIER BURSTS: 150 MISSING, 10 BODIES FOUND

A sudden flood inundates a power project at Reni village in Chamoli district on Sunday following a glacier burst; PM Modi announces Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for kin of deceased.

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Nearly 150 people are missing or “feared dead” as a sudden flood inundated a power project at Reni village in Joshimath area of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday following a glacier burst, the ITBP, which is engaged in rescue and relief operations there, said.

Citing updated inputs received from local administration, ITBP spokesperson Vivek Pandey told IANS at least 10 bodies have been recovered so far from the spot, and several people have been rescued, while that there is no information about other persons.

In its initial information received from the spot, the ITBP had, through a statement that “more than 100 labourers at the barrage and 50 plus in the tunnel lost their life as per the incharge of Tapovan NTPC work site… As many as 150 people are missing”. Clarifying these inputs, Pandey told IANS: “As 150 people are still missing, it is difficult to say that all are dead. They can be said ‘feared dead’ or ‘missing’. Missing persons cannot be declared dead till seven years.”

A wall of dust, rock and water hit as an avalanche roared down the Rishiganga valley deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand, a witness told news agency Reuters. “It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone,” Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of the river in Raini village, told the agency. “I felt that even we would be swept away.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the tragic avalanche. He also announced Rs 50,000 from Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the people who were seriously injured.

“PM @narendramodi has approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the tragic avalanche caused by a glacier breach in Chamoli, Uttrakhand. Rs 50,000 would be given to those seriously injured,” the office of the Prime Minister tweeted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the nation that relief work is in full progress following the glacier burst in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district and every attempt is being made to help the affected people.

Meanwhile, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met on Sunday evening in New Delhi to review the situation of Uttarakhand after a glacier broke in Joshimath in the Chamoli district, causing huge flooding of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers. This flood caused massive damage to the nearby NTPC power plant and several homes in the area.

In the wake of the natural disaster, the Cabinet Secretary chaired an NCMC meeting late on Sunday evening, which was attended by the Union Home Secretary, Secretary of the Ministry of Power, DG ITBP, Chief IDS, members of NDMA, DG NDRF, Chairman CWC, DG IMD and Chairman DRDO, along with other senior officers. Chief Secretary, Government of Uttarakhand also joined the meeting with his team of officers through video conferencing.

The Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand briefed the committee on the ground situation as well as the actions taken by them after the incident to evacuate people and to contain the damage caused by the flooding due to the glacial burst.

The Cabinet Secretary directed the concerned agencies to work in close coordination and extend all requisite assistance to the state administration. He emphasized the need to account for all missing persons and ensure that those trapped in the tunnel are rescued at the earliest. He directed that surveillance should be maintained till rescue efforts are completed and the situation returns to normalcy.

The Chairman of the Central Water Commission informed the members that there is no danger of downstream flooding and the rise in water level has been contained and that there is also no threat to the neighbouring villages. At the same time, concerned agencies of the Centre and the State were asked to keep a strict vigil on the situation. A team from DRDO, which monitors avalanches, is being flown in for surveillance and reconnaissance. MD, NTPC has been asked to reach the affected site immediately. It was further informed that around 12 persons trapped in a tunnel have been rescued by the ITBP, while efforts are on to rescue others trapped in another tunnel, which is being coordinated by the Army and ITBP. Efforts are being made to ensure that all missing people are traced and accounted for.

Two teams of the NDRF are en route and three additional teams have been flown in from Hindon, which will reach the spot later at night. More than 200 ITBP personnel are on the spot, and the Engineering Task Force (ETF) of the Army with all rescue equipment has been deployed. Navy divers are being flown in too and aircrafts/helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) are on standby.

During the meeting, IMD informed that there is no rainfall warning in the region for the next two days.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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Hydrogen-CNG will be used in automotive, domestic cooking applications: Pradhan

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Petroleum, Natural Gas and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said that the government is looking forward to introducing Hydrogen-CNG (H-CNG) as an intermittent technology “in a big way for both automotive and domestic cooking applications”.

In the inaugural edition of the Hydrogen Roundtable titled ‘Hydrogen Economy: New Delhi Dialogue-2021’, Pradhan said, “By establishing synergies with natural gas, hydrogen can be easily adopted in the energy mix without seeking major infrastructural overhauling. Our refineries are planning to leverage the available surplus hydrogen capacities in gray form for meeting the initial demand in mainstreaming hydrogen. One of such projects is underway at our Gujarat refinery of Indian Oil wherein the combination of hydrogen production through natural gas and its hyphenation with the carbon capture technology will result in the production of blue hydrogen.”

“Multiple buses powered by fuel cells will be covering various iconic routes. Efforts are underway to leverage the vast CNG pipeline infrastructure to reduce the transportation cost of hydrogen,” Pradhan said adding that the utility of hydrogen is not going to be limited only to the transport sector. “Role of hydrogen as a chemical is well known. We all now recognize the importance of hydrogen as an energy carrier and efforts are underway to devise ways to harness it in a reliable, cost-effective and safe manner,” he added.

The Minister said that India remains committed to environmental and climate causes with a massive thrust on deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. “In the past six years, India has increased its renewable power portfolio from 32 GW to almost 100 GW. We are well on track to achieve the 450 GW target of renewable energy generating capacity by 2030,” he stated. WITH ANI INPUTS

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MUMBAI HAS 90 CONTAINMENT ZONES, 995 SEALED BUILDINGS

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Cases of Covid-19 are increasing at an alarming pace in Maharashtra, with the second wave having a major impact on Mumbai. The daily number of cases is way past the peak that the maximum city had experienced in August/September 2020.

To contain the spread of Covid-19, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has resorted to various measures, including sealing buildings and making mini-containment zones. As per current norms, if one or more Covid-19 patients are found in a building, then the entire floor is sealed. If more than five patients are found infected, the building is sealed by the municipal corporation. Mumbai police also keeps home guards outside such buildings to ensure rules are not broken.

According to the BMC, at present Mumbai has 90 containment zones in slums and “chawls” (old multi-storeyed row tenements), while 995 buildings have been sealed.

However, if the building is small, the municipal corporation has no problem in sealing the entire building. But when there are many buildings or wings in the complex, it becomes a problem for other residents.

To avoid any inconvenience to other residents, the municipal corporation has adopted a policy of sealing the floors or the entire wing of the building, instead of completely sealing the building. Besides, the authority to seal the building has been given to local authorities.

The city’s Covid-19 recovery rate stood at 81 per cent, while the case growth rate was 1.71 per cent.

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Historical monuments, museums closed till 15 May amid Covid surge

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All monuments, sites, and museums under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will be closed till 15 May or until further orders in light of the ongoing second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, it has been decided to close all the Centrally Protect monuments/sites and museums under the Archaeological Survey of India with immediate effect and till May 15, 2021, or until further orders,” the order read. Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel also tweeted the order, saying, “Given the current outbreak of the corona epidemic, @MinOfCultureGoI (Ministry of Culture), @ASIGoI (Archaeological Survey of India) has decided to close all the monuments protected by it till the 15th of May.”

Similar measures were taken in March last year when the pandemic broke out. In December 2020, the ASI removed the cap on the number of visitors to its protected monuments as cases started to reduce. India on Wednesday achieved a grim milestone by recording over two lakh cases. The country is currently the second worst-hit country in the world in terms of coronavirus cases, with the United States being the worst affected.

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VACCINATION DRIVE SOUGHT FOR COVID-HIT MEDIA PERSONNEL

In the past three days, 5 media persons have died in Maharashtra battling coronavirus.

Urvashi Khona

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On Thursday, Prakash Jadhav, a journalist by profession, died by committing suicide reportedly after failing to acquire Remdesivir injection. Jadhav, who lived in the Sushil Nagar area of Solapur city, was only 35 years of age; he ended his life by cutting his wrist at his residence. On Wednesday, there were four media professionals from Nashik who lost their lives battling against Covid-19–Vinod Shadrul, Sandip Rokde and Asif Tamboli were from the local media, while Shyam Mule was a newspaper distributor.

With media professionals severely hit by Covid-19, Prafful Sarda, an officer on special duty to the Minister of State (R), Government of Maharashtra, and chairman MWAC Dr Raghunath Kuchik, who is also deputy leader of Shiv Sena, wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope And Union Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan and his team and to Balram Bhargav ICMR, Director General.

Terming media personnel as frontline workers and corona warriors working relentlessly in these challenging, difficult and testing times, Prafful Sarda demanded special vaccination drive for media personnel. “The nation is observing a second wave of Covid-19. Amidst this deadly scare, one unlooked genre is that of journalists and our media personnel who since day one of this pandemic are out working hard, doing their job and risking their lives along with team members (photographers and videographers). During these difficult and testing times, media has played an important role of giving the public the right information since the past one year and in all events including calamity, disaster and the pandemic. While they have been doing their job religiously, many have lost their lives battling the deadly coronavirus and several others have contracted the disease and are struggling to survive. In such a challenging scenario, it’s important that these ‘Corona Warriors’ get vaccinated as soon as possible looking at death toll of these reporters, journalists, camera persons and video Journalists. For their health and safety, it’s strongly recommended that they get vaccinated. Once again, I request you to take up this issue with the authorities concerned that all media personnel, irrespective of their age group, must get vaccination on priority before things go worst,” the letter states. 

The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

“The most affected countries include Brazil (170 dead), Peru (138), Mexico (93), India (62), Italy (51), Bangladesh (47), USA (46), Ecuador (45), Colombia (40), United Kingdom (28), Dominican Republic (27), Pakistan (25), Turkey (22), Panama (16), Russia (15), Spain (15), Bolivia (14),” he said.

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Mamata seeks single-day Bengal polling amid surge in coronavirus cases

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged the Election Commission to conduct the remaining phases of the ongoing Assembly elections in a single phase in view of the current surge in Covid-19 cases. She said doing so would protect the state’s people from being exposed further to the virus. “Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed @ECISVEEP’s decision to conduct WB polls in 8 phases. Now, in view of the huge surge in #COVID19 cases, I urge the ECI to consider holding the remaining phases in ONE go. This will protect the people from further exposure to #COVID19,” she tweeted.

Earlier on Thursday, the EC clarified that there were no plans to merge the rest of the phases of the West Bengal Assembly elections despite speculations. Polling for four of the eight phases is over and the fifth is scheduled for Saturday, where 319 candidates will contest for 45 constituencies across the six districts of Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and Purba Bardhaman.

Meanwhile, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of West Bengal called for an all-party meeting, asking all political parties to adhere to Covid guidelines. “A meeting has been called by CEO West Bengal to ask all political parties to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines mandated by the Election Commission for strict compliance,” an EC official said. The meeting comes after directions issued by the Calcutta High Court. Earlier last week, the EC had written to all national and state parties asking them to follow all relevant guidelines during public meetings, rallies and other activities. The apex electoral body also took a “serious view of the laxity in maintaining norms, particularly not wearing masks by political leaders on stage.”

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CITIGROUP TO EXIT INDIA, 12 OTHER RETAIL BANKING MARKETS

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Citigroup Inc on Thursday announced plans to exit retail banking in 13 markets across Asia, which includes India, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The statement released by the bank said that it will instead operate its consumer-banking franchise from four wealth centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and London.

The shift is a part of the ongoing review of the company’s strategy by CEO Jane Fraser, who took over last month. “This positions us to capture the strong growth and attractive returns the wealth-management business offers through these important hubs,” the statement quoted Fraser.

The New York-based bank will exit its consumer franchises in Australia, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

“While the other 13 markets have excellent businesses, we don’t have the scale we need to compete,” Fraser stated. “We believe our capital, investment dollars and other resources are better deployed against higher returning opportunities in wealth management and our institutional businesses in Asia.”

However, the firm will continue to offer products in those markets to customers of its institutional clients group which comprises the private bank, cash management arm and investment banking and trading businesses.

Announcement of the exit follows the company›s reports of a record quarterly profit, augmented by the flurry of blank-check companies that it supported in taking public in the first quarter.

Citigroup has also been developing a wealth-advisory hub in Singapore on a 30,000-square-foot space, the largest of its kind for the bank, which is estimated to house more than 300 relationship managers and product specialists.

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