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Friday, April 4, 2014

8.2-magnitude quake triggers tsunami in Chile, 6 killed

Santiago: An 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit northern Chile’s Pacific coast on Tuesday, killing at least six people as tsunami waves of more than two metres lashed the shore. The quake sent panicked residents pouring into the streets, with over 900,000 people along Chile’s coast heeding government orders to evacuate their homes. 

    Similar warnings were issued in a ripple effect up the Pacific coast of South America and into Central America. 
    But about 10 hours after the two-minute quake, the Chilean government lifted what remained of a nationwide tsunami alert. People began trickling home after spending hours outside in 
the middle of the night although the interior ministry asked them to remain on alert, as sea levels will remain as much as a metre higher than usual. Some fires broke out, roads were damaged and power was knocked out in the northern city of Arica, although there was no widespread destruction, said thedisaster relief agency ONEMI. The government said that so far there have been 17 aftershocks and there will be more in coming days. 
    President Michelle Bachelet declared parts of northern Chile to bedisaster zones and said soldiers will be dispatched to the areas to prevent looting and disorder. 
    In the city of Iquique, closest to the epicenter, some 300 prisoners escaped from a jail amid the chaos triggered by the new tremor. 
    A total of 39 of them have been recaptured, the interior ministry said. AFP


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A disaster waiting to happen - again


This monsoon, a repeat of the aftermath of the 26/7 deluge could occur in the Bainganwadi slums of Govandi, thanks to the dangerously choked up Mithi River

One shudders in fear when one thinks of the 26/7 deluge of 2005 that swept Mumbai. In that great flood, a choked up Mithi River in Kurla played a major role, due to which the entire area including Air India colony in Kalina and other parts of Kurla remained submerged in water for ten days.

Now, local residents of Bainganwadi area in Govandi fear the repeat of a Mithi river this monsoon unless civic authorities wake up. Areas like Chikalwadi, Kamla Raman Nagar, at the back of the Anjuman Rafiqul Islam School, and Adarsh Nagar Road No.12, all  exist right below the mountain of garbage that is the Deonar dumping ground. In the middle of Chikalwadi and Kamla Raman Nagar, there exists a 12-feet-wide nullah, which has been filled with debris and leveled, allegedly by local land mafias, say locals. Unauthorized shanties too have come up on either side of this choked up canal. And each of them is sold for Rs 3 to Rs 4 lakh to unsuspecting slum dwellers.

The nullah water that used to flow down to the creek cannot now join with it, thus posing an immense hazard to the surrounding area during the monsoon.Thuis is in addition to the health issues caused by diseases like dengue, malaria, typhoid and asthma among the local populace, especially children.

When ADC spoke to Ram Kadam, Asst. Engineer (Bldg & Factory dept.) of M-East ward, he said, “We take action on illegal slums by demolishing them. But if we demolish these huts in the morning, by evening they are rebuilt again. We have informed Shivaji Nagar police to book these local land mafia under the Zopadapatti Dada Act. But police seldom take action. When we demand police protection during our demolition drives in the area, Shivaji Nagar police is unable to provide it to us.”

Not surprisingly, disgruntled locals have another version. One of them, Salim Khan, laments, “We have complained verbally and in writing repeatedly to M-East ward officials but in vain. Many anti-social elements like tadipars, (externees) and those listed in attempt to murder cases thrive in the area and grab land illegally to construct these unauthorized shanties. When we complain to M-East ward officials, they only take action against poor slum dwellers and contract laborers constructing these shanties, instead of catching land sharks.”

Locals also allege that the personal assistants of some corporators of the region are also involved in land grabbing and illegal construction of shanties. The corporators themselves turn a blind eye to this activity of their so-called assistants. And then there are the electricity mafias who run riot in these slum pockets and  who provide illegal connections to these unauthorized shanties.

When contacted in the matter, senior police inspector Radheshyam Agarwal of Shivaji Nagar police station said, “We give police protection to BMC demolition squads every time they ask for it. However, within 10-15 days after a demolition drive, the shanties are erected once again. When BMC approaches us again, we inspect the illegal sites, carry out panchnamas and tell them to file FIRs against known land mafias. But BMC officials develop cold feet as they do not want to get into the wrong books of these mafias. We ourselves can’t file an FIR against anyone. Only the BMC can tell us about the illegal shanties as they have special teams to inspect such constructions. Most of these officials are hand-in-glove with local land mafias as they receive a cut from each and every illegal shanty. Without the BMC’s knowledge, not a single unauthorized construction can occur in Mumbai slums.”

Speaking about the health of slum children in these localities, Dr Etheshan Shaikh, director of S N Hospital in Govandi, states, “As children play around in the dirt and filth covered soil of the nullah level with the garbage dump, they are infected with diseases like dengue, malaria, typhoid and asthma.” Garbage vehicles, instead of dumping their loads in the the dumping ground, also drop garbage in the nullah . This should stop, declared yet another local resident.

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