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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

400-crore BMC plan to tackle flooding zones

Mumbai: In a bid to tackle the growing sewage problems in the western suburbs, the BMC is all set to unveil its Rs-400 crore project proposal under the Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project Stage II for Zone 5 (Malad, Borivli, Dahisar). By preventing theoverflowof sewage in low-lying areas, the project aims to improve the condition of 48chronicflooding spots. 

    Additional municipal commissioner (projects)Rajiv Jalota said, "The population density in this region is growing. We need to treat the sewage generated from these areas." Congress corporator Rajendraprasad Chaube said, "This project is going to change the face of the entire area. It will tackle chronicflooding spots." 
    The civic body has planned a slew of measures for the project.A new1,200 mm sewer line willbelaidfrom thejunction of SN Dube Marg and Western Express Highway to Dahisar bridge. The proposed sewer linewillbeconnectedto a 1,800 mm sewer lineon thewestside of the WEH. 
    The BMC proposes to lay 
another 1,800 mm diameter sewer line from Kandarpada junction at Link road to Vallabh Nagar pumping station. This part of the project is expected to improve chronic flooding spots atAvdhutNagar, Vaishali Nagar and Dahisar check naka. 
    A civic official said, "Increasing the capacity of sewer lines is not enough. We need to look at pumping stations as well as the outfall. This project addresses allsuchconcerns." 
    The BMC aims to upgrade thecapacity of theVallabhNa- 
gar pumping station. The capacity of the existing sewer lineof 1,800 mm diameter from Don Bosco School, Borivli, to the Malad pumping station will be increased to 2,200 mm diameter on a priority basis. Theexisting sewagetreatment plant at Malad will be also be upgraded. Currently, the existing plant only performs preliminary treatment of the wastewater,whichinvolves removing grit and rubbish from the sewage. This plant is set to be upgraded to an advanced Waste Water TreatmentPlant. 
    Earlier, sewage from the Malad pumping station usedto be discharged into the Malad creek. After the plant's upgradation, the sewage will be discharged 4 km into the Arabian Sea through the Erangal outfall. Water currents near Erangal outfall runs north to south which will help dilute the wastewater which aidsthe natural processof purification. 
    But activists are skeptical. Activist Navin Pandya said, "The city is going from bad to worse. None of the BMC projectshavehad a positiveeffect." 
    (With inputs from JohanFleury) 

Fact Check 
Tenders invited 
FLOODING SPOTS | 48 (Malad, Dahisar, Borivli and Kandivli) 
WORK INCLUDES | Increasing capacity of sewer lines and pumping stations, installing a waste water treatment plant and improving channel for the outfall

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mumbai police checks security preparedness Top city schools flunk terror test

While Dhirubhai Ambani school got an 'average' rating, Podar's security was found to be the 'worst'

Some of the city's top schools have failed to clear an anti-terror preparedness test conducted by the Mumbai police, triggering fears they could be vulnerable to a suicide bombing or a 26/11-like attack. 

    The test, a questionnaire about the schools' security apparatus followed by an inspection, was carried out following an intelligence input about the possibility of terrorists targeting elite schools. 
    While schools such as Cathedral and John Cannon School, Campion School and St Mary's School in south Mumbai
were rated the safest in this audit, Dhirubhai Ambani International School (DAIS) and Podar International School were rated 'average' and 'worst' respectively. 
    According to sources in Mumbai Police's Protection and Security Department, which conducted this drive, the decision to do a security audit of schools was 
taken right after the Cricket World Cup when Commissioner Arup Patnaik stressed on improving security at all vital installations. 
    Both DAIS and Podar, sources said, have not responded to several reminders from the police about the security measures necessary at the institutions. 
    "There were alerts that terrorists could target some of the city's schools where kids of VVIPs study. We started a drive to identify schools where children of corporate head honchos, politicians, Bollywood superstars and top police officers study. We also included schools that were near other vital installations. In all, we found 25 schools that needed our attention," said an officer from the department. 
    Around the same time, the Ministry of Home Affairs had also issued security guidelines for schools and this was made the yardstick on 
which the schools' safety was measured. The guidelines say that every school must have a high perimeter wall with fencing and should keep only one gate open for entry and exit for both vehicles and people. 
    The guidelines also says that every school should have a security officer, like there are in hotels, in-charge of overall security. The school should have a network of CCTVs with a control room where every activity in the school should be monitored constantly. Frisking of every person entering the premises was also recommended among other measures. 
    Around four months ago, the Protection and Security Department began sending letters to all the 25 schools asking them to furnish details on their security set up. At the same time, the department started an informal audit of the security measures followed by these schools. 
    "Very few schools replied to our first letters and we had to send two to three reminders to elicit any response. 
After four months, we have received replies from 15 schools, while 10 schools have completely ignored our repeated reminders," said another officer involved with the drive. 
    Of all the schools that replied, sources said, Cathedral and John Cannon School, St Mary's School at Mazgaon and Campion School were found to have adhered to almost all security measures. "Cathedral and St Mary's even have a security officer, a rarity in other schools," said the offi
cer. Other schools that replied included Army School at Colaba, Arya Vidya Mandir School at Bandra and Juhu, Bombay Scottish School at Mahim, GD Somani Memorial School at Cuffe Parade and American School at BKC. "We were pretty satisfied with the security at these schools," said the officer. 
    Among those who did not cooperate with the police were Podar Education Complex that includes RN Podar School and Podar International School at Santa Cruz; Dhirubhai Ambani International School at BKC, Don Bosco School; and Gopi Birla School at Walkeshwar. 
    A spokesperson for Dhirubhai Ambani, said that they had always accorded high priority to matters concerning safety and security arrangements. "We have always extended full cooperation with the State and city authorities on various aspects and are committed to offering the best security for the school and its premises." 
    An informal audit at these schools 
revealed that while the Don Bosco schools did well and Gopi Birla and DAIS fared average, Podar School was the worst. "It is like a ticking bomb. Hardly any security measures are in place at this institution. They have not even bothered to reply to our suggestions," said the officer. 
    Anvita Bir, the principal of Podar school, meanwhile, said that she wasn't aware of any letter or police inspection. "Only our security staff will be able to answer these questions," she said. Bir, however, said she couldn't put Mumbai Mirror in touch with the security staff as she was out of town. 
    Additional CP (protection and security) Madhukar Pande, when asked about the drive, said: "We will follow this drive with a formal physical verification of all schools. We are also planning to write to the Education Department to take action against the schools that are not cooperating with us. Schools must understand that whatever we are doing is for their good."

Twenty-five top schools in the city — including Dhirubhai Ambani and Podar — need to upgrade their security measures, police have said

Cops rated the security at Cathedral among the best

North India reels under cold wave, death toll 39

New Delhi: Dense fog and dipping temperatures threw normal life out of gear across north India on Monday as 11 more people succumbed to intense cold, raising the death toll to 39. Nine deaths have occurred in Punjab and two in Uttar Pradesh since Sunday evening. 

    Fatehgarh, with a minimum temperature of 3.9 degrees Celsius, was the coldest place in UP. 
    The first dense fog of the season hit the national capital early on Monday and, as feared, threw the region out of gear. As visibility dropped to less than 50m at places, flights were delayed and even cancelled, train services remained paralyzed and at least one life was lost in a road accident. 
    Traffic slowed to a crawl in the cold morning 
hours, with school-going children bearing the brunt of the below-normal temperatures and low visibility. "I had a tough time steering through the fog. But this is just the beginning. It might get worse as the temperature dips," said Vivek Shukla, a school cab driver. 13-day dense fog longest spell since '98 
NewDelhi:A 55-year-old woman died when a schoolbus collided with a scooty at 8.30 am in Gurgaon on Monday. Police said the bus driver could not spot the two-wheeler in the fog. 
    At the airport, a much bigger disruption was averted when the instrument landing system on the main runway was rectified just in time. The new runway came under very dense fog for about three hours during which time only the main runway was in use. About 200 flights were delayed, some up to five hours, and at least nine cancelled as low visibility procedures were in place for 12 hours. 
    Rail services, already reeling under the impact of heavy fog between east UP and Bengal, were further disrupted as the fog cover moved west into the national capital. As many as 40 trains were cancelled and 100 others suffered delays. 
    This spell of fog started over Bi
har, Bangladesh and Uttar Pradesh around December 6 and had threatened to affect Delhi twice earlier. 
    "Now, Delhi NCR, Haryana and Punjab have also come under the spell of this large-scale dense fog. It still covers most parts of UP, Bihar and Bengal including Patna, Varanasi, Lucknow, Gorkahpur and Allahabad. It is 13 days since this spell started and it is probably the longest lasting spell 
over the Indo-Gangetic plains since 1998. Before this a spell of fog had affected the plains between November 19 and 24," said an official. 
    The minimum temperature in Delhi was five degrees Celsius, three notches below normal, while the maximum settled at 21.9 degrees, a notch below normal. Cold conditions prevailed in Kashmir with the minimum temperatures dropping several degrees below freezing point as the weather department forecast light to moderate snowfall at many places. 
    Mercury in the skiing resort of Gulmarg plummeted to a minimum of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius. Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, reeled at minus 3.4 degrees Celsius. The tourist resort of Pahalgam recorded a low of minus 5.4 degrees Celsius. In the Leh district, the mercury dipped to a low of minus 13 degrees Celsius. TNN & AGENCIES

A passenger plane waits to take off as a thick fog envelops New Delhi's IGI Airport on Monday


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Typhoon kills 436 in Philippines

Raging Floodwaters Tore Through Homes At Night As People Slept

Manila: Pounding rain from a tropical storm swelled rivers and sent walls of water crushing into two southern Philippine cities in the thick of Friday night, killing at least 436 people, many caught in their beds, officials said on Saturday. 
    Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwen Pang said that the latest toll was based on a body count in funeral parlors. She said that 215 died in Cagayan de Oro and 144 in nearby Iligan, and the rest in other southern and central provinces. 
    Most of the dead were asleep on Friday night when raging floodwaters tore through their homes from swollen rivers and cascaded from mountain slopes follow
ing 12 hours of pounding rain in the southern Mindanao region. The region is unaccustomed to the typhoons that are common elsewhere in the archipelago nation. Many of the bodies in parlors were unclaimed, indicating that entire families had perished, Pang said. The number of missing was unclear on Saturday night. Before the latest Red Cross figures, military spokesman Lt Col Randolph Cabangbang said about 250 people were still unaccounted for in Iligan. 
    Soldiers backed up by hundreds of local police, reservists, coast guard officers and civilian volunteers were mobilized for rescue efforts and to clean up after the massive deluge that left the two coastal cities strewn with debris, trash, overturned vehicles and toppled trees. Many roads were cut off and there was no electricity, hampering relief efforts. AP

NIGHT OF DISASTER: (Left) Police rescue trapped residents in Cagayan de Oro city, Philippines, on Saturday; a woman cries over the body of her child

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hooch Horror After Hospital Hell

Toxic tentacles: Where everyone gets a cut

Kolkata: The hooch deaths in West Bengal, coming days after the AMRI hospital tragedy, have put the spotlight on the state's illicit liquor trade. 
    Sale of liquor laced with toxic methanol is an easy way to earn money in Kolkata's fringes and vast areas of rural Bengal. A section of police, local politicians and district excise officials get a cut from this illegal trade, said sources. "Many people are getting a share out of it. So, who will take action against these people?" asked a police officer. 
    Illegal liquor rackets flourish across the state. Hooch reaches semi-urban areas by the barrel from distilleries in North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and East and West Midnapore. Racketeers only need a few ovens and barrels. They mix chemicals ranging from sulphur and ammonium chloride to even battery acid to give a kick to the hooch and make a profit. But, hooch 
often kills scores and it is only then the administration seems to wake up. After hooch deaths, raids are conducted and 'distilleries' demolished. However, hooch sellers are back in business within days. 
    "It's only during this period that the police help us conduct raids and arrest the culprits. The rest of the year, they are casual about raids," said an excise department official. 
    A senior government offi
cial was transferred from the excise directorate when he tried to smash an illegal chain in Barrackpore. "It's impossible for these shops to exist without the police's knowledge. Political parties and local excise staff are also in the know," he said. 
    At Sangrampur, victims had purchased the illegal hooch for about Rs 10 for 500ml, less than a third of the price of country liquor sold from licenced shops. Police said an illegal distillery in Mograhat village supplied the spurious liquor to 70 shops in Sangrampur. The business is hugely profitable as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of hooch. 
    "Different policies of the two governments (CPM and TMC) created hurdles in setting up legal shops but allowed people to set up illegal distilleries and retails. The poor and the unemployed consumed the cheap liquor," said Anindita Hajra, a social scientist. 

Country Liquor (CL) 
Market estimated at 220 million cases (of 9 litres each) in 2008 
Retail value 25,000 crore 
In last five years, CL consumers have taken to cheap IMFL. This explains why CL market growth has been subdued 
Southern states have banned sale of CL. UP, Maharashtra Bihar and West Bengal big markets for CL 
About 60 million 
(5% approx.) Indians are alcoholics. This equals the population of France 

of the alcohol consumed in India is illegal hooch 

More than half 
of all drinkers in India fall in hazardous drinking category 
95% of beverages 
drunk in India are IMFL, licensed country liquor, and illicit spirits 

    Official records show 
alcohol sales have grown 8% 
in the past 3 yrs. These figures don't include illegal liquor sales 
    Govt stats show only 21% of adult Indian men and 2% of women drink 
    Percentage of drinking population aged under 21 years up from 2% to more than 14% in 15 years 
    Average age of initiation dropped from 19 years to 13 years in two decades
    Employers in poor communities sometimes pay wages in alcohol rather than cash, WHO says 
Alcohol-related problems account for more than a fifth of hospital admissions 
18% of psychiatric emergencies 
More than 20% of all brain injuries 
60% of all injuries 
reporting to emergency rooms 
A NIMHANS study shows in many poor households of Karnataka, average monthly expenditure on alcohol more than average monthly salary 
Ban on country liquor in Maharashtra saw wife beating cases drop by 35% 
in 2010 

How much does a hooch pouch cost in Bengal? As little as Rs 10 for half a litre 
Maximizing profits Bootleggers, working from homes, warehouses and forests, can turn 1 litre of genuine alcohol into 1,000 litres of bootlegged swill with chemicals and additives that usually cause no harm, but on occasion can lead to tragedy 

Typical hooch poisoning symptoms 
Vomiting, piercing headaches, frothing at the mouth 
Complaints of burning chest and severe stomach pain 
Spurious liquor can induce coma, blindness and death

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

India:Fire audit for top govt hosps

Health Min Seeks Report From AIIMS, Six Others Within A Week

Kounteya Sinha TNN 

New Delhi: Seven of India's top government hospitals, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), will conduct a thorough fire audit and submit a report to the Union health ministry within a week. 
    A day after a devastating fire at AMRI in Kolkata claimed 91 lives, most of whom were patients undergoing treatment there; the ministry cracked the whip to ensure that the government-run hospitals have fool-proof fire safety measures in place. 
    Union health secretary P K Pradhan wrote a letter to all directors and medical superintendents of premier government hospitals like AIIMS, JIPMER, NIMHANS, Lady Hardinge Medical College, Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and PGI, Chandigarh, asking them to 
conduct fire audits and mock drills and submit a report within a week. 
    "The government hospitals cater to millions of patients a day. Hence, we don't want to take any chances. We have asked all our top hospitals to complete a full-fledged fire audit and a fire drill. Once the 
reports come, we will fill the gaps. All institutes have been told to carry out fire safety training for its staff," Pradhan told TOI. 
    AIIMS director Dr R C Deka said that a committee, which includes engineers and doctors headed by the medical superintendent has been 
formed to check the fire safety standards of all the buildings in the AIIMS' premises. 
    Dr Deka said, "From Monday, the committee will look into the state of fire safety and preparedness of all the buildings, most of which were constructed around 1956. Though we don't face a fire hazard risk, we want to check our preparedness in the light of the terrible incident in Kolkata." 
    According to Pradhan, one of the fire safety requirements is that there needs to be a gap of six metres between buildings inside AIIMS. "This could be a problem. However, all other shortcomings, if any, will be taken care of," he said. 
    RML Hospital too sprung into action on Saturday. RML director Dr T S Sidhu said that mock drills and fire audits of all the buildings would be completed by Tuesday, and the report would be submitted to the ministry the following day.

A child participates in a candlelight memorial service held in Kolkata on Saturday for victims of the devastating fire at AMRI hospital

Friday, December 9, 2011

CITY SITTING ON TIME-BOMB: Experts Say Kolkata Fire Should Be Wake-Up Call

Most hosps not ready to HANDLE DISASTER

 Most city hospitals may not be fully prepared to handle a disaster of the magnitude of Friday's Kolkata hospital blaze. While the fire brigade admitted it does not carry out regular checks, officials said most hospitals are ill-equipped and do not follow safety norms. 

    Blame it on the absence of regular audits and drills by the fire department or the hospitals' greed for space, but experts said Mumbai too is sitting on a time-bomb and the Kolkata fire should be a wake-up call. Even as rescuing patients is one of the most difficult tasks, officials said they are unable to carry out regular checks. 
    The fire safety rules, under the development control regulations, applying to any commercial, industrial or residential facility, are for hospital buildings too. It means a mandatory open space of 6m, adequate parking space, fire safety signages and a fire evacuation plan; a mandatory NoC is provided by the Mumbai Fire Brigade. 
    "We can only act on complaints as we do not have enough manpower. When we receive complaints that rules are being flouted, we carry out a check and send notices. After that it is the hospital's duty to ensure they follow fire safety norms," said an official. 

    Officials also said most hospitals, even those providing high-end super-specialty treatment, do not adhere to basic norms. Following an inspection of Lilavati Hospital at 11 am on January 20, 2009, technical experts appointed by the state government to assess the adequacy of fire and safety norms 
found it wanting. 

The hospital, with 2.8 lakh sq ft of built-up 
area, has basic fire-fighting equipment in place, but the Merani committee found the car parking basement was being misused and open space was restricted by obstructions. "These are amenable to danger and accessible for damage and sabotage," the committee report said. The hospital also lacked fire safety signages and an effective evacuation plan. 
    M V Deshmukh, director, Maharashtra Fire Services, said the fire department is the authority and it has to carry out random inspections and scrutiny. "Any building, except for residential buildings below 15m, is supposed to get a certificate from registered, licenced fire agencies in January and July to certify the health of fire safety equipment. The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, 
has provisions for violations; it is a cognizable, non-bailable offence with up to three years imprisonment," Deshmukh said. 
    C o n g re s s c o r p o r at o r Sameer Desai said the civic administration 
had to conduct regular audits and drills. "When the agency incharge does not keep a check, how are institutions expected to? The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) should conduct an immediate wardwise survey of h o s p i t a l s, malls and industrial estates," he said.

LESSON FOR MUMBAI? A crowd watches rescue operations outside AMRI hospital that caught fire in Kolkata on Friday

89 die in Kolkata hospital hellfire: Helpless Patients Suffocated By Toxic Fumes

Kolkata: One of Kolkata's better-known super-specialty hospitals turned into a gas chamber in the early hours of Friday after a basement fire pumped toxic fumes through the centrally-air-conditioned building. At least 89 of the 164 patients have died and over 50 were injured, some of them seriously. Three staff members at the Advanced Medicare & Research Institute (AMRI) hospital in Dhakuria are among the dead. 

    Most of the fatalities were in the ICU (intensive care unit) and ITU (intensive therapy unit), where patients choked to death, still hooked to life support systems and in wards where people lay immobilized with broken limbs in casts. Most others died a horrible slow death, banging on the glass walls and desperately sucking in air from cracks in the windows, as the hospital staff kept the gates locked and refused to let local residents and the victims' kin mount a rescue operation. 
    Locals say at least one patient jumped to his death, bringing back memories of the Stephen Court tragedy last ye
ar when many young techies jumped off the burning building on Park Street to die on the pavement. 
    The 190-bed AMRI hospital, among the expensive ones in the city with an impressive roll of specialists, had another fire in 2008. Still, fire prevention equipment had not been installed. Sources say that more recently the fire department had objected to the inflammable goods stored in the basement, designed for a parking lot, and wanted it removed. The hospital, built over seven levels, sought three months for this but did little. Nothing happened. 


Hospital staff played down risk, tried to control fire on own 
Call to the fire brigade went very late. First SOS seems to have gone to police who informed fire brigade 
Hospital gates locked, had to be broken down. Firemen had 
no hydraulic ladders to reach the upper floors (no lessons learnt from Stephen Court fire) 
Inflammable goods — including oxygen cylinders & biomedical waste — stored in basement meant to be a parking lot. Hospital had promised to sort it out in Sept 
VIPs, including CM Mamata Banerjee, rushed to the spot since early morning, 
complicating rescue operations 
Worst Infernos 
360 die in fire at annual school event in Dabwali, Haryana on 
Dec 23, 1995 
91 children burnt alive at a school in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu on July 16, 2004 
89 and counting — toll at Kolkata's AMRI hospital on Dec 9, 2011 
64 visitors killed in fire at trade fair in Meerut on Apr 10, 2006 
59 cinema-goers die at Uphaar theatre during the screening of 'Border' on 
June 13, 1997 

Disaster Hours 
1.30am | Patients' kin, slum dwellers nearby see smoke in basement, alert guards 

1.45am | Relatives not allowed to get in, guards say 
they will take care of the 'minor fire'. Patients told to go back to sleep as smoke spreads through A/C vents 
2.10am | Fire brigade called. Slum dwellers tie patients to themselves, climb down ladders 
2.30am | Firemen arrive, spend next 45 minutes trying to break 
open the gates 
3.30am | Fire under control but smoke blinds workers. Firemen move in but it's too late 
6am | First hydraulic lift arrives 
9.45am | Mamata Banerjee arrives. Crowd goes berserk to reach her, police rain blows 
Hospital staffers fled, say victims' kin 
    And the fire department did not bother to ensure that the basement was cleared. The criminal callousness proved to be the death sentence for 89 patients. 
    All the deaths were due to suffocation, which means that many lives could have been saved, had the rescue effort started earlier. The fire department was informed 40 minutes after the fire had started. Victims' kin and locals said the hospital staff fled, leaving the patients to their fate. But the management denies this and claim employees saved many lives. 
    According to sources, the hospital staff initially played down the risk and tried to tackle the fire on their own. Residents of a nearby slum and patients' kin saw smoke billowing out of the basement around 1.30am and alerted the hospital security, who asked them not to bother. 

    There are reports that some patients woke up on smelling smoke but were told to go back to sleep. The smoke was so intense that slum dwellers could feel their lungs burning in their homes but the hospital staff took their time calling for help. A precious 40 minutes were lost. The SOS to the fire brigade went at 2.10am. By then, locals and patients' kin had run out of patience and stormed into the campus to start a rescue effort on their own. 
    Bamboo ladders were brought out of homes. Young men wrapped their faces in wet cloth and started climbing up to the panic-stricken patients. Initially, the rescuers would tie patients to their bodies and bring them down. But when the situation grew more desperate, they started making hammocks out of bedsheets to bundle the patients and throw them to waiting arms below, say witnesses. 

    "It was pitch dark and the smoke scorched our lungs. We rushed into the wards close to the stairs and pulled out any patient who could move," said a local, Ajoy Das. 
    Although the closest fire station was just about a kilometre away, the first fire truck arrived 30 minutes af
ter the alarm was sounded. It didn't have hydraulic ladders to reach the upper stories. The slum ladders also fell short of the third and fourth floors. Most of the deaths happened here. Patients in suites, cabins and intensive care units had no chance. 
    The disaster would have assumed colossal proportions had the fire affected radiation therapy equipment in the lower basement, just below the seat of the fire. Lakhs of residents in a 5-km radius around the hospital were at risk but thankfully there was no radiation leak. 
    Fire services minister Javed Khan said the fire was triggered by a shortcircuit. CM Mamata Banerjee cancelled the hospital's licence, without thinking of the patients admitted in the other block and the survivors who were shifted there. She asked the police to book the owners and management staff. "They will be arrested. We will take strict action against the hospital," Mamata said. 

    Joint commissioner of police Damayanti Sen said that six directors of AMRI Hospital—Shrachi Group chairman S K Todi, Shrachi director Ravi Todi, Emami vice-chairman Radheshyam Goenka, Emami directors Prashant Goenka and Manish Goenka and AMRI executive director Dayanand Agarwal—were arrested from their homes. They have been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, apart from many other non-bailable sections. 
    Hydraulic ladders arrived at 6am but then firemen encountered a bigger challenge: thick glass panes that took 15-20 blows to break. Around 6.30am, police commandos and BSF's disaster response teams arrived. With gas masks on, they plunged into the smoke-filled building and rescued around 50 patients. By 7.30am, those that were destined to live had already been stretchered out and admitted to other hospitals. 
    For the next two hours, only corpses emerged, faces blackened by soot and turned blue by asphyxiation. Around 9.30am, the last stretcher rolled out and a hush descended.

Grieving relatives outside Kolkata's AMRI Hospital

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Now, a lesson in disaster management for every Delhiite

Delhiites will now be taught how to counter any natural calamities, thanks to an ambitious disaster management drive being launched by the Delhi government.

To begin with, the campaign will be flagged off on December 8 and will teach people the basics of disaster management. "The 

idea is to create sufficient awareness and preparedness so that Dehiites are able to prepare for any disaster. There will also be a preventive exercise on December 8, which will require students to go through the duck-cover-hold exercise," said Vijay Dev, divisional commissioner, Delhi government.

As part of the campaign, there will also be several workshops and seminars in schools, colleges, malls and market associations. "We will also have brand ambassadors to motivate the youth. Since Delhi has several unsafe buildings and very few buildings that are resistant to disasters, we are trying to examine the issue and make it part of the campaign," added Dev.

As part of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has identified 12 emergency support functions such as communication, evacuation, search and rescue and medical help to equip students effectively to combat an earthquake or a similar disaster.

The DDMA, in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will conduct a major Earthquake Preparedness Drive from December to February, with a mock drill exercise to be held on February 15.

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