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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warren Buffet: ‘I want to plant trees for others’

Bangalore: On the second day of his India trip on Wednesday, Warren Buffett was a busy man, having a brief chat with the Karnataka CM before a factory visit to the only Buffett investment in India, TaeguTec India, a highend tooling company. After pounding the shop floor, addressing employees and planting a sapling, it was time for ameeting with city CEOs. Before leaving for Delhi, the 'Sage of Omaha' spoke exclusively to TOI. Excerpts.
    Q. We noticed that when you were planting the tree, there was a different Warren Buffett, different from the persona of an investor or a philanthropist. You seemed to open up in a different way.
A. Well, I like to think that I open up
even otherwise (laughs). But part of life is to plant trees that other people will sit under. Somebody planted a tree for me long ago in the form of an educational institution and I sat under that tree, metaphorically. The same happened in one area after another in my life.
Q. The chairman of Infosys, Narayana Murthy, talks of compassionate capitalism. Is philanthropy going to be the compassionate side of capitalism?
A. I think philanthropy should be part of humanity. I don't relate it to capitalism or to business. When you have everything that you possibly could need yourself and other people need what you have that is of no use to you and has enormous use to them, I think
you need to do something about it. Philanthropy till now largely has been an individual effort. As it becomes bigger, it might become an institutional effort with its own systems, processes, checks and balances. Will it take away from the spontaneity of the individual effort that it is today?
No, I don't think so. What we are encouraging is more individual effort. We are not asking people to join us or to give to what we believe in. We are encouraging people to enjoy giving and do it their own way. They can do it when they want, with whom they want. Maybe they can learn from each other. I have learnt from other people I have met. It's not designed to centralize anything. It's designed to encourage people individually and in their families to do the things we found so enjoyable.

In India, the greatest potential is in the infrastructure sector. Would you be looking at gas, power, steel, utilities in general for investment? You did say on Tuesday that you would look at making one big investment a year in India.
I would like to make a
big one, but it will have to
be in a field that I understand. A company in which I
have a good feeling about
where it will be in 5/10 years,
From what we have read, gut instinct plays a large role in your investment decisions. Many investors like to kick the tiles, go to the shop floor to see if an investment makes sense. Are you that kind of an investor?
No, I look at the people who run it. I would not know what to do if tomorrow morning you make me in charge of aplant (laughs). But I do know who should be in charge of it.
Your only investment in India so far is in Bangalorebased TaeguTec. Would you future investments here be in such specialist, high-end manufacturing companies?
These kind of companies will do very well. But there are a whole group of companies that will do well in India. So, I will not limit my interest to something like this.

Buffett says he wants to encourage people to enjoy giving

Monday, March 21, 2011


Forgetting Past Mistakes & Travails, Mumbaikars Waste Enormous Amounts Of Water On Holi

 As countries around the globe gear up to mark World Water Day on Tuesday, Mumbaikars have something to be ashamed of. Throwing conservation to the wind, citizens wasted an additional 30-lakh litres of water this Holi on excesses like rain dances despite widespread appeals for prudent celebrations.
    According to one estimate, about 250 to 300 water tankers, each with a capacity of 10,000 litres, were supplied across Mumbai on Sunday. This was in marked contrast to last year, when the city was suffering its worst water crisis. Crippled by low catchment levels, a helpless Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) refused to supply water tankers and urged citizens to avoid extravagant celebrations. The awareness and restrictions paid off with less than 50 tankers (about 5 lakh litres) of water getting used.
    "This year, it seems, nobody spared a thought for water conservation. While last year was dull, this time, business was brisk and hundreds of tankers were supplied around the city, " said Parminder Singh Hanspal, president of Mumbai Water Tankers' Association.
    Many housing societies, last year, cancelled orders for water tankers after the civic body issued a public appeal for conservation. This year, however, there was no change of heart. A part of the blame, many say, can be apportioned to the authorities, which did not want to hit the panic button on a festival because of sufficient catchment levels.
    "There is a general feeling that the situation in the lakes is comfortable and there is enough water to last us the summer. This has allowed many to escape the feeling of guilt while wasting water on Holi," said Rajesh Thakur, who supplied water tankers to south Mumbai and suburbs.
    Incidentally, the theme of this year's World Water Day is 'Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge'. On this day, the UN wants to "focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems".
    Mumbai has about 3 lakh housing societies and daily receives 3,450 million litres (mld) of water from six lakes. But this is roughly 1,000 mld short of its needs. The shortage and low pressure in the distribution system already forces societies to purchase water from the 1,200-odd tankers in the city.
    "I have been to as many as 180 housing societies during the course of my work over the last decade. By and large, there is a need to change people's mindset since they wake up to water conservation only when the BMC reduces the supply like last year," said water conservationist Janak Daftary.

WATER SITUATION IN CITY Demand: 4,450 million litres per day (mld) Supply: 3,470 mld Lost due to theft and leakages: 680 mld or 20% Per capita use: Between 90 and 240 litres a day in high rises. In slums, 45 litres a day
BMC's budget for water supply: Over Rs 2,000 cr
Use a sprinkler for watering the garden instead of a hose. This alone can save 50 litres of water Choose low-flow showerheads that reduce waste by 45% Use dual flush toilets to reduce water consumption by up to 67% Water plants with the washing machine's waste water Avoid keeping the washbasin tap open. It wastes three to five litres a time Take a bucket bath, which consumes an average of 20 litres of water, instead of using a head shower that wastes 80 litres or a bathtub that uses over 120 litres
Expand and strengthen water delivery system Reconstruct old reservoirs Rehabilitate and replace water pipelines Reduce water loss Boost leak detection system
Implement GPRS to update underground maps Install effective water meters Implement micro tunnelling to reduce pipe bursts Promote hydroelectricity generation


Sunday, March 20, 2011

10 ways to prepare for an earthquake

By Matt Hickman, MNN.com

Following the catastrophic earthquake that all but flattened Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince in January 2010, I published a guide on how to prepare for the "big one" or not-so-big-one at home that was geared towards those dealing with temperamental plate tectonics on a regular basis.

For many of you — particularly residents of California, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest —that post was more or less a refresher course in earthquake preparedness but in light of two major earth-rattling events in a matter of weeks —February's 6.3 magnitude quake in New Zealand and last week's devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan — I figured that now was an ideal time to republish that original post.

Related: 5 Ways to Help Japan

Thanks to stringent building codes and the fact that the Japanese people are at the top of the earthquake-preparedness-game, many homes (and lives) were mercifully spared and the mega-quake itself was prevented from living up to it's full destructive potential in many areas. The terrifying 30-foot tsunami unleashed on Japan's northeast coast by the earthquake and the tense nuclear situation in the Fukushima prefecture, however, are whole other stories. 

As the grim situation in Japan continues to unfold, you're probably wondering what you can do to to assist in the relief and rescue efforts. MNN blogger Andrew Schenkel has published a comprehensive post detailing ways you can help now.

Additionally, The Impact Your World section of CNN has information on humanitarian organizations on the ground in Japan that you can support as does GOOD. And for a wonderfully written account of the quake, check out this New York Times Opinionator essay, "The Internet Kept Me Company," written by my friend, Tokyo-based American journalist Sandra Barron. And, of course, MNN has you covered on the latest developments on this unprecedented disaster.

Related: Are you ready for an Earthquake?

What to do to prepare

Batten down the hatches

  • Earthquakes rattle both nerves and the contents of your home. Make sure that overhead light fixtures are anchored securely and that breakable and heavy objects are placed on lower shelves and cabinets, not up high. It also helps to keep heavy, wall-mounted objects like mirrors and frames away from seating areas. If needed, install bolts and latches on cabinets.
  • Ensure that there is no faulty electrical wiring or leaky gas connections anywhere around the home. These are both potential fire sources. Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs. And most importantly, know how to turn your utilities off.
  • If you notice significant cracks in the ceilings or foundation of your home, don't ignore them. Consult a general contractor or seismic retrofit specialist to take a look around and assess if work should be done. You never know, some earthquake touch-ups might result in greater energy-efficiency.
  • In the garage, make sure that anything flammable, pesticides, and any chemical products are kept in secure places where they cannot spill.
  • Pick out a "safe place" to take cover if an earthquake hits. Indoors, this would be under a desk or any sturdy, large piece of furniture that's away from windows, mirrors, and pieces of furniture that could potentially topple over. Once you've found something to hide under, remember to duck, cover, and hold on. If hiding under something is not a quick option, secure yourself against an inside wall.

Get a kit

  • Stash an earthquake kit or two in easily accessible areas of the home. The San Francisco Chronicle has detailed instructions on how to assemble a DIY earthquake kit or you can look into preassembled earthquake kits from companies like Quake KareNitro-PakAmerican Family SafetyEarthquake Store, and Earth Shakes.
  • General 72-hour survival kits are also an option since most contain the same supplies as earthquake-specific kits. StanSport makes a comprehensive disaster kit available at retailers like Walmart and Amazon.com. Whatever kit you choose, make certain that the basics — first-aid supplies, non-perishable food, water (at least one gallon per person, per day), flashlights with extra batteries, cash, sturdy shoes, a can opener, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a wrench or pillars to turn off utilities — are included. Also ensure that the kit can accommodate the size of your family and special needs like medical conditions that anyone might have.
  • Epicureans experience earthquakes, too … SF Weekly has recommendations on how to prepare "The Ultimate Foodie Earthquake Kit."

Be aware, not scared

  • It's not entirely pleasant to think about, but the Red Cross offers a wealth of information on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. It's certainly worth reviewing yourself or with your family especially if there are kids in the house. And if you don't live in an earthquake-prone area, the Red Cross also provides info on other events ranging from wildfires to tsunamis.
  • Quake vets, have any insights you'd like to share

Radiation Cloud Over Brands Sushi, Kobe Beef

Japan could face a long struggle to establish faith in the safety of its seafood, say experts

Japan's list of casualties, already long, could soon include two of the country's iconic brands: sushi and Kobe beef.
The Japanese Health Ministry said on Saturday that it had detected elevated levels of radiation in spinach and milk at farms up to 90 miles from Japan's crippled nuclear reactors. The ministry did not make reference to any contaminated farm animals, seafood or fishing grounds in Japan. And no food exports from Japan have failed quality tests being done by other countries.
But even the perception of contamination, one Japanese agriculture expert said, could cause long-lasting "brand
damage", especially if there was evidence of radiation spreading across Japan.
"If the accident becomes bigger, like Chernobyl, it will damage all the brands and people won't buy any of it, even if it's safe," said Hiroshi Uchida, a former professor of agricultural science, speaking of Kobe, Sendai and other brands of high-priced, top-quality Japanese beef. "Even though the government hasn't mentioned the possibility of contamination of beef, we should start testing to convince people the beef is safe."
Trevor Corson, a sushi expert and a former commercial fisherman who used to live in Japan, said seafood caught "in an ocean churning with movement and dispersal might turn out to be less of a concern than agricultural products that are
exposed and stationary". But Corson also said the Japanese seafood industry could face a long and difficult struggle "to establish faith in the safety of their seafood – not unlike the challenges faced by gulf fishermen in the US after the BP oil spill." The Tsukiji fish market in central Tokyo, the world's largest clearinghouse for just about anything that fishermen pull out from the sea, was not physically damaged by the earthquake. Its cobblestone aisles and alleyways were as loud, profane and hurly-burly as ever on Saturday. But something in Tsukiji's soul seems to have been lost, or at least badly bruised, in the tsunami. Fish worth 'millions of dollars' destroyed
Before the disaster, the market drew 10% of its daily inventory of 2,400 tonnes of seafood from the waters off Tohoku, the coastal epicentre of the earthquake. The fishery there is renowned for its scallops, seaweed, bonito and shark's fin. Tohoku, as a place and a brand in Japan, was formidable."It's not like the brand is just damaged now – it's over," said a glum Tsutomu Kosaka, the general manager at Tsukiji. "At least for now, the brand is finished. Gone. It's hopeless."
Kosaka said Saturday that neither the health ministry nor city inspectors had tested any seafood in the Tsukiji market. The last time there were radiation tests of seafood in Tokyo, he said, was in 1954, after a Japanese tuna boat was contaminated by fallout from an American atomic test on Bikini Atoll
in the Marshall Islands.
Kosaka's hopelessness, for now, stems more from the outright destruction of fishing facilities in the north than from a possible poisoning of the fishery.
In towns and ports all along the coast, docks and jetties have vanished into splinters. Boats and trawlers are smashed or sunk. Nets and tackle, gone. Offshore fish farms and onshore processing factories, gone. Among the victims was Ojika, a 100-year-old whaling port that had just
two boats left from its once mighty fleet.
A sushi chef at a restaurant near the fish market said the tsunami and its plundering of Tohoku had also been disastrous for his business. "Scallops, sardines and oysters from Tohoku, none of that is available now," said Tomohito Narasaki, 27, a chef at Sushizanmai. He said millions of dollars' worth of bluefin tuna, red snapper and yellowtail farmed off Tohoku were instantly destroyed.
Producers of Kobe and other top brands of Japanese beef said Saturday that they had not yet tested their prized cattle, which can cost upward of $50,000 each. Nor had they tested the special feed they use. Japan's other brands of premium beef include Sendai, Ohmi, Matsuzaka and Yonezawa. "We can't feed our cows anymore because of the short
ages of feed and water," said Masaru Takahashi, manager of the JA Cooperative in hard-hit Furukawa, which raises Sendai beef. "We have only 20% of the feed we need. I can't imagine what effect this is going to have on our herd."
Takahashi said he was worried about the public's perception of beef cattle if tests showed any further spread of radiation. "If the rumors grow," he said, "I'm not confident that anyone will buy our beef, even if it's the highest quality and even if it's safe."

Food For Thought

Friday, March 18, 2011

JAPAN DISASTER: Hospital holds radiation drill to show preparedness

A doctor uses a device to test for radiation contamination in the thyroid gland of a patient during a simulated drill at the Tri-Service General Hospital in Taipei -yesterday.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The Department of Health organized a radiation training drill at a local hospital yesterday in an effort to demonstrate the nation's readiness for treating patients exposed to high levels of radiation.

The drill at Taipei's Tri-Service General Hospital was held amid worries that radioactive fallout from Japan's nuclear reactors could hit Taiwan.

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) and other health officials and fire department staff observed the drill.

The scenario simulated a nuclear plant accident in northern Taiwan, with plant workers and local residents rushed to the hospital for treatment.

Tri-Service General Hospital, one of 19 hospitals nationwide charged with the responsibility of receiving patients from a potential nuclear disaster, said that it holds emergency training programs and drills once a year in accordance with ministry regulations. The hospital has 30 full-time nuclear medicine specialists on standby.

However, Shen Hueng-yuan (諶鴻遠), chief of the hospital's Department of Nuclear Medicine, said the hospital rarely comes across cases of severe radiation poisoning.

According to Shen, the hospital sees an average of fewer than one patient a year for a radiation level check and those that do come in often work at a nuclear power plant.

Wu asked people not to panic about exposure to radiation from Japan as weather patterns forecast for the next five days indicate that Taiwan would be spared from any nuclear fallout.

In his remarks, he also touted other government efforts to help keep Taiwan safe. He said the Atomic Energy Council has set up about 30 monitoring stations at borders and immigration checkpoints to screen for the presence of radioactive particles on both agricultural produce and travelers arriving from Japan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

City records hottest March day in 55 years

Mumbai:The city experienced its second-hottest March day ever on Wednesday, when the mercury soared to 41.6 degrees Celsius in Colaba. Experts called the hot, dry weather a "new phenomenon" in the city.
    It was the hottest day of March in 55 years, with the previous high—also the all
time high—coming on March 28, 1956 when the temperature was 41.7 degrees Celsius.
    A maximum of 41.3 was recorded in Santa Cruz, testifying to the scorching heat. Weather data shows this is the first time in a decade that the maximum has soared to over 40.

• Mar 16, 2011 41.6° C
• Mar 28, 1956 41.7° C
• Avg March temp 32.7° C
    (Source: IMD Mumbai)
Mumbai hit by dry heat due to low humidity
Mumbai: With April and May yet to come, all eyes are on the thermometer to see if the mercury climbs past 42.2 degrees Celsius, which was the temperature on Mumbai's hottest day on April 14, 1952. With the early onset of summer this year, the city recorded its second-hottest March day on Wednesday when the temperature reached 41.6.
    "The maximum temperature rose to 41 in many parts of Maharashtra on Wednesday," said R V Sharma, deputy director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Mumbai. "Already, Mumbai was being affected by hot southeasterly winds. On Wednesday, tremendous heat waves hit the city from the north and northeast, thus increasing the temperature to such levels," Sharma said.
    It's a dryer than normal heat, experts said, with the city experiencing very low relative humidity. While the humidity recorded in Colaba was 36%, in Santa Cruz it was 25%. Usually, humidity is above 50%, making conditions much muggier than they are now.
    "Usually in March, the humidity levels are 50% to 80%. We have had humidity levels higher than 80% in the past, but having such low levels is a novelty," said Sharma.
    Another Met official said, "It was quite a new phenomenon in the city. The extremely harsh heat waves coupled with
very low humidity created a loo-like effect in Mumbai. Such an effect is a prominent feature only of north India. Mumbai, being a coastal area, doesn't generally experience such weather conditions."
    Kapil Gupta, of the civil engineering department, IIT, Mumbai, said, "Apart from meteorological factors, the city has been going through an 'urban heat island effect', in which the urban areas get hotter than the surrounding areas due to human activity. The use of ACs can cause an in
crease in air temperature by at least 2.5 degrees. It is no surprise, then, that the city's temperature has climbed so high."
    With the rise in maximum temperatures, the difference between the day and night temperatures in the city also increased. The minimum temperatures recorded on Wednesday were 23.5 and 19.2 in Colaba and Santa Cruz, respectively. The difference between the high and low temperatures was thus more than 18 degrees in Colaba and 20 degrees in Santa Cruz.

Sri Lankan cricketer Lasith Malinga cools off in Mumbai on Wednesday


Fearing worst, countries & cos begin evacuation France Sounds The Alarm, Says Japan Losing Control

Tokyo: A monster earthquake-cum-tsunami, followed by spiralling nuclear radiation, and now, the looming threat of an exodus out of Japan. France on Wednesday became the first country to sound the alarm, saying Japan was losing control of the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and there was no reason for optimism. As multinational corporations readied evacuation plans and China and India began special flights to bring back nationals who wished to return, France
forcefully urged its nationals in Tokyo to leave the country or head to southern Japan to escape risk of radiation.
    L&T Infotech on Wednesday became the latest Indian IT company to announce it's evacuating its 185 employees and their employees. And the Indian government began facilitating the return of its nationals even as it stressed there was no need for pulling out yet. Air India will operate a daily special flight for the next four days from Tokyo to Delhi for those willing to pay for their way out. India's ambassador to Japan Alok Prasad said the 25,000-strong community was in and around Tokyo; around 30 who had been stranded in worst-hit Sendai city had been brought to Tokyo.

The economic toll on Japan is set to be the heaviest ever at an estimated $184 billion (Rs 8.3 lakh crore) and counting, surpassing Katrina's $125 billion. Insurance claims for life and possibly for non-life could also be the highest in history
Sectors likely to be hit include electronics, automobiles & steel but impact may be temporary Bank of Japan injected another $62bn on Wednesday to calm markets. Has pumped in $347 bn this week Stock markets recover, with Nikkei rising 6%, the first gain in five trading sessions; gain led by autos $626 bn lost in Nikkei's worst 2-day rout since the 1987 crash on Monday and Tuesday Yen against dollar highest since 1995 breaching 80, as Japanese firms repatriated funds to avert a crisis Economy likely to slow down in first half of 2011, but reconstruction–driven recovery seen in second half ADB warns of brief recession in Japanese economy France calls meeting of G7 to respond to the crisis, mentioning possible purchases of Japanese debt
INDIA IMPACT Limited effect seen. Yen loan cost may go up Insurance premium for companies such as ONGC likely to rise
Japanese aid may see temporary slowdown Japanese-funded infrastructure projects likely to be affected temporarily

TEARS AND FEARS: A girl is tested for radiation in Koriyama, northern Japan, on Wednesday


Friday, March 11, 2011

Poor safety measures sparked Andheri fire

At a recent society meeting to discuss a money-spinning mobile tower, residents had asked management to modernise the fire-fighting equipment in the 17-storey building

Reluctance shown by members of an Andheri (W) high rise in spending Rs 5,000 to replace a faulty switch of the building's firefighting system cost them crores — and nearly their lives — on Thursday. A fire broke out in 17-storey Kanchan Ganga Cooperative Housing Society at 11.30 am on JP Road, gutting a flat and damaging at least five others.
    Three women were injured in the incident, and property worth crores was ruined. Officials of the fire brigade said that the blaze was set off by a spark in a TV set in a flat on the 12th floor of the building, and quickly spread to other areas. The apartment, numbered 1201-1202, is owned by Vasudev Agarwal.
    The flat located exactly above 1201-1202 also suffered severe damage. In fact, an occupant of the house, Devyani Sawant, sustained severe burn injuries. Another resident of Kanchan Ganga, Anita Agarwal, collapsed after inhaling too much smoke. The third woman who was affected is Shanta Naik, a house help who has been working there for several years.
    Though the blaze erupted at 11.30 am, the fire brigade reached the spot at 12.40 pm, more than an hour later. Authorities said firefighters received the distress call only at 12.24, and they got stuck in traffic on JP Road, which has literally shrunk because of the work on metro rail. What compounded their problems was the building's poor fire safety system.
    Officials of the fire brigade, which doused the blaze by 4.30 pm, said that a notice would be issued to the chairman and secretary of the society for not fixing its defective fire safety equipment. The notice, they said, would be served under the provisions of the Fire Act 2005 that was implemented last year.
    "The firefighting system of the building was not functioning. Had it been in a working condition, residents could have prevented the fire from spreading," Chief Fire Officer Uday Tatkare, who handled Thursday's operation, said. Several Kanchan Ganga residents also blamed the management for its laxity. They said that had complained about the system countless times, but to little avail.
    "We have lost so much just because a few people didn't give importance to fixing firefighting equipment," a resident, Astaar Sheikh, said. "At a recent general body meeting, they talked about allowing installation of a mobile tower to get additional funds. The issue of fire safety was raised, but they didn't pay heed."
    People living on and below the 12th floor - where the flames were most intense - rushed to the ground floor, whereas those living above took refuge on the terrace. The latter were rescued by firemen. "We didn't want to take any risks as the flames were gradually engulfing higher floors," a senior fire officer said.

Firefighters could not reach the building quickly as they got stuck in traffic on JP Road, where the work on metro rail is underway. They said that the road was narrow at several points. Residents criticised authorities for not creating arrangements for emergency vehicles. WORK ON METRO SLOWS DOWN FIREMEN

Cars parked in the building compound also proved to be major hurdles for firemen. With little space left, they could not position the fire engine with a mounted ladder properly. Traffic cops were asked to bring towing vans to the spot to remove vehicles.

Firemen got little help from security guards, who knew little about the building or firefighting system installed there. Officials said that in case of such emergencies, firemen depend on inputs from guards such as the number of flats and residents.

The building has no fire refuge area as it was built before 1991. However, it doesn't have updated fire-fighting equipment either. "This is a posh society, but the fire-fighting equipment is outdated. They should have had basic measures in place," a fire officer said.

The fire in Kanchanganga started on the 12th floor before spreading to the 13th

DEVASTATION More than 1,000 feared dead in the country's worst quake, followed by ferocious tsunami

he strongest earthquake ever to hit Japan unleashed a terrifying 10-metre-high tsunami that is feared to have claimed more than 1,000 lives on Friday, with a nuclear plant and petrochemical complex among multiple sites set ablaze.

The monster wall of water generated by the 8.9-magnitude quake -the seventh biggest in history -pulverised the northeastern city of Sendai, where police reportedly said 200-300 bodies had been found.

The 33-foot wave of black water sent shipping containers, cars and debris crashing through the streets of Sendai and across open farmland, while a tidal wave of debris-littered mud destroyed everything in its path.

More than 90 people were confirmed killed in addition to the bodies found in Sendai, public broadcaster NHK reported.
"The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data," an official at the National Police Agency said.

The wave set off tsunami alerts across the Pacific, including in the US state of Hawaii. MORE ON THE WEB Watch the video: The big wave, at hindustantimes.com/tsunami 8.9 Magnitude of the quake The most powerful quake to hit Japan since it started keeping records 140 years ago; was followed by 50 aftershocks 33 foot high tsunami waves The huge, crashing waves swept away entire towns, ships and cars 390 bodies found so far Toll expected to climb further with many more missing; boat with 100 on board and a passenger train untraceable

Domestic media said the death toll was expected to exceed 1,000, most of whom appeared to have drowned.

A Japanese ship with 100 people aboard was reportedly carried away while more than 300 houses were destroyed in the remote city of Ofunato.

The government said the tsunami and quake, which was felt in Beijing some 2,500 km away, had caused "tremendous damage", while aerial footage showed massive flooding in northern towns. The quake, which lasted about two minutes, rattled buildings in greater Tokyo, the world's largest urban area and home to some 30 million people.

In Tokyo, millions who had earlier fled swaying buildings were stranded far away from home in the evening after the earthquake shut down the capital's vast subway system. The mobile phone network was strained to breaking point.

The government used loudspeaker alerts and TV broadcasts to urge people to stay near their workplaces rather than risk a long walk home, as highways leading out of the city centre were choked and hotels rapidly filled up.

More than 2.2 lakh people were killed when a 9.1-magnitude quake hit off Indonesia in 2004, unleashing a massive tsunami that devastated coastlines in countries around the Indian Ocean as far away as Africa. However, small quakes are felt every day somewhere in Japan and people take part in regular drills at schools and workplaces.

There was also major disruption to air travel and bullet train services. A passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was unaccounted for on a line outside Sendai, Kyodo News reported.

The government insisted there was no risk of radiation leaking from Japan's network of advanced nuclear power plants, which are designed to shut down as soon as the earth shakes in one of the world's most quake-prone countries.

But authorities ordered 2,000 residents living by a nuclear plant in Fukushima, south of Sendai, to evacuate after a reactor cooling system failed. A fire broke out in the turbine building of another nuclear plant in Onagawa.

The tsunami also reached Sendai airport, submerging the runway while a process known as liquefaction, caused by the intense shaking of the tremor, turned parts of the ground to liquid. "I've never seen anything like this" said Ken Hoshi, a government official in Ishinomaki, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, where Sendai is

Electrical faults are behind most fires’ Officials Blame It On Improper Use of Appliances

Mumbai: The fire department may get the maximum number of fire-related calls in the monsoon, but fires in summer are not a rare phenomenon. In fact, increased use of appliances and poor maintenance are a major cause for concern as they often lead to such mishaps.
    In the last week itself, Mumbai saw at least three major fires. A blaze gutted more than 500 homes in Bandra's Garib Nagar and a major fire broke out at the Ghodbunder-end of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on Monday evening, charring many trees. On Thursday, a
fire broke out on the 12th floor of a residential building in Andheri.
    Fire officials believe that 80% of these fires happen because of an electrical fault. "In the summer, the use of appliances likes air-conditioners increases manifold. This causes overloading. ACs put
tremendous load on the electric system, thereby increasing the chances of a blaze," said a fire official.
    Often, consumers run several appliances on a singlephase line, which increases the load factor and leads to short-circuits, said an officer. "Besides, appliances like coolers are not used throughout the year and users do not maintain them. This also increases the chances of a short circuit," an official said.
    Meanwhile, a minor fire broke out at Heritage Hotel in Goregaon (East) around noon on Friday. Three fire engines were sent to the spot and the flames were doused within 15 minutes. No one was injured.

UP IN FLAMES: The blaze at Garib Nagar gutted more than 500 homes last week



Experts Say Mumbai's Reclaimed Areas Will Be Under Threat

Mumbai: If a deepsea earthquake above 5 on the Richter scale were to hit Mumbai, only the seven original islands of the city will probably remain unscathed. The rest of Mumbai, built on tidal flats or reclaimed land, faces major devastation say experts.
    Geological Survey of India (GSI) experts who measured the risk Mumbai faced if a deep-sea earthquake hit the peninsular region, said a quake above 5 on the Richter scale will cause intensive damage in all areas, barring the seven islands from where Mumbai expanded over the ages into the Arabian sea. Friday's quake in Japan measured 8.9 on the scale.
    The five-year study shows that areas at maximum risk include mainly Central Mumbai like Prabhadevi, Dadar, Sion and Mahalaxmi. Other areas at risk include Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Churchgate station, Bandra, Vashi, Mira Road, Bhayander, Borivli and Malad (W), Kalina, and Kurla. GSI experts said a huge amount of methane is also trapped under the soil in Mahalaxmi which can cause a
fire hazard in a quake. Besides, Mahalaxmi had a shallow soil depth, 2.5-6 m.
    Areas at less risk included Nerul, Koparkhairane, Airoli, some parts of Kharghar, Goregaon East, Malad and Aarey colony. The study 'Seismic Hazard and Risk Microzonation of Mumbai area' conducted by a GSI team led by director of its earthquake geology division Anjan Chatterjee in 2009, concluded the old
areas that comprised Mumbai, like Colaba, Old Woman's island, Girgaum, Mazgaon, Wadala, Parel, old Mahim, Worli, Malabar Hills, and the forests and hilly belt of Borivli are comparatively safer.
    Talking to TOI from Nagpur, Chatterjee said GSI was conducting studies for 52 cities and started with Mumbai because of its area, population and vulnerability. The city is in seismic zone III. He
said Maharashtra is on a rocky black basalt belt formed after major volcanic eruption 60 to 65 million years ago. He said there was no major fault on the ocean bed around Mumbai and so it was not prone to heavy tsunamis.
    Senior IIT professor Alok Goyal said the government should make use of earthquake-resistant technology mandatory for new constructions in the city.


Mumbai falls in seismic Zone III, considered moderately safe, Zone V being most at risk
Major topographic faults in and around Mumbai: Bombay fault, Chiplun fault, Koyna fault, Ghod lineament and Panvel flexure
Safe Areas | Colaba, Old Woman's island, Girgaum, Mazgaon, Wadala, Parel, old Mahim, Worli, Malabar Hills, forests and hilly belt of Borivli
Highly Vulnerable | Central Mumbai like Prabhadevi, Dadar, Sion & Mahalaxmi, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Churchgate station areas, Vashi, Mira Road, Bhayander, Bandra, Borivli & Malad (W), Kalina and Kurla Less Risk | Nerul, Koparkhairane, Airoli, some parts of Kharghar, Goregaon & Malad (E) and Aarey colony

Sea Rises, Japan Quakes Toll Set To Exceed 1,000 Tsunami Alerts In US And South America

Tokyo: A ferocious tsunami spawned by the biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan (and the fifth worst in the world since 1900) slammed the country's eastern coast on Friday, killing hundreds—Kyodo says the toll could cross thousands— sweeping away houses, boats and cars across cities and farmlands. Hours later, the tsunami hit Hawaii and set off warnings as far away as the west coast of the US and South America.
    Japanese police officials said the toll was at least 1,000 with 300 bodies found in Sendai, a port city in northeastern Japan and the closest large population to the epicentre. The full extent of injuries weren't known and the toll is feared to rise substantially.
    Walls of water whisked away houses and cars in central Japan, where terrified residents fled the coast. Train services were shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. A ship carrying over 100 people was swept away by the tsunami, Kyodo News reported.

    Even for a country used to quakes, this one was horrific because of the tsunami that swallowed everything in its path as it surged several kilometres inland before retreating. The apocalyptic images of surging water and uncontrolled conflagrations broadcast by Japanese TV resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie. The government evacuated thousands of residents near a nuclear plant about 250 km northeast of To
kyo after a backup generator failed.
    The US Geological Survey said the quake measured a magnitude of 8.9, making it the most severe since an 8.8 quake off the coast of Chile a little more than a year ago. It was less powerful than the 9.1-magnitude quake that struck off Sumatra in late 2004, which triggered a tsunami that killed more than 300,000 people, including many on India's east coast.
    ''This tremor was unlike any I've experienced previously, and I've lived here for eight years,'' said Matt Alt, an American writer living in Tokyo. ''It was a sustained rolling that made it impossible to stand, almost like vertigo.'' Dozens of aftershocks have been felt in the hours after the quake, some of them of magnitude 6.0 or greater, strong enough to do significant damage on their own. A second major earthquake of 7.4 magnitude was reported as aftershocks shook the region. Japanese media reported mobile phone networks were not working.
    TV showed waves of more than 12-feet high roaring inland in Japan. The tsunami drew a line of white fury across the ocean, heading toward the shoreline. Cars and trucks were still moving on highways as the water rushed toward them.
    The floodwaters, thick with floating debris shoved inland, pushed aside heavy trucks as if they were toys, in some places carrying blazing buildings toward factories, fields, highways, bridges and homes.

Hit at 2.46pm local time (11.16 am IST) at 24km below sea level. Centred off coast of Honshu, Japan's largest island

Power, train services off in Tokyo, Narita airport shuts down temporarily, phones on blink

In 50 countries, including US, (Hawaii & west coast), Peru, Mexico, Chile, NZ, Australia, Philippines, S Korea

A train with unknown number of passengers missing, ship carrying 100 people swept away

FIRE ON WATER: Houses swept out to sea burn near northeast Japan's Natori city

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bandra slums up in flames

Hundreds of shanties gutted as fire from cloth scrap shop spreads, 26 fire tenders called in; 11 injured at last count

Amajor fire destroyed most of Garibnagar slums near Bandra Railway Station (East) on Friday night. Hundreds of shanties were gutted and train on Harbour and Western lines were thrown out of gear. Apart from nine persons taken to hospital with breathing problems due to the smoke, two firemen were also injured, as per information available at the time of going to press.
    The blaze broke out at 8.30 pm and quickly spread through the dense hutments. A total of 26 fire tenders were struggling to extinguish the blaze as of 11.20 pm, and more than 200 cops led by Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik were controlling the crowds.
    As crowds spilled on to Bandra railway station platforms, cops made their way to the venue in 20 police buses and took up riot-control formation positions. The destroyed slums were once home to child actors of
Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Azharuddin and Rubina, who played the roles of the protagonists in their childhood, used to live in this very slum. Several other children, who played bit roles in the movie, still stay there.
    Traffic jams around Bandra railway station resulted in bottlenecks up to
Mahim and Sion. At the time of going to press, firefighters were trying to manoeuvre their vehicles through narrow roads near the shanties. The fire caused at least five cylinder blasts in the shanties, which are on the Railway land encroached many years ago.
    A firefighter said, "Most of the shanties had stored cloth scrap, and
materials used in zari trade, especially silk. Wood and freshly-painted tin walls of shanties spread the fire rapidly." The area quickly ran out of water, and manoeuvring water tankers – 15 till around 9.30 pm – was proving to be extremely difficult. People resorted to throwing water on the burning shanties from buckets.
    Joint Municipal Commissioner S S Shinde said lack of space for fire tenders to reach the venue was the major problem. "Our men had to use ladders to climb the skywalk. As of now, there is no report of any death."
    Officials said it will take several hours before casualties could be estimated. According to Western Railway officials, up and down fast lines were shut down around 9 pm "as precautionary measures". Heat from the fire was threatening the overhead electricity wires. Till around 11 pm, Railway officials said chances of the fire reaching the tracks were remote.
    A fire officer said prima facie, the source of the fire seemed to be a cloth scrap shop close to the ticket booking
office on the eastern side of Bandra station. The fire spread because of the wood planks nearby. Soon, it engulfed the skywalk near the station.
    Around 11.30 pm, hundreds of Mumbaikars reached the venue with food and water. Politicians too visited the spot, but many of them had to return as their presence was hampering rescue operations. The area is prone to such tragedies. In 2009, fire had broken out in Behrampada, close to Garibnagar, in which five persons died and at least 50 were injured. At that time, it took Fire Brigade officials more than 48 hours to bring the situation under control. Around 40 trains on the Harbour line were cancelled on Friday evening.
    Till midnight, 40 trains on the Harbour Line were cancelled and overhead equipment teams had begun visual inspection. At the time of going to the press, Western Railway officials said that services on the Harbour Line was expected to begin around 12.30 am.

» February 10, 2009 – One person died and 23 were injured in a fire that broke out at Maharashtra Nagar slums near Bada Masjid, Bandra west.
» June 19, 2009 – Major fire at Berhampada in Bandra east left one child dead and 29 injured. Over 300 hutments were gutted in the blaze and 2,500 people were rendered homeless. The fire engulfed an area of nearly 10,000 sq ft and endangered several hundred four-storey structures. The slum-dwellers were so agitated that they initially did not allow even fire brigade officials to enter the area. Officials had to take the help of the Special Reserve Police Force to get into the area. The blaze, described as a brigade call in firefighters' parlance, was one of the biggest in the city in the last 25 years.
» November 11, 2010 – Fire breaks out on the 9th floor of 10-storey HDIL tower in Bandra east. Two hundred fifty firefighters battle over 4 hours to control the fire and rescue 800 people.

(Clockwise from above) A man climbs on to the roof of his Garib Nagar hutment in Behrampada, Bandra (East), to find a way to escape the flames; Hutments, in which cloth scrap was stored, were the first to catch fire; A man found praying in the hour of crisis; the chaos spills over to the Bandra Railway Station. At the time of going to print, over 40 trains on Harbour Line had been cancelled

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