Monday, May 17, 2010

Cyclonic storm kills three, damages 1,000 houses in Tripura

At least three people were killed and over 10 injured as a cyclonic storm lashed several parts of Tripura, leaving behind a trail of destruction, officials said on Monday.The pre-monsoon rains accompanied by strong winds and hailstorm Sunday night damaged more than 1,000 houses and killed many cattle in western and southern Tripura."Three people, including a woman, were killed in separate incidents of wall collapse and lightning at Teliamura in western Tripura," a relief department official told reporters.Ten people who were hurt in these incidents have been shifted to government hospitals, the official said.Hundreds of trees, telephone and electric poles were uprooted in the squall, badly affecting the movement of vehicles on Monday."Civil defence workers and district officials are busy providing relief. Telecommunication and power corporation personnel are working to restore communication lines and power supply," the official said.Similar cyclonic rainstorms accompanied by heavy lightning since March have also killed 15 more people in Tripura, damaged 15,000 houses and caused large scale destruction.Meteorological department director Dilip Saha said: "The seasonal Nor’wester (cyclonic rainstorm) would continue till the onset of monsoon next month. The recurring Nor’wester is now active in entire eastern and northeast India and few other places in the country.""The northeastern region, due to its topography, is a lightning-prone area. Lightning claims on an average 100 lives every year specially during March to May," said Swapan Bhowmik, a physicist of the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Agartala.

Manipur facing its worst-ever fuel crisis due to economic blockade

Most petrol-driven vehicles will come to a screeching halt in Manipur in 72 hours if fuel supplies continue to be blocked. Diesel run vehicles have some more time before existing stocks run out.Manipur consumer affairs, food and public distribution Minister Y Erabot said the existing stock of petrol will last for three days while diesel for another 9 days against the state’s daily requirement of 75 kilolitres of petrol and 220 kilolitres of diesel.Manipur is facing its worst fuel crisis due to prolonged economic blockade on Imphal-Mao sector (110 km) of National Highway 39 by All Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM) since April 11. ANSAM is demanding amendment of Manipur Autonomous District Council Act.The situation has worsened due to subsequent 'road blockade' on the same route by the various Naga bodies besides Nagaland-based Naga Students Federation’s ‘ban’ on entry of Manipur trucks since early part of May. The Students’ ban came in the wake of an ongoing stand-off between Manipur government and Naga bodies over NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah’s proposed trip to his native Somdal village in Manipur’s Ukhrul district.Erabot also sought centre’s intervention to contain the situation as the state authorities failed to provide mobile security cover to the incoming and outgoing Manipur trucks. “No mobile security escort has been provided despite repeated request which restricts the movement of the trucks till date”, Minister lamented. “It’s a betrayal to general public”. Hundreds of goods laden trucks and oil tankers were reportedly stranded along Assam-Nagaland and Manipur-Assam borders as no security escorts came to rescued them.Earlier he had promised to ensure supplies of essential commodities within a week.The state is also planning to lift the essential items from FCI godowns at Silchar instead of Dimapur in Nagaland.

Two killed in lightning, 10,000 displaced in Assam floods

A newly-married couple was killed in a lightning strike while flash floods triggered by heavy rains displaced more than 10,000 people in 25 villages in Assam on Sunday, officials said.A police spokesperson said the couple died Sunday when lightning struck their home in village Bokulguri in Nagaon district, about 160 km east of Guwahati."The two died instantly as their thatched hut was severely damaged in lightning," the official said.Meanwhile, flash floods inundated 25 villages in Lakhimpur district with the Brahmaputra river breaching two embankment."So far about 10,000 people have been displaced with many taking shelter on raised platforms," an official said.Floodwaters of the mighty Brahmaputra also entered the 430 sq km Kaziranga National Park in Assam forcing scores of endangered animals to flee the park to safer areas, officials said."More than half of the park is under water. Animals are migrating from the sanctuary to an adjoining hill for safety," a park warden said.Kaziranga is home to the world's largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros. As per the 2009 census report, some 2,000 of the world's estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos live in the park.Meanwhile, the park authorities have enforced prohibitory orders directing truckers to drive slowly on the national highway that winds through the park."Special barricades have been put along the highway. Forest guards are asking drivers to drive at speeds under 40 km an hour as the animals use the highway to cross over to the hills to escape the floods," the park warden said.A large number of animals, including deer, get mowed down by speeding trucks while crossing the highway to escape the annual floods. At least 70 animals, including rhinos and wild buffaloes, were drowned in 2004.

Army to buy additional 124 Arjun tanks

New Delhi, May 17 (ANI): To boost the strike capability of the armed forces, the Indian Army will buy 124 additional indigenous Arjun main battle tank (MBT), after the armoured platform proved its worthiness against the Russian-built T-90 MBT in a gruelling trial of strength in the Thar desert.The army had already placed orders for 124 Arjun tanks, of which about 50 tanks were handed over to it in 2009.The Army''s decision to get additional Arjun tanks comes after the Defence Ministry asked it to objectively study reports of the trials of the Arjun tanks during the recent exercises.Ministry of Defence spokesperson, Sitanshu Kar, said: "This is over and above the existing order of 124 tanks. The development follows the success of the indigenous MBT Arjun."During six months of trials, the DRDO, along with tank crews from the Army''s 43 Armoured Regiment, proved not just the Arjun''s endurance, but also the ability of its computer-controlled gun to consistently blow away small-sized targets placed a kilometre away during the trials conducted at the Mahajan Ranges near Bikaner in Rajasthan."After many years of trial and tribulation, it has now proved its worth by its superb performance under various circumstances, such as driving cross-country over rugged sand dunes, detecting, observing and quickly engaging targets and accurately hitting targets - both stationary and moving -with pin-point accuracy," Kar said."Its superior fire power is based on accurate and quick target acquisition capability during day and night in all types of weather and shortest possible reaction time during combat engagements," he added.The MBT Arjun today remains a contemporary battle tank and by far superior to T-54, T-55, and T-72 tanks that the Army has been using over the years.The T-90S and the MBT Arjun have their own special features. The MBT Arjun has more power to weight ratio, hydro-pneumatic suspension for better ride comfort and a stable platform to fire on the move, better quality class of Gun Control System and Fire Control System etc.The Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Avadi near Chennai is producing the 60-tonne tank. (ANI)