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12 dead, 36 missing after boat capsizes in Andhra’s Godavari river

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Twelve people were killed and another 36 went missing when a private tourist boat with 72 on board overturned in the swirling waters of the Godavari river at Kachuluru village of Devipatnam block in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district on Sunday afternoon.

East Godavari Superintendent of Police, Adnan Nayeem Asmi said while 24 tourists were rescued by members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local villagers, as many as 12 bodies were recovered by evening, when rescue operations were hampered since it was getting dark.

The rescued passengers were shifted to the government hospital at Rampachodavaram for treatment.

According to officials, the boat, Royal Vashishta, had in all 63 people on board, besides nine crew members including two drivers – S Nukaraju and Tamaraju, who were still missing. Thirty six passengers were from Telangana, including 22 from Hyderabad and 14 from Warangal.

The state disaster management authority swung into action and rushed two teams of NDRF, each with 30 members, besides another team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to the spot to carry out rescue operations.

The boat was ferrying passengers from Gandi Pochamma temple near Rajahmundry to the picturesque Papikondalu hill range, a popular tourist spot.

According to Gorre Prabhakar from Kadipikonda village of Warangal who was rescued, the incident happened at around 1.20 pm, within minutes of the crew serving lunch to the passengers on board.

“The boat suddenly tilted towards the right side in the river and we panicked and shouted for help. We were all wearing safety life jackets and some of us jumped into the waters, while some others climbed on top of the boat to save ourselves. Luckily, there was a village Thutukunta nearby on the shore and the locals rushed towards us in their boats and rescued some of us. In the meantime, the boat overturned completely and sank into the waters,” he said.

Kodigudla Venkata Ramana of Punnami Travels, the owner of the boat, told reporters that the boat had a capacity of 90 passengers and had sufficient number of life jackets. “The spot at Kachuluru where the accident occurred is very dangerous with deep whirlpools. The drivers should have been careful in steering the boat. I don’t know what exactly happened,” he said.

Within minutes of receiving information, the state disaster management authority swung into action and rushed two teams of NDRF, each with 30 members, besides another team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to the spot to carry out rescue operations.

Two boats of the AP Tourism Department have been sent to the spot, while a Navy helicopter was also pressed into service to carry the NDRF teams and also to find the exact location of the boat. However, the rescue operations were hampered due to full flow of the river.

“The Godavari has been in spate due to fresh floods for the last one week. Even on Sunday, the river was receiving inflow of five lakh cusecs,” state home minister Mekathoti Sucharita said.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy is reviewing the situation. He has directed local ministers and MLAs to supervise rescue operations. He announced Rs 10 lakh as ex gratia for the kin of the victims.

The chief minister has ordered cancellation of licences of all boats being operated in the river. He has asked officials to conduct a thorough inspection of all the boats which ply in the river.

Tourism Minister Muthamsetty Srinivasa Rao said the capsized boat didn’t have a licence of the Tourism Department, but had permission from Kakinada Port authorities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his concern, “Extremely pained by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Rescue operations are currently underway at the site of the tragedy.”

Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, expressed shock over the boat tragedy, in which nearly 36 passengers were from Telangana. He announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the boat tragedy victims from the state. He directed state tourism minister Puvvada Ajay to visit the spot and oversee the rescue operations.

Telugu Desam Party president and former AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena Party chief Pawan Kalyan have expressed shock over the boat tragedy. The leaders have asked their party workers to take part in rescue operations.

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‘No need for third-party intervention’: China rejects Trump’s offer to ‘mediate’ on border row with India

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China has finally reacted to US President Donald Trump’s offer to “mediate or arbitrate” on the Indo-Sino border dispute, saying that there was “no need for a third-party intervention” between Beijing and New Delhi.

Rejecting Trump’s mediation offer, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “China and India are capable of properly resolving the issues through dialogue and consultation.”

Reacting for the first time to the US President’s offer, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said said the two countries did not want the “intervention” from a third party to resolve the military standoff.

“Between China and India we have existing border-related mechanisms and communication channels,” Zhao told reporters and added “We are capable of properly resolving the issues between us through dialogue and consultation. We do not need the intervention of the third party.”

Amid heightened tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday made a surprise offer to mediate between India and China over what he calls “their now raging border dispute”.

“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!,” President Trump tweeted.

However, in a carefully crafted reaction to Trump’s offer to arbitrate, India on Thursday said it was engaged with China to peacefully resolve the border row.

“We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve it,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, replying to a volley of questions at an online media briefing.

“The two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels,” he said.

Although, the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not react then, an op-ed in the state-run Global Times said both countries did not need such help from the US president.

“The latest dispute can be solved bilaterally by China and India. The two countries should keep alert on the US, which exploits every chance to create waves that jeopardise regional peace and order,” it said.

Trump’s unexpected offer came on a day when China took an apparently conciliatory tone by saying that the situation at the border with India is “overall stable and controllable.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that both China and India have proper mechanisms and communication channels to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultations.

Meanwhile, China’s official response on the matter today comes as US President Donald Trump on Thursday, while reiterating his offer to “mediate”, said that he spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Indo-Sino border dispute.

In a startling claim, Donald Trump on Thursday said he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is “not in a good mood” over the border row between India and China.

“They like me in India. I think they like me in India more than the media likes me in this country. And, I like Modi. I like your prime minister a lot. He is a great gentleman,” Trump said speaking to reporters at the Oval Office of the White House.

“They have a big conflict …India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people (each). Two countries with very powerful militaries. India is not happy and probably China is not happy,” the president said when asked if he was worried about the border situation between India and China.

“I can tell you; I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He is not in a good mood about what is going on with China,” Trump claimed.

However, Indian government officials have contradicted the claim saying that the last conversation between the two leaders was on April 4 on the matter related to Hydroxychloroquine.

“There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and US President Trump. The last conversation between them was on 4 April, 2020, on the subject of Hydroxychloroquine,” said government sources, according to media reports.

“Yesterday, the Ministry of External Affairs had also made it clear that we’re directly in touch with China through established mechanisms and diplomatic contacts,” they said.

Several areas along the LAC in Ladakh and North Sikkim have witnessed major military build-up by both the Indian and Chinese armies recently, in a clear signal of escalating tension and hardening of respective positions by the two sides even two weeks after they were engaged in two separate face-offs.

The nearly 3,500-km-long LAC is the de-facto border between the two countries.

Indian and Chinese troops have remained engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in several areas along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, signalling that the standoff could become the biggest military face-off after the Doklam crisis in 2017.

Earlier, the United States had accused China of engaging in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities with neighbouring countries including India.

The offer for mediation has come as a surprise as the US-China military frictions are also on the rise with the US navy stepping its patrols in the disputed South China Sea as well as the Taiwan Straits. Washington and Beijing are also engaged in a war of words over the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Coronavirus cases cross 1.58 lakh in India; US passes 1 lakh deaths

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With over 6,566 fresh cases reported in the last  24 hours, the COVID-19 tally in India reached 1,58,333 on Thursday with as many as 4,531 fatalities, according to ministry of health.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Delhi remain the worst-affected states, with Maharashtra alone reporting 56,948 COVID-19 infections and 1,897 deaths. Tamil Nadu has reported 18,545 cases with 182 deaths. Gujarat has 15,195 cases with death toll at 938.

Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 162 people testing positive for the disease, raising the tally to 1,921. Of these, 1,535 are in Kashmir and 386 in Jammu region. The number of active cases has now gone up to 1,041, 288 in Jammu and 753 in Kashmir.

The rise in cases comes amid easing of lockdown relaxations and the restarting of one-third of all domestic flights.

Meanwhile, globally the number of infections has reached  5,693,066 with 355,629 number of deaths according to Johns Hopkins data.

The United States remains the worst affected country with 1,699,176 cases of infections and death toll at 100,442. This comes as many states relax preventative measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

According to The Guardian, the pandemic has killed more Americans than the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, and the death toll is approaching that of the first world war, when more than 116,000 Americans died in combat.

US is followed by Brazil, Russia, and United Kingdom with maximum number of cases of COVID-19.

South Korea, which had successfully reduced its coronavirus cases has reported 79 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, the highest one-day increase in 53 days, the BBC reports.

This week, infections continued to creep up in and around the country’s capital Seoul. Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of Korea Centers for Disease control and Prevention, has now said social distancing measures eased in April may need to be reimposed.

The development comes after World Health Organisation had warned countries which were easing the lockdown to stay cautious of a second wave of infections.

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IMD issues ‘red alert’ for North India as heatwave intensifies, warns people to stay indoors between 1-5pm

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As the temperature in the Northern India is soaring high with each passing day the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that heatwave is likely to persist for the next few days in most parts of the northern India, Maharashtra and Telangana. While, the day temperature in the state capital is likely to touch 46 degrees Celsius by Tuesday.

The IMD has also issued a ‘red alert’ for a severe heatwave, for parts of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Rajasthan for the next two days.  While sweltering heat engulfing the capital city on Sunday with maximum temperature hovering close to 45 degrees Celsius in most parts of the city.

Meanwhile, the IMD also issued “orange” warning for eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Heatwave will prevail in many places and severe heatwave in isolated places. Mainly clear sky with strong surface winds (20-20 kilometres per hour),” the IMD forecast said.

The maximum temperature was recorded at 44.4 degrees Celsius, which was five notches above the normal, on Sunday and the minimum temperature was recorded at 28.7 degrees Celsius, two notches above the normal.

The temperature is likely to remain around 46-48 degrees Celsius in all the northern states affected by heatwaves except for Uttar Pradesh.

Kuldeep Srivastava, the head of the regional forecasting centre of the IMD, said some respite from the stifling heat is expected in the national capital on May 28 due to a fresh Western Disturbance and easterly winds at lower levels.

“Dust storm and thunderstorm with winds gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour is likely over Delhi-NCR on May 29-30,” he said.

Srivastava added that this this is the first “Red” warning for heatwave which is issued by the IMD according to the intensity ascending from  green to  yellow to orange with the highest level of red.

“The warning has been issued to caution people not to step out between 1 pm and 5 pm, when heat is most intense,” said Srivastava.

The ‘Red alert’ comes at a time when lakhs of migrant labourers are on roads, walking back to their home states amid the Coronavirus lockdown, making it all the more difficult for them to reach their destinations when even the ‘Shramik Special’ trains and buses with inadequate numbers and mismanagement haven’t been able to take them  back safely.

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