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41 feared dead after Russian plane crash-lands in Moscow

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Forty-one people including at least two children are believed to have died when a Russian passenger plane made an emergency landing and was engulfed in flames at Moscow’s busiest airport Sunday, investigators said.

Dramatic footage shared on social media showed Aeroflot’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, land at Sheremetyevo international airport, flames and black smoke pouring from its fuselage.

Passengers could be seen leaping onto an inflatable slide at the front and running from the blazing plane as huge black columns of smoke billowed into the sky.

“There were 78 people including crew members on board the plane,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding it had headed to the northwest Russian city of Murmansk.

“According to the updated info which the investigation has as of now, 37 people survived.”

Another 11 people were injured, Dmitry Matveyev, the Moscow region’s health minister said earlier in the day. Three of them had been hospitalised but they were not in a serious condition, he added.

Investigators said they were looking into various lines of inquiry and it was premature to draw any conclusions about the cause of the accident.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered his condolences to the victims’ loved ones, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also ordered a special committee to investigate the disaster.

The jet carrying 73 passengers and five crew members had just left Sheremetyevo when the crew issued a distress signal, officials said.

“Flight Su-1492 took off on schedule at 6:02 pm (15H02 GMT),” said a statement from the airport.

“After the take-off, the crew reported an anomaly and decided to come back to the departure airport. At 6:30 pm, the aircraft made an emergency landing,” it added.

The tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted one passenger, Petr Egorov, who said: “We had just taken off and the aircraft was hit by lightning…. The landing was rough, I almost passed out from fear.”

“The plane sent out a distress signal after takeoff,” a source told Interfax news agency.

“It attempted an emergency landing but did not succeed the first time, and on the second time the landing gear hit (the ground), then the nose did, and it caught fire,” the source added.

Interfax, citing an anonymous source, said the plane had landed with its fuel tanks full because, having lost contact with air traffic controllers, it was too dangerous to dump its fuel tanks over Moscow.

Several flights have been diverted to other Moscow airports or Nizhny Novgorod, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the Russian capital.

The Sukhoi Superjet-100 was the first civilian aircraft developed in Russia’s post-Soviet era and at the time of its launch, in 2011, was a source of national pride.

But it struggled to convince buyers from airlines outside Russia, and several foreign carriers that did buy it have since prefered to cut back its use or phase it out completely, citing its reliability.

The Russian government offered subsidies to encourage Russian airlines to buy the Superjet and Aeroflot became its main operator.

In September 2018, it announced a record order of 100 Superjet-100s.

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Brazil sends Army to fight Amazon fires; Donald Trump tweets support

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.

Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires — many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.

“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.

Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron — who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit — accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.

“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”

Macron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.

Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman told Bloomberg News that she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro faces outrage abroad and at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities.

After a week in which the public outcry only grew louder — and as images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke continued to appear on screens around the world — he decided to deploy the Brazilian army to the Amazon. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.

“I had today an excellent conversation with President @realDonaldTrump,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday night. “Relations between Brazil and the U.S. are better than ever. We have a mutual desire to launch a big trade negotiation soon, aimed at promoting our peoples’ prosperity.”

Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.

“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”

The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.

“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”

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Photos: Robot waiters serving food at Bengaluru’s first Robot Restaurant

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Service robots line up in a corridor on the opening day of the “Robot” restaurant. These robots were earlier introduced in Chennai and Coimbatore. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
A menu and the order tablet are seen on the table of the “Robot” restaurant. Every table has a digital tablet, and one has to jut pick and choose, order and await their turn. Once the food was ready, the kitchen assigns a robot. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
A service robot delivers food to customers. On a digitally marked out path the robot heads out with the food neatly arranged on a tray. At the assigned table, she turns to greet and guide the customer to pick up the dish. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
Customers take pictures with a service robot. The robots are interactive and are programmed to sing birthday wishes and wishes for special occasions. So, for the Saturday launch, every robot wore a scarf and a name. The names are both dynamic and customizable. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
The robots are programmed to work efficiently and the staff has also undergone training from the manufacturers to attend to any issues that may arise over the course of operations. While the restaurant holds a unique appeal with its robot servers, it also lends a glimpse into one possible future for hospitality businesses and the mechanization of workforces.  (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)

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First moon image captured by Chandrayaan-2 released by ISRO

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Chandrayaan-2 on Thursday beamed the first image captured by the Vikram Lander after it entered the lunar orbit earlier this week. The image was taken at a height of about 2650 km from lumar surface.

Mare Orientale basin and Apollo craters are identified in the picture.

The crucial process of taking up soft landing of the lander ‘Vikram’ onboard the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will be taken up in the early hours of September 7, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said today.

Chandrayaan-2, launched on July 22 by India’s most powerful rocket GSLV MkIII-M1, had entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory on August 14, leaving the Earth orbit.

It comprises an Orbiter, Lander (Vikram), named after the father of Indian space research programme Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, and Rover (Pragyan).

The rover is set to make the soft landing on the Moon on September 7 and if successful the mission would make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve the feat.

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