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Greece wildfire kills at least 50 near Athens, residents flee homes

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Athens:The death toll from a series of fires sweeping Greece climbed to 50 today with a Red Cross official reporting the discovery of 26 more bodies at a seaside resort.
The authorities had previously announced 24 deaths and more than 150 injuries from wildfires around the Athens region, before finding 26 dead at a villa in the coastal town of Mati.
The fire in Mati village, some 29 km (18 miles) east of Athens, was by far the country’s worst since blazes devastated the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing dozens. Monday’s fire was one of several that broke out in the country amid a sweltering heat wave.“Mati doesn’t even exist as a settlement anymore,” one woman told Greece’s Skai TV. “I saw corpses, burned-out cars. I feel lucky to be alive.”
Mati is in the Rafina region which is popular with local tourists, particularly pensioners and children at holiday camps.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said in a televised statement early Tuesday that the death toll exceeded 20 while more than 88 adults and 16 children were injured.
One of the youngest victims was thought to be a six-month-old baby who died of smoke inhalation.
A Reuters witness earlier saw at least four dead on a narrow road clogged with cars heading to the safe haven of a nearby beach. Dozens of people scrambled into the ocean as the blaze raged close to the shore, and they were picked up by passing boats.
As darkness fell, the extent of the disaster was impossible to gauge. “We are dealing with something completely asymmetric,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, looking pale, said after cutting short a visit to Bosnia.
Greece issued an urgent appeal for help to tackle fires which raged uncontrolled in several places across the country, destroying homes and disrupting major transport links. Greece said it needed air and land assets from its European Union partners. Cyprus and Spain offered assistance.
Reuters witnesses reported seeing a hillside of homes gutted by flames east of Athens. A mayor said he saw at least 100 homes and 200 vehicles burning.
In another fire earlier Monday, Greek authorities urged residents of a coastal region west of Athens to abandon their homes as a wildfire burned ferociously, closing one of Greece’s busiest motorways, halting train links and sending plumes of smoke over the capital.
Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, but a relatively dry winter created tinder box conditions. It was not clear what ignited the fires.
The army was drafted in on Monday afternoon to help fight the blazes. A senior fire chief went on state TV to appeal to people to leave the area of Kineta west of Athens after some tried to stay on their properties.
“People should leave, close up their homes and just leave. People cannot tolerate so much smoke for so many hours,” Achilleas Tzouvaras said. “This is an extreme situation.”
The main Athens-Corinth motorway, one of two road routes to the Peloponnese peninsula, was shut and train services were cancelled.
Fire raged around the Saronicos Gulf, ravaging tracts of pine forest, and was visible for miles. An ominous cloud of black-orange smoke hung over the Acropolis hill and the Parthenon temple in Athens on Monday afternoon.


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National

Rahul Gandhi did not take stand against corruption when it mattered in Bihar: Nitish

Press Trust of India

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Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Tuesday attributed his sudden exit from the opposition alliance to Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s “inability” to take a stand on corruption charges against his former deputy and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Kumar, who also heads the JD(U), claimed that his party was instrumental in the Congress getting 40 seats to contest in the 2015 assembly polls.

The chief minister said he had felt let down by Gandhi, then the party’s vice-president, when he “did not come up with even a statement that could have made me have second thoughts (about leaving the alliance)”.

 

Kumar had quit the alliance, comprising the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress, in July 2017 after the CBI lodged an FIR against Yadav on corruption charges and the following strife between him and the RJD.

“It has been always my line that there will be no compromise on crime, corruption and communalism. Their (RJD’s) style of functioning was such that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to work. There was interference at all levels. Their people would telephone police stations with their own decrees,” Kumar claimed.

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“Rahul Gandhi had famously tore that ordinance. It was the JD(U) which insisted that it (Congress) be given 40 seats and they ended up winning 28. The RJD, despite its old association with it, was never ready to give it that much weightage,” Kumar said.

In 2003, Gandhi had torn an ordinance brought by the Manmohan Singh government with a provision to protect convicted politicians against disqualification.

Stating that he resigned as he had no other choice, Kumar said his resignation was immediately followed by an offer of support from the BJP. “So I took the decision (to join hands with the BJP) in the interests of Bihar,” he said.

“We have our differences on issues like Ayodhya, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code since the 1990s. My association with the BJP predates the NDA’s formation in 1999. But we have always worked amicably. Even now, we are getting full cooperation from the Narendra Modi government,” he said.

Kumar had snapped ties with the BJP in 2013 following differences over projection of Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister, as the prime ministerial candidate.

On a query about the RSS, he said, “I may not agree with their thoughts but I cannot help admiring their consistency and commitment towards organisation building, something those adhering to our socialist ideology never excelled at.”

Recalling the stupendous performances by the JD(U)-BJP combine in 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the assembly elections a year later, Kumar said, “Now we have an important leader like Ram Vilas Paswanwith us. So there is no reason why we should not do even better in the upcoming LS polls.”

On the opposition ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance), which comprises the RJD, the Congress, the RLSP, the HAM and some smaller parties, he said, “Even the term mahagathbandhan that they keep flaunting was given by me. After the exit of JD(U), it is just a gathbandhan (alliance)”.

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KCR’s son meets Jaganmohan Reddy, discusses ‘proposed’ federal front

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Hyderabad: Continuing his efforts to forge a non-BJP, non-Congress front ahead of the coming Lok Sabha polls, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Chief K Chandrasekhar Rao decided to hold talks with YSR Congress to try and rope it into the proposed coalition.

K Chandrasekhar Rao’s son KT Rana Rao met Jaganmohan Reddy in Hyderabad to invite his YSR Congress party to join federal front.

Reddy is the Leader of Opposition in the Andhra Pradesh assembly.

 

These talks are the first direct conversation between the leaders of two parties since KCR floated the idea of a front as an alternation to the BJP and the Congress.

TRS’s chief KCR has already held talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Janata Dal (United) leader HD Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and DMK leader MK Stalin.

KCR winning for a second straight term after his party’s election victory in last month’s state polls, Rao amped up his efforts towards federal front for 2019 polls due in May.

The TRS is likely to discuss with Reddy the possibility of working together in Andhra to defeat a common enemy – Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his party Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

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Massive protests at Sabarimala after 2 women try to enter shrine

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Thiruvananthapuram: Massive protests broke out near the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on Wednesday morning after two women in their 30s tried to trek up to the shrine.

The women were identified as Reshma and Sanila, residents of Kannur, covered almost half of the 5.5 km trek to the shrine but were intercepted by angry devotees. They used started trekking at 5 am to dodge the protesters.

As the situation turned tense, police plead helplessness saying it is beyond their control. Later, women were taken to Pambha, the base camp after they were blocked for two hours.

 

The two women are part of a nine-member group who were on their way to the temple.

Kanaka Durga, along with 40-year-old Bindu Ammini, are the first women below 50 in decades to enter the hilltop shrine. Durga was attacked by her relatives on her return home on Monday.

The Supreme Court in September last year allowed women of all ages to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, overturning a centuries-old ban on women of childbearing age from entering the temple.

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