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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

SC asks Ayodhya mediation panel to submit report by July 31

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Mumbai: The Supreme Court asked the mediation panel Ayodhya land dispute to submit its final report by July 31. The next date for hearing in the case has been scheduled for August 2. The case is being heard in the top court by a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer.

After going through the report of the mediation panel, the apex court will decide if daily hearing should be conducted in the case. The court also said that the findings of the panel would not be taken on record, citing its confidentiality clause.

The Supreme Court had earlier granted the three-member mediation panel time till August 15 to find a solution in the Ayodhya land dispute case. The committee, which submitted its interim report in a sealed cover to the top court in May, had sought additional time.

 

Notably, senior advocate PS Narsimha, who is arguing in the case for litigant Gopal Singh Visharad, had told the Supreme Court during last hearing that not much progress was happening with regard to the functioning of the three-member mediation panel.

His claims were countered by advocate Rajiv Dhawan, who is representing the Muslim litigants, saying that it was not the time to raise questions on the functioning of the mediation panel. He had backed the argument of Nirmohi Akhada’s counsel Gopal Singh, who had told the court the panel was moving in the right direction.

The panel was constituted on March 8 and former judge FM Kalifulla, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar and eminent lawyer Sriram Panchu were named as its members. They were told to keep their findings confidential and were allowed to include more members if needed.

On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the disputed land would be divided into three parts. According to the ruling of the High Court, the site with idol of Ramlalla was allotted to Ramlalla Virajman, Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara was given to Nirmohi Akhada and the remaining land was allotted to Sunni Waqf Board.

The decision was appealed against in the Supreme Court. On May 9, 2011, the Supreme Court had stayed the Allahabad High Court order, agreeing to hear the pleas.

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IB warns of jailbreak plot being hatched at Bihar’s Beur prison

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Mumbai: An alert by the Intelligence Bureau has sent the Beur jail administration near Patna in a tizzy. The IB has warned that some prisoners in the jail might be planning a major jailbreak. Following the input, the Bihar Police on Wednesday night stepped up security around the jail and launched search operations inside the premises.

What adds to the worries of the police administration in the state is the fact that several dreaded criminals and terrorists are lodged inside Beur jail. Terrorists who carried out serial blasts at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan in 2013 are also inside the prison.

The Beur jail also houses some dreaded terrorists who hail from Bangladesh. Also, several Naxal operatives and those convicted of serious criminal offence are lodged inside it.

 

Notably, a Naxalite named Ajay Kanu, who is the prime accused in infamous Jehanabad jail break case of 2005, is also serving a sentence inside the Beur jail. The Jehanabad jail break was planned from inside the prison and carried out successfully on November 13, 2005.

Apart from Kanu, several terrorists such as Umar Siddiqui, Azharuddin, Imtiaz Ansari, Ahmed Hussain, Fakhruddin Ahmed, Feroz Alam, Noman Ansari, Iftekhar Alam, Haidar Ali and Mujibullah.

The threat of Beur jailbreak reminds of the Jehanabad jailbreak incident wherein Naxals had planned and carried out an attack to make Kanu escape from the prison. He was wanted by police departments of several states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Having a bounty of Rs 5 lakh on his head, Kanu was arrested more than a decade back while he was on his way from Dhanbad to Kolkata.

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At least 27 killed, over 55 lakh affected as flood waters inundate 29 districts of Assam

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GUWAHATI: At least 27 people have died and over 55 lakh affected as flood situation remained grim in 29 districts of Assam . Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) said in a bulletin that one rhinoceros has died in Kaziranga National Park due to floodwater. The bulletin added that Brahmaputra and its tributaries are still flowing above the danger mark in Guwahati and several other places in the state.

According to ASDMA, four people have lost their lives in Morigaon, two each in Sonitpur and Udalguri districts and one each in Kamrup (Metro) and Nagaon districts. ASDMA said that over 1.50 lakh people have been displaced from their homes due to flood. They displaced people have taken shelter in 427 relief camps and 392 relief distribution centres set up by state government in different districts of the state.

Vast areas of Kaziranga, Manas National Parks and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary were inundated due to flood waters, forcing rhinos and several other animals to run towards the highlands to save their lives.

 

The Brahmaputra river is flowing above the danger level in Jorhat, Tezpur, Guwahati, Goalpara and Dhubri along with rivers Burhidehing at Khowang in Dibrugarh district, Subansiri river at Badatighat in Lakhimpur, Dhansiri river at at Numaligarh in Golaghat district, Jia Bharali river at Sonitpur, Kopili river at Kampur and Dharamtul in Nagaon district. The ASDMA bulletin said that several roads have broken due to flood waters.

Several teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) are working in affected districts to provide relief to the affected people. It is learnt that the NDRF and SDRF teams have evacuated around 15,000 people from flood-hot areas so far.

The Northeast Frontier Railway has slowed down trains in Abhayapuri-Jogighopa section as villagers from nearby areas have taken shelter in railway embankment to escape the fury of flood.

The chief public relations officer of Northeast Frontier Railway, Pranav Jyoti Sharma, said on Wednesday that many villagers have been taking shelter on the railway embankment in the Goalpara – Jogighopa section after their homes were destroyed by flood waters.

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