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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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‘People will not forgive Oppn’: PM after Pitroda raises questions on strike

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New Delhi: Reacting to Pitroda’s comment, PM Modi said, “Opposition insults our forces time and again. I appeal to my fellow Indians- question Opposition leaders on their statements. Tell them- 130 crore Indians will not forgive or forget the Opposition for their antics. India stands firmly with our forces.”
“Loyal courtier of Congress’ royal dynasty admits what the nation already knew- Congress was unwilling to respond to forces of terror. This is a New India- we will answer militants in a language they understand and with interest,” read another tweet posted by PM Modi.
Minutes after PM Modi’s attack, Pitroda clarified his remarks stating that he was speaking in personal capacity and not on the behalf of the Congress party.
“I just said as a citizen I am entitled to know what happened. I am not talking on behalf of party, just speaking as a citizen. I have right to know, what is wrong in it,” news agency ANI quoted Pitroda as saying.
The prime minister also hit out at Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, who on Thursday said that Pulwama attack was a “conspiracy” in which “soldiers were killed for votes”.
“Opposition is the natural habitat of terror apologists and questioners of our armed forces. This reprehensible statement by a senior leader like Ram Gopal Ji insults all those who have given their lives in protecting Kashmir. It humiliates the families of our martyrs,” PM Modi wrote on Twitter.
A CRPF convoy was targeted in a suicide bombing on February 14 in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama killing 40 soldiers. Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.
On February 26, the IAF carried a strike at a camp, believed to be the biggest training centre of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan’s Balakot. The IAF later said that the mission was “successful”, which Pakistan denied.

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Three fake campaigns of ‘compulsive contrarians’ busted in a single day: Jaitley

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New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said fake campaigns of ‘compulsive contrarians’ on three issues – the Hindu terror theory, the Godhra incident and Nirav Modi case – were busted in a single day.
In the Samjhauta Express blast case, the trial court on Wednesday dismissed the UPA government’s theory of Hindu terror; while in the Godhra case, the court convicted one more person. Also, the fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi was arrested in the United Kingdom on the same day.
“…a fundamental difference between truth and falsehood is that truth holds together and falsehood falls apart. To each fake campaign of the ‘compulsive contrarians’ over a period of time, ultimately the truth has prevailed. Either it is the electoral mandate or the judicial process which gives the final verdict,” Jaitley said in his blog titled ‘Three Fake Campaigns Busted in a Single Day.’ Jaitley said Nirav Modi started cheating the public sector banks in 2011.
Modi’s crime was detected in 2018 by the banks and investigating agencies under the present government, Jaitley said, adding that Modi’s assets have been frozen, are being auctioned, criminal prosecution against him has been filed, recovery action for the dues owed to the banks and creditors are being pursued.
“On our request, he has now been arrested and denied bail. There is a strong unanswerable case against him and hopefully India will get him back. Whoever cheats India and its institutions cannot get away. He will be found out. This also busts the fake campaign that the present government had anything to do with him,” Jaitley said.
The minister said there is an inherent danger in relying only on fake issues. “I hope the manufacturers of fake campaign learn some lesson. They don’t seem to be considering their brazen attitude,” he added.

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BJP denies Lok Sabha ticket to 6 UP lawmakers including Union Minister

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Lucknow: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, six BJP lawmakers from Uttar Pradesh, including Union Minister Krishna Raj and National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman Ram Shankar Katheria, have been benched.
The BJP announced its first list of 184 candidates for the national elections , fielding Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow.
The party also nominated Smriti Irani from Amethi to take on Rahul Gandhi.
Others who have been refused party nominations are Anshul Verma from Hardoi, Babulal Chaudhary from Fatehpur Sikri, Anju Bala from Misrikh and Satya Pal Singh from Sambhal.
The new candidates who have been given tickets from these constituencies are SP Singh Baghel in Agra, Parameshwar Lal Saini in Sambhal, Raj Kumar Chaher in Fatehpur Sikri, Jai Prakash Rawat in Hardoi, Ashok Rawat in Misrikh and Arun Sagar in Shahjahanpur.
In the previous elections, with 5.8 lakh votes PM Modi had defeated AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal who had received 2 lakh votes in Varanasi.
In Lucknow, Rajnath Singh with 5.6 lakh votes defeated Rita Bahuguna Joshi of Congress by 2.7 lakh votes.
However, in Amethi, BJP’s Smriti Irani lost to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi by over one lakh votes.
In the first list in UP, the candidates who have got the ticket are: Raghav Lakhanpal (Saharanpur), Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan (Muzaffarnagar), Kunwar Bhartendra Singh (Bijnor), Rajendra Agrawal (Meerut), Satya Pal Singh (Baghpat), Vijay Kumar Singh (Ghaziabad) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddh Nagar).
Of them, VK Singh is Minister of State for External Affairs, Mahesh Sharma is the Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Culture, while Satya Pal Singh is the Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development. The current Lok Sabha MP from Bijnor is Kunwar Bharatendra Singh.
The parliamentary constituencies in the state, which will vote on April 11 in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections are Baghpat, Bijnor, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Kairana, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur.
Results will be declared on May 23.

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