Indian army soldiers fight fire from highly polluted lake

Indian firefighters try to douse a fire at Bellandur Lake in Bangalore on January 20, 2017. Bellandur Lake which is among the highly polluted lakes in the city caught fire due to suspected effluents. (AFP)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Indian army soldiers fight fire from highly polluted lake

BANGALORE: Thousands of Indian troops battled for hours a huge fire emanating from a highly polluted lake, causing panic among thousands of people in the southern city of Bangalore, the army said Saturday.
Nearly 5,000 soldiers swung into action on Friday after the fire threatened a military area with huge clouds of smoke billowing from the lake filled with sewage, chemical effluents and construction debris and choked with water hyacinth, an army statement said.
The army said the efforts prevented the fire from engulfing civilian areas of Banagalore, one of India’s key information technology hubs.
Fire engines and water bowsers from nearby civilian areas also assisted in controlling the fire. A huge smoke was still rising from the area on Saturday morning with firefighters trying to douse it completely.
In 2015, a toxic froth spilled over to some of Bangalore’s streets due to extreme levels of pollution in the Bellandur Lake. Tests found extremely high amounts of phosphorous and other inorganic chemical compounds in the lake.
Authorities have been trying to repair a barrier that was supposed to keep sewage from flowing into the lake, depleting its oxygen.
Another Bangalore lake caught fire in May last year when garbage was set ablaze on its bed.


Afghan vote enters second day after series of bloody attacks, claims of mismanagement

Updated 18 min 2 sec ago
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Afghan vote enters second day after series of bloody attacks, claims of mismanagement

  • Election Commission said more than three million people out of 8.8 million managed to cast their vote on Saturday
  • On Sunday the Election Commission sent more ballot papers for 401 polling stations where people could not vote owing to attacks and irregularities

KABUL: Voting resumed for a second day on Sunday in Afghanistan where the process was marred by bloody attacks and claims of massive irregularities that deprived hundreds of thousands of people of votes for a new parliament.
The mismanagement claims have been seen as another sign of the government’s inefficiency in holding the ballot, which already has faced a delay of more than three years and comes six months ahead of the presidential vote.
The government said it added several thousand more forces to the 50,000 troops already deployed, to further protect some of the sites where polls could not be held on Saturday.
The Election Commission said more than three million people out of 8.8 million managed to cast their vote on Saturday and that on Sunday it had sent sufficient ballot papers and deployed officials to cover for 401 polling stations where people could not vote because of attacks and irregularities the previous day.
Ali Reza Rohani, a spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission, said in a news conference on Sunday that the irregularities that took place on Saturday would “damage the transparency” of the elections.
He said biometric devices, put in place to curb fraud, could not work in some stations, including Kabul, and various stations had not received the list of voters who had registered months ago for the ballot.
He said some stations opened an hour late.
The election is seen as key for Afghanistan’s political stability and legitimacy.
The government had already announced that polls could not take place in more than 2,000 voting stations because of security threats.
The Taliban staged scores of attacks on Saturday in a number of provinces including Kabul where at least 18 people died in two strikes. Unofficial estimates showed that over 70 civilians were killed and more than 300 wounded.
The casualties and irregularities were both unprecedented compared to election-related problems and violence that had happened in all of the previous rounds of elections held since the Taliban’s ouster.
Transparent Election Foundations of Afghanistan (TEFA), a polls watchdog, in its latest finding while citing the irregularities, said it could not operate fully to observe the process on Saturday because of security threats and because it was barred by the election commission and government from having access to election centers.
“It created many challenges for TEFA’s observers, for instance, 65 percent of our female observers left the polling centers because of security reasons, and unavailability of cellular connections in some of the provinces,” it said in a statement.
“In 29 percent of the polling centers, our observers were not allowed by IEC workers, security forces and armed men to observe the counting process.”