Mumbai shuts down as India cases rise

A general view shows deserted roads with minimal traffic near the sea front in Mumbai on March 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 21 March 2020

Mumbai shuts down as India cases rise

  • Alarmed by an increasing number of infections in the state, Thackeray said if people did not stop flocking to local trains, the government would, in a “last resort” measure, suspend public transportation

NEW DELHI: The western Indian state of Maharashtra imposed a partial lockdown on its main cities on Friday, including the country’s financial hub Mumbai, as the region recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases.
All offices, shops and markets in Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur will remain closed until March 31, with the exception of those providing essential goods and services, the chief minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, announced.
He appealed to private employers not to stop paying their employees’ salaries.
“Crises will come and go, but don’t stop your humanity,” Thackeray said. He did not specify whether the state would offer any financial support to suspended businesses.
Alarmed by an increasing number of infections in the state, Thackeray said if people did not stop flocking to local trains, the government would, in a “last resort” measure, suspend public transportation.
Earlier this week, Maharashtra took the drastic step of stamping the hands of people flying into state airports with waterproof ink.
“If such people go out, others can identify them as home quarantine patients. This is being done so that patients strictly observe home quarantine,” Rajesh Tope, health minister of Maharashtra, told reporters.
The decision came after 11 people in the state, who were in isolation awaiting their coronavirus test results, escaped from a Mumbai hospital.
At least 52 people have tested positive in Maharashtra — a quarter of all cases reported in India.
The Mumbai shutdown decision comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on Thursday night that a nationwide one-day curfew would be in effect on Sunday.
“This curfew will be for the people and by the people of India, and will be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday,” Modi said in a televised address to the nation.
During the curfew, all means of public transportation will be shut down.
Political analysts see the one-day shutdown as a way to prepare Indians for longer lockdowns in the coming future.
“Considering the experience of some of the worst-affected countries, if India wants the virus not to spread, then it will have to shut down cities and towns for a couple of weeks. The public curfew is just a step in that direction,” the Gaya-based editor of the Hindu daily Prabhat Khabar newspaper, Pawan Pratyay, told Arab News.
In his Thursday address, Modi also announced the establishment of the COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force to assess the impact of the global pandemic on the Indian economy, and advise steps to reduce its burden on the country’s financial sector.
Also on Thursday, the Indian government imposed a week-long ban on all incoming international flights, starting on Sunday.


Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

Updated 14 July 2020

Over 1 million marooned in Bangladesh as floods worsen

  • Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts
  • Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Heavy flooding is worsening in parts of Bangladesh, with over 1 million villagers marooned or leaving their homes for higher ground along with their cattle and other belongings, officials and volunteers said Tuesday.
Water levels at major rivers were rising Tuesday at around two dozen points in 20 districts. Many new areas in northern, northeastern and central Bangladesh have been affected over last 24 hours, Arifuzzman Bhuiyan, an executive engineer with the Water Development Board, said by phone. Bangladesh has 64 districts.
“The situation is worsening," he said. “The worst thing is that the floods are getting prolonged this year, which is a bad sign.”
Bhuiyan said heavy rainfall and rushing waters from upstream India were the main reasons for the floods in the delta nation of 160 million people, which receives monsoon rains between June and October every year, often leading to flooding.
The floods started late last month, and after briefly easing continued to worsen, affecting many new areas, destroying crops and driving people from their homes in several impoverished regions. Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, including 53 shared with India.
In the northern district of Kurigram, one of the worst-hit areas, thousands of villagers have moved from their homes to higher ground since the weekend, bringing along their cattle and other belongings, said Mizanur Rahman Soikat, project coordinator with the Bidyanondo Foundation, a local charity. The foundation has been distributing both cooked and dry food to the flood-affected villagers, many of whom have lost their crops and livelihood.
Soikat said that over the last few weeks, the charity has distributed food to some 135,000 people in Kurigram, while the government’s relief office was also providing food, cash and cattle food.
“Over last two days, the situation has deteriorated and many villages went underwater in the district," he said by phone. “I have seen thousands taking shelter.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement Monday that more than a million Bangladeshis have been marooned by the floods, with the worst of it happening since the weekend.
“Thousands of people are expected to leave their homes throughout the beginning of this week to seek shelter in higher ground as the Water Development Board warned that the onrush of water from upstream would further intensify,” the statement said.
A.T.M. Akhteruzzman, a relief and rehabilitation officer in the northern district of Rangpur, said about 50,000 people who live along the Teesta River basin have been marooned.
“Waters are coming from India, while heavy rainfalls in the region are causing havoc,” he said. “We are trying to do our best to stand by the people, as we have already provided more than 300 tons of rice, cattle food, baby food and a good amount of cash. Our relief operations will continue."