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A week on from flood, 150,000 still stranded in Kashmir

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A week on from flood, 150,000 still stranded in Kashmir

(REUTERS) – About 150,000 people were still stranded in their homes a week after Jammu and Kashmir’s worst flood in over a century and fears grew on Sunday of an outbreak of diseases from vast fields of stagnant brown water.

Indian army and civilian boats trawled through the streets – now water channels – of capital Srinagar, picking up residents and delivering water, food and basic medicine to people who chose to remain camped out in the upper floors of their houses.

The state administration, which was itself knocked out after the waters of the Jhelum river gushed into the city centre, has struggled to cope with the flood, the worst in 109 years.

The disaster has fuelled public anger in the Muslim-majority region where a revolt against Indian rule has simmered for nearly a quarter century.

Officials said they did not have enough pumps to drain out the water that had swept through Srinagar, a city of 1 million ringed by mountains. Several of the state’s pumps were under water and 30 new ones had been ordered from New Delhi.

“Stagnant water is much more dangerous than flowing water,” said Dr. Showkat Zargar, the director of the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), one of the few functioning hospitals in the city.

“There are a lot of animals that have died,” he said. “This is the biggest source of infection.”

Not far from the hospital, dozens of dead cows lay on either side of the road on Sunday morning after a dairy flooded last week.

Both the Indian and Pakistan sides of the disputed Himalayan territory have been hit by extensive flooding since the Jhelum river, swollen by unusually heavy rain, surged last week. The river flows from Kashmir to the Pakistan side, and then down into Pakistan’s lower Indus river basin.

The government has put the death toll at 200 in the part of Kashmir it controls but there are fears that number will rise as the damage to Srinagar and villages in southern Kashmir is fully revealed.

On the Pakistani side, officials put the death toll at 264 on Friday.

RESCUED

In Srinagar’s southern neighbourhood of Raj Bagh, a boatload of army personnel stopped at the Presentation Convent Higher Secondary School and helped five nuns clamber down a steep ladder from the school, where they’d been stranded for six days and were running out of drinking water.

“We haven’t had any contact with the outside world,” said Sister Elsie Thomas, taking in the eerie waterworld where plastic bottles, snarls of barbed wire and the odd dead animal floated alongside underwater automated teller machines and hair salons.

But many others have not been as lucky, and have waited days for rescue in vain, fueling anger among residents toward the army and the state government which they said has been absent in the disaster.

As the same army craft made its way through the narrow canals, a boat of several men shouted angrily at the soldiers.

“We don’t need your help!” one man yelled. “Whatever you have, we don’t need any of it!”

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are deployed in the Kashmir Valley, where the army says it has succeeded in putting down the armed groups that it believes are supported by Pakistan.

A new generation of young Kashmiris, who have grown up with house raids and army checkpoints, feel increasingly angry at Indian rule and champion street protests rather than the violent militancy that characterized the 1990s.

Jammu and Kashmir Revenue Secretary Vinod Kaul said it was natural for citizens to blame their government when struck by a disaster of this scale. “This is a democratic system,” he said.

As the army boat passed, people standing at the water’s edge asked for specific drugs like blood pressure or diabetes medication, which the volunteers onboard were not carrying.

“People can’t get their drugs, so their diseases are becoming emergencies,” said Zardar.

One 35-year-old man died in the hospital on Sunday after suffering a heart attack while stranded in his home. In another case, a man who had a treatable injury from a car crash before the floods could not return to the hospital for care, developed gangrene, and had to have his leg amputated.

“The real injuries are going to reach us now,” said Zargar. “Patients who have broken limbs are still sitting at home. Once the roads are open, there will be a flood of patients.”

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Rosalind Russell)

Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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