Powerful explosion in Dhaka kills seven, injures hundreds; police suspect gas leak

Press Trust of India

Dhaka, Jun 28  A powerful explosion that destroyed an old three-storey building in a crowded area here in Bangladesh's capital and killed at least seven people and injured around 400 others may have been caused by a faulty gas line or gas cylinders, authorities said on Monday.

Police have ruled out any foul play behind the horrific explosion in Moghbazar area at around 7.30 PM on Sunday and said the initial investigation of the site suggests that the explosion might have been caused by "gas accumulation".

Authorities suspect the building that collapsed was the epicentre of the explosion as it had a restaurant and a faulty gas line or gas cylinders used by it could be the reason behind the blast.

The blast was so powerful that the shock wave smashed the glasses of nearly a dozen buildings around it.

Seven nearby buildings and two passenger buses were badly damaged in the blast that killed seven people and injured 400, some 50 of them critically, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shafiqul Islam said late Sunday.

The severely injured were sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery.

The Dhaka Community hospital treated almost 300 victims, AZM Rahmatullah Shabuj, outdoor in charge of the hospital, said, adding that they treated victims who mostly had cuts in their bodies or their heads.

Most of them had cuts from the glass shards. Many had wounds in their heads, Sabuj said.

On the possibility of the explosion being deliberate, the Police Commissioner told bdnews, It doesn't look like that to me. If that was the case or had a bomb been exploded, people would've been ravaged by splinters."

I've gathered from the fire service personnel that gas had accumulated here," he said.

Fire Brigade chief Brigadier General Sajjad Hossain said primary evidence suggested that the explosion was triggered by a leak after the accumulation of gas.

There were gas cylinders at a restaurant at the ground floor of the building and air-conditioners at a showroom upstairs. There were gas cylinders also at the road construction site at the scene...investigations have been launched, Hossain said.

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According to residents in the neighbourhood, the explosion rocked the part of the city spreading panic while television footage showed broken pillars, concrete and glass shards strewn across the street at the scene in the central part of the country's capital.

I was on a bus when the explosion occurred. I jumped out of it through a narrow window of the vehicle, initially thinking the bus gas cylinder exploded... never experienced such a big explosion in my life, 50-year-old Tajul Islam, who received injuries on his waist and complained of hearing impairment due to the explosion, told PTI.

Another witness said he saw a fireball go over his head and the explosion turned everything dark and smoky in his vicinity while pieces of glass started to shower from above.

The sound was so huge... it scared everyone, he told a TV channel.

According to witnesses, soon after the explosion the buses and cars crashed into one another and panic-gripped passengers struggled to get out of the vehicles.

Several residents of an apartment building in the area came downstairs following the explosion.

One of them, Mufakar Ul Islam, added: We are at a distance here. Still, several glasses of our apartment were shattered.

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India-B'desh borders to be sealed to check infiltration: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that India-Bangladesh borders would be sealed to check infiltration, as he accused the Congress of aligning with the forces which are patronising the infiltrators.

Addressing an election rally at Bihpuria under Lakhimpur district in eastern Assam, the Prime Minister said that India-Bangladesh borders with western Assam's Dhubri have been sealed and works are going on at a fast pace to seal the remaining patches of the international borders with Bangladesh.

Five Indian states -- West Bengal (2,216 km), Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam ( 263 km) -- share 4,096 km borders with Bangladesh.

Without naming the Congress' electoral ally, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Modi said that in order to protect its vote bank, the Congress is ready to join hands with any forces and in Assam it forged an alliance with a party that is patronising the infiltrators.

"Congress has no leaders, policy or ideology. The party forged alliance with the Left parties in Assam and West Bengal, but it is fighting against them in Kerala," the Prime Minister said.

Modi also said that the Congress did nothing for the lakhs of tea garden workers when it was in power in Assam.

"In five years, the BJP government has increased the daily wage of tea garden workers twice to over Rs 200. In this year's Budget, a Rs 1,000 crore package was announced for the welfare of lakhs of tea garden workers," the Prime Minister said.

Appreciating BJP's 'Sankalp Patra' for the upcoming Assam elections, Modi said the manifesto is the roadmap to further develop the state.

BJP President J.P. Nadda had on Tuesday released the party's manifesto, focusing on flood management, protection and development of the Assamese culture, empowerment of youth and women, correction of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and checking infiltration.

Modi said that despite being in power in Assam for 15 years (2001-2016), the Congress did nothing to protect and promote the Assamese traditions and culture, instead it backed the poachers involved in killing the state's famed one-horn rhinos.

"In 70 years, 13,000 km rural roads were constructed in Assam, but the BJP government built 15,000 km of rural roads in the state in just five years. Efforts are also on to market Assam's crops outside the state, including organic crops," the Prime Minister said.

Accompanied by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the Prime Minister's rally in Bihpuria was his fourth public meeting in six days in the poll-bound state.

Later on Wednesday, Modi is scheduled to address another rally in the Sipajhar Darrang district.

The Prime Minister would visit the BJP-ruled state three more times till April 3 to address several election rallies.

The 126-member Assam Assembly will go the polls in three phases on March 27 (47 seats), April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats). The results will be declared on May 2.

PM Modi to visit Bangladesh on March 26-27

New Delhi, Mar 16 Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Bangladesh on March 26 and 27, his first visit to a foreign country since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) made an announcement on Tuesday on Modi's visit to the neighbouring country following an invitation from Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"This visit is in connection with the commemoration of three epochal events -- Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh; and 50 years of Bangladesh's war of liberation," it said.

Modi had last visited Bangladesh in 2015.

During his visit, the prime minister will attend the National Day programme of Bangladesh on March 26 as the guest of honour.

"The visit of the prime minister to Bangladesh will be the first visit to a foreign country since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. This highlights the priority India attaches to Bangladesh," the MEA said in a statement.

Modi's programme, apart from holding bilateral consultations with Hasina, also includes a call on the President of Bangladesh, Md Abdul Hamid, the MEA said.

Foreign Minister of Bangladesh A K Abdul Momen will call on Modi.

The two prime ministers held a virtual summit on December 17 last year, during which Modi said Bangladesh is a key pillar of New Delhi's "Neighbourhood First" policy.

On her part, Hasina described India as a "true friend" and said both countries could play a significant role in the global and regional value chains by further integrating their economies and boosting connectivity.

In a reflection of their rapidly growing ties, the two countries inked seven agreements in the summit to further broadbase cooperation in a plethora of sectors and restored a cross-border rail link snapped by the 1965 war with Pakistan.

Bangladesh sends second group of 1,804 Rohingya to Bhasanchar

Officials in Bangladesh sent a second group of 1,804 Rohingya refugees to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal on Monday. The six ships carrying them anchored around 1 pm in Bhasan Char on Tuesday. A total of 3,446 Rohingyas were taken to the new camp in two phases, informed Hatia Upazila Executive Officer Emran Hossain.

Earlier, the Rohingyas were taken on six ships of the navy at 8 am on Tuesday. Later, the ship carrying them left Patenga for Bhasanchar around 9:15 am. 428 families who are willing to go voluntarily have been taken there this time.

Rohingyas who wanted to go to Bhasanchar from all the 36 camps beside the main camp started arriving at the transit point last Sunday afternoon. The rest arrived on Monday morning and noon.

From there they were brought to Chittagong by 36 buses. As in the first phase, the buses came to Chittagong in three groups from the Ukhia Degree College ground area. Once again, the RAB, police and law enforcement agencies were on high alert around the buses carrying Rohingyas.

In the first phase, 1,842 Rohingyas were taken to Bhasanchar on December 4. A total of eight ships of the service navy were taken away.

Concerned officials informed that 1 lakh Rohingyas will be taken to Bhasanchar in phases. This group of Rohingyas will be in the state-of-the-art housing project there. In the meantime, food items have been stored in Bhasanchar which can last upto three months.

Mohammad Samshuddauja, additional commissioner of the government's refugee relief and repatriation office said, "Buffaloes, sheep, ducks, and pigeons are being reared there to carry out economic activities. Different types of vegetables are being planted. Paddy is also being cultivated experimentally. In the project, cluster villages have been constructed with the aim of accommodating 1,01,360 refugees."

He added, "At a cost of Tk 2,312 crore (1 Bangladeshi Taka equals 0.87 Indian Rupee), the infrastructure of 120 cluster villages has been constructed by the government on the 13,000-acre land and more than one lakh people have been accommodated."

Earlier, more than 300 Rohingyas who had failed to return to Malaysia were rescued from the sea and taken to Bhasanchar. Then on September 5, a delegation of Rohingyas from the Cox's Bazar refugee camp was sent to Bhasan Char to visit the place. Upon their return, some of the Rohingyas and expressed interest in going back to Bhasan Char, the official said.

Source: India Today

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Bangladesh Ships Rohingya Refugees to Remote Island

Despite opposition from humanitarian groups, more than 1,600 Rohingya refugees sailed from Bangladesh’s southern port of Chittagong for the remote island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal.

Police escorted the refugees in 11 buses from Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar for the journey to Chittagong port and then on to Bhasan Char – a flood-prone island that emerged from the sea 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh stated that it is only moving refugees who are willing to go and that this will ease chronic overcrowding in camps that are home to more than one million Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.

Will Get Supplies from Abroad If Assam Border Blockade not Eased: Mizoram

Mizoram has hardened its stand on the rift in the Assam-Mizoram border and has said that it will get essential supplies from neighbouring countries- Myanmar and Bangladesh if the blockade of trucks in Assam is not eased.

It is to be mentioned that post the incident, hundreds of trucks carrying essential commodities to Mizoram have been stranded at the inter-state border since October 16, however, there has been no fresh violence but tension persists in the border districts.

"In view of the blockade of the national highway, which is the lifeline of essential goods for the people of Mizoram, the Chief Minister mentioned that this would necessitate the government to explore possibilities of transporting essential goods through the neighbouring states of Manipur and Tripura, and even from the neighbouring countries of Myanmar and Bangladesh," a Mizoram government statement said.

The Assam government has said it is committed to restoring normalcy along the inter-state border with Mizoram.

The Assam Police's Special DGP (Border), Mukesh Agarwal, said the situation at the border is under control, with no further incident in the past 24 hours. He promised adequate protection to the people living close to the border.

Global Hunger Index 2020: India Ranks 94 Below Pak, Nepal & Bangladesh

India now ranks 94th among 107 countries in terms of hunger, and continues to be in the ‘severe’ hunger category according to the Global Hunger Index 2020.

According to the study, 14% of India’s population is undernourished.

Last year, India’s GHI rank was 102 out of 117 countries. South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara have the worst hunger conditions among global regions, the GHI found.

The GHI is “a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and national levels”. Data from the United Nations and other multilateral agencies are used for the calculation.

India ranks lower than most of its South Asian neighbours – Pakistan (88), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (75), Sri Lanka (64) and Myanmar (78) – and only Afghanistan fares worse, at 99th place. The statistics for Bhutan are not available.

HBO, WB TV Channels to be Discontinued in India

WarnerMedia International has announced that it will be pulling off its movie channels in India, Pakistan, Maldives and Bangladesh from 15 December 2020. The channel line-up includes HBO (SD and HD) and WB.

The group will continue to operate and invest more in its kids brands Cartoon Network and Pogo in the South Asia region, including increasing local animation production.

Siddharth Jain, SVP and MD, Warner Media South Asia, said, “After 20 years of successes for the HBO linear movie channel in South Asia and more than a decade with the WB linear movie channel, this was a difficult decision to make,” Siddharth Jain, SVP and MD, Warner Media South Asia, said. “The pay-TV industry landscape and the market dynamics have shifted dramatically, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for further change.”

WarnerMedia will retain employees based in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru to handle its kids channel operations, sales and marketing, and also the distribution of CNN International, stated the network in its statement.

Warner’s decision to close the linear channel in India comes at a time of speculation that another Hollywood studio, Disney will scale back its production operations in the country through the possible closure of Fox Star Studios.

Earthquake measuring 5.3 magnitude on Richter scale hits Northeast and Bangladesh

Guwahati: The Guwahati city along with other parts of the Northeast and neighbouring country Bangladesh was rocked by an earthquake of 5.3 magnitude at around 11:08 pm on Saturday night.

As per National Center for Seismology (NCS), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India, the earthquake occurred at depth of 28 km from the surface at Tamenglong in Manipur.

No casualties or damages have been reported so far.

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First inland shipping cargo on way to Tripura from Bangladesh

Agartala: The Inland Waterway Protocol Route between Daukandi in Bangladesh and Sonamura in Tripura was made operational on Thursday, setting a new mark in the relationship between India and Bangladesh.

A government release stated, "Bangladeshi vessel, MB Premier carrying cement started from Daukandi on September 3, 2020, and will reach Sonamura on September 5, 2020, traversing 93 km along the river Gumti. This would be the first-ever export consignment from Bangladesh to Tripura through the inland waterways."

The Protocol for Inland Water Trade & Transit (PIWTT) was signed between the two countries in 1972 for inland waterways connectivity to enhance bilateral trade. An addition to PIWTT in May 2020 provided for additional routes including the 93 km Sonamura-Daudkhandi stretch of the Gumti River.

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