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MUMBAI, India, September 20, 2018 (News Wires) --  At least 30 passengers on a Jet Airways Mumbai-Jaipur flight suffered ear and nose bleeding due to low cabin pressure during the ascent here on Thursday, an official said.

The flight 9W-697 with 166 passengers and five crew, was forced to return back to Mumbai shortly after take-off, said a Jet Airways spokesperson.

Several passengers complained of severe headaches and at least 30 reported bleeding from nose and ears and were immediately administered first-aid by a team of doctors at the airport.

Airline sources said that the incident may have happened after the crew reportedly missed activating what is called a 'bleed switch' before take-off, leading to the disturbance in the cabin pressure with oxygen masks getting deployed.

The Jet Airways said it has taken the concerned crew off-duty pending a probe into the incident. An investigation by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was also launched.

KERALA, India, September 16, 2018 (News Wires) -- With mercury levels rising and abnormal drying up of rivers and wells reported in flood-hit Kerala, the state government has decided to conduct scientific studies on the post-flood phenomenon in the state.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has directed the State Council for Science, Technology & Environment to carry out studies on the phenomenon after floods across the state and suggest possible solutions to the problems.

A series of issues including soaring mercury level, unprecedented dip in water level of rivers, sudden drying-up of wells, depletion of groundwater reserves and mass perishing of earthworms have caused widespread concern in various parts of Kerala after the devastating deluge last month.

The flood-battered Wayanad district, known for its rich biodiversity, recently witnessed the mass perishing of earthworms, causing concern among farmers who attributed it to the rapid drying up of earth and change in soil structure.

Many rivers including Periyar, Bharathapuzha, Pampa and Kabani, which were in a spate during the days of flood, are now getting dried up and their water level has decreased abnormally.

Besides the drying up of wells, their caving in was also reported in many districts.
The flood had altered the topography of the land in many places and km-long cracks had been developed especially in high range areas of Idukki and Wayanad which had witnessed a large number of landslides.

It's happening because the flood moved mountains of sediment and riverbed soil, changing the balance between surface and groundwater, according to geologists and water resources experts.

"Surface soil plays an important role in seepage of rainwater to the ground. Heavy flooding might have washed away the upper sandy soil into the sea," P Nandakumaran, a member of Central Ground Water Board in Delhi, was quoted as saying in Times of India.

After floods, drought condition was also predicted by experts in many districts of the southern state.

"The Centre for Water Resources Management has been assigned the task of studying fall in water levels, changes in groundwater and land cracks," Vijayan, who is under treatment in US, said in a Facebook post.

The topic of biodiversity renovation has been assigned to the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Kerala Forest Research Institute and the Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute for Plant Sciences, he said.

The study of issues related to roads and bridges had been entrusted with the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre.

The Council was also asked to study separately the structural changes to environment in terms of biodiversity and changes in the habitat of animals and plants and its impacts, the Chief Minister added.

According to official figures, a total of 491 people were killed in monsoon rains in Kerala since May 29.

NEW DELHI, Sept 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Fifty people died when a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims plunged into a valley in southern India on Tuesday, one of the deadliest accidents on the country’s notorious roads in recent years.

Road crashes in India claim the lives of more than 150,000 people each year. Most accidents are blamed on poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

The bus carrying 80 people was returning from the famous Hindu temple of Kondagattu Anjaneya Swamy in the hilly southern state of Telangana when it skidded off the road.

Broken glass, slippers and luggage lay scattered next to lifeless bodies that were lined up at the scene, as locals pulled out survivors from the mangled vehicle.

They then carried them uphill to get medical attention.

 

NEW DELHI, September 6, 2018 (News Wires) - The United States and India began talks in New Delhi to deepen political and security ties on Thursday, with officials hoping for an accord on military communications that could lead to increased US arms sales to the South Asian giant.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a two-plus-two setting.

The world's two largest democracies have drawn closer in recent years, seeking ways to counter-balance China's spreading influence across Asia, notably in Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

"My visit is a firm indicator of what we see as India's place among our most strategic, and I would even call them 'consequential' emerging partners," Mattis told reporters travelling with him to New Delhi.

Before coming to India, Pompeo held talks in Islamabad with Pakistan's new government and senior most generals.

The presence of US troops in Afghanistan has heightened US sensitivity to the rivalry between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. And, Washington and New Delhi share concerns over Pakistan-based anti-Western and anti-Indian Islamist militant groups.

Both the Indian and US governments are keen to sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which could open up the way for sales of more sensitive US military equipment to India.

"We have been discussing how we can more openly communicate back and forth because of the sensitivity of some of the technology... we have to know that when we share this with another like-minded nation, that we can keep it secure," Mattis said.

"I think that we're pretty much there already, on the American side," Mattis added.

The United States has emerged as India's second largest arms supplier, closing $15 billion worth of deals in the past decade,

Once the communications accord is in place it could lead to the sale of an armed version of Guardian drones, as Washington has so far only authorised the sale of unarmed, surveillance versions of the aircraft.

Experts believe the signing of the agreement could also reduce the chances of the United States imposing sanctions on India for looking to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

The United States has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, under which any country engaged with its defense and intelligence sectors could face secondary US sanctions.

However, a new defense bill proposes giving the US president authority to grant waivers when national security interests are at stake.

The United States is also pushing countries to halt oil imports from Iran after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers that was intended to stall Tehran's developing nuclear capabilities.

India is Iran's top oil buyer after China, and it is seeking a waiver from the United States.

Ahead of the talks in New Delhi, a senior US State Department official said the United States was engaged in "very detailed conversations" with India over Washington's request to completely stop India's oil imports from Iran.

"We’re asking all of our partners, not just India, to reduce to zero oil imports from Iran and so I’m confident that will be part of our conversation with India," the official told reporters accompanying Pompeo.

Indian rupee hits new low

NEW DELHI, August 30, 2018 (News Wires) -- The Indian rupee plunged to a fresh record low to a US dollar during the morning trade session on Thursday.

Around 9.15am the Indian rupee was pegged at 70.80-81 to a US dollar.

On Wednesday, the Indian rupee had plunged to 70.65-66 -- the lowest-ever mark -- against the greenback..

The rupee has been steadily falling throughout 2018 after starting the year at 63.67.

Earlier this month it crossed 70 for the first time as India was buffeted by the turbulence of the Turkish financial crisis.

The rupee was not alone, with the currencies of other emerging economies heavily dependent on dollar-dominated foreign capital like Brazil, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil also slipping in August.

The rupee slump is widening India's current account deficit, when the value of imports exceeds that of exports.

India is a massive net importer of oil, securing more than two-thirds of its needs from abroad.

High oil prices have been squeezing the rupee, making it less appealing to investors, analysts say.

India's central bank has raised interest rates this year in part to help increase the value of the rupee.

AMMAN, Aug 20, 2018 (MENA) - King Abdullah II and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed, over the phone on Monday, boosting bilateral relations in all domains, according to a statement by the Royal Diwan.

The contact tackled distinguished relations between Jordan and India and expanding economic and investment cooperation.

King Abdullah expressed heartfelt condolences to the Indian premier over the victims of floods that hit the Indian State of Kerala lately and left 357 persons dead.

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