25 die after New Delhi hospitals hit by oxygen shortage

A worker arranges medical oxygen cylinders to be transported to hospitals amid Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic at a facility on the outskirts of Chennai on April 24, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 25 April 2021

25 die after New Delhi hospitals hit by oxygen shortage

  • Patients asked to sign disclaimer forms as emergency supplies run low amid record virus surge
  • New Delhi police recovered oxygen cylinders from a house in the city amid reports of oxygen trucks being looted

NEW DELHI: A shortage of emergency oxygen at hospitals in New Delhi claimed 25 lives on Saturday, the second such incident in recent days, as the capital registered a record 348 deaths and more than 24,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours.

India also witnessed a new high in COVID-19 infections, with 348,000 positive cases and 2,634 deaths reported across the country on Saturday.

“Those patients were critically ill, and it happened in the critical care area,” Dr. D. K. Baluja, medical superintendent of the Jaipur Golden Hospital (JGH) in New Delhi, told Arab News on Saturday.

He blamed the incident, which took place late on Friday, on the failure of the government to supply the oxygen on time.

“We were promised 3.5 metric tons of oxygen from the government. The supply was to reach us by 5 p.m., but it arrived past midnight and by then 25 patients had died,” Baluja said.

The incident follows the deaths of 25 other patients at the Sri Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi under similar circumstances on Friday.
Amid the shortage in oxygen, some hospitals in the capital have begun asking patients’ relatives to sign declaration forms absolving them of all responsibility in case of death.

“In case of scarcity of oxygen, if any patient suffers, it will be the responsibility of the patient’s relatives and not the hospital,” Saroj Hospital said in a statement on Saturday, before issuing a plea for supplies to “save the lives of over 160 COVID-19 patients.”

“We have alerted our patients about the oxygen situation in our hospitals and other hospitals,” Dr. P. K. Bhardwaj, director of Saroj Hospital, told Arab News.

He said that emergency supplies in all hospitals were at “critical” levels, with most left “with only a few hours of oxygen.”
“The administration has completely collapsed because they failed to add any medical infrastructure in the last year. We are trying hard to procure oxygen, but no one is coming to help us,” he said.

Amid the shortage, there were reports of people hoarding oxygen cylinders to resell on the black market. A small cylinder costs around $170 — several times higher than the average rate.

On Saturday, New Delhi police recovered 32 large and 16 small oxygen cylinders from a house in the west of the city amid reports of oxygen trucks being looted at the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday.

“If anyone obstructs oxygen supply, we will hang that man,” the New Delhi High Court said on Saturday after hearing petitions from city-based hospitals that had asked the court to intervene.

The court also termed the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak as “a tsunami” before asking the federal government about its preparedness regarding infrastructure, hospitals, medical staff, medicines, vaccines and oxygen.

New Delhi’s local government told the court on Saturday that it needs 480 metric tons of oxygen every day, or “the health system will collapse.”

“Something disastrous will happen,” New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told the court, adding that the city had “received only 297 metric tons of oxygen on Friday.”

Experts blamed the authorities for a “lack of serious approach” in handling the pandemic.

Malini Aisola, a New Delhi-based healthcare expert and co-convenor of the All India Drug Action Network, a campaign for affordable drugs, said the present crisis was “a collapse of the health system.”

“Had the government done some planning and shown a serious approach toward public health, this crisis could have been averted,” Aisola told Arab News.

She said that a variety of emergency solutions is needed, including restoring essential supplies of oxygen, oxygenated beds, and providing medical support to patients who are unable to be accommodated in hospitals so that they can be stabilized and start treatment at home.


6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

Updated 16 October 2021

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

  • Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir
  • Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley

SRINAGAR, India: Assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in two targeted attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday night, police said, days after five people were killed in a similar fashion in the disputed region.
The killing comes hours after police said government forces killed four suspected militants in the last 24 hours and claimed three of them were involved in last week’s killings of three members of minority communities.
Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir and called the killings “terror attacks.”
In a first incident in Srinagar, police said militants fired at a Hindu street vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar. He died on the spot, police said.
An hour later, a Muslim worker from northern Uttar Pradesh state was shot and critically wounded in southern Litter village of Pulwama district. Police said he later died at a hospital.
Last week, assailants fatally shot three Hindus, a Sikh woman and a local Muslim taxi driver in the region in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.
Also Saturday, two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Pampore area, police said. Another two rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles with Indian troops in Srinagar and southern Pulwama district on Friday.
Police said three among the slain rebels were involved in the killings of prominent local Hindu chemist and two schoolteachers of Hindu and Sikh faiths.
Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley.
Meanwhile, the Indian army said the death toll in a gunfight with rebels that raged on Thursday in a forested area of southern Mendhar town climbed to four as troops Saturday recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in action.
On Monday, five Indian soldiers were killed in the deadliest gunbattle with militants this year in contiguous forested area of Surankote town.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said troops continued with search operations in both the areas.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.


Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

Updated 16 October 2021

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

  • Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that ‘crimes’ were committed on the night of October 17, 1961
  • Macron acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, ‘their bodies thrown into the River Seine’ and paid tribute to the memory of the victims

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday condemned as “inexcusable” a deadly crackdown by Paris police on a 1961 protest by Algerians whose scale was a taboo covered up for decades by French authorities.
Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that “crimes” were committed on the night of October 17, 1961 under the command of the notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon.
He acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, “their bodies thrown into the River Seine” and paid tribute to the memory of the victims.
The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.
Macron “recognized the facts: that the crimes committed that night under Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic,” the Elysee said.
“This tragedy was long hushed-up, denied or concealed,” it added.
Macron, the first French president to attend a memorial ceremony for those killed, observed a minute of silence in their memory at the Bezons bridge over the Seine on the outskirts of Paris where the protest started.
His comments that crimes were committed went further than predecessor Francois Hollande, who acknowledged in 2012 that the protesting Algerians had been “killed during a bloody repression.”
However, as expected, he did not issue a formal apology. He also did not give a public speech, with the Elysee issuing only the written statement.
Papon was in the 1980s revealed to have been a collaborator with the occupying Nazis in World War II and complicit in the deportation of Jews. He was convicted of crimes against humanity but later released.


Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

Updated 16 October 2021

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

  • Espen Andersen Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived
  • While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person

KONGSBERG, Norway: A bow-and-arrow attack in Norway that left five people dead this week appears to have been motivated by mental illness, authorities indicated Friday, as the perpetrator was ordered to be kept in a medical facility.
Espen Andersen Brathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalized, has confessed to the Wednesday killings in police questioning.
He was in custody in a medical facility on Friday pending a psychiatric evaluation.
“The strongest hypothesis after the first days of the investigation is that illness is in the background,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters on Friday.
Police were however keeping other possibilities open, and have investigated a range of motives including “anger, revenge, impulse, extremism, illness and provocation,” Omholt said.
The psychiatric evaluation, which could take several months, is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.
“This indicates that things are not exactly as they should be,” his lawyer Fredrik Neumann said, referring to his client’s mental health.
“A complete judicial assessment will clarify that,” he told the Norwegian newspaper VG.
Omholt said Friday that Brathen had admitted to the acts but did not admit guilt.
While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person.
“There is no doubt that (it) appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, said Thursday.
“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time.”
Four women and one man were killed and three people injured in the attack in the town of Kongsberg, and police said a bow and arrows and two other undisclosed weapons were used before he was arrested.
Brathan was known to PST, which is in charge of Norway’s anti-terrorism efforts, but few details have emerged about why. According to public broadcaster NRK, the first warning was in 2015.
“There were fears linked to radicalization previously,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters.
Those reports dated to last year or earlier, and police said they had followed up at the time.
Norwegian media reported that in 2018 the PST had warned that he could commit “a small-scale attack.”
It also said that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against him regarding his parents after threatening to kill his father, and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012.
Local media also unearthed a video Brathen allegedly posted on social media in 2017, in which he issued a “warning” and declared his Muslim faith.
Speaking anonymously, one of Brathen’s neighbors described him as a big person with a crew cut and a serious demeanour, who was always seen “alone.”
“No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring,” the neighbor told AFP.
Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived.
Flowers and candles were placed in front of the various crime scenes in Kongsberg, a town of 25,000 people still reeling from the attack.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who took office on Thursday following elections last month, visited the town on Friday.
“We stand together when crisis strikes. For those of who have political responsibility, the safety of our citizens is the most important thing,” he said in a speech.
Svein Westad, a 75-year-old pensioner wandered aimlessly on Hyttegata street, where two of his neighbors and close friends were killed in their homes.
“I’m totally broken into pieces, I cannot say anything more than that. I will never get over this,” he told AFP.
“They should have caught him immediately,” he said, referring to criticism against the police for arresting Brathen more than 30 minutes after the first reports came in.
Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.


Taliban pledge to step up security after deadly Daesh attack in Kandahar

Updated 16 October 2021

Taliban pledge to step up security after deadly Daesh attack in Kandahar

  • Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Fatima Mosque in Kandahar on Friday
  • Attack on the largest Shiite mosque in Kandahar came a week after a similar in the northern city of Kunduz

KABUL: Taliban authorities pledged to step up security at Shiite mosques as hundreds of people gathered on Saturday to bury the victims of the second Daesh suicide attack on worshippers in a week.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Fatima Mosque in Kandahar that saw a group of suicide bombers shoot their way into the mosque before blowing themselves up among the worshippers during Friday prayers.
A health official said the casualty toll from the attack stood at 41 dead and 70 wounded but could rise further. “Some of the wounded are in a critical condition and we are trying to transfer them to Kabul,” he said.
On Saturday, large crowds gathered to bury the white-shrouded victims in a mass grave in the southern city of Kandahar.
The head of Kandahar police said units would be assigned to protect the Shiite mosques which have so far been guarded by local volunteer forces with special permission to carry weapons.
“Unfortunately they could not protect this area and in future we will assign special security guards for the protection of mosques and Madrasas,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter by a Taliban spokesman.
The attack on the Fatima Mosque, the largest Shiite mosque in Kandahar, also known as the Imam Bargah mosque, came a week after a similar attack on a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz, which killed as many as 80 people.
Attacks on Shiite mosques and targets associated with the Hazara ethnic minority, who make up the biggest Shiite group in Afghanistan, were regular occurrences under the former Western-backed government.
There has been deep shock as the attacks have continued since the Taliban seized power in August, tarnishing the movement’s claim to have brought peace to Afghanistan after decades of war.
Since the takeover, Daesh have conducted dozens of operations, from small scale attacks on Taliban targets to large-scale operations such as Friday’s suicide bombing, killing scores of civilians


UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death

Updated 16 October 2021

UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death

LEIGH-ON-SEA: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday visited the church where lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death a day earlier in what police say they are treating as a terrorist attack.
Amess, 69, from Johnson's Conservative Party, was knifed repeatedly in the attack at about midday on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London, during a meeting with constituents.
Johnson, interior minister Priti Patel, and leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer were among those to lay flowers in tribute to Amess at the scene of the murder.
Johnson and Starmer stood side by side in a moment of silence before leaving. On Friday, Johnson said Britain had lost a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.
In a statement early on Saturday, police said the early investigation had revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamic extremism.
Police arrested a 25-year-old British man at the scene on suspicion of murder, adding it is believed he acted alone.
Amess in the second lawmaker in little over five years to be murdered while out meeting constituents, after Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in June 2016, a few days before Britain voted to leave the European Union.