Blasts at churches, hotels across Sri Lanka kill over 150, injure 500 on Easter Day; no immediate claims of responsibility

ICMD, April 21, 2019 At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed and 500 others hospitalized in Sri Lanka on Sunday when a string of blasts ripped through hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services. The first blast was reported at St Anthony's Shrine, a well-known Catholic church in the capital Colombo. A second deadly explosion was then confirmed at St Sebastian's, a church in the town of Negombo, north of the capital. Soon after, police confirmed that a third church in the town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital. A seventh blast was reported in Dehiwela, near the capital. The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility. Seventh blast reported at a hotel Police reports seventh explosion, the fourth at a hotel, following six reported at hotels and churches earlier in the day. The latest explosion is said to be at a hotel near the national zoo, which is in an area near the State capital Colombo. “There was an explosion in a hotel in Dehiwela near the zoo,” a police official told Reuters adding that there were no further details available. An eyewitness on local TV said he saw some body parts including a severed head lying on the ground near the hotel. Zoo officials declared the zoo closed after the blast. The first blast was reported at St Anthony's Shrine, a well-known Catholic church in the capital Colombo. A second deadly explosion was then confirmed at St Sebastian's, a church in the town of Negombo, north of the capital. Soon after, police confirmed that a third church in the town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital. -- IT/Intl News Agencies

Dr brought to treat Pakistan's ailing economy, information and interior ministries go in better hands? PTI's major reshuffle makes headlines

Indus Chronicle Report, April 19, 2019 No matter Islamabad refuted a few days ago information that there was any reshuffle on cards in the federal cabinet, the Prime Minister's Office announced it finally on Thursday with three key ministries seeing new faces--all of them with relevant experience no matter having no long history of being with PTI. These ministries are finance, interior, and information. Finance Minister Asad Umar whose ouster actually made a way for this reshuffle stepped down and the government took a few hours to make a new announcement Asad Umar is replaced with Hafeez Shaikh, Fawad Chaudhry with Firdous Asiq Awam and Shahryar Afridi with Ijaz Shah. Fawad has been given a portfolio of Science and Technology, Minister of state for interior Shehryar Afridi has now been named the Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron). Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh would the adviser on finance. The PTI government has also announced a federal interior minister for the first time, with the portfolio — earlier held by the PM himself — going to retired Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, who was appointed the federal minister for parliamentary affairs just last month. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who previously was the petroleum minister, has now been named the federal minister for aviation. Sarwar, according to informed sources, had threatened to quit the party if removed from the cabinet. He was, therefore, given the Aviation Division portfolio which was until then held by Federal Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Mian Soomro, a report claims. Azam Swati, who had resigned as the federal minister for science and technology last year, has been appointed as the federal minister for parliamentary affairs. His resignation had come after he was accused of using his influence in the transfer of a former capital police chief in the wake of his family's altercation with a family of slum dwellers. The prime minister, according to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division, has also appointed a trio of Special Assistants to the Prime Minister (SAPM). The notification states that Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan has been made the SAPM on Information and Broadcasting Division, while Dr. Zafarullah Mirza has been assigned the portfolio of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination. Meanwhile, Nadeem Babar will serve as the SAPM on Petroleum Division. Who is Abdul Hafeez Shaikh? Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh is an internationally renowned economist with more than 30 years of experience in economic policymaking, management, and implementation. Dr. Shaikh has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in economics from Boston University. He had worked at Harvard University and World Bank, where he was country head for Saudi Arabia and as a Senior Official advised 21 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. He served as the finance minister from 2010 to 2013 during the PPP government's rule. During his tenure as a federal minister, Dr. Shaikh completed 34 sale transactions worth Rs300 billion in banking, telecom, electricity, and manufacturing. In 2000-2002, he was the minister of finance, planning, and development of Sindh. He was then appointed as the minister for privatization and investment in the Pervez Musharraf administration.

Nine dead as rain, flash floods hit Balochistan; Torrential rains in lead to sewage spilling onto streets, making it difficult to commute

ICMD, Aapril 17, 2019 At least nine people, including two children, were killed on Tuesday in flash floods in different areas of Balochistan, a private TV channel reported. Three others were injured in the floods, according to Levis sources. Torrential rains in the province have led to sewage spilling onto the streets, making it difficult for the residents to commute. In Mastung, rains caused a truck and van collision, resulting in loss of 11 lives. Deputy Commissioner (DC) Dukki said water from the Alambar River has entered the Kuli Manzai district and has taken the shape of a flash flood, causing destruction of the houses. One man was killed in flooding in the Barkhan district. Residents have been shifted to safer places while emergency has been declared in the hospitals, the DC added. Irrigation authorities have said due to intermittent rain in the area, water in the Mankai Dam has exceeded the limit and has started overflowing through the spillway. Moreover, due to continuous rain in the Harnai district, the bridge connecting the district to the highway has been closed for commute. Land sliding has led to the closing of Mir Ali Khel DI Khan Road. Strong rains continue to lash Pishin, Barshor, Khanozai, Mulsim Bagh, Loralai, Musa Khel, Toba Achakzai, Toba Kakari, Shela Bagh and Qilla Abdullah areas. In the last 24 hours, the Pakistan Meteorological Department office has recorded 40mm rain in Sibbi, 39 mm rain Barkhan, 23 mm in Zhob, 20 mm in Turbat 20 and 10 mm in Quetta. A day earlier, at least five people had been killed and 36 others injured as parts of Karachi and its surrounding areas were besieged by gusty winds accompanied by a dust storm and light rain. The blustery winds had blown away roofs and uprooted electricity poles and trees in different parts of the megalopolis, causing traffic blockages. Incidents of wall and roof collapses had been reported in Korangi, Landhi, Malir, Lyari, PECHS, Peoples Chowrangi and Surjani Town of the port city.

Strong dust storm hits Karachi, three dead, 20 injured, uproots trees, blows away roofs in many areas of the city

KARACHI: ICR, April 15, 2019 At least three people were killed and 20 others injured as a strong dust storm hit Karachi Sunday night uprooting many trees and blowing away roofs in many areas of the city. it continued Monday morning making the atmosphere dusty, Incidents of wall and roof collapses were reported in Korangi, Landhi, Malir, Lyari, PECHS, Peoples Chowrangi and Surjani Town. A man died as a tree fell on him near Peoples Chowrangi, while two children were killed in separate incidents. Five students were injured and rushed to a nearby hospital as the roof of their school located on Tipu Sultan Road collapsed, rescue sources said. The imam of a mosque at the fish harbor was injured as the mosque's makeshift roof collapsed, sources said. Two people were injured in Landhi No 3 as a part of a wall of their house collapsed, rescue sources said. In Sarjani Town No 7, two people were injured as the roof of their house collapsed, rescue sources said. At least eight fishermen are missing after their boat overturned near Rehri Goth. The sudden dust storm came with howling gales and hampered visibility on numerous major roads. The wind was so strong that it ripped off tin walls and knocked out power cables in some localities, cutting off electricity. Strong winds with dust continued to gush on Monday morning with light rain in some areas, including Orangi Town and II Chundrigar Road. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Director Sardar Sarfaraz said, "Last night's dust storm was stronger than expected. Winds blew at a speed of 65km/h and reduced the visibility to 500 metres." "A western wind system is present is the city and winds are expected to blow at high speeds today as well," he added. "The western wind system will leave from the city by tomorrow evening." The PMD director further said that light rain is expected in the city during the day while rain with thunder is expected tonight and tomorrow. "Moderate rain with thunder is expected tonight and tomorrow morning in Karachi," he said. Some flights from Jinnah International Airport were canceled or delayed last night owing to the dust storm.

Bomb planted on a rail track near Jungshahi railway station in Thatta district, bomb disposal squad defuses 0.5kg bomb, two trains on route

THATTA: ICMD, April 14, 2019 Authorities found and defused a bomb planted on a rail track near the Jungshahi railway station in Thatta on Sunday, averting a possible targetted attack on the trains scheduled to run on the route. The bomb was discovered on a train track leading to Karachi, three kilometers from the Jungshahi railway station in Thatta. A bomb disposal squad dispatched from Hyderabad safely defused the 0.5kg bomb, SSP Thatta Shabbir Sethar said. The remote-controlled bomb could have targetted the Hazara Express and Zakaria Express scheduled on the route. Seven suspects were taken into custody following the incident, police added. Trains have been cleared to run from Karachi to interior Sindh and from Lahore and Rawalpindi to Karachi after the station was temporarily closed by the authorities earlier. -- TV channel reports