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School van turns into ball of fire in UP, 12 injured
BHADOI: At least 12 school going children received burn injuries including eight critically when a school van turned into a ball of fire in Gyanpur area of the district on Saturday morning. Police sources here said the van was ferrying children to a private school when the illegal LPG used as a fuel of the vehicle blasted near Nathaipur village. Of the injured children, three were rushed to Varanasi for treatment while rest were being treated at the district hospital. The driver of the van escaped after the incident. Police have registered an FIR against the driver and owner of the vehicle. (UNI)

Centre to launch tech challenge to address housing shortage
NEW DELHI: To address the issues related to housing shortage in a time-bound manner, the Centre will launch the ‘Global Housing Technology Challenge’ here on Monday, officials said. Union Housing and Urban Affairs (HUA) Minister Hardeep Singh Puri will launch the initiative under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U), Ministry Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra said. “Global Housing Technology Challenge-India will enable a paradigm shift in the country’s construction sector,” Mishra tweeted. “It will address issues related to housing shortage in a time-bound manner & focus on the need for emerging, cost effective & speedy construction technologies,” he said. The PMAY (U), launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2015, aims to ensure “Housing for all by 2022” by providing financial assistance to the beneficiaries. Around 68.5 lakh houses have been approved so far for construction under the PMAY (U). (PTI)

Delhi air pollution again reaches ‘severe’ levels
NEW DELHI: Owing to a rise in humidity and light winds, the overall air quality of the national capital slipped to the ‘severe’ zone on Saturday, despite the authorities predicting it would remain in the ‘very poor’ category.”Calm winds along with a spike in humidity levels because of an induced Cyclonic Circulation over Northern Plains are the major contributors for a hike in pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas,” Mahesh Palawat, Director at private weather forecasting agency Skymet told IANS.He said that the pollution levels might increase in the coming days as humidity levels are expected to go up due to rains in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.”Around January 13 and 14, moderate to dense fog is expected to make a comeback, which will result in high pollution levels and minimums will see a drop by a couple of degrees,” he said.However, the Skymet Director said that post January 15, the air quality might start improving due to cold, north-westerly winds which will blow over the plains of the country.The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), in its daily pollution analysis, has been maintaining that the air quality in Delhi won’t go beyond the ‘very poor’ category. (IANS)

Mild earthquake in Himachal Pradesh
SHIMLA: A low intensity earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale hit Himachal Pradesh on Saturday, with no reports of casualties or damage, an official said. The tremors were felt in several parts of Chamba district at 12.31 p.m., a meteorological department official told IANS here. The epicentre of the quake was the Chamba region, bordering Jammu and Kashmir. (IANS)

Giant whale washed ashore in Odisha
KENDRAPARA: A 40-feet-long endangered whale was washed ashore in an estuary close to Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, Forest department officials said Saturday. The gargantuan mammal weighed around 12 tonne. “It has become an uphill task for the Forest personnel to extricate the mammals body from the estuary near Talchua coast. We are planning to press into service a crane to remove the marine animals body,” said Forest Range Officer, Subrat Patra. The whale was washed ashore on Friday. The mammal’s body bore injury marks. The species figures in the list of threatened marine species. The mammal is a schedule-I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. We are still undecided whether to bury the carcass after its post mortem, said the forest official. As there are injury marks, the mammal might have perished after being hit by either ship or trawl propellers. (PTI)

Snowfall disrupts air, road traffic in Kashmir Valley
SRINAGAR: Fresh snowfall across the Kashmir Valley on Saturday disrupted air traffic at the Srinagar airport while the Srinagar-Jammu highway was closed for vehicular movement. The weather office has forecast an improvement from Sunday afternoon. Officials at Srinagar International Airport said due to poor visibility and continuing snowfall, morning flights to and from the airport were cancelled while all afternoon flights are delayed due to inclement weather. Even norma life has been effected due to heavy snow in cluding road and rail. (IANS)

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