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TTC union sounds alarm on safety of Presto gates in emergencies

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL AND ROSHNI MURTHY | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

A heated debate is underway concerning passenger safety on the TTC.

This comes as ATU Local 113, the union representing TTC employees, sounds the alarm over personal safety concerns since the Presto system was implemented at subway stations across the city.

Kevin Morton, the union’s secretary-treasurer, says the TTC’s Presto fare gates are not patched into fire panels at a number of stations, meaning when an alarm is pulled the doors will not automatically open to allow people out.

“If these gates don’t open properly I think you can just use your imagination to say you’re going to have a lot of people trying to get through and it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” he claims. “This is outright negligence on somebody’s part.”

But the transit commission disagrees. Spokesperson Brad Ross confirms the gates are not patched into the alarm system but claims, “[The union is] creating a fear that is not necessary for the public. The fare gates are safe.”

Toronto Fire and the TTC tell CityNews customers do have a way out in the event of an emergency. A manual hatch is available that allows the gates to open, allowing 10 passengers out of the gates at a time. For approximately every 10 people exiting the gates, the doors briefly close then re-open.

Though the TTC is working on retro-fitting the system to eventually patch Presto fare gates into the fire system, Morton suggests the whole process is flawed.

“I’d like to know how this system was developed and the technology wasn’t married with our existing technology for the safety of our passengers. It’s ludicrous,” he says.

“We would argue that the new fare gates that we see in our stations today make exiting in an emergency less cumbersome than a turnstile or at an auto entrance,” asserts Ross.

CityNews has also learned fire alarms are not in place at three Toronto subway stations, yet their nonexistence does not break provincial fire codes due to the stations’ age.

Midland, Ellesmere and Glencairn – all outdoor stations – were built before fire regulations were implemented and they are still in the process of being retrofitted to meet current regulations. This does not contravene with provincial building codes, according to Toronto Fire’s Deputy Chief.

The system, built in 1954, did not have fire alarm regulations when these stations were constructed.

But in the interim, claims Ross, “If there’s an emergency people…will be shown out of the station by TTC staff.”

The three stations will be getting fire alarm systems installed in the near future in accordance with the TTC’s Fire Safety program.

Police investigating after posters threaten Leslieville dog owners

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Posters have appeared in Leslieville threatening dog owners
Police are investigating after a series of disturbing posters appeared in Leslieville targeting dog owners.

The threat is aimed at dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets. It reads in part, “To the person that lets their large dog use this area for a bathroom and will not pick up after the dog. Please be warned we have dropped small treats in the grass that will make your dog REAL SICK.”

Poster found in the Leslie Street and Mosley Street area threatening dog owners

The posters, which have been spotted in the Leslie and Mosley streets area, goes on to say that dogs who ingest the treats will start to vomit and should be taken to the vet immediately. It says while dog’s won’t die, they will become “real sick.”

Police say they have not received any reports of dogs getting sick.

Boy, 5, dies after falling off bike and being struck by vehicle

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Lakeshore Boulevard where a 5-year-old boy was struck and killed while riding his bike (CityNews)
A five-year-old boy has died in hospital after police say he fell off his bike and was struck by a vehicle in Parkdale on Wednesday.

It happened around 6:30 p.m. at Lake Shore Boulevard West and Jameson Avenue.

Police say he was riding his bicycle westbound on the bike path when he fell into live traffic. He was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries, but eventually succumbed to his injuries.

The driver of the vehicle remained on the scene but there’s no word on whether any charges will be laid.

Lake Shore in both directions between Jameson and Parkside Drive was closed for several hours as police wrapped up their investigation.

Massive fire at Cherry Street recycling plant sends smoke plume over Toronto

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, May 25th, 2017

A fire at a Cherry Street solid waste facility sent a massive plume of smoke over Toronto on May 25, 2017. CITYNEWS
Toronto firefighters are on the scene – but not inside the building – of a massive fire at a Cherry Street recycling plant.

The fire began at the GFL Solid Waste Transfer Station near Polson Pier around 1 a.m. on Thursday.

“The material here is mixed. It’s really hard, if not impossible, for us to know exactly what the contents are,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said.

“There’s also a used mattress storage facility [nearby].”

It’s too dangerous for crews to go inside, so firefighters are fighting from land and from a fire-boat. There’s also a danger the building could collapse.

Employees were inside the building at the time, but everyone got out. Two employees were assessed at the scene and released, and no injuries have been reported, Pegg said.

People across the downtown reported seeing and smelling smoke, and seeing ashes, several kilometres west of the fire, all the way to Lake Shore Boulevard and Windermere Avenue.

Pegg said people are reporting smelling smoke as far away as Etobicoke.

“We’re not aware of any significant hazard in the smoke plume,” Pegg said.

The Ministry of the Environment has been notified but has not been called in.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Military presence stepped up as Britain faces raised threat

Military presence stepped up as Britain faces raised threat | posted Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Britons will find armed troops at vital locations after the official threat level was raised to its highest point following a suicide bombing that killed 22.

Officials say soldiers will be deployed to places like Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament. They will replace armed police as Operation Temperer takes effect Wednesday.

Officials believe this will free up police to fight the threat of further extremist action against civilian targets, amid fears that another attack may be imminent

Police are trying to determine whether suicide bomber Salman Abedi acted alone when he set off his explosives at the end of a pop concert at a Manchester arena. The government Tuesday night raised the threat to “critical”, its highest level, following an emergency Cabinet session.

Related stories:

Terrorism at centre stage as Trudeau heads to Europe for NATO, G7 summit
Warning of ‘imminent’ attack, Britain raises threat level
Canadian band Broken Social Scene play in Manchester one day after attack


Warning of ‘imminent’ attack, Britain raises threat level


British Prime Mininster Theresa May’s Manchester Bombing Statement at 10 Downing Street, London, UK. May 23, 2017. IMAGE: Alan Davidson/SilverHub/REX/Shutterstock
As officials hunted for accomplices of a suicide bomber and Britain’s prime minister warned another attack could be “imminent,” thousands of people poured into the streets of Manchester in a defiant vigil Tuesday for victims of a blast at a pop concert – the latest apparent target of Islamic extremists seeking to rattle life in the West.

The attack left at least 22 dead, including an 8-year-old girl, shattering the revelry at a show by American singer Ariana Grande, where strains of electric pop and the sways of innocent young fans quickly gave way to an explosion, a flood of screams and a stampede of panicked concert-goers, many clutching pink balloons and wearing the kitten-ear headbands popularized by Grande.

Touching on that disconnect, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage.”

May said Britain’s terror threat level had been raised to critical _ meaning another attack may be imminent. The status means armed soldiers could be deployed instead of police at public events including sports matches. The threat level had been at the second-highest rung of “severe” for several years.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the blood bath Monday, though a top American intelligence official said the assertion could not be verified. Manchester Police Chief Ian Hopkins identified the bomber as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, who authorities said died in the attack. Police raided two sites in the northern English city, setting off a controlled explosion in one, and arresting a 23-year-old man in a third location.

May said Abedi was born and raised in Britain and a European security official said he was of Libyan descent. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on ongoing investigations.

At least 20 heavily armed, helmeted police surrounded a modest red brick house listed as Abedi’s address in a mixed Manchester suburb at midday on Tuesday and blasted down the door.

“It was so quick. These cars just pulled up and all these police with guns, dogs, jumped out of the car and said to us: ‘Get in the house now,”’ said Simon Turner, 46, who lives nearby. Later, forensic officers in white coveralls were seen going in and out of the property.

Details on Abedi were slow to trickle out. He was described by neighbours as a tall, thin young man who often wore traditional Islamic dress, but few said they knew him well.

Alan Kinsey, 52, who lives across the street, said his neighbour would often get picked up by another young man in a Toyota and often returned late at night. “I thought he worked in a takeaway or something” because of his late hours, Kinsey said.

Police also searched an apartment in a nearby area that British media reported belonged to Abedi’s brother, Ismail.

Late Tuesday, thousands of people, some holding up signs proclaiming “I Love MCR” _ an abbreviation for Manchester _ held a moment of silence at a vigil for the victims. Lord Mayor Eddy Newman and the city’s police chief were among the speakers in front of City Hall in Albert Square, where a banner with a website for a Muslim group said “Love for all, Hatred for None.”

May called raising the country’s terror threat level and deploying soldiers to patrol key sites a “proportionate and sensible response” to the suicide bombing. There are two major sports events in London on Saturday, with Wembley Stadium hosting soccer’s FA Cup final, which Prince William is due to attend, and Twickenham hosting rugby’s Premiership final.

Monday’s bombing made Manchester Arena, one of the largest indoor concert venues in Europe, the latest apparent target of Islamic extremists striking at the heart of Western culture, an ideology baffling to the panicked young faces emerging from the concert.

Among those confirmed killed was Georgina Callander, whose death was reported by her former school, which posted a photo of her in her school uniform on its website and described her as a “lovely” and “very popular” young woman. Also killed was 8-year-old Saffie Roussos, who a teacher called “simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word” who was warm, kind, “and unassuming, with a creative flair.”

The little girl’s mother and sister were among the 59 wounded, which included at least 12 children under the age of 16.

Grande, who was not injured in the blast, tweeted: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

The bombing took place after Grande closed the show with “Dangerous Woman” and left the stage and the audience streamed toward the city’s main train station. It scattered bolts and other metal scraps, apparently intended to maximize the bloodshed. People tumbled over guardrails and one another clawing toward an escape.

“There was this massive bang. And then everyone just went really quiet. And that’s when the screaming started,” said 25-year-old Ryan Molloy. “As we came outside to Victoria Station, there were just people all over the floor covered in blood.”

The attack sparked a nightlong search for loved-ones _ parents for the children they had accompanied or had been waiting to pick up, and friends for each other after groups were scattered by the blast. Twitter and Facebook lit up with heartbreaking appeals for the missing.

“I’ve called the hospitals. I’ve called all the places, the hotels where people said that children have been taken and I’ve called the police,” Charlotte Campbell tearfully told ITV television’s Good Morning Britain breakfast show. Campbell’s 15-year-old daughter, Olivia, had attended the show with a friend who was wounded and being treated in a hospital.

“She’s not turned up,” Campbell said of her daughter. “We can’t get through to her.”

Hayley Lunt, who brought her 10-year-old daughter Abigail to the show, her very first concert, said they ran as fast as they could once the explosions rang out. “What should have been a superb evening,” Lunt said, “is now just horrible.”

Some concert-goers said security had been haphazard before the show, with some people being searched and others not. However, authorities would not say whether the bomber blew himself up inside or outside the arena, so it wasn’t clear if rigorous bag screening or additional security would have helped prevent the deaths and injuries. The venue tweeted on Monday night that it happened “outside the venue in a public space.”

Around the United Kingdom and across Europe, the attack brought fear and mourning.

At Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II marked a moment of silence alongside her husband Prince Philip as well as Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. In Rome, the lights of the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain were darkened.

U.S. President Donald Trump, on a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, called the perpetrators “evil losers” and said “this wicked ideology must be obliterated.”

Manchester, 160 miles (260 kilometres) northwest of London, is one of Britain’s largest cities. The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in 2005.

Islamic State’s claim of responsibility echoed others the group has made for attacks in the West but with vague details that left open the possibility it was an opportunistic attempt at propaganda. Manchester itself has seen terror before, but not this deadly. The city was hit by a huge Irish Republican Army bomb in 1996 that levelled a swath of the city centre. More than 200 people were injured, although no one was killed.

The bombing also elicited painful memories of the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, where most of the 130 killed were at the Bataclan concert hall.

Canadian band Broken Social Scene play in Manchester one day after attack

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

FILE–Members of the band Broken Social Scene perform during the Juno awards in Halifax, N.S. Sunday April 2, 2006. The band played at Manchester’s Albert Hall on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, one day after the bombing at Manchester Arena. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian indie rock band Broken Social Scene has played the first show of their European tour in Manchester.

The performance comes a day after a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in the British city killed 22 people and wounded dozens more.

The Toronto band headlined at Albert Hall on Tuesday night, which is a little more than two kilometres south of where the terrorist attack took place at the Manchester Arena.

Before the show began, the venue posted an update on its website saying it would continue its programming for the week, and management was in regular communication with police to enhance security.

Broken Social Scene shared a message on social media ahead of the show saying: “Tonight, we play for the hearts of Manchester.”

English musician Johnny Marr joined them onstage at one point to sing “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl.”

“What’s most important is tonight we’re here together, all of us,” lead vocalist Kevin Drew told the crowd. “There’s no other place we’d rather be than here with you.”

Monday’s explosion at the Grande concert sparked a stampede of young concertgoers, some still wearing the American singer’s trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons.

Authorities said an eight-year-old girl was among the dead.

Grande, who was not injured in the blast, tweeted after the attack, “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

Drake was one of several Canadian stars with teenage followings who voiced sympathy and solidarity Tuesday for those affected by the bombing.

Teen idol Shawn Mendes and pop singers Justin Bieber and Alessia Cara all took to Twitter with messages of support.

Air Canada Centre adding more security staff after Manchester bombing

DAVID FRIEND, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Pedestrians walk past the Air Canada Centre as a screen projects an image of the Toronto Maple Leafs logo in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese.
Heightened security is planned for Toronto’s Air Canada Centre after the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.

Dave Haggith, a spokesman for the ACC’s owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, says more security staff will be on the grounds at upcoming events.

He declined to offer details on whether other security measures would also be taken. Toronto police say they have no reason to believe there’s an increased threat level in the city.

The move follows the concert attack late Monday, which left 22 people dead and caused mass panic at the Manchester Arena.

Haggith says the ACC regularly works with local and national law enforcement to monitor any perceived threats.

In recent years, the venue began ramping up security with walk-through metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs.

“You’re going to find every venue is at a heightened awareness,” Haggith says.

“Something like the incident that happened yesterday brings a much more public focus to it.”

In the wake of the Manchester concert bombing, CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial looks at the security concerns around large venues like the ACC, Rogers Centre, and BMO Field. Watch the video below or click here.


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