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Indian Origin Srinivas Gokulnath, Amit Samarth Create History By Completing World’s Toughest Cycle Race Across America

More than twelve Indian riders qualified for RAAM in the past decade through special rides that take place in different regions like the Deccan plateau, the Thar desert and the hills of southern India

Gokulnath is the first indian to cross Race Across America
Mountain Biking. Pixabay
  • Srinivas Gokulnath marked history by becoming the first Indian to complete the toughest cycle race in the world – RAAM
  • Dr Amit Samarth  trailed behind him at the finish line
  • Gokulnath stood 7th amongst the nine men who finished whereas Samarth stood 8th

June 27, 2017: Srinivas Gokulnath marked history by becoming the first Indian to complete what is known to be the toughest cycle race in the world. He completed 4900 km Race Across America (RAAM) in solo category in the stretch of Eleven days, 18 hours and 45 minutes after setting out from California.

Dr Amit Samarth of Nagpur, trailed behind him at the finish line at Annapolis on American east coast around midnight today as per the Indian Standard time.

Gokulnath, a doctor by training, is an aerospace medicine professional working with the Army in Nashik. He was timed out last year after pedalling at RAAM for nearly 3,000 km. Samarth, on the other side, completed the race in his earliest trial. Apart from Rizvi and Gokulnath, Sumit Patil from Alibag was the only one to have tried the race in the past.

Springing from the moderate weather on the Pacific Coast, the race opens the furnace-like Mojave Desert, crosses through parched Arizona, freezing mountain passes in Colorado, windy plains in Central America, and ultimately, the Appalachian Mountains test the riders before they reach the Atlantic coast on the east.

Gokulnath stood 7th amongst the nine men who finished whereas Samarth stood 8th. Christoph Strasser stood out as the winner of the race.

Team Sahyadri Cyclists, from Gokulnath’s hometown of Nashik, ceased the race in the 4-men category in eight days and ten hrs today.

According to PTI report, riders have to pedal over 400 km a day to finish the race in the stipulated 12 days. Fatigueness and hallucinations are not uncommon with so much unrest.

“I am relieved…that is the feeling I am going through right now,” said Lt Colonel Gokulnath at the finish line.

In the history of three-decade, only three Indians had endeavoured RAAM solo, however, none could reach the finish line. The first Indian to try RAAM solo, Samim Rizvi also participated this year but couldn’t complete. Gokulnath stated he went through the upheaval of emotions right from the inception of the race, which he called a relentless effort from the moment one signs up for it.

More than twelve Indian riders qualified for RAAM in the past decade through special rides that take place in different regions like the Deccan plateau, the Thar desert and the hills of southern India.

After qualifying the RAAM, one has to endure exhausting training sessions for several months and do simulated multi-day rides with a uniquely collected crew. One also requires for arranging the finances that run up to over Rs 20 lakh for the race and more for training, mentioned PTI report.

Satish Patki, who virtually introduced distance cycling in the country over a decade ago, congratulated the finishers saying the resources required make it an exclusive club, but there is a huge dormant for endurance riding in India too which can be traversed by conducting domestic races.

– prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94



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Insurance Claims From California’s Wildfire At $9 Billion

State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from the damaged properties.

California, Insurance
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones talks about the costs of recent wildfires during a news conference in Sacramento, California. VOA

Insurance claims from last month’s California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state’s insurance commissioner announced Wednesday.

About $7 billion in claims are from the Camp Fire that destroyed the Northern California city of Paradise and killed at least 86 people, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in at least a century. The rest is from the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California.

Collectively, the fires destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 structures, with the vast majority in and around Paradise. On Tuesday, state and federal authorities estimated it will cost at least $3 billion just to clear debris.

“As the claims get perfected, as individuals get access to their former homes and neighborhoods, as they dialogue with their insurance companies and share more information about the scope of their loss, we expect these numbers to rise,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said of the $9 billion estimate.

California, Wildfire, Insurance
Jennifer Christensen sorts through items found in a safe at the remains of her home Dec. 5, 2018, in Paradise, California. VOA

Over 28,000 claims

There are more than 28,000 claims for residential personal property, nearly 2,000 from commercial property and 9,400 in auto and other claims for the fires.

That’s well above the number of claims filed following a series of fires that tore through Northern California’s wine country last year. Losses from those fires were initially pegged at $3.3 billion but eventually grew to $10 billion.

While the Camp Fire destroyed about double the number of structures as the 2017 fires, home values in Butte County are far lower than those in Sonoma County. That’s part of the reason total claims may seem low compared to the 2017 figures, Jones said. Median home values in Sonoma County are more than double those in Butte.

Jones advised home owners to be cautious of “fraudsters and scam artists” trying to take advantage of vulnerable communities.

California, Fire prevention, wildfires, Insurance, rain
A controlled burn ignites pine trees on the “Rough Fire” — which closed camps east of Fresno at Hume Lake as it crossed Highway 180 — in the Sequoia National Forest in California, Aug. 21, 2015. VOA

He also said its time for California to start rethinking how and if it builds in fire-prone areas. Ken Pimlott, outgoing director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told The Associated Press this week the state should consider banning construction in vulnerable areas.

Jones said local governments may not be fully considering the long-term impacts of building in areas at high risk of fire, floods and rising sea levels.

“That’s going to be a hard conversation. Everybody likes to build new, people obviously want to rebuild their communities,” he said. “We’re in a new era where these risks are so bad I think we’ve really got to take a look at how we’re making these decisions.”

Cause of fire remains unknown

Authorities are still determining what caused the fire.

Pacific Gas & Electric told regulators that a high-voltage power line malfunctioned at the time and spot that investigators believe the fire started on Nov. 8.

California, Fire prevention, wildfires, Insurance
Joe Balog, a workforce management director at Travelers, examines weather, social media and other data from recent natural disasters inside the company’s catastrophe response command center in Windsor, Connecticut. VOA

The San Francisco-based utility told the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday that several miles away workers found a fallen power pole and equipment with bullet holes.

86 deaths linked to fire

A number of fire victims have filed lawsuits alleging that PG&E’s equipment started the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

The cleanup costs for last month’s fires will far surpass the record expense of $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said the state will manage cleanup contracts this time. Last year, hundreds of Northern California homeowners complained that contractors paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt and damaged unbroken driveways, sidewalks and pipes.

The state OES spent millions repairing that damage.

California, School
Trees reflect in a swimming pool outside Erica Hail’s Paradise, Calif., home, which burned during the Camp Fire. VOA

Lesson learned

Ghilarducci said the state OES will hire auditors and monitors to watch over debris removal in hopes of cutting down on the number of over-eager contractors.

“We learned a great number of things,” last year, Ghilarducci said.

Also Read: Insurance Company’s Response To Wildfire Claims Better Due to Technology

He said the U.S. Corps of Engineers was asked to lead the effort last year because state resources were stretched thin after responding to more than a dozen wildfires. This year, he said state officials can manage the cleanup and costs will be shared among state, federal and local authorities.

Cleanup is expected to begin in January and take about a year to complete. State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from the damaged properties. (VOA)