Sunday, June 22, 2008

Landslide - Guatemala (Guatemala City) JUN

GUATEMALA CITY, June 20 (Reuters) - A landslide at a garbage dump in the Guatemalan capital on Friday killed at least four people and injured six others who made their living by scavenging for food and recyclable goods, firefighters said.

"So far, we've pulled out four corpses but the people who work here say there are more people under the tonnes of garbage," said city fire department spokesman Mynor Rodas.

Hundreds of families make their living at the dump in Guatemala City, searching the garbage for food, recyclable metal and other discarded items they can sell.

Guatemala is in the midst of its annual rainy season, when dangerous landslides are common.

In 2005, a massive fire engulfed the dump after a cloud of methane gas exploded. After the fire, the city built a wall around the dump and prohibited children from working there. - Source

Flood - Philippine (Sibuyan) JUN

A ferry carrying more than 700 passengers has partially sunk off the coast of the central Philippine island of Sibuyan after being battered by huge waves caused by a typhoon, officials say.

Fengshen displaced thousands of people as flashfloods caused rivers to overflow

The MV Princess of the Star sent a distress signal late on Saturday after Typhoon Fengshen lashed the Pacific nation leaving at least 19 people dead.

Nanette Tansingco, mayor of the coastal town of San Fernando in Romblon province, said: "I sent a speedboat to check on the report, and they saw the boat submerged with a hole in the hull.

"They saw the name Princess of the Star and there were at least four bodies there," he told DZMM local radio.

Eleandro Madrona, a local congressman, said on local radio: "The ship sank 3km from the shoreline. So far, we have only found four dead, no survivors.

"I would assume people started to transfer to rubber boats after the captain abandoned the ship.

"You can only see the bow of the ship now, it's already down in the water," she said, citing accounts from villagers.

The 22,000 tonne ferry was carrying 626 passengers and 121 crewmembers.

Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, the Philippines coast guard chief, said the MV Princess of the Star was "dead in the water" after its engine failed around noon on Saturday near Sibuyan.

Port captain Nestor Ponteres said the ferry's owner Sulpicio Lines lost radio contact with the ship.

Rescue difficulty

A rescue vessel sent to the area was forced to return to its home port in Batangas city because of big waves, Commander Antonio Cuasito, Cebu coast guard spokesman, said.

Another rescue ship was sent from central Cebu city, where the Princess of the Star was headed when it left Manila late on Friday, but it was unclear when it would reach the area.

There are fears that the sinking of the vessels could vastly increase the number of casualties from Typhoon Fengshen.

At least 19 people were killed when flashfloods and landslides forced rivers to break their banks across the Philippines.

Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave the worst-affected areas on Saturday as heavy rains from the typhoon lashed the archipelago.

Ten people drowned and five were missing after a river burst its banks in Maguindanao province.

In Cotabato City, a man and a child were buried in a landslide at a rubbish dump, police said, while five other people were drowned.

Thousands of residents in the city of Iloilo were left stranded on rooftops after a dam burst.
'Worst flooding'

Serg Biron, an Iloilo congressman, told DZBB radio said: "I have received a lot of text messages appealing for helicopters, there are many people trapped on the rooftops.

Filipinos used inflated tires and rafts to keep afloat [AFP]
"This is the worst flooding that has hit Iloilo in history."

The National Power Corporation was forced to shut down its power plant in the area, triggering a blackout across the province, Nelson Hemona, the plant's manager, said.

Fengshen, the sixth typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, tore up trees and power lines across wide swathes of the country. Flights were cancelled and ships kept in harbour.

The storm forced more than 200,000 people to seek temporary shelter in the eastern Bicol region, a civil defence office said.

Gloria Arroyo, the country's president, ordered clean-up and rescue operations before leaving for an eight-day trip to the United States.

Government agencies were instructed to stockpile relief goods and state-run hospitals were put on alert.

Arroyo also ordered a crackdown on profiteers and hoarders of basic commodities, especially rice, in areas hit hard by the typhoon. - Source

Drought - Turkey (Mardin) JUN

The southeastern Anatolian region, which cultivates a large portion of Turkey’s crops, has suffered from drought over the last few years, leading to a serious decline in the country’s total annual harvest.

According to recent studies, because of the drought in this region, total wheat production in Turkey is expected to decrease by 20 percent and barley production by 30 percent in 2008.

Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB) Chairman Şemsi Bayraktar told Sunday’s Zaman in a phone interview last week that precipitation decreased by 15 percent between October 2007 and May 2008 across Turkey, adding that this drop was 44 percent in the southeastern Anatolia region. For him, this figure simply means that grain production in the region will be halved in 2008.

Precipitation has decreased by 18 percent in the eastern Anatolia region and 15 percent in the Mediterranean region in the first six months of 2008 compared to the same period last year, according to the State Meteorology Affairs General Directorate (DMİ). Bayraktar said the drought in Turkey is not restricted to the southeastern region; rather, the entire country is lacking in sufficient precipitation for a good harvest. Turkey’s agriculture chambers recently conducted a study to analyze the effects of drought at the level of provinces. According to this study, the rate of loss in grain production in 2008 to date has been 90 percent compared to the average production of provinces including Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Batman, Hakkari, Muş, Siirt, Şırnak, Gaziantep and Elazığ. The rate was 60 percent for lentil production.

Bayraktar said these provinces provide 13 percent of Turkey’s wheat, 16 percent of barley and 86 percent of lentils, adding that there has been close to a 90 percent decrease so far this year in the grain production of the southeastern region, which means there will be a decrease of 2.5 million tons in Turkey’s total wheat production.

Similarly, lentil production in the southeastern Anatolia region, which alone fills 86 percent of Turkey’s total lentil demand, also declined by 60 percent in the first half of the year. Considering that the average annual lentil production is 340,000 tons, a loss of 250,000 tons is a significant number.

“The government supplies the seeds, but the farmers do not have a penny to sow them in their fields,” said Şanlıurfa Chamber of Agriculture Chairman Halil Dolap, describing the situation of the farmers in the region. He said the government’s recent action plan to finish the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) should be taken into consideration within the context of increasing production in the entire Southeast. “This is also a national action plan like our struggle against the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party [PKK] terrorists. We need to solve our problems in cooperation.” Dolap said the steps the government had taken so far for their region were very important yet insufficient since although the government suspended loan repayments to public banks, 80 percent of the region’s farmers had borrowed from private banks, which are not so eager to offer postponement of payments for indebted farmers.

The barley production in the southeastern Anatolia region has declined by 90 percent in 2008 over the previous year, indicating that Turkey’s total barley production will be 1.4 million tons less. Similarly, Turkey’s total lentil production is also expected to go down by 250,000 tons as the production of this crop dropped by 86 percent in the first five months of 2008 in the southeastern Anatolia region compared to the region’s average production. A dramatic consequence of this was seen when the price of barley doubled this year, increasing from YKr 30 to YKr 60 per kilogram.

The cattle and sheep breeders in the region reacted against this increase, saying if barley prices continue to rise they will no longer be able to feed their cattle or sheep next winter. Cattle and sheep breeding is a major source of income among the farmers of the Southeast, and barley prices thus have tremendous significance for them.

Soil Products Office (TMO) President İsmail Kemaloğlu said they expect Turkey’s total barley production to be 6 million tons this year, which means it will need to import this grain during 2008. Turkey’s average annual barley production has varied between 8 and 9 million tons during the last decade. Noting that Turkey’s quota for wheat imports is 800,000 tons, Kemaloğlu said: “However, now is not the right time to import wheat as the wheat harvest season is continuing. We are negotiating with the US, Kazakhstan and Russia about it.”

Bayraktar said considering the drought in the central and southeastern Anatolia regions, the total production losses for 2008 are expected to be around 20 percent. “The 150 percent rise in fertilizer prices and over 30 percent increase in diesel prices drive the production costs of wheat. The farmers’ cost to produce one kilogram of wheat is YKr 61, and we want the TMO to set a price ceiling for these basic production inputs.” As a magnifying effect to this dramatic situation, wheat prices are also declining significantly, to slightly over YKr 50/kilogram. Worse than that, it is expected to drop even further as the harvest season starts, and this is simply a huge loss for the farmers.

As farmers suffer more from weak harvests, especially in the Southeast, Bayraktar said, everybody should learn their lessons from 2007’s drought and the government has to devise some ways to compensate for farmers’ losses. “The government has to determine how much the farmers will lose and act rapidly to cover these losses so that the farmers can survive. There should be no discrimination based on regions or products in delivering these benefits,” he further suggested.

The decrease in grain production in the world and in particular in Turkey is expected to increase the prices of grains this year and in following years; however nobody expects Turkey will have a supply shortage in grains, at least for 2008. Despite this fact, the prices may increase more than expected due to speculation. For this reason, according to Bayraktar, the TMO should follow a policy to protect both the producers and consumers. - Source

Tornado - USA (Georgia) JUN

SANDFLY, GA (WTOC) - From a distance the registration building at the Forest City Gun Club looked intact. But a closer look revealed just how devastating Thursday's Tornado really was. Big, plate windows blown out, the roof caved in, and a brick wall crumbled into a pile of rubble.

Office Manager, Teresa Moore, was less than 50 feet away, in the clubhouse, when the storm hit.

"The rain looked funny because it was coming in sideways, and then it started hailing," said Moore. "The hail got bigger and bigger, we were told to get away from the windows, about that time everything went black."

When Teresa emerged a few minutes later, she was shocked by what she saw. A shed blown to pieces, trees toppled over on the lawn, and the registration building partially collapsed.

But it wasn't until she walked around to the back of the building did she realize how strong the storm was. Part of the building was cracked, and moved off it's foundation.

"It's just devastating to look at it and to look at the grounds because the grounds are usually so pretty and all," she said.

In a WTOC exclusive we obtained aerial photos of all the damage. The building is a total loss and will have to be demolished.

The National Weather Service out of Charleston says the tornado blew the windows out, then lifted up the roof, crashing it back down onto the building. It's a consolation to the members to now know exactly what caused all this destruction. But now the real work begins.

The Forest City Gun Club is rich with history. The private club started in 1883. It moved out to the Sandfly area in the 1950's. It's the second biggest gun club, and the oldest organization, in the country.

Over 700 members call the grounds and clubhouse home. Teresa believes many of those members will be back to help them rebuild.

Teresa is just thankful no one was hurt.

"It was very amazing," she said. "Somebody upstairs was looking out for us."

The Forest City Gun Club is not sure when they'll be able to re-open. But they hope to hold more shoots in the near future. - Source

Tornado - China (Anhui) JUN

HEFEI, June 21 (Xinhua) -- A tornado lasting about five minutes in east China's Anhui Province has claimed one live and caused 18.5 million yuan (2.68 million U.S. dollars) of losses, said a local official on Saturday.

Forty-five people, including eight seriously wounded, were being hospitalized after the tornado hit Lingbi County on Friday, said the official with the Suzhou municipal bureau of civil affairs.

Local resident Xu Wencai, 76, died of injuries on the way to hospital.

The tornado, moving at a speed up to 132 km per hour, blasted several villages at 2:20 p.m. and blew down 650 houses and damaged960 others within five minutes.

More than 20,000 people were affected by the tornado, and 950 of them were relocated. - Source

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flood - USA (Iowa) JUN

Brandon Smith carries his two cats, Fry and Bender, to dry land from their flooded and evacuated home on June 11 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Rising flood waters swamped this central US river city on Friday, forcing residents to flee their homes and officials to abandon city hall amid a wider crisis that has left 20 dead. - Source

Earthquake - Japan (Iwate) JUN

KURIHARA, Japan (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake struck rural northern Japan on Saturday, killing at least three people, injuring more than 100 and sparking landslides, officials and media said.

The 7.2 magnitude quake struck at 8:43 a.m. (7:43 p.m. EDT Friday) in Iwate, a sparsely populated, scenic area around 300 km (190 miles) north of Tokyo, where buildings also shook faintly.

Dozens of aftershocks rocked the northern area and officials warned more strong quakes might be in store. But experts said the energy released by the quake was far smaller than the magnitude 7.9 earthquake that hit southwestern China on May 12, leaving nearly 87,000 people dead or missing.

"I was at home and we had finished eating breakfast," said Akira Nishimura, an official from the city hall in Kurihara.

"We got under the table", he said, referring to himself, his 4-year-old child and his wife.

One of the people killed was caught in a landslide, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters. A second man was hit by a car after running out of a building and a third was killed by falling rocks at a dam construction site.

Seven people were trapped in a hot-spring resort inn hit by a landslide but police had rescued five and were trying to get the other two out, NHK public TV reported.

Three more were missing at a work site after another landslide in Kurihara, Kyodo news agency reported, adding that more than 100 people were hurt throughout the quake-hit region.

Rail operator JR East said 2,000 were trapped on bullet trains that stopped between stations due to the quake. Some lines had resumed service but 1,000 passengers were still waiting on one stranded train, JR East said.

More than 300 people were cut off in remote areas after landslides blocked roads, and rescue helicopters were heading their way, media reports said.


A highway was closed and TV footage showed huge cracks in some roads, while others were swamped by landslides.

Experts said casualties could rise as reports came in from isolated areas but that the scope of the quake was far smaller than one that hit southwestern China a month ago.

"The seismic energy of the China quake was one order of magnitude greater," Naoshi Hirata, a professor at Tokyo University's Earthquake Research Institute, told Reuters.

He added the region's sparse population and Japan's strict building standards had likely limited the impact.

Water containing a small amount of radiation leaked within a Tokyo Electric Power Co nuclear power facility in the region, but there was no leakage outside, a spokesman for Japan's biggest utility said.

Tohoku Electric Power said its nuclear plants at Onagawa and Higashidori were running as usual.

About 20 people on a bus that swept by a landslide 50 meters into a ravine were rescued by helicopter, media reports said, adding that several were injured, some seriously.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater, prompting tough building codes to try to limit damage.

The government set up an emergency response centre, the Tokyo Fire Department sent a relief team and the local governor asked for help from a military disaster relief unit.

"We are doing all that we can," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters. "The most important thing is to rescue people.

Tohoku Electric Power Co Inc said more than 30,000 people suffered power cuts but most was restored within hours of the shallow quake.

"It shook for about two minutes," Kazue Hishiya, manager of a hotel in Iwate prefecture, said by telephone.

"Three television sets fell off shelves, elevators have stopped, and we've turned off the boiler."

In October 2004, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck the Niigata region in northern Japan, killing 65 people and injuring more than 3,000.

That was the deadliest quake since a magnitude 7.3 tremor hit the city of Kobe in 1995, killing more than 6,400.

(Additional reporting by Chisa Fujioka, Yoko Kubota, Yuzo Saeki, Chikafumi Hodo, Osamu Tsukimori and Nathan Layne; Writing by Linda Sieg) - Source

Drought - Nicaragua (Los Chiles)

A Nicaraguan girl goes looking for water in the drought-hit area of Los Chiles in May 2008.

The Spanish city of Zaragosa is to open the Expo 2008 on the theme of "water and sustainable development", hoping to attract 6.5 million visitors and draw the world's attention to one of the great environmental challenges of the 21st century - Source

Monday, June 9, 2008

Earthquake - Greece (Káto Akhaïa) JUN

ATHENS, Greece - A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 struck southwestern Greece on Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring more than 100 and leveling dozens of homes, authorities said.

A car is buried in debris after an earthquake in Kata Achaia, about 240km west of Athens

It was Greece's first fatal earthquake since 1999, when a 5.9 magnitude quake near Athens killed 143 people and left thousands homeless.

Sunday's quake struck at 3:25 p.m. near the port city of Patras, about 120 miles west of Athens in the northwestern Peloponnese, the Athens Geodynamic Institute said. It was felt as far away as southern Italy.

Two people were killed and 120 were injured, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said. By nightfall, six of the injured remained hospitalized.

One man was killed by a falling pergola outside his home in Kato Ahaia, a village near the epicenter, while a woman who had only been slightly injured in the quake died later in the hospital of a heart attack, Pavlopoulos said.

"My thoughts in these hours are with our fellow citizens who are suffering," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement from Vienna, Austria, where he was on a three-day visit. "I want to stress and underline that the state will be at (their) side."

Karamanlis was to cut his visit to Austria short and return to Greece on Monday.

Frequent aftershocks rattled already frightened residents, and seismologists urged caution, particularly around buildings damaged in the initial quake.

"We are watching the seismic activity with great attention. We are not yet certain that the danger is completely over," said Athens Geodynamic Institute director Gerasimos Papadopoulos.

Although it was unlikely there would be a stronger quake, he said, "there is still concern."

With dozens of houses destroyed or severely damaged, the government said it would give $4,680 to anyone who had lost their primary home in the quake. Authorities also said they would set up tents for those left homeless and distribute food.

Military helicopters and transport planes, and a specialized Air Force rescue crew were placed on standby, the National Defense General Staff said.

Teams of rescuers from 17 Balkan and Mediterranean countries who had just arrived in Greece for a disaster response training exercise joined in rescue efforts.

The quake damaged the air traffic control tower of the Andravida military airport, but a secondary tower was being used and the airport remained open, the general staff said.

Two families — seven people in total — were rescued after being trapped in houses that collapsed, one in the village of Fostaina, about 20 miles south of Patras, the other in the village of Vartholomio, authorities said.

Television footage showed rescue crews pulling a 9-year-old girl from beneath the rubble of her house in Fostaina after a two-hour rescue effort and placing her on a stretcher. The girl suffered only slight injuries.

"I have seen nothing like that in my lifetime," an 88-year-old woman in Kato Ahaia, told state-run NET television. "When the earthquake began, I was in bed. I tried to leave but fell down. I crawled on my knees to the front door."

She said neighbors got her out of the house.

Hours after the quake, terrified residents stayed away from their homes, gathering in village squares and outdoor coffee shops. Local authorities cordoned off unsafe buildings, and ordered all schools in the area to remain shut Monday.

The Tourism Ministry and Greek tourist board said no damage had been reported in any of the area's hotels and that no tourists had been hurt.

The interior minister said the damage was relatively light.

The fire service said a landslide cut off part of the Corinth to Patras highway.

The U.S. Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 for the quake, while the Athens Geodynamic Institute gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.5. Magnitudes often vary in the first hours or days after an earthquake.

Greece is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, but most quakes cause no injuries. - Source

Sinkhole - USA (Florida) JUN

LUTZ, FL -- A sinkhole has engulfed the backyard of a home in Heritage Harbor. So far, the home has not been compromised by the hole. - Source

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tornado - USA (Minnesota) JUN

EMMAVILLE, Minnesota (AP) -- Strong storms smashed houses, deluged neighborhoods, toppled trees and left thousands without power across the Midwest on Friday in the latest round of fierce weather. No injuries were reported.

A toy car floats in a yard of a house along Main Street in Cambridge, Iowa, after parts of the town flooded Friday.

A tornado downed trees and overturned a trailer home near Pickerel Lake in Minnesota on Friday.

A tornado raked a half-mile-wide path of destruction in northwestern Minnesota, where a house overlooking Pickerel Lake near Emmaville was destroyed, it's contents spilling down the hill. Wooden chairs and tables were floating below. Nearby was a concrete slab the size of a two-car garage, but whatever structure once sat on it was blown away.

Flooding forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in the central Iowa town of Cambridge, but areas to the southwest saw some of their roads and buildings re-emerge from subsiding waters in a much-needed respite from severe weather.

Heavy rains that began Thursday night seeped into most basements and at least one foundation collapsed, said Lori Morrissey, Story County's emergency management coordinator.

"The ground is just fully saturated," Morrissey said. "The runoff from the community just all comes to that part of town. This is probably the worst it's ever been."

In Illinois, the Chicago Department of Aviation said high winds and storms were causing delays and cancellations at the city's airports.

Delays at O'Hare International Airport were averaging two hours Friday night, and more than 200 flights were canceled. At Midway Airport, some flights were delayed 20 minutes.

High winds blew the roof off an eastern Illinois lumber yard, sending debris through a nearby auto dealership. Also, 60-mph winds blew trucks off highways near Effingham and Champaign, but authorities said there were no immediate reports of injuries.

In Missouri, the Washington County Sheriff's Department said there were reports of a tornado touching down near Richwoods, about 65 miles southwest of St. Louis. No damage was immediately reported.

Flash flooding forced highways closed in Missouri and Minnesota, where a storm caused widespread damage in Park Rapids and an unincorporated town north of it called Emmaville.

No serious injuries were reported.

"Right now, I can tell you we've been fortunate," Sheriff Gary Mills said.

Susan Vessey said she's lived on the shore of the lake for 40 years and has never seen a storm like Friday's. "It was too fast to be scared," she said. Trees fell on her deck and roof, but there wasn't any damage to the inside of her house.

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels declared 41 counties disaster areas -- the first step to gain federal aid -- after severe storms and tornadoes. One person was killed and at least 10 injured in the round of storms this week.

Daniels wore a hard hat as he toured a tornado-ravaged apartment complex in Indianapolis on Friday.

"No matter how many times I see it, I'm constantly amazed and awed by the human sprit and the spirit of compassion that characterizes our state," Daniels said. - Source

Tornado - USA (Chicago) JUN

CHICAGO - A tornado damaged homes, toppled power lines and overturned semitrailers across Chicago's southern suburbs on Saturday evening.

A tornado warning was issued for the city's northern suburbs.

The tornado came amid storms that also brought severe flooding to central Indiana after as much as 10 inches of rain fell, and spawned tornadoes in Wisconsin.

Trooper Mark Dorencz said one person was injured on Interstate 57 in Chicago's southern suburbs. A swath of the major highway was closed as authorities cleared overturned trucks.

The National Weather Service said the large tornado touched down between the towns of Richton Park and University Park, then moved northeast.

Will County Sheriff's Department spokesman Pat Barry said the tornado damaged several homes in the Wilmington area.

Flights to Chicago-area airports were delayed up to an hour, NBC News reported.

The floods in Indiana threatened dams, inundated highways and forced the Coast Guard to rescue residents from swamped homes. And though flooding was a problem wherever the storms blew through, forecasters were especially concerned about a large, slow-moving tornado tearing through suburban Chicago.

Indiana had been spared any reported deaths or injuries.

"At this point, mercifully, we believe all Hoosiers are secure," Gov. Mitch Daniels said at a news conference. "We hope that will continue."

Daniels declared an emergency in 10 counties as the Coast Guard was called in from the Great Lakes to help with flooding that has forced hundreds of people from their homes. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

Small town under water
Ninety percent of the small town of Paragon, southwest of Indianapolis, was under water, State Homeland Security Director Joe Wainscott said.

Water reached the first floor of Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin, but no patients had to be moved, county Commissioner Tom Kite said, and cars were submerged up to their windshields in the county government building parking lot.

"We have dams failing in the Prince's Lakes area," threatening the town of Nineveh, about 30 miles south of Indianapolis, Kite said.

Indiana State Police reported evacuations in the Lake Lemon area about 10 miles northeast of Bloomington. Dams near Gold Point were close to collapse, police said.

'Worse than it's ever been'
Near Martinsville, southwest of Indianapolis, Ben Pace watched motorboats rescuing neighbors. The rain didn't appear that bad when he woke up, Pace said, but he then watched water rise 6 to 8 inches in his backyard shed.

"Then I realized that it's worse than it's ever been," he said.

A rescuer came by boat to his front door to get him. He managed to grab some clothes and his dog, leaving the home with knee-deep water in his bedroom.

Interstate 70 was closed in Clay County in west-central Indiana, and Interstate 65 and another major route, U.S. 31, both were closed near Franklin.

Residents of Helmsburg, a town of about 6,000 just 40 miles south of Indianapolis, were taken by bus to a YMCA in Nashville, said Wayne Freeman, Brown County Red Cross chairman.

In western Indiana, water more than a foot deep surrounded homes on Terre Haute's east side. U.S. 41 was the only route open into Terre Haute, and it was down to one lane by mid-afternoon.

200 people rescued
J.D. Kesler, deputy director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, said more than 200 people had to be rescued from their homes, vehicles and nursing homes there.

Peter Perdoue, 35, a mortgage broker from Terre Haute, heard a trickle Saturday morning and checked his daughter's basement room. The water had risen above the window.

"It was almost like I was standing inside an aquarium," he said.

Within a few hours, sewage started backing into his basement, and it wasn't long before the waters had filled his basement up to the 10-foot ceiling.

More than 30,000 electricity customers lost power, the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission said.

Damage in Wisconsin
Powerful storms in Wisconsin dropped baseball-size hail on central and southeastern parts of the state, blowing roofs off homes and knocking down trees and power lines. Heavy rains also pelted the area, causing flash flooding.

Authorities said a camper was hurt in Rio and four more people suffered minor injuries after a house had its windows blown out near the Village of Randolph. Authorities also said a tornado spun a police car around.

Flooding built up around Milwaukee, where water as deep as 2 feet in roads caused parked cars to drift and closed parts of an interstate highway.

On the south side of town, two vacant buildings partially collapsed because of the heavy rains, authorities said. No injuries were reported there. - Source

Volcano - Indonesia (Sulawesi) JUN

A volcano has been erupting in Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi Island in eastern part of Indonesia since Friday and the head of the country's volcanology agency Surono warned Saturday that possible stronger explosion could emit all dangerous material.

"Stronger explosion may happen, which can emit dangerous materials from the crater," he told Xinhua.

The volcano has been frequently roaring and erupting since Friday, spewing white smoke up to 1,500 meters high, said Surono.

Surono said that there was no casualty or damage, as the eruption only triggered rain of ash by up to the radius of 8 kilometers.

"There is no need to displace the villagers. The frequency of the eruption has decreased since 2 a.m. Saturday," he said.

The agency has forbidden people to enter the areas in the radius of 6 kilometers from the crater since the mount increased seismic activity, according to Surono.

The agency have raised the status of the volcano to the second highest alert, he said.

Mount Soputan is among the country's 129 active volcanoes, 66 of which are located in high-density population areas, Java and Sumatra islands. - Source

Landslide - China (Hong Kong) JUN

Rainstorms which brought the heaviest downpour since records began have swamped Hong Kong, causing landslides which claimed two lives.

A man and a woman died when a landslide crashed into a hut in which they were sleeping and 16 people were injured in other storm-related incidents.

Hong Kong's observatory recorded 145.5mm (5.73 inches) of rain in one hour on Saturday morning.

Low pressure which caused the storms was forecast to weaken gradually.

A 20-tonne wall was brought down by a landslide on top of the hut where the man and woman were staying, local media said.

Emergency workers used cranes to lift the wall and dug a tunnel to reach the two but they were dead by the time rescuers got through.

Fire department district commander Tam Yiu-kei said there was a "chance of further landslides".

Streets across Hong Kong were severely flooded, some roads were closed and some flights were delayed at the international airport on Lantau Island. - Source

Drough - Morocco (Marrakech) JUN

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) -- Abdellilah Meddich's childhood memories of the famous palm grove of Marrakech are of a "magical" place, a lush desert oasis of flowers, animals and farmers who tended tree-shaded plots.

Today, the unique and vast World Heritage site is "nothing like it used to be when I was a child," says the 37-year-old Meddich, a forestry engineer overseeing a plan to plant more palms.

An ancient city on the rim of the Sahara desert, Marrakech has been a magnet for tourism since the 1960s, when hippies dubbed it "the city of four colors" - for its blue skies, its backdrop of white snowcapped peaks, the red walls of its medieval fortifications, and the sprawling green palm grove on its outskirts.

But one of these colors is fading fast. Legions of tall, swaying palms are yellowing and sickly, parched by drought that climate change experts predict may worsen as the planet warms.

Government-encouraged mass tourism, land developers, golf courses and rich Europeans' closed-off luxury villas are squeezing out farmers from the grove. For generations, farming families here lived almost in symbiosis with the palms, harvesting their fruit and shelter while tending to the trees' health. Most now have gone or been evicted, pushed out by lack of work or tourism driving land prices up.

The pace of destruction is staggering.

In 1929, Morocco's then-French rulers measured the palm grove at about 40,000 acres - an area nearly 50 times that of New York's Central Park. By 1998, it had declined to nearly 30,000 acres. Since then, the grove has shrunk by nearly half, to an estimated 16,000 to 19,000 acres.

Water is a major problem, for both the trees and the people who have long lived under them.

Fatima Lemkhaouen and her family of two dozen brothers, in-laws and children live crammed in one of the few Douar, or traditional hamlets, still standing in the palm grove. They have no electricity, or sanitation. The guard of one of the luxury villas next to their mud home passes over a hose to fill their plastic jugs and metal basins.

"We love the palm grove, but I don't think it's for us anymore," says Lemkhaouen, 29. Local officials have rebuffed their appeals for a public well, she adds. "They just want us out," she surmises.

The grove was planted in the 11th century under the Almoravid dynasty, which founded the city of Marrakech. Its empire extended from present-day Senegal to Spain and Portugal. The United Nations' cultural arm, UNESCO, included the grove when it added Marrakech to its list of World Heritage sites in 1984.

The grove's farmers practiced an age-old technique known as "three-layered crops:" wheat and vegetables on the arid soil, fruit trees at a man's height, and dates from the palm trees. A network of hundreds of miles of "Khettarras" - man-made canals and cisterns - brought water from the hills for plants to survive in the desert climate.

This ecosystem is collapsing.

Drought and heavy pumping for extensive agriculture in the hills around the grove have drastically lowered water reserves. The water table - a decade ago just 30 feet underground - is now at some 65 yards, beyond the reach of the trees' roots and anything but the deepest of wells.

Simultaneously, Marrakech became a top tourism destination. Even small plots in the palm grove now fetch as much as $1.5 million, creating pressure to sell to promoters. The Lemkhaouens' landlord has refused to renew their lease.

"Even one century of cultivation couldn't match the price owners can get for their land," says Youssef Sfairi, head of a nongovernment group trying to preserve the grove. His association, Amal Palmeraie, would translate from French and Arabic as "Hope for the Palm Grove."

As a UNESCO heritage site, the grove is supposed to be protected by Morocco. Marrakech City Hall, Morocco's government and private partners have committed the equivalent of $13 million to replant 400,000 palm trees by 2012.

The plan, launched by Morocco's King Mohammed VI and headed by one of his sisters, has already brought the number of palm trees from 100,000 in 2006 to over 260,000, said engineer Meddich. But most of the new trees are being planted in touristic zones near Marrakech instead of throughout the palm grove, he says.

Hopes rest largely on female palms. Although more vulnerable to drought than male ones, only they carry date fruits - and hence the seeds for more trees. Large teams of street workers circle the grove to maintain and water over 50,000 of these "mother palms."

Palm trees only grow each decade, and the small ones being replanted remain vulnerable. Meanwhile, the three-century old, 100-foot tall ones continue to die out.

Omar Jazouli, the mayor of Marrakech, acknowledges that most of the palm trees are "in an appalling state." But he views tourism as the savior, not the bane, of the grove.

"From the air you can see that all the trees in private ownership - golfs, hotels and villas - are being superbly looked after," he says. Every construction site for a new villa is required to survey its palm trees and can only move them - not cut them down - if building is impossible otherwise, he says.

The king has set a goal of 10 million tourists visiting Morocco by 2010, up from 7 million last year - including 1.6 million who came through Marrakech. Drawn by the near constant sunshine, tourists are pouring in from Europe on discounted three-hour flights. Jet-setters, Paris glitterati and some 16,000 other foreigners now have second homes in and around Marrakech, multiplying some land prices by 100 in a decade.

With over 40,000 rooms, hotel space has also grown tenfold in the same period, and each of the three golf courses in the palm grove is expanding from a normal 18-hole size to a jumbo 27 holes. Another 15 golf courses are under completion around Marrakech and in the grove, the mayor says.

But promoters must pay $4.7 million for building permits for a course, and the money goes to building wastewater recycling plants. One plant is already working near a section of the palm grove now largely viewed as preserved, he says.

Jazouli concedes that the building boom is driving out farmers, but says the benefits outweigh the impact for Marrakech's 850,000 people. Tourism and construction have driven salaries way above the national average, he said, and with just 7 percent unemployment Marrakech is nearly three times below the rest of the country.

Others see a less rosy future.

"Parts of this beautiful palm grove are becoming a construction dump," said Sylvie de Gouy, the owner of the villa who shares her water with the Lemkhaouen family. Gouy, a dentist in the northern French town of Lille, comes to her Marrakech villa at least once a month.

"You can't buy a house down here if you don't appreciate the Moroccans and living alongside them," she said, sipping a glass of mint tea at Lemkhaouen's modest breeze-block house across the wall from her mansion.

But even for her, water is now an issue. The private well to keep her garden green ran out last summer. - Source

Wildfire - USA (North Carolina) JUN

A wildfire that has burned nearly 31,000 acres in eastern North Carolina may smolder for months as it burns decayed vegetation that makes up the soil in the area, a state official said Saturday.

The fire, about 40 percent contained, continues to burn in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, about 70 miles south of Norfolk, Va. The spread of the fire across more than 48 square miles slowed over the past few days. Winds remain light, but it continues to threaten about 80 homes and businesses.

No injuries or structure damage have been reported.

The blaze burned an additional 1,000 acres - 1.5 square miles - on Saturday. Firefighters must build 25 miles of containment lines before it can be fully controlled, officials said.

North Carolina Forest Service spokesman Bill Swartley warned that temperatures near 100 degrees this weekend would keep conditions ripe for the blaze.

Gov. Mike Easley has declared a state of emergency in three counties. He warned that driving could be difficult with smoke-filled roads. Officials said none were expected to be closed.

For the past few days, smoke from the fire has blown north into heavily populated areas along Virginia's coast. But the winds shifted, and forecasters expected it to blow east toward the Outer Banks.

Fire officials told residents that smoke could linger for months because of fire smoldering in the decayed vegetation that makes up the peat-filled soil. Peat is flammable.

"You won't see open flame. The ground is just really hot - you can't walk on it," Swartley said.

The only way to stop the fire in the soil is to flood it. Firefighters are pumping water from nearby Phelps Lake to battle the ground fire. However, the only thing that will put all of it out for good would be several inches of rain at one time, like from a tropical storm, Swartley said.

The fire was sparked by lightning a week ago.

In California, a wildfire that briefly threatened 50 homes in the mountains northwest of Los Angeles was contained early Saturday. The blaze in the Grapevine area along Interstate 5 in the Tehachapi Mountains had charred about 500 acres - less than a square mile - of grass and brush by the time it was declared surrounded.

Residents of about 50 homes in Digier Canyon were advised to leave but the threat ended and the fire basically had stopped growing by Friday evening.

Damp weather during the night helped keep the fire down.

The cause of that fire had not been determined.

Another wildfire briefly threatened scattered canyon homes Saturday in eastern San Diego County, but its spread was stopped by late afternoon. - Source

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sinkhole - USA (West Virginia) MAY

A large sinkhole is causing concern for a Fairmont family.

The Hampton family was attempting to put up their pool Monday when someone noticed a huge hole behind their property on Garrett Avenue.

It's estimated to be about 12-15 feet wide and at least 30 feet deep. City officials were on scene Monday and Tuesday.

The City Street Department checked the area and says there are no sewer or drainage lines around the area. They then contacted the DEP to check for mine subsidence. DEP officials were on scene Tuesday to take GPS coordinates and are now checking their maps to see if that's what caused the hole.

If mine subsidence is the cause, officials say they'll quickly work to correct the problem. DEP officials also surveyed two other spots on the property that appeared to be sinking lower.

Ronnie Hampton says they don't know exactly when the hole appeared. It's at the back of their property, and is actually on a small piece of land owned by the City of Fairmont.

He says he appreciates the quick response by the city. He was concerned about the hole growing with the rain and one of his kids getting hurt. - Source

Flood - USA (Wallaceville) MAY

It was a desperate scramble lasting well into Sunday morning to protect their homes from the onslaught of flood water.

The High River neighbourhood of Wallaceville bore its share of the flooding as a swollen Highwood River overrode its banks, curling around houses and trickling into basements.

High River residents Kerri and Todd Lencucha wear hip waders Sunday to check the damage in their backyard after the Highwood River crested. Both High River and Okotoks remained in a state of emergency Sunday as swollen rivers continued to threaten the communities south of Calgary
On Saturday night, a despairing Jamie Kinghorn resorted to filling reusable Sobey's bags with sand, packing them to the rear of his home in what would become a hopeless attempt to stave off the water.

Even with the late evening reinforcement of real sandbags and dozens of volunteers, river water poured into the basement of the 1A Street N.E. home.

Both High River and Okotoks remained in a state of emergency Sunday as engorged rivers continued to threaten those communities.

While the Elbow and Bow rivers running through Calgary continued to rise, city officials said the worst was over and no major flooding is expected.

"We made all operational adjustments and it looks like we're on the down side of water going through," said Paul Fesko, manager of strategic services with Calgary's water services department.

And by Sunday evening, it appeared the waters around High River were beginning to recede.

Although Wallaceville was hard hit, the rest of the town was spared substantial flooding.

But Kinghorn's home was one of the worst damaged in a neighbourhood where several houses became casualties of the Highwood River's overpowering reach.

Inside his basement, an upturned refrigerator -- one he said "normally stands upright and has beer in it" -- lay haphazardly in the pool.

Flood water reached almost to the toilet seat of the basement suite; a bed at another end was surrounded like a moat.

"How am I going to pay for this?" Kinghorn asked. "Where am I going to get the money to fix this?"

Kinghorn said his insurance will not cover the damage.

Despite a mandatory evacuation order Saturday night, most of the neighbourhood's approximately 80 residents chose to stay.

Doug and Leah Grafton just moved into their Wallaceville home in July. They knew of the flood dangers, but didn't think it would arrive this year.

At 4 a.m. Sunday, Doug thought they may have it beat. But by later in the morning, their basement was flooded with several inches of water.

"In three hours, we lost," he said.

Nonetheless, Doug said his family moved to the country to get away from the city, and he wants to stay.

"You know what, if it flooded every year I'd probably stay here," he said, adding the family will be sure to have their own supply of sandbags for next time.

Seventy-nine-year-old Lawrence McDonald and his wife, Donna, 76, were critical of the town's response to the flooding in Wallaceville.

They said sandbags were not delivered until too late. It was the third time in 13 years their basement has been flooded.

Such concerns over delays were echoed by Kinghorn, who said he warned the town of the rising waters, but authorities did not respond efficiently.

"Where was the town when we need them," he said.

The High River fire chief and director of emergency management said the first priority of crews was the safety of the entire town. - Source

Volcano - Bangladesh (Arakan) MAY

Manaung: A mud volcano erupted on an island in Manaung Township in Arakan twice on the night of 25 May, 2008, but there are no reports on any damaged caused by the eruption.

Nagar gri Mud Volcano erupted in Rambree island, Arakan

A government official from Sittwe said that the volcano, situated on Nantha Kyunt Island along the Arakan Coast, erupted first at 12:30 am and a second time at 4 am.

Molten lava spewed from the mouth of the volcano, reaching estimated heights of 120 feet into the sky.

After the lava erupted, the area surrounding the volcano was inundated with mud that came from the volcano.

In Arakan State, there are a few mud volcanoes that occasionally erupt. On 5 January, 2008, Nagar Gri (Dragon) Volcano on Rambree Island also erupted and flooded nearby areas with lava. - Source

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Drought - Spain (Barcelona) MAY

Barcelona is a dry city. It is dry in a way that two days of showers can do nothing to alleviate. The Catalan capital's weather can change from one day to the next, but its climate, like that of the whole Mediterranean region, is inexorably warming up and drying out.

And in the process this most modern of cities is living through a crisis that offers a disturbing glimpse of metropolitan futures everywhere.

Its fountains and beach showers are dry, its ornamental lakes and private swimming pools drained and hosepipes banned. Children are now being taught how to save water as part of their school day. This iconic, avant-garde city is in the grip of the worst drought since records began and is bringing the climate crisis that has blighted cities in Australia and throughout the Third World to Europe. A resource that most Europeans have grown up taking for granted now dominates conversation. Nearly half of Catalans say water is the region's main problem, more worrying than terrorism, economic slowdown or even the populists' favourite - immigration.

The political battles now breaking out here could be a foretaste of the water wars that scientists and policymakers have warned us will be commonplace in the coming decades. The emergency water-saving measures Barcelona adopted after winter rains failed for a second year running have not been enough. The city has had to set up a "water bridge" and is shipping in water for the first time in the history of this great maritime city.

A tanker from Marseilles with 36 million litres of drinking water unloaded its first cargo this week, one of a mini-fleet contracted to bring water from the Rhone every few days for at least the next three months. So humbled was Barcelona when prolonged drought forced it to ship in domestic water from Tarragona, 50 miles south along the Catalan coast, 12 days ago, that city hall almost delayed shipment and considered an upbeat publicity campaign to lift morale and international prestige.

The whole country is suffering from its worst drought in 40 years and the shipments from Tarragona prompted an outcry from regions who insist they need it more. For now the clashes are being soothed by intervention from Madrid, and plans to ship water from desalination plants in parched Almeria in Andalusia are shelved until October. But there is little indication of a strategy to deal not just with an immediate emergency but an ongoing crisis. Buying water on an epic scale from France has given the controversy an international aspect as French environmentalists question whether such a scarce natural resource should be sold as a commodity to another country.

"It would be a mistake to consider this water bridge between Marseilles and Catalonia as simply an operation of solidarity," said a group of ecologists calling themselves Robin des Bois (Robin Hood). They said the commercial deal struck between private contractors failed to consider the environmental impact on France. The organisation blamed Barcelona's water shortage on "wasted resources and ... lack of foresight by Catalan and Spanish authorities".

What Barcelona authorities are fast discovering is that chronic water shortages are not a problem that money alone can solve.

Its 5.5 million inhabitants need a lot of the stuff: the 20 million litres/20,000 tonnes/five million gallons of water brought from Tarragona on 13 May were enough for barely 180,000 people and were consumed within minutes of being channelled through the city's taps. Wednesday's shipment from Marseilles was bigger, 36 million litres, but similarly short lived.

Barcelona has churned up a whirlpool of controversy over its handling of the water crisis, causing just the spray of negative publicity it hoped to avoid.

Even the arrival of rain has only made things worse. Catalonia's regional environment minister, Francesc Baltasar, rushed to announce last week that the hosepipe ban and swimming pool restrictions imposed in February would be lifted. Tarragona - whose wells supply shipped-in water - protested furiously. "Barcelona fills its swimming pools with water from Tarragona," local headlines screamed, and the water authority demanded a halt to pumping Tarragona's water for the Catalan capital.

Jose Montilla, Catalonia's regional prime minister, countermanded Mr Baltasar and insisted water-saving measures remain. "Obviously it makes little sense to lift certain measures when, if it stops raining, we'll have to re-impose them in three weeks' time," he said. But Tarragona re-opened the tap only after Mr Montilla visited, and insisted that "this effort of solidarity will supply only our basic needs".

Barcelona's daily El Periodico called Mr Baltasar's proposal to end unpopular water-saving measures "irresponsible and demagogic", increasing resentments in regions supplying water to Barcelona. The shipments themselves came under fire. Importing water gives the city a "lamentable, depressing image" and spreads "alarmism", Miguel Angel Fraile, secretary of the Catalan Trade Confederation, said.

With reservoirs now filled to 30 per cent, authorities should scrap the plan and ship in water only as a last resort, he said. But reservoirs remain two-thirds empty, half the national average and far lower than usual for May. These are dangerously low in anticipation of another dry summer, raising the ghastly prospect of water rationing - painful for residents and offputting for summer visitors.

Extreme short-term measures might have been averted had Barcelona mended leaky old pipes and filtered polluted aquifers, critics grumble. But Barcelona is among Europe's most careful water users, better than Madrid, Milan or Paris, La Vanguardia newspaper argues. Residents adapt their loos to flush less, shower rather than bath and brush their teeth without the tap running, but such individual measures are swamped by industrial usage, and waste in the infrastructure. La Vanguardia urges an immediate public works programme to improve the creaking system.

"People are much more aware of the need to save water," says Bridget King, a South African who settled in Barcelona 20 years ago to teach English. "We put a bucket under the shower to catch water before it heats up, and have stopped buying petunias that need a lot of watering. It's a constant topic of conversation and we worry it's a long-term thing. But as a South African I'm appalled to see people wash dishes under the running tap. I was brought up to be very careful with water. And although we feel relieved it's started raining, everyone knows it's only short term and probably not enough."

Recent rains have sharpened conflicts, offering a foretaste of water wars to come. Aragon straddles the mighty Ebro river but is a parched desert, cultivable only by sophisticated irrigation systems managed by an Association of Irrigators. This ancient brotherhood agreed to sell the surplus from its irrigation quota, which usually flows back into the Ebro, to Barcelona as a short-term emergency measure. If rains lift reservoirs from their emergency levels, Aragon warns it will halt supplies. But Mr Montilla tweaked Catalona's definition of "emergency" so it didn't rely solely on reservoir levels. Then Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, ordered Aragon to keep the water flowing "because conditions aren't sufficient to guarantee Barcelona's water supplies".

Water is now Catalans' principle worry: 43 per cent considered shortage the country's main problem. Authorities promise the crisis will ease when a huge desalination plant comes on stream next year. But they say little about how to tackle the long-term problem of water shortage afflicting the whole Mediterranean region. Catalan winemakers recognise that the change is permanent; some are planting new vineyards further north as traditional terrain becomes hotter and dryer.

Other entrepreneurs, including swimming pool manufacturers, have less room for manoeuvre. "The authorities are criminalising us," complained Josep Sadurni, of Catalonia's association of swimming pool manufacturers, which predicts losses of up to Euro 200m (£160m) this year. "Who'll buy a pool if they can't fill it?" Mr Sadurni asked.

A striking image of the seriousness of the drought is provided by the emergence of a church from the waters of a drying reservoir. For 40 years, all you could see of the drowned village of Sant Roma was the belltower of its stone church, which peeped from time to time above the surface of the artificial lake in a valley flooded in the 1960s to supply Catalonia with water. This year falling water levels have revealed the 11th-century church in its entirety for the first time, attracting curious onlookers who walk round it on the reservoir's dusty bed. Spain's Socialist government recognises that climate change will intensify water shortages, and favours desalination plants. One such plant, among the biggest in Europe - and 75 per cent EU funded - is being built on the outskirts of Barcelona and will supply 20 per cent of the city's water. But it will not be ready until next year.

"It was already very important when it was planned, but now with the urgent drought, it has become indispensable," said Tomas Azurra, the chief engineer at the plant.

Ecologists warn that desalination plants are costly in energy use, and damage the environment with high CO2 emissions. But developed European regions can afford them, and they're preferable to diverting water from rivers, which critics say is even more damaging.

More than 70 per cent of Spain's water goes on agriculture, much of it wasted on antiquated irrigation systems and the cultivation of thirsty crops unsuitable for arid lands. But few politicians seek confrontation with farmers already struggling to scratch a living.

High-density tourist resorts sprinkled with swimming pools, patio showers and golf courses along Spain's desertified southern coast, especially in Murcia where it rarely rains, are also unsustainable, ecologists say.

Spain needs to capture more rainwater, says Stephanie Blencker of the Stockholm International Water Institute, as climate change will produce alternating extremes of drought and heavy rain. "Rain is the biggest resource we have, and we can make it available all year round if we have sensible storage opportunities," she said.

Since the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona has enjoyed the reputation of being both cutting edge and user friendly. But now, as climate change overwhelms a crumbling infrastructure, proud, autonomous Catalonia has to seek help from outside. - Source

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tornado - USA (Iowa) MAY

DES MOINES, Iowa—Powerful storms packing large hail, heavy rain and tornadoes made for a deadly Memorial Day weekend across the nation's midsection, killing at least seven people in Iowa and a 2-year-old child in Minnesota.

A tornado killed a child, injured eight other people and destroyed 50 homes

Part of a house's roof sits in a swampy area, lower right, after severe storm swept through Hugo

Iowa Homeland Security administrator Dave Miller said seven people were killed Sunday by a tornado in northeast Iowa -- five from Parkersburg, a town of about 1,000 some 80 miles northeast of Des Moines -- and two from nearby New Hartford. At least 50 injuries were reported.

"Occasionally we have a death but we have warning system. Seven deaths. It's been a long time since we've had those kinds of injuries and deaths reported," Miller said.

Witnesses reported parts of Parkersburg -- particularly the town's south side -- were reduced to rubble, including most of the town's high school and homes. In the Des Moines area, there was heavy rain and lightning Sunday night with wind gusts of 70 mph.

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver issued a disaster proclamation for Black Hawk, Buchanan and Butler counties, a move that helps coordination between state and local authorities.

The storms came after three days of violent weather across the nation. Rural Oklahoma was battered Saturday and storms in Kansas a day earlier killed at least two people there.

Tim Halback, of the National Weather Service, in Romeoville, Ill., said the storms are the result of a massive warm system that had been centered over the southern and western great Plains several days ago. When it began moving northward into Minnesota and Canada, a cold high followed in its wake, sparking severe storms.

The hazy weather now stretches from northwestern Minnesota and western Iowa into western Kansas, and was expected to move eastward across Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana later Monday.

Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued early Monday for Cook County in northeast Minnesota, and three counties in Missouri: Osage, Gasconade and Montgomery.

At least 20 people were unaccounted for Sunday in Minnesota after a swift storm blew through the St. Paul suburb of Hugo, damaging about four dozen homes, City Administrator Mike Ericson said.

A 2-year-old child was killed and the child's sibling was critically injured, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said. The children's parents also were hospitalized with injuries sustained in the family home.

"It's horrible," Ericson said. "The citizens are very shook and scared." Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced plans to meet with city officials and tour the storm-ravaged city on Monday.

Roughly 300 to 400 homes were evacuated in the storm-damaged area because of concerns over hazards including downed power lines and leaky gas lines, Ericson said.

The city set up a shelter at an elementary school, but American Red Cross spokeswoman Courtney Johnson said all but one of the families was able to find a place to stay with friends or relatives.

Hugo Public Works Director Chris Petree said his family took shelter in the basement before the storm lifted his house off the ground and completely wiped out the second floor.

"I put my daughter down first, my wife on top of her and then I bear-hugged on top of them," Petree said.

As he huddled in his basement against a foundation wall with his wife and 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Petree said they heard the thunderous sound of their house coming off the ground.

"All you hear is glass breaking and wood tearing and breaking in half," Petree said.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch about 6 p.m. for 45 of Wisconsin's 72 counties, but canceled the alert five hours later as the storms began to ease. At least 16,000 people across Wisconsin lost power at some point.

At least three weak tornadoes touched down in the Texas Panhandle. There were no reports of injuries or building damage across the sparsely populated region, meteorologist Jason Jordan said.

About 100 people have died in U.S. twisters so far this year, the worst toll in a decade, according to the weather service, and the danger has not passed yet. Tornado season typically peaks in the spring and early summer, then again in the late fall. - Source

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sinkhole - USA (Arkansas) MAY

THEBACHA/FORT SMITH - A crater-sized sinkhole on Highway 5 disrupted traffic for a short time last week.

A sinkhole encroaches onto Highway 5 about 150 kilometres west of Fort Smith on the evening of May 11

Although the collapsed portion of highway 150-kilometres west of Fort Smith didn't close the road completely, traffic was reduced to one lane and vehicle restrictions were applied as crews worked to repair the damage.

Rob Billard, the regional manager for the South Slave with the Department of Transportation, said it measured about 11 metres long and eight metres wide, and was about seven metres deep.

"It seemed like this one moved fairly quickly," Billard said.

At its largest, the sinkhole was about halfway into the east lane of the highway.

Billard said both lanes of the highway were excavated, one lane at a time, until solid ground was reached.

"Slowly and surely, it was filled in and compacted," he said.

During repair work on Monday traffic could pass by in one lane or on small detours on each side of the road. The road was never closed to light trucks and cars, but was closed to commercial trucks from 9 p.m. on May 11 to 11 a.m. on May 12.

By the evening of May 12, both lanes were open.

Billard said the sinkhole started in a ditch and grew until it encroached upon the road.

Located at Nyarling River, the hazard was first spotted by passing motorists on May 11.

One of the first to see it was John Evans, who was heading home to Fort Smith at about 6 p.m.

Evans was stopped by a motorist who warned of the sinkhole and placed branches on the road as a warning to other travellers.

Evans said when he got to the sinkhole, it was broken through right up to the edge of the hard driving surface of the unpaved road.

Evans said he walked towards the edge of the sinkhole to see how deep it was, but he could hear things falling in and didn't go right to the edge.

"The whole thing could have caved in," he said. "I really didn't know."

Evans found a box, stuck a branch into it, and left it on the side of the road as a warning to other motorists.

When he returned to Fort Smith, Evans contacted his brother Earl, a highways maintenance supervisor with the Department of Transportation, who rushed out to put warning signs around the sinkhole.

The department also stationed a watchman at the site throughout the night.

Billard said the sinkhole was about a couple of hundred metres west of the underground Nyarling River.

The area features karst geological formations, meaning underground limestone and other soft rock has been dissolved by water, which can lead to sinkholes.

As for the underground river, Billard said, "Whether that was associated with the sinkhole or not is impossible to tell. There was no water in the sinkhole."

Billard said the Department of Transportation is looking at options for surveying the subsurface strata of the highway to determine if other sinkholes might develop.

An engineering survey was previously done on the highway, he said. "It didn't identify any problems at that time."

While the area is within Wood Buffalo National Park, the road is maintained by the territorial government.

Fort Smith Mayor Peter Martselos said the community is concerned about the sinkhole.

"Thank God no accident took place," he said, adding someone driving at night could run into such a hole.

"It's very, very dangerous," he said.

"Nobody can predict what can happen when a river is running underground."

Evans said the sinkhole doesn't make him worry about travelling Highway 5.

"There are sinkholes all over the place," he said. "But you don't expect them in the road." - Source

Flood - Romania (Bucharest) MAY

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Emergency teams rescued dozens of people after a flash flood swept through five villages in Romania Tuesday, inundating houses and damaging roads and bridges.

Heavy rain caused the flooding in the western county of Cluj, authorities said.

"Everybody was asleep. People took refuge wherever they could, some in the attics, and waited to be rescued," said Silviu Boldor, the mayor of one of the flooded villages.

Authorities said the flooding cut off the villages, affecting at least 1,300 people and damaging more than 200 houses.

In Arad county, also in western Romania, hundreds of acres of wheat and other crops were flooded, and dozens of roofs were damaged in a hail storm.

No casualties were immediately reported.

Romania suffered heavy flooding in 2005 and 2007, when scores of villages and towns were inundated. Seven people died in the 2007 disaster. - Source

Tornado - Philippine (Manila) MAY

MANILA, MAY 20, 2008 (STAR) By Eva Visperas - Strong winds and heavy rains brought by storm “Cosme” killed 21 people and injured nine others as it slammed Northern Luzon last Saturday, the Provincial Disaster Coordination Councils (PDCCs) in the affected areas reported yesterday.

Weather forecasters said Cosme was expected to be 640 kilometers east of Okinawa, Japan this morning.

The storm destroyed at least 3,000 houses, mostly in Pangasinan where Cosme made landfall last Saturday with winds of 105 kilometers per hour.

Strong winds uprooted trees and knocked down electrical poles, causing power outages and cutting telephone lines. Damage to infrastructure and agriculture was expected to be extensive.

Disaster officials reported that 12 residents were killed in Pangasinan, four in La Union, one each in Benguet and Zambales, one in Antique and two in Negros Occidental.

Local officials have also declared Pangasinan, La Union and Zambales under a state of calamity.

Retired police Superintendent Paterno Orduña, executive officer of the PDCC of Pangasinan, identified the fatalities in the province as Lourdes Soriano, 72, of Poblacion in Bugallon town who was hit by a galvanized iron sheet; Cesar Basi, 50, of Barangay Portic in Bugallon who was hit by a falling coconut tree; George Pascua of Bolasi in San Fabian who was hit by a falling mango tree; Miguel Poserio, 2, his brothers Randyl, 3, and Rodyl, 4, all drowned in the Tanap River in Bonuan in Dagupan City; Carlito Maganes of Salay, Mangaldan who was electrocuted; Elpidio Maoile of Infanta town who was hit by falling debris; Nicadio Ferrer, 65, of Lingayen whose house was destroyed; Mario Quinto of Urdaneta City who was also hit by falling debris; Remedios Paulo, 72, of Barangay Bolaoen, Bugallon; and Rogelio Austria, hit by a falling mango tree branch in San Carlos City.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) also reported that three people were killed in Western Visayas and another fatality was reported in Central Luzon.

A still unidentified villager was recovered from a hut buried by landslide in Itogon, Benguet, but the victim died on the way to a local hospital.

In La Union, among the fatalities were Leopoldo Labasan, who drowned near the shore of Barangay Bani in Rosario town; Juanita Icerio and Domingo Ubongen, killed when they were hit by falling debris in Rosario town; and Pepito Estacio of Raois, Sto. Tomas town.

Orduña said most of the houses that were destroyed were in Infanta, Bugallon, Aguilar, and Lingayen in Pangasinan.

The Pangasinan provincial board declared a state of calamity in the province.

Pangasinan Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan told The STAR that Cosme was not an ordinary typhoon but a tornado.

He said that that kind of storm was never experienced before in Pangasinan and was even deadlier than typhoon “Gading” in 1998 that also devastated the province.

Baraan also lamented that the weather bureau raised only typhoon signal number 3 over the area, but there was no warning on the magnitude or strength of the storm.

La Union Gov. Manuel Ortega declared yesterday a state of calamity in the province where initial estimate of damage to crops and property was placed at P500 million.

Ranilo Ipac, La Union’s social welfare officer and head of the secretariat of the PDCC, said at least 400 houses were destroyed while 1,392 are partially damaged and 3,607 families affected.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro visited the disaster areas last Sunday to assess the situation and brought an initial 100 sacks of rice for the victims.

Meanwhile, three inmates escaped from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) detention center in Dagupan City at the height of the typhoon, after the detainees started riots while the escapees bored holes in the walls of their cell. One of the escaped prisoners was later recaptured.

BJMP Director Rosendo Dial also reported that heavy rains caused a mud slide that damaged a portion of the Ormoc City Jail in Leyte.

Ormoc jail officials were able to secure the 208 inmates and no one escaped.

In Sta. Cruz, Zambales, at least 2,300 houses were destroyed and 4,230 others were partially damaged.

Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso’s executive assistant Rene Totol said that other parts of Zambales were also affected by the storm, and 70 to 80 percent of agricultural crops, including trees, were also destroyed in Sta. Cruz.

“The trees, including many mango trees which abound in the town, were either felled or uprooted,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap assured the people that the typhoon caused minor damage to agricultural products, particularly rice crops.

Disaster officials said damage to crops was initially estimated at P168 million.

“The area affected is minimal,” Yap told the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Hotel media forum, adding rains brought by the storm were good for rice fields.

“I’m still waiting for the report from the regional director but based on the preliminary report I got from the DA, the impact is not that substantial,” he said.

Yap said the storm did not affect the country’s rice production for this year.

He said the public has sufficient stockpiles of rice, with the 10-percent gap between supply and demand already taken care of by the contracted imports of the National Food Authority totaling 1.7 million metric tons (MT).

The NFA imports are equivalent to a buffer stock level of 32 days at the current daily consumption average of 33,000 MT, he said.

The additional tenders this month are only meant to let the NFA maintain a 30-day buffer stock or double the normal buffer stock of 15 days’ supply during the traditional lean months of July to September prior to the main harvest season and for the remainder of the year, Yap said.

He earlier said that on top of the contracted import volumes, the DA is also expecting the summer harvest to surpass seven million MT, which is higher than last year’s dry crop yield of 6.7 million MT.

Palay harvests have already reached 5.89 million MT as of May 5, which is near the projected 7.1 million MT target for the dry cropping season. – With James Mananghaya, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marianne Go, Jun Elias, Ding Cervantes, - Source

Landslide - Fiji (Suva) MAY

A MUDSLIDE outside Suva caused a power shutdown after a power pole supporting high voltage power lines leaned precariously towards the road.

Fiji Electricity Authority workers restoring the power supply at Veisari.
Residents living along the stretch from Wailekutu to Naboro were without power yesterday as the Fiji Electricity Authority worked on relocating the power pole.

FEA and engineers from the Public Works Department were also at the site after mudslide closed part of the road at Veisari.

FEA public relations officer Mabel Howard said a power shutdown was necessary. She said the Wailekutu Samoan settlement to Ucuinamono settlement and all side roads were in the vicinity of the shut down.

"FEA must urgently relocate this power pole before it falls and endangers any lives and cause extended power outrages," said Mrs Howard.

"Members of the public are advised to take extra care at all times and to treat every line as being live."

"FEA regrets and apologises to its customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of this power disruption."

Ms Howard said power would remain off until relocation works are completed.

She said affected residents would be informed in due time when works would be completed.

Meanwhile, the Public Works Department has received reports of minor landslides in the interior of Naitasiri.

Divisional engineer central/eastern Raphael Smith said the only major incident was along Queens Highway at Veisari where traffic was reduced to one lane after a mudslide closed half the road.

Mr Smith advised drivers to approach the area with caution.

"We have a selection of trucks but we need to get approval," Mr Smith said.

The department's resources were stretched early this year following cyclones and floodings and Mr Smith said they would need to seek approval if they were to engage more trucks.

"We're outside the hurricane and cyclone season but it's still rainy," he said.

Mr Smith said the department was monitoring landslides in the division.

"Out main objective is to keep the roads open." - Source

Landslide - India (Guwahati) MAY

Guwahati (PTI): At least five labourers died on the spot and two others seriously injured in a landslide in South Assam's Cachar district on Tuesday.

The police said the labourers engaged in earth cutting at a hillock at Dudhpatil Bagan were buried under the debris.

Five bodies were recovered from the spot while injured were rushed to the Silchar Medical college hospital. - Source

Volcano - Chile (Chaiten) MAY

CHILE - The Chaiten volcano in Southern Chile has blasted ash some 20 miles into the atmosphere, which has forced thousands to evacuate, leaving farm animals vulnerable to the toxic cloud.

IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, is headed to the volcano's foothills to help animals in need.

According to media reports, farmers left behind about 40,000 head of livestock, and officials expressed fear that many of them could die. Local animal welfare groups are greatly concerned for thousands of companion and farm animals that have been left chained or abandoned with no food or water.

Nine days after the eruption of the giant volcano, the Chilean government has opened the access to the impacted area and will allow for animal rescues to take place in 30-minute intervals, a protocol aimed to ensure the safety of the rescue groups.

A coalition of animal welfare groups including IFAW, WSPA, HSUS and local CEFU (Coalicion por el Control Etico de la Fauna Urbana) are cooperating to evacuate and shelter thousands of vulnerable animals.

"We are looking forward to this collaboration between local and international NGO's responding to the disaster in Chile. Our experience has found that every time groups get together, the action plan goes along in a smoother and more effective way," said Dick Green, IFAW Emergency Relief Manager for Disasters.

Nearby town Futaleufu is under two inches of fallen ash from the volcano and local residents remain under threat of further volcanic activity or the perilous descent of more toxic ash. - Source