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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Earthquake - Indonesia (Sumatera) MAY

A tectonic earthquake measuring 4.4 on the Richter Scale (SR) jolted Banda Aceh, provincial capital of Nanggroe Aceh Darusalam (NAD), and surrounding areas, at about 10.12 local time on Monday.

The quake, however, did not cause panic among residents of Indonesia's most western province.

"The temblor's magnitude was too small and therefore only some people could feel it," head of the Mata Ie Meteorology and Geophysics Station, Syahnan told Antara here on Monday.

He said the quake was located at 4.93 degrees northern latitude and -95.8 degrees eastern longitude, or about 52 km southwest of Sigli city, at a depth of 19 km below sea level. It was the third temblor to have hit NAD province in May 2008.

"The quake's epicenter lay in Malacca Strait waters," he said.

Another tectonic quake with a magnitude of 6.0 on the Richter Scale (SR) also shook the southern coastal region of West Sumatra on Sunday evening at about 19:17 with the tremors felt in Padang, West Sumatra's provincial capital.

Sumarsono, the head of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) in Padang Panjang, said the quake's epicenter was about 73 km southeast of Muko-muko (Bengkulu) at a depth of 15 km below sea level.

The quake was located at 3.16 degrees Southern Latitude and 101.45 degrees Eastern Longitude.

The temblor was clearly felt in the southern coastal areas of West Sumatra, but did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, he said.

Early on Monday, a tectonic earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale occurred at 134 km northwest of Saumlaki, Maluku.

The earthquake's epicenter was located at 6.76 degrees southern latitude and 131.41 degrees eastern longitude, at a depth of 49 km below sea level, according to information from BMG here on Monday.

On Sunday (May 18), Indonesia was hit by two earthquakes respectively in Bengkulu and North Sumatra Provinces.

In Bengkulu, also on Sumatra Island, a 6-magnitude earthquake shook 73 km southeast of Mukomuko. The quake's epicenter was located at 3.15 degrees southern latitude and 101.45 degrees eastern longitude, at a depth of 15 km below sea level.

In North Sumatra, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake trembled 74 km southwest of Gunung Sitoli. The location of its epicenter was at 1.21 degrees northern latitude and 96.93 degrees eastern
longitude at a depth of 17 k beneath the sea floor.(**) - Source

Drought - Somalia (Siraro) MAY

Unicef has warned that six million Ethiopian children under the age of five may be at risk of malnutrition.

Ethiopian soldiers speak to women who are carrying their food ration during a relief distribution to displaced people in southern Mogadishu

The United Nations children's agency said a recent drought in the east African country has caused a food crisis and estimates 126,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition.

But the government and aid agencies are struggling to find money to help, with international food prices rising sharply.

The UN World Food Programme estimates 3.4 million of Ethiopia's more than 80 million people will need food relief from July to September.

"The great tragedy is that Ethiopia had been making some impressive improvements before this drought," said Viviane Van Steirteghem, Unicef deputy representative in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia had been cited as an example to other African countries after reducing its infant mortality rate to 123 deaths from every 1,000 births from 166 in just five years.

In Siraro, a remote farming area 220 miles south of the capital Addis Ababa, Ayantu Tamon has lost a child to hunger every year for the last four.

She is hoping her severely malnourished and weakened three-year-old son Hirbu will not die this year. "I just hope God lets him live. I have only two children left."

He is one of 233 children who have been brought starving to the small Sisters of Mercy church in just the last three weeks.

Innovative schemes to reduce the impact of drought and train local people as health workers were also introduced and much praised internationally.

"It's a chain of unfortunate events that has led to this," says Lisetta Trebbi, Head of Relief the United Nation's World Food Programme in Ethiopia.

"We have drought - a really poor rainy season - and, of course, we have high food prices worldwide."

The global rise in food prices has hit the WFP hard.

The organisation now needs to raise £75 million to tackle Ethiopia's needs, but aid workers say the money is not coming in time, with donors concentrating on disaster-hit China and Myanmar. - Source

Wildfire - USA (South Florida) MAY

MIAMI - South Florida residents were warned to stay indoors and a state prison and federal detention center were evacuated Monday as smoke from a massive wildfire in Everglades National Park billowed their way.

Firefighters battle a fire at the Babcock road in Palm Bay

No structures were in danger, though officials said the fire was burning in the only known habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow.

The 56-square-mile blaze was about 30 percent contained. The smoke was blowing to the northeast, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Nina Barrow. Smoke and fog advisories were issued for Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Glades counties.

Moderate to unhealthy air quality conditions were expected throughout the week, according to the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management.

Inmates and detainees at Everglades Correctional Institution and the Krome Detention Center were being moved to other facilities as a precaution due to the nearby fires. Everglades, a state prison, evacuated 1,753 inmates, while Krome is federal immigration lockup that holds about 600.

Firefighters have been battling 88 active fires that have burned about 69 square miles from Brevard County, on the state's Atlantic coast, south to Miami-Dade County.

Six fires that had burned close to 20 square miles and destroyed a number of homes in Brevard County were about 75 percent contained, said Florida Division of Forestry spokesman Todd Schroeder. The causes of the blazes remained under investigation. - Source

Monday, May 19, 2008

Flood - China (Chengdu) MAY

CHENGDU, China — Thousands of earthquake survivors fled tent camps and villages across the ravaged landscape of southwestern China on Saturday after the government warned that several lakes and rivers were getting dangerously close to overflowing because landslides have blocked water flow.

Residents and rescue workers fled the county of Beichuan on Saturday amid warnings of possible flooding from a river

The new threats came as government officials said that more than three million homes had been destroyed by Monday’s earthquake, and more than 12 million had been damaged. The government again raised the death toll, to nearly 29,000.

The resulting humanitarian crisis is the largest in China in decades, and in the process of covering the developments, Chinese news organizations have been testing strict government censorship in new ways — and even winning some concessions.

With the scale of the disaster becoming ever more apparent, the United Nations announced that it would provide a grant of $7 million from an emergency response fund “to help meet the most urgent humanitarian requirements.”

The danger of flooding on Saturday was so severe that some rescue workers had to abandon their efforts, at least temporarily, to find people buried beneath rubble in Beichuan, one of the hardest-hit counties. Such interruptions could doom the relatively few who could be expected to be alive under debris.

The greatest threat of flooding came from a lake in the far north of Sichuan Province that had already begun to overflow because of a blockage in the Qingzhu River, according to Xinhua, the official news agency, which cited experts at the province’s land management department. Heavy rains began pounding large parts of Sichuan on Saturday night, adding to the threat.

A rise of only 6 to 10 feet will cause the lake to “threaten more than 2,000 people who are staying in shelters after the earthquake downstream,” one expert said, adding that it was inevitable that debris would continue to flow down, adding to the blockage.

Early on Sunday, a tremor with a magnitude of 6.0 struck northern Sichuan, one of the largest quakes since last Monday. Other tremors over the past several days have caused new landslides.

Relief officials in the county where the flood threat is highest, Qingchuan, have begun evacuating people and are considering blasting the embankment to divert water from the overflowing lake. “We were informed that the Qingchuan government is requesting urgent evacuation because the water level of the dammed lake has reached 70 meters,” or 230 feet, said a worker at the control center of the Guangyuan Petrol Company who gave his name as Mr. Wang. He said workers were being evacuated.

Farther south, closer to the epicenter, people around Beichuan, a town that was flattened by the 7.9-magnitude earthquake, also began fleeing because of flood warnings related to a choked river. Thousands of people are buried under rubble in the town, the county seat of Beichuan, and it is the scene of one of the most intense rescue efforts in the disaster zone. But on Saturday soldiers, rescue workers and medics had to stop their work and seek higher ground or leave the area. People who were fleeing described soldiers from the army heeding the flood warning, packing up and driving down from the mountains.

There were unconfirmed reports that the immediate danger had passed by evening and that rescue operations may have resumed.

Landslides continue to pose one of the greatest threats across the mountainous terrain of Sichuan. Daily aftershocks and tremors — at least 168 significant ones since Monday — set off new slides. At least 13 rivers and lakes have been dammed up by the quake, the state-run China National Radio reported Saturday, citing an official at the Land and Resource Ministry.

People in the disaster zone have had to grapple with the rising threat of flooding. On Wednesday, the top economic planning body in China issued a report saying that the quake had damaged 391 reservoirs. The same day, 2,000 soldiers were sent to inspect cracks in the Zipingpu Dam, upriver from the hard-hit town of Dujiangyan, and drain water from the reservoir.

Experts outside China say many of the threatened dams and reservoirs were built along the well-recognized Longmenshan fault, and that the dams might have sustained damage that could make them fail weeks later.

Officials said Saturday that the death toll had risen to 28,881. Earlier in the week, they said it could reach 50,000. Officials said Saturday that 12.5 million homes had been damaged, and 3.1 million had collapsed.

President Hu Jintao has urged rescuers to continue searching for survivors. Some were pulled out on Saturday, but medical experts say the chances of people living in rubble decrease significantly after the first 72 hours.

The Ministry of Health said Saturday that it had found no epidemics in the disaster areas, Xinhua reported. Hospitals in Sichuan had received more than 116,000 patients, 14 percent of whom were severely injured, the ministry added. More than 34,000 medical workers and disease control staff members are in Sichuan, and they are being given pamphlets that tell them how to disinfect food and drinking water and how to handle bodies. - Source

Flood - Chile (Santiago) MAY

Santiago, May 18 (EFE).- Seventeen days after the Chaiten volcano began its so far uninterrupted eruption dumping uncounted tons of ash on the surrounding area, a wind-, rain- and snowstorm is also helping destroy the nearby town of the same name.

The community is "a ghost town" after the complete evacuation of its residents due to the steady emission of ash and the periodic blasts issuing from the volcano, but on Sunday the town began to flood as heavy rains pummeled the zone.

The governor of Palena province, where Chaiten is located, Sergio Galilea, said at a press conference that the volcano's activity was practically the same on Sunday as it had been over the previous days.

He also confirmed that the height of the smoke and ash column spewing from the fire mountain was still some 11 kilometers (8.8 miles).

"The enemy (i.e. the volcano) continues to be the same and the situation has been complicated by the storms that have lashed the area in the past few hours," Galilea said.

According to reports broadcast on Radio Bio Bio, the level of water in the Blanco River has increased considerably and flooding in the area is more severe than authorities noted last week.

Galilea said that thanks to photographs taken by the Carabineros - Chile's militarized police, who managed to enter the town of Chaiten on reconnaissance - "it would not be an exaggeration to say that about 95 percent of the area of the city is affected by different levels of flooding."

The storm has also made it impossible to enter the town of Futaleufu, located 154 kilometers (93 miles) from the volcano, from which many people were also evacuated because of the rain of ash that fell in the area.

The air force has not been able to overfly the towns due to all the ash in the air.

Now, the heavy precipitation - including snow - has cut the routes linking Futaleufu with Chaiten, Palena and Villa Santa Lucia, among other towns in southern Chile.

The eruption of the Chaiten volcano, which rises 960 meters (about 3,120 feet) 1,220 kilometers (750 miles) south of Santiago, forced the evacuation of thousands of people living around it, and since then the mountain has maintained a steady emission of ash that has blanketed the area.

On Sunday, the National Geology and Mining Service said that it will install new teletransmission measurement stations supplied by the U.S. Geological Survey in the area to monitor the volcano's activity.

The network will allow authorities to observe from a single central location - Queilen on Chiloe Island - the reports from all monitoring stations.

Defense Minister Jose Goñi said that the navy and air force will be assigned to operate the devices, while the army and the highway authorities will evaluate the condition of the local roads and bridges that have been affected by the rain of ash as well as the weather conditions.

Chaiten volcano is one of about 3,000 fire mountains in Chile, of which approximately 55 are active.

Chile lies on the southeastern portion of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Nazca and South American tectonic plates collide, making the country one of the most active seismic and volcanic zones in the world. EFE - Source