Friday, September 23, 2011

**If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.**
Lao Tzu

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
9/22/11 -

Indian Authorities Reach Remote Quake-Affected Villages - Authorities have reached remote villages in northeast India that have been cut off since Sunday, when the 6.9 earthquake hit the Himalayan region, killing at least 109 people. The epicenter of Sunday's quake was in the Indian state of Sikkim, but deaths and damage were also reported in West Bengal and Bihar states, Nepal, Bhutan and the Chinese region of Tibet. Rescue efforts in Sikkim have been hampered by heavy rain, fog, and roads blocked by landslides. Nine villages in the north are still cut off. The earthquake caused more than $20 billion in damage.
Anger over 'lethargic response' to India Sikkim quake - In parts of the earthquake-hit Indian state of Sikkim, conditions on the ground are little short of apocalyptic. Entire areas are cut off because of landslides - and more often than not people are without clean water, adequate food supplies, medicine and telephone contact with the outside world. Sikkim's hospitals have seldom been so full. With local people bereft of help, it is hardly surprising that this disaster has created some resentment among them. "Why are reporters focusing on the good work by the government, while no aid has reached any of the villages?" one of them angrily demanded.
"It is impossible to take the seriously injured to the hospital because army helicopters are hovering with ministers in the sky." The villagers say little aid has been delivered beyond Mangan, although food packets have been air-dropped intermittently by the Indian air force. It is estimated that about 100,000 houses have been damaged Chungthang is in the southern end of north Sikkim and it is in this area that the quake has been the most catastrophic. Hardly any parts of north Sikkim, connecting India to Tibetan plateau, have received any substantial aid since Sunday. There have been no more than one or two daily helicopter sorties. "Two helicopters can carry no more than three or four tonnes of food or medical supplies - and that is nothing for thousands of villagers." Apart from rescuing a handful of tourists, the authorities have remained largely "inactive" in the face of a huge humanitarian disaster. "The roads are still cut off, there is no supply of electricity or telephone connectivity and the villagers have to arrange for the rebuilding of houses while providing first aid to the injured."
So has the response of the authorities been inadequate? Whatever the answer, there is no doubt they face numerous formidable challenges. Principal among these are landslides, still taking place on a regular basis because of the quake and because recent heavy rainfall has loosened much of the mountainous land mass.
The state government may be stating the obvious when it reiterates that aid cannot get through while roads remained blocked, but it remains a valid point. One such post-quake landslide recently washed away several houses in Jaangu area, close to Chungthang. "We are still counting the casualties."
While the main road link connecting Sikkim to mainland India - national highway 31A - has reopened with a disturbed traffic flow, Border Roads Organisation employees say that the task of clearing the highways is not getting any easier. Relief is being delivered, but critics say it is too little, too late "We are working around the clock but even then traffic movement remains disrupted." The loosening of the land mass meant that no sooner had the highway been "cleaned" than more rocks and trees would fall down on top of it from the surrounding mountains. One such landslide killed at least 17 workers in a hydropower plant in Chungthang, with employees literally bombarded by falling boulders. The Sikkim government has admitted that the situation in north Sikkim is worrying and "no solution is in sight in the immediate future". While "roads are being totally washed away" in and around Chungthang, it will take time to re-establish communication links.
In the meantime government officials at the forefront of the relief effort have been left with no option other than to trek 30-40km (18-24 miles) to reach places like Chungthang, Lachen, Lachung and Thangu valley, all close to India's border with Tibet. So while the government relief effort is getting off the ground - with aid workers, doctors and disaster management teams being air-dropped in some areas - the numbers are small and the need is great. On Wednesday there were 18 helicopter sorties that carried about 40 tonnes of food packets and medical supplies. "That by no standard is adequate for hundreds of thousands of people."
Meanwhile in the state capital Gangtok water supplies are becoming increasingly irregular. The state government has announced that water will only be supplied on alternate days in municipal areas. If poor sanitation and water-borne diseases become problems, hospitals in the city are already flooded with patients, most with broken limbs. "Conditions are going from bad to worse as more patients arrive for treatment, having walked from distant villages to Gangtok." With no hope in sight for the beleaguered inhabitants of north Sikkim, the Indian home minister is visiting Gangtok "to take stock of the situation". He does not need a team of advisers to realise that the state is facing its worst crisis in recent years and that the under-powered relief effort now needs to move into top gear.


In the Atlantic -
Ttropical storm Ophelia was located about 820 mi. (1315 km) ESE of the Leeward Islands. There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.

In the Pacific -
Category 4 Hurricane Hilary was located about 85 mi. (140 km) SW of Acapulco, Mexico. The core of Hilary will continue to move parallel to the southwest coast of Mexico, but any deviation to the north of the track could bring stronger winds to the coast. Hilary is a small tropical cyclone. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles...35 km...from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 80 miles...130 km.


PAKISTAN - Two million Pakistanis have fallen ill from diseases since monsoon rains left the southern region under several metres of water. More than 350 people have been killed and over eight million people have been affected this year by floods that officials say are WORSE in parts of Sindh province than last year, when the country saw its WORST EVER DISASTER. Malaria, diarrhoea, skin disease and snake bites were among the health problems facing two million people across 23 Sindh districts. The World Health Organization has said that there is a desperate shortage of clean drinking water in the south. The UN's children agency has pledged to distribute 200,000 litres of water to 40,000 people daily and deploy 40 more water tankers soon, to avert further disease.

INDIA - Flash floods in quake-hit Sikkim, 116 dead. Just days after the massive earthquake hit Sikkim, the northeastern state was hit by flash floods on Thursday . The flash floods hit Lachung, located in north Sikkim district near the China border. (youtube video)


InfraGard announces the launch of a nationwide special interest group (SIG) that will focus on threats that could cause nationwide long-term critical infrastructure collapse. Named the EMP SIG, after electromagnetic pulse, the SIG will cover all similarly dangerous hazards such as extreme space weather, coordinated physical attack, cyber attack or pandemics.
One of the SIG’s first activities will be the co-sponsorship with the US Congressional EMP Caucus and the National Defense University of a nationwide conference, “Severe Space Weather Threats to the US Electrical Grids” planned for Oct. 6, 2011 from 8:30 AM to 3 PM at the US Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium. This conference will provide initial reports on planning workshops and an exercise representing the first comprehensive efforts by federal, state, local government and the private sector to examine the potential for prolonged nationwide power outages and their cascading effects and begin mitigation efforts. The InfraGard National EMP SIG plans to assist in organizing private sector critical infrastructure stakeholders who wish to mitigate these threats and make their local communities more resilient.
The InfraGard Program began in 1996 as a collaborative effort between private sector cyber professionals and the FBI field office in Cleveland Ohio. The FBI later expanded the program to each of the FBI’s 56 field offices. In 2003 the private sector members of InfraGard formed the “InfraGard National Members Alliance” - comprised of 86 separate InfraGard Member Alliances representing over 45,000 FBI-vetted, InfraGard Subject Matter Experts. The INMA has a dual-focus value proposition. First, InfraGard provides its members with unmatched opportunities to promote the physical and cyber security of their organizations, through access to a trusted, national network of Subject Matter Experts from the public and private sectors. Secondly, it provides government stakeholders, at the local, state, and Federal levels, with unmatched access to the expertise and experience of critical infrastructure owners and operators.