Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Philippines - The official death toll from last week's massive flash flooding in two southern Philippine cities topped 1000 on Wednesday as authorities said they lost count of how many more were missing. The latest tally showed a total of 1,002 have been confirmed dead, including 650 in Cagayan de Oro and an additional 283 in nearby Iligan city. The rest came from several other southern and central provinces. A tropical storm swept through the area Friday night and unleashed flash floods in the middle of the night that caught most of the victims in their sleep. "There were many lessons learned by the people who did not listen to national and local governments, but this is not the time to put the blame on them."

**Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power.**
Lao Tzu

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
12/20/11 -


Volcanic Eruption in the Red Sea (Yemen) reported - According to local news, a volcano erupted near Saba Island in the Red Sea on Monday, December 19. The report comes from fishermen from Salif, a port city in western Yemen. They reported seeing lava fountains rising 20-30 meter which could be seen from "3 hours" (sailing time) away. The likely source of the eruption, if the reports are true, could be one of the islands Zubair islands: Jebel Zubair, Centre Peak, Saba, or Haycock island, which form a small archipelago 30 miles (50 km) west of Salif. The islands belong to a mostly submerged, active shield volcano located on the Red Sea rift axis.
The fishermen are said that "this was the first volcano they ever seen in the region", which is not surprising as the last activity of the volcano was an eruption in 1824. At the moment, the report remains a bit questionable: no thermal anomaly or ash clouds are visible on satellite data. This could indicate that either the eruption was extremely short and small, or (more likely) that there something else happened (military action, fire etc) which was mistaken by untrained distant observers for lava fountains. On the other hand, volcanic eruptions on the Red Sea rift are nothing unusual, although the remoteness of the area often prevents observation.
[In 2007, a volcanic eruption off the Red Sea coast of Yemen spewed lava hundreds of metres into the air on October 1 and at least nine people were missing at sea. The eruption occurred on Jazirt Mount al-Tair, an island about 140 kilometres from Yemen. Several earthquakes were felt on the island, triggering the eruption. The entire three-kilometre-long island was aglow with lava as it poured into the sea.]

No current tropical storms.

Two cyclones are brewing off the Australian coast and one is less than 300 kilometres from Darwin. A cyclone over the Coral Sea is unlikely to cause any major problems, but a tropical low forming off the Northern Territory coast, 250km from Darwin, is unpredictable. The tropical low DOES NOT FIT ANY WEATHER MODELS and it is a case of waiting to see if it became more aggressive and in which direction it will travel. It will move in a northerly direction over the few days but after that "where it heads and how intense it becomes is unpredictable. None of the models, which help us forecast the movement and intensity of weather systems, agree where it's going to be or what intensity. The one thing the models do agree on is it is going to intensify over the next few days. There is a chance it will form a cyclone ... and if it does, we don't know where it's going to move."
Up to 16 cyclones are expected this summer. The one forming over the Coral Sea will be the second in recent weeks and will track south between Australia and New Caledonia. "It's 1000 kilometres off the coast. There's already been one in the Indian Ocean so this one will be the second, and a third tropical low (off the Northern Territory coast) may be number three." The northern part of Australia typically experiences cyclones each season, which lasts until April. On Christmas Eve in 1974, Cyclone Tracy devastated much of Darwin and killed 71 people.

The authorities in the southern Philippines are struggling to deal with the aftermath of devastating flooding brought by Typhoon Washi. More than 1,000 people are dead or missing after the weekend's disaster - many people were washed out to sea. Mass burials have been carried out in some areas, while there is anger than some bodies have been stored at dumps. There are concerns that disease could begin spreading in the shelters where thousands of survivors are now living. The President said officials have an obligation to find out why so many people died and why no proper disaster plans were in place. "If we want this tragedy to be the last of its kind, we need to learn from our mistakes." Although there are detailed disaster-preparedness plans in other parts of the Philippines, there is a sense that this was lacking in the region where the storms hit.
Officials say the final death toll is likely to pass 1,000, with bodies still being recovered at sea. Some 338,000 were affected and more than 10,000 homes damaged. About 40,000 people on Mindanao, many of whom were already desperately poor, are now living in evacuation centres after losing their homes and possessions. The centres have become severely overcrowded, with signs of disease beginning to appear. "It's really a struggle to manage those evacuation centres, there's a shortage of water and a shortage of food." Questions are also being asked about whether illegal logging on the coastal hillsides worsened the scale of the disaster. The UN Special Representative on Disaster Risk Reduction said the disaster showed that more must be done "to ensure early warning systems are effective in an age when climate change is intensifying the impact of typhoons". (map)


The death toll in a cold wave sweeping through northern India has risen to 39. The majority of deaths were in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Punjab and Haryana are among the other northern states badly hit. Most deaths take place among the homeless and the elderly. Last week, the country's Supreme Court ordered states to provide adequate night shelters for the homeless during the winter. "You should not allow even a single person to die this winter from the freezing cold." Heavy fog and a cold wind have disrupted life across northern India with sub-zero temperatures in Indian-administered Kashmir. The capital, Delhi, is also in the throes of a cold snap, with temperatures dipping to 2.3C and fog disrupting flight schedules. The cold wave has forced schools to shut in the state of Bihar until 25 December. An official from the meteorological department said the cold weather would continue for a number of days.

U.S. - A massive winter storm blamed for at least six deaths made travel nearly impossible in parts of the central United States. "Blizzard conditions that caused fatal accidents and rendered highways impassable in five states crawled deeper into the Great Plains early Tuesday (local time). Hotels filled up quickly along major roadways from eastern New Mexico to Kansas, and nearly 100 rescue calls came in from motorists in the Texas Panhandle." Snow drifts reached three metres in parts of Colorado after strong winds whipped at the 38 centimetres of snow had fallen since the storm began on Monday. Parts of New Mexico were blanketed by 61 centimetres of snow while Kansas got up to 30 centimetres by overnight. While the heaviest snowfall had mostly ended by midday on Tuesday (local time), blizzard conditions continued in many areas as strong winds of up to 80km/h whipped up heavy white flakes.


Hong Kong has raised its bird flu alert level to "serious" and announced it is to cull 17,000 chickens after three birds, including a dead chicken from a marketplace, tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus. Officials banned all live poultry imports. The other two birds that tested positive for H5N1 were an Oriental magpie robin and a black-headed gull. The "serious" response level covers two scenarios, the less serious of which involves a highly pathogenic avian flu outbreak in the environment of or among poultry, as is the case today. (The second scenario involves a human case with no evidence of person-to-person transmission.) Hong Kong was the site of the first known outbreak of H5N1 in people in 1997, when 18 were infected and six died.

Hospital bath basins commonly contaminated with drug-resistant pathogens - Hospital bath basins — those portable, rectangular plastic bins used in hospital rooms — are often contaminated with common pathogens, many of which are drug-resistant. Researchers swabbed 1,103 basins from 88 US and Canadian hospitals during a 44-month study. The basins were from regular wards, medical-surgical wards, and intensive care units. They were rinsed with tap water and soap between uses, per infection-control guidelines, were not disinfected, but no basins were shared between patients. Of the basins tested, 686 (62%) were contaminated with at least one of the three pathogen tested for: 39% with one, 22% with two, and 2% with all three. All hospitals had contaminated bath basins. The authors conclude, "The use of basins should be limited to the extent possible, to eliminate a potentially hazardous environmental reservoir for serious nosocomial pathogens...Medical equipment and supplies should not be stored in basins."

Unused restroom paper towels may also harbor harmful bacteria - Canadian researchers found that unused paper towels in restrooms can harbor potentially harmful bacteria and that bacteria can be passed on to hands or hospital gloves after hand washing. The scientists tested six brands of restroom-quality paper towels and found bacteria of the Bacillus genus to be the most abundant microorganisms detected, on 83% of towels, followed by Paenibacillus (16%), Exiguobacterium (1.6%), and Clostridium (0.01%). They also found that paper towels made from recycled fibers harbored 100- to 1,000-fold more bacteria than those made from virgin wood. In addition, they found the bacteria were "easily transferred" to nitrile gloves after hand washing but not through airborne routes. "This study demonstrates that a diverse community of culturable bacteria contaminates unused paper towels and that some of these bacterial strains may be toxin producers."

New England seal deaths caused by H3N8 - Scientists studying a string of deaths in 162 seals since September off the New England coast have confirmed H3N8 influenza in five of the dead seals. "This H3N8 virus is usually associated with wild birds, and a separate group of H3N8 infects horses and dogs. This is the FIRST TIME that a virus which is similar to the H3N8 avian influenza virus has been associated with a large-scale mortality in marine mammals...We are now conducting tests on additional animals to learn more about the role this virus may have played in the die-off and to better understand the virus itself." In the meantime, the agency warned people to stay away from seals in distress, keep pets away, and call an NOAA hotline.

Two more sickened in ground beef Salmonella outbreak - Two more patients have been sickened in a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to a grocery store chain's ground beef, raising the total to 16. On Dec 15, Hannaford, a Maine-based chain, recalled an undetermined amount of its fresh, in-store ground beef after epidemiologic investigations into 14 illnesses with the same genetic fingerprint found a link to the products. The CDC said the patients are from seven different states: four each from Maine, New Hampshire, and New York, and one each from Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Initial tests suggest the outbreak strain is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics, which could increase the risk of hospitalization or treatment failure. Among 13 cases with available information, 7 patients were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Eleven of the 16 patients said they ate ground beef the week before they got sick, and all but one reported buying ground beef from Hannaford stores. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said the company's sparse records were making it difficult to identify the companies that supplied the beef.