Wednesday, February 29, 2012

**Three things can't be hidden:
coughing, poverty, and love.**
Yiddish proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/28/12 -

Moderate quake jolts east Iran, 6 hurt - A magnitude 5.4 quake hit a sparsely populated area at 10 pm on Monday. It damaged buildings, roads, and water canals as well as the nearby dam in the town of Ravar, some 750 kilometers southeast of the capital Tehran. A magnitude 4.6 quake hit late on Tuesday and a 4.7 hit early today.

'Devil's chain reaction' was feared after 2011 Japan quake - Recovery workers at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant still fear for the future, one year after the country's worst ever nuclear accident. The Former Japanese Prime Minister ordered workers to stay at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year as fears mounted of a "devil's chain reaction" that would force tens of millions of people to flee Tokyo, a new investigative report shows. About three days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, his staff began referring to a worst case scenario that could threaten Japan's existence as a nation. That was when fears mounted that thousands of spent fuel rods stored at a damaged reactor would melt and spew radiation after a hydrogen explosion at an adjacent reactor building. Japan's then top government spokesman said that at the height of tension he feared a "devil's chain reaction" in which the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the nearby Fukushima Daini facility, as well as the Tokai nuclear plant, spiralled out of control, putting the capital at risk.
He stepped down last September as he came under fire for his handling of the crisis, including flying over the plant by helicopter the morning after the disasters hit - a move some critics said contributed to a delay in the operator's response. He was haunted by the spectre of a crisis spiralling out of control and forcing the evacuation of the Tokyo greater metropolitan area, 240km away and home to some 35 million people.
After the quake and tsunami struck, three reactors melted down and radiation spewed widely through eastern Japan, forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate from near the plant. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, known as Tepco, managed to avert the worst scenario by pumping water, much of it from the sea, into Daiichi's damaged reactors and spent fuel pools. The reactors were stabilised by December.
A year after the disaster, however, Fukushima Daiichi still resembles a vast wasteland. High radiation levels hamper a cleanup that is expected to take decades. The damaged 40-metre-high No.2 reactor building stands like a bird's nest of twisted steel beams. A Tepco official who accompanied foreign media to the plant on Tuesday said metal debris was being painstakingly removed by giant cranes and pincers as radiation doses were too high for workers. Another challenge is keeping a new cooling system, built from a myriad of technologies and prone to breaking down, running without major glitches. "An earthquake or tsunami like the ones seen a year ago could be a source of trouble for these (cooling) systems. But we are currently reinforcing the spent fuel pool and making the sea walls higher against tsunamis. A series of back up systems is also being put in place in case one fails."
Confused media reports at the time of the accident said Tepco had threatened to withdraw workers from the plant, but that Kan ordered them to keep staff on-site. "Now Tepco is saying there was no request for a complete pullout, that it only asked for a partial withdrawal. The truth may never come out, but as a result, 50 Tepco staff stayed behind and ... the worst case scenario was averted." How many of those who stayed were volunteers is a mystery. "An order was likely given for full-time employees to stay behind. We may eventually find out who volunteered to stay, but the impression from our investigation is that they are under strict orders to remain silent."


Japan Government quake panel cut tsunami warning from report prior to March 11 - The science ministry's earthquake research panel omitted a warning from a report, eight days before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, that a massive tsunami could hit northeastern Japan "at any moment", despite having earlier planned to include it. The Earthquake Research Committee had presented the report eight days before the March 11 disaster to an unofficial meeting among the ministry, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and two other utilities but ended up not publicizing it. Committee members decided to delete the warning as they viewed it "inappropriate to use the same expression" as that used to describe an expected major earthquake in the Tokai region, central Japan, which was regarded "more imminent." Reference to the possible quake in the Pacific off eastern Japan was further weakened at the request of power utilities at the March 3 meeting.
Comprising more than a dozen members, mostly academics, the panel was compiling the report as part of a review of its long-term evaluation on the frequency of big quakes in the region ranging from the Sanriku coast in northeastern Japan to the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. The draft report had a new article entitled "from the sea off Miyagi Prefecture to the sea off Fukushima Prefecture" and said a temblor that entails a gigantic tsunami could occur at any moment based on recent research that such tsunami hit the coast four times over the past 2,500 years.But after some membeers argued that such an expression could be linked with the projected Tokai quake, which was said to be 87 percent likely to occur within 30 years, it was weakened to simply noting that a major quake could occur off the Pacific coastline in eastern Japan. References to research having found tsunami-caused sediment at a rate of every 450 to 800 years, and that 500 years had passed since the latest major quake were also deleted. After the March 2011 disaster, the committee under the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry estimated that the quake, if it were predictable beforehand, was 10 to 20 percent likely to occur within 30 years as of March 11 last year. (photos)

In the Indian Ocean -
Tropical cyclone 14s (Irina) was located approximately 270 nm northwest of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Is now intensifying over the Mozambique Channel. Forecasts expect it to move across The Channel and into Mozambique, north of Maputo.


Extreme Weather in Western China Continues - Natural calamities are taking a toll on provinces in western China. In the north, people suffer from severe snowstorms, while southwestern areas are coping with prolonged drought. Cold weather continues to plague the northwestern Xinjiang region of China. Over $900,000 of damage was reported. Barns, houses, and livestock have all fallen victim to the freezing temperatures.
Meanwhile in the southwestern Yunnan province, some villagers haven’t seen rain since last November. Over six million people are affected by the drought. "It's very difficult for our village. If the drought goes on for another two days, we'll have to fetch water from three kilometers (1.86 miles) away and carry it back on our cattle. There's nothing we can do. We don't have a pump to transport water." State media announced on Wednesday that $19 million has been set aside to assist the areas worst hit by the drought. (video)