Monday, December 10, 2012

**Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves.
What is equally true is that every community
gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.**
Robert F. Kennedy

Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
12/9/12 -

Peru's capital highly vulnerable to major quake - In 1746, an earthquake all but flattened colonial Lima, the shaking so violent that people tossed to the ground couldn't get back up. Minutes later, a 50-foot (15-meter) wall of Pacific Ocean crashed into the adjacent port of Callao, killing all but 200 of its 5,000 inhabitants. Bodies washed ashore for weeks.
Plenty of earthquakes have shaken Peru's capital in the 266 years since that fateful night of Oct. 28, 1746, though none with anything near the violence. The relatively long "seismic silence" means that Lima, set astride one of the most volatile ruptures in the Earth's crust, is increasingly at risk of being hammered by a one-two, quake-tsunami punch as calamitous as what devastated Japan last year and traumatized Santiago, Chile, and its nearby coast a year earlier, seismologists say.
Yet this city of 9 million people is sorely unprepared. Its acute vulnerability, from densely clustered, unstable housing to a dearth of first-responders, is unmatched regionally. Peru's National Civil Defense Institute forecasts up to 50,000 dead, 686,000 injured and 200,000 homes destroyed if Lima is hit by a magnitude-8.0 quake. "In South America, it is the most at risk."
Lima is home to a third of Peru's population, 70 percent of its industry, 85 percent of its financial sector, its entire central government and the bulk of international commerce. "A quake similar to what happened in Santiago would break the country economically." That quake had a magnitude of 8.8.
Quakes are frequent in Peru, with about 170 felt by people annually. A big one is due, and the chances of it striking increase daily. The same collision of tectonic plates responsible for the most powerful quake ever recorded, a magnitude-9.5 quake that hit Chile in 1960, occurs just off Lima's coast, where about 3 inches of oceanic crust slides annually beneath the continent.
A 7.5-magnitude quake in 1974 that struck about a day's drive from Lima, in the Cordillera Blanca range, killed about 70,000 people as landslides buried villages. Seventy-eight people died in the capital. In 2007, a 7.9-magnitude quake struck even closer, killing 596 people in the south-central coastal city of Pisco.
A shallow, direct hit is the big danger. More than two in five Lima residents live either in rickety structures on unstable, sandy soil and wetlands that amplify a quake's destructive power or in hillside settlements that sprang up over a generation as people fled conflict and poverty in Peru's interior. Thousands are built of colonial-era adobe. Most quake-prone countries have rigorous building codes to resist seismic events. In Chile, if engineers and builders don't adhere to them they can face prison. Not so in Peru. "People are building with adobe just as they did in the 17th century."
Environmental and human-made perils compound the danger. Situated in a coastal desert, Lima gets its water from a single river, the Rimac, which a landslide could easily block. That risk is compounded by a containment pond full of toxic heavy metals from an old mine that could rupture and contaminate the Rimac. Most of Lima's food supply arrives via a two-lane highway that parallels the river, another potential chokepoint.
Lima's airport and seaport, the key entry points for international aid, are also vulnerable. Both are in Callao, which seismologists expect to be scoured by a 20-foot (6-meter) tsunami if a big quake is centered offshore, the most likely scenario. A February 2011 law obliged Peru's municipalities to make a quake-response and disaster mitigation plan. Yet Lima's remains incipient. "How are the injured going to be attended to? What is the ability of hospitals to respond? Of basic services? Water, energy, food reserves? I don't think this is being addressed with enough responsibility."
By necessity, most injured will be treated where they fall, but Peru's police have no comprehensive first-aid training. Only Lima's 4,000 firefighters, all volunteers, have such training, as does a 1,000-officer police emergency squadron. But because the firefighters are volunteers, a quake's timing could influence rescue efforts. "If you go to a fire station at 10 in the morning there's hardly anyone there."
In the next two months, Lima will spend nearly $2 million on the three fire companies that cover downtown Lima, its first direct investment in firefighters in 25 years.. The national government is spending $18 million citywide for 50 new fire trucks and ambulances. But where would the ambulances go? A 1997 study found that three of Lima's principal public hospitals would likely collapse in a major quake, but nothing has been done to reinforce them.
And there are no free beds. One public hospital serves more than 1.2 million people in Lima's south but has just 400 beds, and they are always full. Contingency plans call for setting up mobile hospitals in tents in city parks. But only about 10,000 injured could be treated. Water is also a worry. The fire threat to Lima is severe - from refineries to densely-backed neighborhoods honeycombed with colonial-era wood and adobe. Lima's firefighters often can't get enough water pressure to douse a blaze.
"We should have places where we can store water not just to put out fires but also to distribute water to the population." The city's lone water-and-sewer utility can barely provide water to one-tenth of Lima in the best of times. Another big concern: Lima has no emergency operations center and the radio networks of the police, firefighters and the Health Ministry, which runs city hospitals, use different frequencies, hindering effective communication.
Nearly half of the city's schools require a detailed evaluation to determine how to reinforce them against collapse. A recent media blitz, along with three nationwide quake-tsunami drills this year, helped raise consciousness. The city has spent more than $77 million for retention walls and concrete stairs to aid evacuation in hillside neighborhoods, but much more is needed.
At the biggest risk, apart from tsunami-vulnerable Callao, are places like Nueva Rinconada. A treeless moonscape in the southern hills, it is a haven for economic refugees who arrive daily from Peru's countryside and cobble together precarious homes on lots they scored into steep hillsides with pickaxes. Engineers who have surveyed Nueva Rinconada call its upper reaches a death trap. Most residents understand this but say they have nowhere else to go.
Water arrives in tanker trucks at $1 per 200 liters (52 gallons) but is unsafe to drink unless boiled. There is no sanitation; people dig their own latrines. There are no streetlamps, and visibility is erased at night as Lima's bone-chilling fog settles into the hills. Homes of wood, adobe and straw matting rest on piled-rock foundations that engineers say will crumble and rain down on people below in a major quake.

Volcano Webcams

Volcanoes, not a meteorite, killed off the dinosaurs - A study suggests that a massive volcano near India spewed toxic gas into the atmosphere for thousands of years. And eventually, that gas killed off the dinosaurs.

In the South Indian Ocean -
Tropical Cyclone Claudia was located approximately 450 nm south of Diego Garcia. [No threat to land.]

Typhoon Bopha - The United Nations is set to launch a global appeal for millions of Philippine typhoon victims as the death toll surged past 600, with nearly 800 people still missing.
"Five million people were affected and they need express assistance. Their priority needs are food, water and shelter but there's also a big emphasis on helping people's livelihood. So many farmers have lost their crops and it's such a poor area. People need to earn money immediately and agriculture has to be rehabilitated." The hard-hit region is the centre of both the country's banana as well as gold mining industries.
A number of villages are still completely cut off and not receiving any aid, a week after the typhoon struck. The region will need sustained assistance for at least six months. The civil defence office in Manila said 647 corpses had been recovered after landslides and floods obliterated entire communities in the typhoon's path.
A total of 780 people are still missing, including about 150 fishermen from General Santos, the country's tuna capital, who had put to sea ahead of Bopha's landfall. Many of those missing could be among the hundreds of unidentified bodies, many of them bloated beyond recognition.
Victims beg for food after deadly typhoon - Desperate families begged for food Sunday, days after Typhoon Bopha brought death and destruction to parts of a southern Philippine island, as the storm returned to the north of the country. Northern areas escaped with heavy rain after the storm weakened. But scenes of hardship were everywhere in southern areas that last week felt the full fury of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.
Officials said 548 people are confirmed dead, most of them in the southern island of Mindanao. The number of missing had shot up to 827 from previous figures of 500 unaccounted for, after reports of more missing fishermen came in. In the Mindanao mountain town of New Bataan, which took the brunt of the typhoon, families lined the roads holding signs begging for food. "We were given rations but it was not enough. Just rice, bread and noodles. It is not enough...All we can do is wait for donations. There are cars passing by and sometimes drivers give us something."
The relief supplies from the national government had yet to arrive. "We have not been given anything yet. Only the local government and the village officials gave us something, just some rice, noodles and dried fish." Drivers of private vehicles also handed out donations but the lack of coordination led to more confusion. When a truck from a local power company arrived to distribute relief supplies, it was mobbed by hungry villagers and many children were almost trampled in the chaos.
In the northern Philippines, the once-deadly typhoon had weakened to a tropical storm and brought downpours. But there were no reports of any floods. Bopha, which once packed 210-kilometre per hour winds and heavy rain, had weakened with gusts of only 120 kilometres per hour. It had been headed out to the South China Sea when it made a U-turn towards the north this weekend, initially raising fears of another disaster.