Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rescuers winch families to safety in German flood town - Rescuers used helicopters to pluck families from rooftops in the southern German town of Deggendorf on Wednesday as the Danube flood crisis continues. Meanwhile more than 30,000 people in the eastern city of Halle have been told to leave their homes after RIVERS REACHED THEIR HIGHEST LEVEL IN 400 YEARS.
Floodwater is also threatening parts of Austria and the Czech Republic. Rising waters have been triggered by heavy rain following a wet spring. At least 13 people have died and two are missing as a result of the floods. Eight deaths were recorded in the Czech Republic and three in Germany, while two people were reported dead and two missing in Austria.
Parts of Germany have not seen such severe flooding in centuries. However, in the Czech Republic, the water level has stabilised in the capital Prague, where there had been fears of a repeat of disasters in 2002 and 1997. Helicopters started removing residents from their homes in Deggendorf on Wednesday after two levees along the Danube and Isar rivers broke. The floodwater in the Bavarian town was 3m (9.8ft) high. "This is a life-threatening situation." Around 600 people have been evacuated in Dresden alone.
Four farmers were rescued at the very last minute by a helicopter before their tractor was submerged. German newspapers said water levels in the eastern city of Halle were at their highest for four centuries. Officials said the city was in acute danger after floodwaters from the Saale river damaged a section of dykes. The level of the River Elbe in the historic German city of Dresden, where at least 600 people were evacuated, is not expected to peak until Thursday morning.
Coaches reportedly ferried people out the town of Muhlberg, about 40km (25 miles) northwest of Dresden, as thousands were told to leave on Wednesday afternoon. Chemical plants next to the swollen rivers have been shut down and their chemicals removed over safety concerns. Meanwhile, the floods were receding in the south German city of Passau. People could be seen sweeping up muck from their streets.
In the Austrian city of Krems, emergency workers have been shoring up a dyke under threat from the swollen Danube. Thousands of people left their homes in the Czech Republic in recent days as floodwater threatened to overwhelm flood barriers. In the low-lying industrial city of Usti nad Labem, the River Elbe spilled over the 10m-high (33ft-high) metal flood barriers. The main rail link connecting Prague and Berlin in Germany have been underwater, with trains being diverted. Anti-flood barriers have reportedly gone up to protect the Czech capital's zoo after it was badly hit, causing animals to be evacuated. (map & photos)

**You are such a good friend that if
we were on a sinking ship together
and there was only one life jacket...
I’d miss you heaps and think of you often.**
- Unknown


Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -

Yesterday -
6/5/13 -

Japanese quake victims cheated out of aid - As residents of the areas of Japan hardest-hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struggle to rebuild their lives, funds that were set aside to assist them are being siphoned off into unrelated projects.

Volcano Webcams

Congo conflict masks deadly volcano threat - Eleven years after an eruption of Mount Nyiragongo devastated the sprawling lakeside city of Goma, killing hundreds of people, eastern Congo's armed conflict is preventing scientists from predicting the volcano's next deadly explosion.
With its plume of ash and steam reaching high into the sky, Nyiragongo is one of the world's most active volcanoes and a constant menace to the city of 1 million people, whose streets are still scarred by solidified lava. Attempts to monitor the volcano's activity have been dangerously curtailed by the M23 rebel group which has controlled its lush, forested slopes for the past year. Observation equipment has been looted by armed groups and the area around Nyiragongo is off-limits as rebel fighters defend their strategic positions overlooking Goma.
"What happened in 2002 will happen again. We just don't know when." Scientists gave two months' warning before the last eruption but authorities ignored them. People only began to evacuate as the first fingers of lava entered the town's densely populated residential areas. Goma's airport is still surrounded by lava blocs as big as cars, excavated after the runway was swallowed by molten rock.
Scientists used to conduct weekly checks on Nyiragongo, one of only three volcanoes in the world to have a permanent lava lake. "Surveillance is very reduced so the risk has become very big. The situation is a bit ridiculous." Goma's residents are no strangers to danger, natural and manmade. The town sits above a subterranean lava bed 1 km (0.6 miles) deep in an area, known as the Albertine rift, that is one of the most volcanically active on earth.
Neighboring Lake Kivu contains enormous quantities of methane and carbon dioxide. Experts say seismic activity could release that into the atmosphere, threatening millions of lives. The makeshift camps which ring the city, home to tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting, testify to the nearly two decades of conflict between armed groups, the army and neighboring countries which have ravaged the region.
The last eruption had devastated the town. "If there's another eruption, it'll hit the economy: we'll have to start from zero again. Our houses will be destroyed, our people killed." The security situation has increased the volcano's threat. Not least is the risk of lava exploding the stockpiles of ammunition which dot the heavily militarized town. In the worst case scenario, authorities would have to evacuate around two-thirds of Goma's inhabitants. Community networks and a flag system - green for safe, red for evacuation - have been put in place for that purpose.
Before the last eruption there were signs from communities around the volcano that something was amiss. Villagers found their banana beer fermenting far more quickly because of raised ground temperatures, and children left alone were asphyxiated by poisonous gases. Residents must be alert for these kinds of warnings. "We must develop an evacuation mechanism without counting too much on the volcanic observatory. Our logistical capacity to put our plans in place is limited."
Nyiragongo is not immediately threatening. However, neighboring Nyamuragira, 13 km (8 miles) to the northwest and reputedly Africa's most active volcano, is showing warning signs of a possible eruption.

Long wait for victims of Indonesian mud volcano - Thousands left homeless by a volcanic mud eruption in Indonesia are still waiting for the final payment of their compensation. It's been seven years since the Lapindo mud flow disaster, when a sea of mud first began bubbling up, submerging homes.


In the Atlantic -
Tropical Storm Andrea was located approximately about 270 mi (430 km) WSW of Tampa, Florida. On the forecast track, the center of Andrea will reach the coast of the Florida Big Bend area Thursday evening and then move from southeastern Georgia across southeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina Thursday night and Friday. Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach the coast within the warning area by Thursday afternoon, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the watch area Thursday night and Friday.


Toll from US tornadoes climbs to 20 - The US is hit by an average of 1,200 tornadoes each year and they are particularly common in the Great Plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Eastern Germany Prepares for Dam Bursts as Water Levels Rise - As the people of Prague started to clean up after three days of flooding, residents in the eastern German cities of Dresden, Halle and Meissen were bolstering their defenses against the torrents of water still surging from the Vltava, Mulde and Saale rivers into the Elbe.
While water levels subsided in parts of Bavaria, Austria and the Czech Republic, the full force of the deluge is expected to hit eastern Germany in the coming days. Soldiers, emergency services and volunteers are battling to limit the damage from the flooding, the worst on record in some parts of the country, recalling the devastation in 2002 that put whole regions of Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary under water.
.Authorities in Dresden, which still bears the scars of the floods 11 years ago that damaged buildings including the 19th century Semper Opera, have evacuated more than 1,000 people from low-lying areas and are moving several thousand more to safety as they prepare for the Elbe to approach record levels. “We have a very tense situation all along the Elbe. Water levels are rising and will continue to do so over the next few hours. We all hope very much that the water mark will stay below 2002 levels. First residential areas in the immediate vicinity have become islands or peninsulas.”
The Elbe had risen to 8.44 meters (28 feet) in Dresden. City officials said the water mark may reach 9 meters in the course of the floods, compared with 9.4 meters at the height of the 2002 catastrophe. While Dresden’s historic city center, including the Frauenkirche cathedral, will be safe because of protection installed after the 2002 floods, some city districts that are located further downstream still lack such protection. About 5,600 German soldiers are toiling in the flood areas, according to the defense ministry. The troops are reinforcing dams, giving medical aid and helping with evacuations. Contingents of Dutch and French troops are also aiding the relief effort.
In Halle on the Saale, one dam in the city has burst, prompting authorities to order 30,000 people to leave their homes. As many as 1,500 emergency staff and volunteers are working to protect the city with pumps and at least 140,000 sandbags. The Elbe reached 8.89 meters in the city of Meissen in Saxony, where water flowed into the city center and the local utility had to temporarily cut power supplies in some parts. At least 10,000 people have been evacuated in the state.
The Deutsche Wetterdienst expects weather to improve and rainfall to subside in most parts of the country in coming days. The Vltava river, which winds through Prague, crested yesterday and the water level has begun to subside there after flooding as much as 4 percent of the city. The situation in the city has “stabilized” and officials are preparing plans to start the clean-up. Anti-flood barriers measuring 17 kilometers remained in place to protect the city from the swollen river. The public transport company reopened some subway stations but most of the city center’s metro system remained shut. More than 19,000 people were evacuated around the Czech Republic because of floods, most of them in the northern part of the country. Officials in Hungary evacuated as many as 600 hotel guests from the Margitsziget island in Budapest as the Danube surged.


A new report on Listeria monocytogenes infections underscores the groups at greatest risk — older people and pregnant women — and sheds light on why progress has stalled in the battle against one of the deadliest foodborne diseases. From 2009 through 2011, 1,651 listeriosis cases occurred during that time, including 224 that were part of 12 outbreaks affecting 38 states. Better understanding of the disease and efforts to reduce contamination in foods such as hot dogs and retail deli meat helped decrease the incidence of Listeria infections by 24% from 1996 through 2001, but investigation of the latest outbreaks found other food sources, such as soft cheeses and fresh produce, and food safety gaps.
The report's key findings are that people age 65 and older are four times more likely than the general population to get sick from Listeria and that pregnant women are 10 times more likely to be infected. The risk for pregnant Hispanic women is even more pronounced — 24 times more likely than the general public. "The bottom line is that progress reducing rates of Listeria infection has stalled. Rates have not budged in more than a decade."
L monocytogenes is an environmental contaminant that can be present anywhere food is being prepared. "That can happen at the growing stage for produce, it can happen in processing facilities for cheese and other products, and it can happen at retail."
"We can prevent illnesses and save lives by taking some simple steps. Controlling temperatures in the deli case and putting in measures to prevent cross-contamination can have a really powerful impact to public health." 21% of infections in the study period were deadly — a figure that includes fetal losses. The fatal cases were mostly in older people and as miscarriages or stillbirths. It noted that pregnant women who have listeriosis often have only mild symptoms or fever, but the illness can lead to miscarriage or premature labor, as well as illness or death in newborns.
In younger, nonpregnant people, the Listeria threat was greatest in people with weakened immune systems, such as those undergoing cancer treatment or people with underlying conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes. Though US and Canadian health officials have pointed out the high risk of Listeria contamination in soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, the CDC report said those made from pasteurized milk also pose a threat. Cheese was implicated in six outbreaks covered in the report, and five were made from pasteurized milk: four were Mexican-style cheese, such as queso fresco, and one involved chive and ackawi cheese (a white brined cheese.)
Although pasteurization eliminates Listeria, contamination can occur after the process, and the bacteria can grow in moist, refrigeration environments and can thrive when the product is contaminated. Raw produce items linked to recent Listeria outbreaks included cantaloupe and pre-cut celery.
New prevention efforts are needed to regain progress toward reducing the Listeria illness burden, including quicker illness detection, speedier outbreak investigations, and heightened awareness for food producers and consumers. The CDC said it has plans to test an advanced DNA fingerprinting method (whole-genome sequencing) on Listeria, which could identify and control outbreaks faster.

Prime Food USA, Brooklyn, NY, is recalling Latis Brand Seafood Products due to confirmed and suspected contamination with listeria monocytogenes.