Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster reports.

++NEW++ Massive 8.0 quake off Chile coast sparks tsunami - A major earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck off the coast of Chile on Tuesday, triggering a tsunami that hit the northern part of the country and a tsunami warning for all of South and Central America's Pacific coast.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was very shallow, only 6.2 miles below the seabed, and struck at 6:46 p.m. local time (2346 GMT) 62 miles northwest of the mining port of Iquique, near the Peruvian border. The Chilean navy said the first tsunami wave had hit the coast within 45 minutes of the quake.
"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours." Iquique is a key copper exporting port, close to the country's main copper mines. Mining companies Codelco and BHP Billiton said that had not yet received reports of damage to mines.
The warning said that aside from Chile, the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were also at risk. A tsunami of up to 6.3 feet could strike the town of Pisagua, Chile, within 44 minutes of the quake. In 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that caused major damage in several coastal towns in central-south Chile and killed hundreds of people.

**The man who has no imagination has no wings.**
Muhammad Ali

Watch out for pranks [Don't say I didn't warn you!]
and have a Happy April Fool's Day!

LARGEST QUAKES so far today -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday, 3/31/14 -

California - There have been hundreds of aftershocks from Friday's 5.1 earthquake in La Habra, which experts said is what they expected. The aftershocks are declining in frequency. The largest was a 4.1 temblor that hit Rowland Heights on Saturday afternoon. Many of the smaller ones likely were not felt.
There is precedent for earthquake aftershocks jumping faults. The Whittier Narrows earthquake, a magnitude 5.9, struck on the Puente Hills thrust fault system on Oct. 1, 1987. Three days later, a magnitude 5.6 aftershock hit on a different fault. That aftershock killed one person, twisted several chimneys and broke windows. Damage was reported in Whittier, Pico Rivera, Los Angeles and Alhambra.
Meanwhile, officials in northern Orange County spent Sunday assessing the damage from Friday's magnitude 5.1 earthquake. The temblor caused damage to businesses -- mostly spilled merchandise and a few shattered windows. Friday night, dozens of dwellings were red-tagged as officials looked for structural damage. Officials in the cities hardest hit -- Fullerton, Brea and La Habra -- have not yet released damage estimates. It appears the damage was modest, and there were no serious injuries.
About 50 residents were allowed back into their Fullerton apartment units, which had been red-tagged Friday night after the quake near La Habra. City building department inspectors were out in force Saturday to examine the 20 units at the building. They were deemed safe. Elsewhere in the city, about 19 residents in six single-family homes across northern Fullerton remained displaced. About 13 water line breaks were reported in Fullerton after Friday's quake, including three ruptures under city streets. By Saturday night, they had all been repaired.
For most, the biggest headache was clearing away the aftermath of the quake, which was preceded and followed by a series of smaller nerve-rattling temblors that continued into Saturday. About 2:30 p.m., a shallow magnitude 4.1 earthquake hit the nearby Rowland Heights area, but no damage or major injuries were reported. Friday night's shaking left scattered damage across the La Habra area, near the quake's epicenter, hitting houses, apartments and businesses as well as street lights that were left dangling precariously.
"From 20 to 30 businesses suffered broken plate-glass windows, many of them along Whittier Boulevard. There were also some apartments with stucco damage and leaking water." In Brea, officials were working to repair a broken water main. A resident of Fullerton said a large picture covered with glass flew nine feet off the wall and shattered within inches of his terrified 9-year-old son. There was broken glass in every room and some cracks in the home's stucco. "We spent most of the night just trying to clean it up so the kids wouldn't wake up in the morning and be reminded of it." Their home had been without water since early Saturday, when a city crew shut off a broken water main. For most of the night, a geyser 75 feet tall spilled into a giant birdbath-like depression formed when the asphalt dipped.

Peru - Ubinas volcano has erupted. Ubinas volcano, which became active again in September 2013, has erupted after several months of activity.

Current tropical storms - maps and details.

No current tropical storms.

Tropical Cyclone Hellen - Storm Surge, Heavy Rain in Madagascar. The tropical cyclone appears to have spared Madagascar a more fearsome storm surge. Fears of a "worst case scenario" were narrowly avoided in Madagascar as Tropical Cyclone Hellen made landfall Monday, having weakened rapidly just before landfall after undergoing a period of equally rapid intensification over the weekend.
Hellen intensified at an extraordinary rate over the Mozambique Channel as it drifted south-southeast over the weekend toward the northwestern coast of Madagascar, an island nation in the southwestern Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. At 1845 GMT Sunday (2:45 p.m. EDT in the U.S.), Tropical Cyclone Hellen was packing 10-minute average winds as high as 145 miles per hour – the equivalent of about 150 miles per hour, or a Category 4 hurricane.
At the time, the cyclone's central pressure was estimated at 925 millibars, marking a dizzying drop of 61 millibars from 24 hours earlier. The maximum sustained wind speed increased from 65 mph to 145 mph in the same time period. Generally, stronger central pressures correspond to stronger winds in tropical cyclones (including hurricanes and typhoons). The National Hurricane Center defines "rapid intensification" as occurring when the maximum sustained winds in a tropical cyclone increase by at least 30 knots, or about 35 miles per hour, in a 24-hour period.
The extreme intensification, combined with the path of the storm and the fact that winds blow clockwise around Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclones, raised fears of a deadly storm surge for coastal towns along the country's northwestern coastline. Bulletins from RSMC La Reunion Sunday afternoon and evening warned that the town of Soalala (population 15,000), on the Bay of Baly, was at risk of a storm surge as high as 7 meters (23 feet). Farther east, the city and regional capital of Mahajanga (population 130,000) was warned of a 2- to 4-meter (6- to 13-foot) storm surge.
Fortunately for coastal residents, Hellen weakened as quickly as it strengthened. By 0600 GMT (2 a.m. EDT) Monday, Hellen's pressure had risen back to 975 millibars and its 10-minute average winds had fallen to 80 mph, according to the centre's bulletin. The cyclone's forward movement had come to a virtual halt as its rainbands and strong winds pushed into northwest Madagascar. In just 12 hours, the cyclone's estimated central pressure had risen a staggering 50 millibars, in essence, reversing most of the rapid intensification occurring earlier Sunday.
The reasons for this rapid weakening were not clear, except for a strengthening north to northeast winds aloft which may have provided increased wind shear to rip apart the circulation. By 1200 GMT (8 a.m. EDT) Monday, Hellen had moved inland and weakened further with maximum winds of 50 mph and a central pressure of 990 millibars. Hellen's landfall brought blustery conditions and heavy rain to northwest Madagascar, primarily in the administrative regions of Boeny and Melaky. The two regions have a combined population of just over 700,000 in 2004. Melaky is the least densely populated region in all of Madagascar.
In Mahajanga, the capital of Boeny and Madagascar's second-busiest seaport, observations indicated 156 mm (6.14 inches) of rain in the 42-hour period ending 1200 GMT (8 a.m. EDT) Monday. Wind gusts at the city's Amborovy Airport peaked at 46 mph at 0500 GMT (1 a.m. EDT) Monday. While there are no readily available measurements of storm surge in the region, photos from the scene indicated that even the much-weakened storm had caused some damage to vulnerable structures on the immediate coastline in Mahajanga.
Forecasters at La Reunion said Hellen is forecast to continue a right turn, taking it westward across the Mozambique Channel toward the mainland African nation of Mozambique without much restrengthening. The agency's Monday morning bulletin suggested Hellen could even dissipate over Madagascar without making it back over water.
The primary season for tropical cyclones in the Southwest Indian Ocean basin runs from November through April. Madagascar's deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone in modern times, Gafilo, made landfall on March 7, 2004, in northeast Madagascar with maximum sustained winds near 160 mph. It tore a path westward across northern Madagascar, then recurved over the Mozambique Channel and meandered east across southern Madagascar March 9-12. At least 237 people died in Madagascar. Gafilo was also the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Southwest Indian Ocean basin, bottoming out at a minimum central pressure of 895 millibars.

Australia - Getting drunk at home during a cyclone warning could land you in jail, under tough new laws. Territorians found to be drunk during a cyclone warning will face being thrown in jail until the danger passes, under tough new laws designed to limit insurance payouts. And the sale of alcohol will be banned during official cyclone ‘watch’ alerts, to limit the chances of people getting drunk.
The move comes after legal advice to insurer TIO identified massive potential risk to government finances if people are injured or killed in a cyclone - and then file damages claims over ‘duty of care’ obligations not met. Drinking parties are widespread in the cyclone-prone Top End of the Northern Territory, with bottle shops enjoying huge sales figures whenever a cyclone is predicted to pass over Darwin. But the tradition of getting smashed in a bunker as the wind and rain belts down outside is about to end.
And it comes not a moment too soon, says NT Police Disaster and Emergency Response Coordinator Commander. Conditions in a cyclone disaster are tough enough for emergency crews to deal with – to also have drunk people added to the equation is too much. We have been saying for years, when the big one does come, the last thing we want is a population that is incapacitated due to alcohol or other intoxication. Response crews on the ground in such an emergency should not be faced with the extra burden of carrying thousands of passed-out members of the public to safety. “I congratulate the government for taking this responsible step.”
Under the new laws soon to be enacted, people found to be over the BAC limit of 0.05 per cent during an official cyclone warning alert will face being placed into protective custody until the alert is called off. This will apply even if Territorians are found to be drunk in their own homes. Police will be given extra powers during warnings to enter dwellings without a warrant to conduct random breath testing and confiscate alcohol.
A law firm specialising in litigation mitigation and class actions identified potential risk of up to $700m if the NT were devastated by a category three system. The report said Territorians pose a risk to themselves because of their attitudes to alcohol and cyclones – and unless the government exercised its duty of care, it faced devastating financial losses. “It came as a real shock,” a NT Government Treasury spokesperson said. “But as a government, we realised the culture has to change - or face bankrupting Territory finances.”
An Australian Hotels Association spokesman said Top End hoteliers and bottle shop owners would not take the move lying down. To say that Teritorians cannot gather with friends and enjoy alcohol responsibly during catastrophic wind events is, frankly, an insult." The laws – set to come into force on April 1, 2015 – will be preceded by a $5m education campaign in the media, highlighting the dangers of being drunk during natural disasters. [article by Hugh Moore]


A rare hailstorm hurled golf ball-sized balls of ice at Hong Kong last night, punching holes in the roof of a Kowloon shopping mall accompanied by heavy rains. Video

Washington - Authorities say number missing in Washington mudslide drops from 30 to 22; death toll still 24.


Ebola outbreak in Guinea UNPRECEDENTED - The Ebola outbreak has killed 78 people in Guinea. An official with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the spread of the disease across the country made it very difficult to control. The West African state is facing a battle to contain the outbreak after cases were reported in areas that are hundreds of kilometres apart.
Ebola is spread by close contact and kills between 25% and 90% of victims. "We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases. This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic."
The outbreak of Ebola had centred around Guinea's remote south-eastern region of Nzerekore but it took the authorities six weeks to identify the disease. It has now spread to neighbouring Liberia, as well as Guinea's capital, Conakry, which has a population of two million people. Figures released overnight by Guinea's health ministry showed that there had been 78 deaths from 122 cases of suspected Ebola since January, up from 70.
Of these, there were 22 laboratory confirmed cases of Ebola. Liberia has recorded a total of seven suspected and confirmed cases, including four deaths. Liberia's Health Minister on Monday warned people to stop having sex because the virus was spread via bodily fluids. This was in addition to existing advice to stop shaking hands and kissing.
Residents are increasingly concerned and many supermarket workers are wearing gloves as a precaution. The first two Liberians confirmed as dying from Ebola were sisters, one of whom had recently returned from Guinea. Sierra Leone has also reported five suspected cases, none of which have been confirmed yet, while Senegal, another neighbour of Guinea's, has closed its land border. Outbreaks of Ebola occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests. (map at link)

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