Archive | Environmental Disasters

Crews Put Out Fire from Huge Train Tanker Explosion

Firefighters on Monday extinguished a massive blaze from an ethanol-laden train that derailed in Hancock County, Ohio.

In a spectacular nighttime explosion that could be seen as far as 15 miles away, about 18 tanker cars carrying 320,000 gallons of ethanol tumbled off the tracks Sunday, UPI reports.

Several of the cars burned for almost 24 hours before firefighters got the blaze under control by late Sunday.

The 62-car Norfolk Southern train was heading for North Carolina from Chicago. It is not clear why the derailment occurred.

No injuries were reported, but authorities evacuated homes within a 2 mile radius of the flames. They were concerned about the fire’s proximity to the Blanchard Valley Co-Op, where fertilizer was stored.

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Japan Volcano Forces over 1,000 Evacuations

A newly active Japan volcano has prompted officials to evacuate over 1,000 people living on the country’s southern island, news sources reported Monday.

Shinmoedake, a 4,662-foot peak in the Kirishima range on the southern Japan island of Kyushu, erupted last Thursday after 52 years of dormancy. Smoke plumes rose over 6,500 feet, and local residents were evacuated as a precaution. No injuries were reported.

On Monday, the volcano was still expelling a magnificent ash-cloud, coating local vegetable farms and disrupting airline flights, Reuters reports.

Authorities issued an evacuation advisory a 11:50 p.m. on Sunday (1450 GMT). About 1,100 residents in the town of Takaharu fled to evacuation centers, although many chose to remain in their homes.

According to The Associated Press, experts said a dome of lava was swelling inside the volcano. It is still unclear whether the dome will grow enough to spill over the crest and send searing lava down the mountainsides.

It has been nearly 300 years since Shinmoedake has been this active, Reuters reported Monday.

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Haiti Mourns 220,000 Dead One Year After Quake

Haiti on Tuesday began a two-day ceremony honoring the 220,000 people who died in a catastrophic earthquake one year ago.

Government officials gathered early at a mass grave just north of the capital Port-au-Prince. Between 150,000 and 200,000 victims of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake are believed to have been hastily buried there.

The commemoration was expected to conclude with a minute of silence on Wednesday at 4:53 p.m., the exact one-year anniversary of the devastating tremor.

Haiti President Rene Preval laid a wreath on the hill overlooking the Caribbean.

“We remember you, we will never forget you,” Preval said, according to AFP.

On Wednesday, thousands of Port-au-Prince citizens dressed in white sang hymns in the streets as they walked to prayer services.

With 800,000 people displaced in tent camps and the nation’s economy and infrastructure still in peril, the impoverished country has hardly recovered from the crippling disaster that struck 12 months ago.

A cholera outbreak and political turmoil related to the Nov. 28 elections have only made matters worse.

While he praised U.S. humanitarian efforts in Haiti following the quake, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the recovery effort is far from over.

“Still, too much rubble continues to clog the streets, too many people are still living in tents, and for so many Haitians progress has not come fast enough,” Obama said in a statement Tuesday.

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Panel Calls for Oil Spill Safety Regulations and Agency

A presidential panel investigating BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is calling for an overhaul of industry practices and the appointment of a new watchdog group in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the disaster.

The White House commission concluded its extensive six-month probe with a final report Tuesday, saying that the government needs to expand its regulatory system and instate an independent drilling safety oversight agency.

“None of the major aspects of offshore drilling safety — not the regulatory oversight, not the industry safety standards, not the spill response practices — kept pace with the push into deepwater,” said commission co-chair Bill Reilly, according to AFP.

“In effect, our nation was entirely unprepared for an inevitable disaster,” he said.

An April 20th explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig left 4.9 million barrels of crude spewing uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico. 11 rig workers died in the explosion, and the spill devastated marine wildlife, local tourism, and the commercial fishing and shrimping industries before the well was capped three months later.

Many of the seven-member panel’s recommendations will need to go through the Senate, where they are sure to face opposition from Republicans.

Both Republicans and oil companies have condemned the prospect of additional regulations, saying that they impede offshore exploration and end up costing Americans at the pump.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that following the spill the Interior Department implemented many of the reforms suggested by the panel, but that it “will use the commission’s report and the findings of other investigations to inform future actions to strengthen oversight.”

The panel is also pushing for a self-regulating agency to enforce protocol and oversee offshore drilling safety.

Although it did not call for a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic, the commission warned that the Interior should ensure that companies take precautionary measures in case a spill occurs there.

The panel does not have the power to enforce its recommendations, but the 400-page report could sway court proceedings and energy policy.

While the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the government after the spill was lifted in October, no permits for exploratory drilling have been issued.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Deepwater Horizon Spill Could Happen Again Without Reforms, Panel Says

A panel appointed to study the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico says the blowout was caused by a series of risky decisions intended to save time and money.

The seven-member commission also claims the incident could happen again without significant reforms.

A 48-page excerpt of the report was released Wednesday prior to the full document’s publication early next week.

“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again,” the report said. “Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

BP’s Macondo well began uncontrollably gushing crude oil on April 20, setting off the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

The panel contends that BP, Transocean and Halliburton company personnel did not adequately consider the risks involved in a series of time-saving steps.

“The most significant failure at Macondo — and the clear root cause of the blowout — was a failure of industry management,” panel members concluded. “Better management of decision-making processes within BP and other companies, better communication within and between BP and its contractors and effective training of key engineering and rig personnel would have prevented the Macondo incident.”

Bob Graham, a former Florida senator, and William K. Reilly, a former EPA administrator, were appointed by President Barack Obama last May to lead the commission designed to identify the underlying causes of the blowout.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Indiana Earthquake Rattles Midwesterners

A 3.8-magnitude earthquake hit north-central Indiana Wednesday morning at about 8 a.m. ET, The U.S. Geological Survey says.

The tremor occurred three miles below ground about 15 miles east-southeast of Kokomo, and 50 miles north of Indianapolis.

Earthquakes are rare for heartland areas like Indiana, so some residents were a bit shaken up.

“It was like a huge explosion under your feet,” said Kokomo denizen Debra Sholty, according to CNN.

But most people were more surprised than frightened.

“The whole building just shook,” local Laura Smith told CNN. “You could feel your body shaking.”

“It was amazing,” she added. “Personally, I thought it was exciting.”

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

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Gulf Oil Rig Explosion Caused by Collapse of Defenses, Report Finds

The oil rig explosion that left millions of gallons of crude streaming into the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th occurred because all of the Deepwater Horizon’s defenses against a blowout failed, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times collected interviews with 21 Horizon crew members, accounts of the 94 survivors who escaped the disaster, and documents describing the rig’s operations in order to perform a comprehensive investigation of the tragedy that spurred the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

The newspaper found that failure to prepare for the worst combined with the complexity of the Horizon’s defenses contributed to the disaster.

Much of the crew was unaware of the crisis for nine minutes as the drilling crew fought the blowout, the Times said.

Crew members were paralyzed by the complexity of the rig’s defenses and could not coordinate a response. One emergency system alone was controlled by 30 buttons, the paper noted.

While Transocean had provided the crew with a handbook detailing how to respond to a blowout, the emergency protocols called for rapid action while advising against overreaction.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Stephen Baldwin Sues Kevin Costner over BP Oil Machine

Stephen Baldwin is suing fellow actor Kevin Costner over their investments in a machine that BP used to separate oil from water.

Baldwin reportedly owned 10 percent of the Costner-backed company that made oil-separating centrifuges. A federal lawsuit filed in New Orleans, Louisiana Wednesday alleges that Costner and his business partners “schemed” to get Baldwin to sell back his shares of an $18 million deal for BP to purchase the devices in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Costner’s representatives declined to comment, AP reported.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Posted in Courts & Litigation, Drilling for Oil, Environmental Disasters, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Earthquake Kills 7 in Iran

An earthquake in southeastern Iran has killed seven people and injured at least 33 more, The Associated Press said Tuesday.

The epicenter of the 6.5-magnitude quake hit the small town of Hosseinabad in Iran’s rural Chah Malek region at 10:12 local time (1842 GMT) Monday.

An official from Iran’s Red Crescent told Iranian state TV reporters that rescue teams were able to extract all survivors from the rubble. Four of the casualties were school students, three of them girls.

The seismic activity badly damaged homes and cut off telephone lines, disconnecting contact with the remote area. The tremor also harmed the water supply system, but officials were able to restore electricity to the region, AP reported.

Mohammad Barzang, the governor of the nearby small town of Rigan, told the press earlier Tuesday that dozens of people in three remote villages were buried under the debris of collapsed houses. He said that rescue teams were dispatched to the region and that over 2,000 required tents to live in because their houses were damaged up to 60 percent.

Posted in Environmental Disasters, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Study Compares 2010 and 1979 Oil Spills

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, June 8 (UPI) — A Texas A&M University researcher says the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is similar to one that occurred in 1979 that took 10 months to cap.

Norman Guinasso, director of the university’s Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, said the June 1979 event occurred when a Mexican well named Ixtoc I blew out and sank about 50 miles off the Bay of Campeche.

He said the BP Oil Co.’s Deepwater Horizon well that caught fire and sank April 20 and the Ixtoc are very similar events, especially in the failed efforts to contain the oil leaks.

The Ixtoc I well was owned by Pemex, Mexico’s government-owned petroleum company.

“What is happening today, especially the failures to cap the well, happened in a similar way back in 1979,” Guinasso said. “And just like the current spill, there was a blowout preventer that was supposed to have worked, but it did not.

“But the big difference … was the depth of the water — it was only in 160 feet of water, not like the more-than-5,000-foot depth of the current oil leak.”

About 170 miles of Texas shoreline eventually were affected by the 1979 spill that released an estimated 140 million gallons of oil before the Ixtoc was capped.

But, in the case of the BP oil rig spill, Guinasso says, “There seem to be no doubt this will be one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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