Archive | Natural Disasters

China Launches Possible Spy Satellite

BEIJING, Aug. 11 (UPI) — China launched a secret reconnaissance satellite with a Long March rocket Monday, the sixth satellite it has launched this year, authorities said.

The mission lifted off aboard a Long March 4C rocket from the Taiyuan launching center in northern China’s Shanxi province, SPACE.com reported.

Independent tracking data showed the three-stage booster placing the satellite in an orbit about 380 miles high.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said the satellite would conduct scientific experiments, make land surveys, estimate crop yields and help respond to natural disasters.

But observers say it is likely a military high-resolution optical and radar reconnaissance satellite, SPACE.com said.

The Yoagon series of satellites began launching in 2006, and a recent launch in March included three spacecraft believed to be naval observation satellites.

In a move typical of China’s policy regarding military payloads, the launch was announced less than 24 hours in advance, SPACE.com said.

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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Researchers Seek Railway Hazard Warnings

TEL AVIV, Israel, July 27 (UPI) — Israeli researchers say they are developing an early warning hazard system to protect the world’s railways from accidents and even terrorist actions.

Tel Aviv University scientists are collecting high-tech sensing data from satellites, airplanes, ground sensors and unmanned aircraft to devise a solution to provide a reliable early warning system for train operators, a university release said Monday.

The research aims to connect several technologies so train accidents caused by avalanches, earthquakes and even terrorist sabotage can be avoided, Prof. Lev V. Eppelbaum of the school’s Department of Geophysics & Planetary Sciences said.

“Sinkholes, avalanches, landslides, earthquakes, flash floods — these disasters can cause train wrecks anywhere around the world,” says Eppelbaum. “We are hoping to develop a platform that can be fitted to any railway, passenger or freight carrier, to better predict natural disasters and possible terror attacks on rail lines.”

At present, there is no worldwide monitoring system for either natural disasters or terror attacks on rail systems, Eppelbaum said.

The Tel Aviv research is one part of a European project that includes participants from Israel, Italy, France, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Romania.

“We are creating a new interpretation system allowing us to integrate cutting-edge technologies from across Europe,” he said.

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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UNESCO to Consider Heritage Site Nominees

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 (UPI) — First-time submissions by Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Tajikistan will be among the candidates for UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the U.N. agency said.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, the nuclear testing site at the Marshall Islands’ Bikini Atoll and Pamir Mountains in the Tajik National Park are three of the dozens of sites up for consideration when the World Heritage Committee meets later in July in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Tuesday in a release issued from New York.

Thirty-five nations will offer 41 properties for inscription at this year’s session, the agency said. UNESCO officials said the World Heritage List recognizes 890 properties in 148 countries as having “outstanding universal value.”

The committee will also review the conservation status of 31 sites considered to be in danger. Sites could be removed from the Heritage List because of problems such as pollution, urban development, poor management, mass tourism, wars and natural disasters, UNESCO said.

Last year UNESCO said it delisted Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley because a four-lane bridge was built in the heart of the cultural landscape. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman also was removed because the country failed to fulfill its conservation obligations.

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.

Posted in Conservation, Natural Disasters, Nuclear, Other0 Comments

Researchers Sequence the Human Body Louse

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., June 23 (UPI) — U.S.- and Swiss-led scientists say their sequencing and analysis of the human body louse genome is a major step toward controlling the disease-vector insect.

The project, which involved more than 70 international scientists, was led by Professor Barry Pittendrigh at the University of Illinois; Professor Evgeny Zdobnov at the University of Geneva Medical School and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics; and Professor Ewen Kirkness at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md.

The researchers said the human body louse (Pediculus humanus humanus) is an obligate human parasite responsible for the transmission of bacteria that cause relapsing fever, trench fever and epidemic typhus. The scientists said their sequencing and comparative analysis of the body louse genome with other sequenced species revealed many features that will enhance science’s understanding of the relationship between disease-vector insects, the pathogens they transmit and affected human hosts.

The human body louse usually lives in clothing, and infestations are associated with wearing unwashed apparel for prolonged periods such as during wartime, natural disasters or the often poor personal hygiene of homeless people or refugees, the scientists said.

As well as irritations from infestations with body lice or the closely related human head lice, the body louse may carry harmful bacteria that cause epidemic typhus and are classified as a bioterrorism agent.

The study is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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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Cyclone Headed for N.E. Australia

TOWNSVILLE, Australia, March 19 (UPI) — Northeast Australia prepared Saturday for a tropical cyclone headed toward the coast of Queensland.

Mark Hentschel, a spokesman for the Weather Bureau, said Cyclone Ului was expected to make landfall near Townsville early Sunday morning, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. High winds were expected to hit the coast between Townsville and Yeppoon by late Saturday.

Ferry services to offshore islands were already being canceled Saturday, and harbors were crowded with yachts as their owners sought shelter from the coming storm.

Brian Rolstone, a senior forecaster, said as much as 8 inches of rain could fall in some areas, while 2 to 4 inches would be more common. He warned of flooding both on the coast and in some inland areas.

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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Tsunami Warning Wasn't Passed on to Public

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 6 (UPI) — The Chilean government didn’t pass on a tsunami warning after the massive earthquake hit the country, perhaps costing hundreds of lives, local officials said.

Eleven minutes after the magnitude 8.8 quake hit Feb. 27, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii sent word of the huge wave targeting central Chile, but the message was never passed on to the public, The Miami Herald reported Saturday.

The Herald quoted Miguel Rivera, a city councilman in the coastal town of Hualpen, just north of Concepcion, as saying, “People are dead as a result of the government’s mistakes. Sending out the word in time would have saved a lot of lives.”

Appearing on TV Chile, Chilean Navy Adm. Edmundo Gonzalez was asked whether the navy, which received the warning, was responsible for hundreds of deaths. “We share that responsibility,” he said, adding the navy was “not very clear” in describing the threat to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the Herald reported.

Bachelet said Gonzalez’s statement “very manly,” but it was not the time for finger-pointing, the report said. The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 800 people.

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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Rainy Season, Flooding Loom for Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 2 (UPI) — Flood-producing heavy rains in Haiti killed at least 13 people, sent residents scurrying to rooftops and trapped people in vehicles and homes, officials said.

Several communities in southern Haiti have been flooded since Saturday, a civil emergency spokesman told The Guardian. U.N. troops and Haitian police moved 500 prisoners from a jail in Les Cayes as water engulfed the coastal city. Witnesses told the British newspaper houses collapsed and people fled for high ground.

The Haitian government, the United Nations and several international relief agencies are raising concerns about dangers posed by the Caribbean rainy season that runs from March or April into fall. Haiti still is recovering from the 7-magnitude earthquake Jan. 12 that killed more than 200,000 and left about 1.3 million people homeless, many living in overcrowded makeshift camps with little or no sanitation.

U.N. officials said the non-government organization plans to provide all families with two plastic tarps by May 1. Red Cross officials said about 40 percent of the population left homeless by the earthquake have received tents, tarps or shelter tool kits.

With the rainy season looming, officials have begun trying to cull tent city populations by registering families whose homes can be quickly repaired and rebuilt, The Guardian said. Other camp dwellers are being encouraged to move in with friends or relatives.

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.

Posted in Earthquakes, Environmental Disasters, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Pacific Nations Cancel Tsunami Alert

TOKYO, Feb. 28 (UPI) — Tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific basin were canceled Sunday after waves unleashed by Chile’s earthquake reached as far as Japan.

The earthquake claimed at least 300 lives in Chile, but no casualties or injuries were reported along the coasts of other nations that were able to issue tsunami warnings well in advance of the arrival of waves.

The tallest wave to hit Japan measured 4 feet when it rolled into the Kuji Port in Iwate, CNN reported. Japan was the last country on alert for the tsunami and had evacuated tens of thousands of people from coastal areas. A tsunami unleashed by Chile’s 1960 quake killed 140 people in Japan.

Hawaii canceled its tsunami alert about two hours after the first waves came ashore Saturday.

In California, several navigational buoys were damaged by a 2-foot tsunami surge Saturday.

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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George Clooney Organizing Haiti Earthquake Telethon with MTV

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 14 (UPI) — Film star George Clooney is working with MTV on a telethon to raise money for the people affected by this week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The actor and humanitarian told The Hollywood Reporter exclusively he is reaching out to his famous friends in hopes of getting them to participate in the Jan. 22 fundraiser.

The telethon is to air on MTV’s networks, the entertainment industry trade newspaper said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Earthquakes, Human Health & Wellness, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Clinton Calls Haitian Earthquake 'Catastrophic' as Victims Await Haiti Disaster Relief

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 12 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday a 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti was “catastrophic” as Washington offered aid to victims.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake was centered about 10 miles southwest of Port au Prince, the capital of the Caribbean island nation. Some injuries have been reported, the quake disrupted the country’s communication systems, sections of the National Palace crumbled and there was a report a hospital had collapsed, The Miami Herald said.

The newspaper said Haitian President Rene Preval has sought safe haven on the island nation.

Clinton said the United States was “still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti.”

“The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region,” she said. “We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.”

The White House said President Barack Obama has directed his staff to make sure U.S. Embassy personnel in Port au Prince are safe and to initiate planning to respond in case humanitarian assistance is necessary.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti.”

The State Department, USAID and the U.S. Southern Command had begun work on coordinating U.S. assistance to Haiti, the White House said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a local tsunami watch for Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas, although a major destructive wave was considered unlikely.

Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, told CNN a Haitian government official advised him property damage included an undetermined number of collapsed buildings.

“He said it is a catastrophe of major proportions,” Joseph said.

Frank Williams, Haitian director of World Vision International, told CNN “walls from buildings and private residences (were) falling into the streets.” Williams said his relief agency’s building shook for about 35 seconds and “portions of things on the building fell off.”

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Buildings, Earthquakes, Military, Natural Disasters1 Comment

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