Thursday, May 16, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: IDMC Study - Natural Disasters Displaced 32.4 Million People In 2012!

May 16, 2013 - EARTH - More than 30 million people fled their homes in 2012 because of disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes, a new report indicates.

Rainy Season Floods, South Sudan:  340,000 displaced - Sudanese refugees wait in line to board a truck heading to Batil refugee camp July 15, 2012 in Jamam camp, South Sudan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

According to the study by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council, natural disasters forced 32.4 million people to flee last year, with the overwhelming majority (98 percent) due to climate- and weather-related events. While most of the victims live in developing nations, 2012 also saw an increase in environmental refugees in wealthy countries, particularly in the United States.

The report establishes that most of the damage was caused by severe flooding, with India and Nigeria suffering the brunt of the destruction. India, in particular, experienced repeated flooding during its long monsoon season. Africa suffered a record high in 2012, with 8.2 million people displaced because of natural disasters.

The study points out that both the intensity and the frequency of natural disasters are cause for concern as climate change is projected to continue to spur recurrent tragedies. According to the report, multiple displacement events occurred in three-quarters of the countries affected.

The U.S. experienced one of the worst instances of disaster-induced displacement in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy forced 776,000 people out of their homes. As the reports states, however, rich countries are much better equipped to recover from such events, thus limiting the effects on local populations.

"In the U.S. following Hurricane Sandy, most of those displaced were able to find refuge in adequate temporary shelter while displaced from their own homes," Clare Spurrell, Chief Spokesperson for IDMC, said in a press release. "Compare this to communities in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands are still living in makeshift tents over three years after the 2010 earthquake mega-disaster, and you see a very different picture."

Conversely, the damage by disasters on poorer nations tends to be exacerbated by other factors such as poverty, hunger, and violence, "resulting in a 'perfect storm' of risk factors that lead to displacement."

In order to improve government response to natural disasters, the IDMC report recommends greater data collection on the less visible among the environmental refugees -- those populations that may not have official evacuation centers and refugee camps at their aid.

As Spurrell said, "We need to know more about those who seek refuge with families and friends, people who are repeatedly displaced by smaller disasters, or those who are stuck in prolonged displacement following a disaster -- not just those that make headlines."

Some of the worst displacements of 2012:

Floods And Landslides, Japan: 250,000 displaced - A collapsed house lies in the Hoshino River in Yame City, Fukuoka prefecture on July 16, 2012 following four days of torrential rainfall. (KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rainy Season Floods, Niger: 530,000 displaced - Local residents carry their belongings as they evacuate their homes in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on August 19, 2012 after flooding caused by the Niger River. (BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricane Sandy, United States:  776,000 displaced - Homes sit smoldering after Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in the Breezy Point Neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Twin Typhoons Saola And Damrey/Floods, China: 867,000 displaced - This picture taken on August 6, 2012 shows rescuers evacuating a young girl from her flooded home after a storm following Typhoon Saola hit Shiyan, in central China's Hubei province, leaving 14 dead. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Monsoon Floods (2nd Period), China: 1,420,000 displaced - This picture taken on July 6, 2012 shows visitors gathering to watch giant gushes of water being released from the Xiaolangdi dam to clear up the sediment-laden Yellow river and to prevent localized flooding, in Jiyuan, central China's Henan province. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Floods/Monsoon And Typhoon Effects, Philippines: 1,553,000 displaced - A girl is submerged in the water outside her home next to the swollen Pampanga River August 15, 2012 in Bulacan, Philippines. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Monsoon Floods, Pakistan: 1,857,000 displaced - Pakistani flood affected villagers seek refuge on a dry patch in the flood-hit Jacobabad district of Sindh province on September 17, 2012. (SHAHID ALI/AFP/Getty Images)

Typhoon Pablo (Bopha), Philippines: 1,932,000 displaced - This photo taken on December 29, 2012 shows a father and his children collecting coconuts among debris swept ashore at the height of Typhoon Bopha in Cateel in Davao Oriental province. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Monsoon Floods (2nd Period), India: 2,000,000 displaced - Villagers paddle their boat near submerged houses in a village near Kaziranga National Park on September 27, 2012. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Last March, a study by the Asian Development Bank warned of the risk of environmental-induced migration, particularly in high-density, coastal regions. Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of 2,000 scientists, the report also pointed to the vulnerability of poorer populations with limited resources and mobility to escape such repeated disasters. - Huffington Post.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Most Arctic Ice In A Decade, Ice Extent Is The Highest Since 2002, Temperatures Are 5C Below Normal!

May 16, 2013 - ARCTIC - Arctic sea ice is melting very slowly, and ice extent is the highest for the date since 2002.

Sea ice extent in recent years (in million km2) for the northern hemisphere, as afunction of date.

Total sea ice extent on the northern hemisphere since 2005. The ice extent values are calculated from the ice type data from the Ocean and Sea Ice, Satellite Application Facility (OSISAF), where areas with ice concentration higher than 30% are classified as ice.

The total area of sea ice is the sum of First Year Ice (FYI), Multi Year Ice (MYI) and the area of ambiguous ice types, from the OSISAF ice type product. However, the total estimated ice area is underestimated due to unclassified coastal regions where mixed land/sea pixels confuse the applied ice type algorithm. The shown sea ice extent values are therefore recommended be used qualitatively in relation to ice extent values from other years shown in the figure. In late 2012 sea ice climatology and anomaly data will be available here.

The slow melt is not surprising, because temperatures in the Arctic are almost 5C below normal.

Daily mean temperatures for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel, plotted with daily climate values calculated from the period 1958-2002.

Calculation of the Arctic Mean Temperature
The daily mean temperature of the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel is estimated from the average of the 00z and 12z analysis for all model grid points inside that area. The ERA40 reanalysis data set from ECMWF, has been applied to calculate daily mean temperatures for the period from 1958 to 2002, from 2002 to 2006 data from the global NWP model T511 is used and from 2006 to 2010 T799 data are used and from 2010 to present the T1279 model data are used.

Daily mean temperature and climate north of the 80th northern parallel, as a function of the day of year.

The ERA40 reanalysis data, has been applied to calculation of daily climate values that are plotted along with the daily analysis values in all plots. The data used to determine climate values is the full ERA40 data set, from 1958 to 2002.

More information can be found here. - COI.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Over 130 Dead Seabirds Wash Up On Mandalay Beach In Australia?!

May 16, 2013 - AUSTRALIA - Stormy weather has been blamed for an unusually large spate of native bird deaths on Western Australia's south coast in recent weeks.

The DEC believe storms are responsible for the deaths of 130 birds.

About 130 dead flesh-footed shearwaters have washed up at Mandalay Beach and areas west of Walpole over the past fortnight, according to the Department of Environment and Conservation.

DEC Frankland District nature conservation coordinator Alison McGilvray said about 25 dead birds, which were mostly fledglings and sub-adults, were first discovered on Friday, May 3.

In the days that followed "dozens" of others washed up dead or in poor health.

"Strong winds and high tides caused by early-season winter storms are the most likely cause of the deaths, as these storms impacted on nearby islands where the birds are known to nest," she said in a statement.

"The birds have only recently fledged and left their nesting burrows, and it is likely that high tides impacted the shearwaters' burrows while the storm activity affected the ability of the younger birds, which are not yet at full strength, to fly and feed."

Although young bird deaths in rough conditions was a "natural occurrence" that happened most winters, Ms McGilvray said it was unusual to see so many deaths.

Poisoning was ruled out by Department of Agriculture and Food pathologists who analysed samples of the dead birds.

The birds were found at Mandalay Beach and near Westpole.

"We also appreciate the assistance of the Denmark Veterinary Clinic, which has looked after some of the live birds, while some live birds have been cared for by the Walpole community," Ms McGilvray said.

More than twenty of the surviving birds were released on Tuesday.

"Several birds took flight upon release, which was very heartening to see," Ms McGilvray said.

"We are expecting that the deaths have peaked as the stormy weather has subsided, but will continue to monitor the area over the coming weeks."

DEC encourages people to report sightings of sick or injured wildlife, or any occurrence of mass wildlife deaths, to the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055 or the nearest DEC office. - The Sydney Morning Herald.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Alaska's Pavlof Volcano Puts On A Light Show - Activity Increases As It Spews Ash Up To 20,000 Feet High!

May 16, 2013 - ALASKA - Pavlof Volcano put on a light show for residents of several communities on the Alaska Peninsula Tuesday night. Activity at the volcano has increased, and it’s spewing ash up to 20,000 feet.

View from Sand Point of Pavlof Volcano Erupting on May 14, 2013 (Photo by Gina Stafford)

Cold Bay resident Molly Watson was watching Pavlof for signs of activity from her kitchen window on Tuesday evening.
“And I’d kind of given up, thinking ‘ehn, we’re not going to see anything else, just smoke.’ As soon as I mentally thought that, and I was actually writing it to a friend — I was emailing — and sure enough, I saw this spark, and I was like ‘what is that?!’”
Watson says at first it just looked like a faint glow on the side of the mountain, but that it got clearer over time.

“As it got darker you could really see it shooting up and out — and then you could see the lava flow going down the side of the mountain.”

Pavlof was also shooting up ash clouds — some of them rising up to 20,000 feet. Alaska Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge John Power:
“Most of the plumes that we’ve been seeing are more in the 15,000 foot range, and seem to be falling out of the atmosphere quite quickly. So, so far there hasn’t been any widespread ashfall from this, and it certainly has not gotten up high enough to affect international air travel.”
Nevertheless, an advisory has been issued for all flights in the area, and Power says the Observatory will be monitoring for ash clouds reaching 30,000 feet or above. He adds that other agencies are keeping a close eye on air quality in local communities.

Pavlof Volcano in eruption. View is from the southwest in Cold Bay. Lava fountaining is visible near the summit, and steam and ash clouds rise from the northwest flank where a lava flow advances down the slope.
(Photo by Rachel Kremer)

“There is some concern for ash fallout, although in the 2007 eruption, it didn’t pose much of problem for those communities, and we’ll be hopeful that that’s the case this time.”

So long as it is, Cold Bay and Sand Point residents can rest easy, and continue to enjoy the light show. - KTOO.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Unusual Events - Mass Dolphin And Whale Strandings In Northwest Ireland?!

May 16, 2013 - IRELAND - Some unusual stranding events have occurred in recent days off the northwest coast. On Sunday 12 May, seven common dolphins (five adults and two juveniles) live stranded at Tarmon Beach near Blacksod on the Mullet Peninsula, Co. Mayo.

Attempts to refloat them were successful on a number of occasions but one of the juveniles was found dead this morning and another was found alive but in poor condition and had to be euthanased.

On Five Fingers Strand, Inishowen, Co Donegal a beaked whale was found in very fresh condition late on Sunday evening 12 May. This is a female True's or Sowerby's beaked whale with current opinion more in favour of True's beaked whale, due to the shape of the head and length of the beak.

In adult males it is possible to tell these species apart by the position of the two teeth on the lower jaw but in females and juveniles the two teeth are not visible. Samples have been taken and will be sent for analysis to confirm i.d. Either way it is a rare stranding as neither of these two species have been recorded since 2009 in Ireland.

There are only nine records for True's beaked whales and fourteen records for Sowerby's beaked whales on the IWDG Strandings Database.

Earlier today (14 May) a dead beaked whale calf was also found stranded in very fresh condition nearby at Trawbreaga Bay and it seems likely that both strandings are connected. Both individuals are being recovered to Athlone Regional Vet Lab tonight for post-mortem examination tommorrow.

Interestingly a Sowerby's beaked whale live stranded in mid-Wales a few days ago . We will update this new piece with further information as and when it becomes available. - IWDG.

SOLAR WATCH: X-Flare Threat Continues From "Complex" Sunspot 1748, Harbors Energy For Very Powerful Eruptions - Possible Coronal Mass Ejection To Hit Earth's Magnetic Field On May 17!

May 16, 2013 - THE SUN - A coronal mass ejection (CME) hurled into space by the X1-flare of May 15th might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on May 17th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the cloud arrives. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

X-FLARE THREAT CONTINUES: Sunspot AR1748 has already unleashed four X-class solar flares, but it might not be finished. The active region continues to grow beneath a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful eruptions. NOAA puts the odds of another X-flare today at 60%.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture of AR1748 during the early hours of May 16th:

The sunspot is not particularly large, but it is complex, with many dark cores scattered through its zone of influence. This is a sign of a complicated overlying magnetic field. Magnetic complexity is the source of AR1748's explosiveness: when tangled lines of magnetic force cross and reconnect--bang!

Image of active sunspots across the stellar object.

A flare occurs. All by itself, AR1748 has produced more X-flares than every other sunspot of the past year combined. In summary, AR1748 has given us an X1.7-class flare (0217 UT on May 13), an X2.8-class flare (1609 UT on May 13), an X3.2-class flare (0117 UT on May 14), and an X1-class flare (0152 on May 15). More could be in the offing.

Image of the visible solar disk on Thursday morning.
Image by SDO showing a number of potential new sunspots in formation.

Image includes three newly numbered regions (1749, 1750 and 1751)

All other regions, including new sunspots 1749, 1750 and 1751, remain stable. Proton levels streaming past Earth remain elevated above the minor radiation storm threshold. This could persist over the next 24-48 hours, up until a glancing blow CME impact from the X1.2 solar flare on May 15 possibly sweeps past Earth on Friday May, 17. There will be a slight chance for minor geomagnetic storming at very high latitudes.

Proton Event 10MeV Integral Flux exceeded 10pfu
Begin Time: 2013 May 15 1335 UTC
NOAA Scale: S1 - Minor Radiation Storm
Potential Impacts: Radio - Minor impacts on polar HF (high frequency) radio propagation resulting in fades at lower frequencies.

SOURCES: Solar Ham | Space Weather.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - New Flyover Reveals Largest Breach Measured At 75 Feet Wide, Water Could Drain Into Hole, More Dead Trees?!

May 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Texas Brine Co. contractors plugged the final two breaches in a containment berm around the Assumption Parish sinkhole by early Tuesday after heavy rain and high water punched through the incomplete earthen barrier late last week, authorities said.

With the holes plugged, Sonny Cranch, spokesman for Texas Brine, said workers resumed on Tuesday the previously planned work of building up the earthen levee surrounding the 71-acre area containing the sinkhole near the Bayou Corne community.

“Berm breaches are all repaired,” he said in an email Tuesday.

John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said workers finished filling the last, largest breach about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. It was about 75 feet across and 4 to 5 feet deep, he said.

Texas Brine officials said in an email response to questions that work on the berm is expected to last another 45 to 60 days, barring any further delays from weather or underground tremors.

The failures on the western and southwestern sides of the levee led to initial fears that crude oil in the 15.1-acre sinkhole’s waters might escape into surrounding freshwater swamp.

But parish and company officials have said it does not appear that happened and protective boom was deployed to prevent it.

The Louisiana Office of Conservation ordered the berm installed to prevent contamination from the sinkhole. The swampland hole emerged last August after a Texas Brine salt dome cavern failed deep underground. Residents of the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities remain under evacuation orders issued for their own safety.

Texas Brine contractors gained initial containment around the sinkhole Feb. 22 with a first layer of sand, but the project has hit periodic delays due to weather and tremors, burps of gas and oil, and edge collapses around the sinkhole.

Overnight Thursday, floodwater began pouring through five openings eroded over a low section of the berm that had an initial sand base but lacked the geotextile fabric and clay cap designed to protect the structure from high water.

Water inside the original 71-acre berm encircling the sinkhole rose an estimated 3 feet from the earthen wall failures.

Texas Brine and parish officials said there aren’t plans
to drain the floodwater, but final plans call for two drainage structures, including a water control weir now being manufactured.

John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said it is possible water inside the berm will drain into the sinkhole because that had happened previously. - The Advocate.

Latest Flyover - May 14, 2013.

EXTREME WEATHER: Deadly Tornadoes Rip Through North Texas - 6 Dead, Over 100 Injured, 14 Missing, Widespread Damage To Residential Homes And Businesses!

May 16, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Possible tornadoes ripped through north Texas on Wednesday night, killing at least six people and injuring more than 100 others, officials said.

The fatalities occurred when the storm struck a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in the Granbury area, Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said. There were about 120 homes in the neighborhood and most of them were destroyed.

Fourteen people were still missing and the death toll could rise, according to Deeds.

About 100 people were injured, said Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman for MedStar Mobile Healthcare.

'The darkness doesn't help'

Rescue workers searched for the missing and surveyed the damage in the early morning hours. But the full extent of the damage may not be realized until the sun comes up.

It may have been as many as three tornadoes that walloped the area, officials said.

WATCH: Possible tornadoes leave widespread damage in Texas.

A tornado may have touched down several times in Hood, Tarrant, Dallas and Parker counties, Zavadsky said.

"With these types of tornadoes, they touch down; they lift up; they touch down. They tend to hopscotch," he said. "The darkness doesn't help, but the crews on scene are doing a really good job to try and reach out to the folks who might be trapped or unable to get to a shelter or the triage area."

There were reports of homes in Granbury being flattened with people inside, Hood County Judge Darrell Cockerham said.

In nearby Ellis County, a possible tornado knocked out power for many in the city of Ennis at about midnight, said Steve Howerton, city manager.

"Several buildings in the downtown historic district have been seriously damaged," Howerton said.

A high resolution radar image of the tornadic supercell thunderstorm as it moved toward Cleburne. The tornado was located at the head of the "hook" that is depicted.

'Traumatic injuries'

Donna Martin, a worker at a local veteran's organization, said some suffered injures.

"There are a lot of traumatic injuries," Martin said. "My husband told me that a car was lifted in the air. It just came in and hit so fast"

City officials were sending school buses to affected neighborhoods to help with evacuations.

The National Weather Service warned that a mile-wide tornado reported by spotters had shifted its track and was moving "right at the city of Cleburne," a community of about 15,000 people in north Texas.

"If you are in its path ... take cover immediately to protect your life," the weather service alert said.

Officials had not confirmed whether a tornado touched down in Dallas, but said the storm was capable of producing one. - CNN.

WATCH: Deadly tornadoes rip through Texas.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For May 16, 2013 - Updates On Pavlof, Stromboli, Popocatépetl, Shiveluch, Santa María, Santiaguito, Pacaya, Fuego, Nevado del Huila, Machin, Galeras, Nevado del Ruiz, Cumbal, Sotará, Tungurahua And Sabancaya!

May 16, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Pavlov (Alaska Peninsula, USA): The eruption continues. The volcano produces a lava flow on the northwest flank. Interaction of the lava flow and ice, producing debris flows, as well as possible explosions at the vent produce a steam-ash plume rising up to about 20,000 ft. above sea level.

View of Pavlof, May 14, 2013. Photo courtesy of pilot Theo Chesley. (AVO).

Residents of Cold Bay, located 37 miles southwest of the volcano, observed incandescent glow at the summit during the night. (AVO)

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): Activity has remained generally elevated and seems to have increased yesterday. Current seismic recordings show strong explosion signals and an increase in tremor. A small lava overflow is currently visible from the NE crater.

Seismic signal from Stromboli this morning (STR8 station, INGV).

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Relatively strong explosions occurred last night (at 20:21 h local time 14 May) and this morning at 01:46 h (local time). Both eruptions generated columns of steam and ash rising 3 km and the latter explosion ejected incandescent fragments over all the volcano flanks to maximum distances of 1,500 m. Some episodes of harmonic tremor preceded the explosion at 01:46 h, which was followed by an episode of spasmodic tremor of medium and high amplitudes until 04:40 h.

Moderate explosion at Popocatépetl this morning.

Activity remains elevated and ash plumes from frequent explosions of moderate size reach 26,000 ft (8 km) altitude, drifting NE. Ash fall occurred in Paso de Cortés, north of the volcano.

This morning, many explosions were observed ejecting incandescent material to maximum distances of 400 m mainly on the north and north-east flanks.

Shiveluch (Kamchatka): Lava dome growth continues. This morning, an explosion and/or a partial collapse produced a volcanic ash cloud rising to 15,000 ft (4.7 km) altitude this morning by VAAC Tokyo.

Webcam image of Shiveluch (KVERT) showing weak glow and a steam/ash plume rising from the dome.

KVERT reports no changes in activity for the other 5 currently active volcanoes in Kamchatka (continuing lava effusion at Tolbachik, dome growth at Kizimen and Bezymianny, intermittent mild explosions at Karymsky, strong degassing at Gorely).

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Only relatively few and weak explosions occurred recently, some of which caused light ash fall in nearby areas. The lava dome is producing a degassing plume most of the time. No reports of activity at the stagnant lava flows.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Strombolian activity has returned or increased and is now ejecting incandescent material to heights of 100 m. Seismic data seem currently not available from INSIVUMEH's website.

Fuego (Guatemala): Explosive activity remains very weak. During the past 24 hour observation interval, INSIVUMEH only counted 3 small explosions.

Nevado del Huila (Colombia): The large volcano has remained calm with little variations in activity (degassing, 100-150 small earthquakes / week).

Machin (Colombia): No changes have occurred - the only signs of activity are small earthquakes, mostly related to rock fracturing inside the volcano SE of the main dome. The alert status remains at yellow.

Galeras (Colombia): Internal / external activity has been low with weak earthquake activity (although at somewhat increasing tendency) and steaming observed. Pasto reports low values of SO2 emissions.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia): Seismic (tremor, volcanic-tectonic quakes) and external activity (steaming, occasional weak ash venting) have calmed down a bit over the past days.

Seismic recording this morning at Nevado del Ruiz (OLL station, INGEOMINAS).

Cumbal (Colombia): Pasto volcano observatory reports no significant changes and maintains yellow (unrest) alert level. The only sign of activity is continuing slightly elevated seismicity (up to magnitudes 1) at shallow depths (less than 3 km) under La Plazuela crater on the northern flank of the volcanic complex.

Sotará (Colombia): Weak seismic unrest continued over the past weeks. The alert level remains at yellow.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): The volcano has calmed down a bit compared to the previous week, which is also apparent on recent seismograms. No recent explosions or ash falls were reported.

Current seismic recording at Tungurahua (RETU station, IGPEN)

Sabancaya (Peru): Seismic activity has calmed down a bit compared to the previous weeks.

Current seismic recording from Sabancaya volcano (BHZ station, IGP).

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 16, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Death Toll Rises To 36 In China's H7N9 Outbreak - H5N1 Outbreak Kills 1 Child In Tibet!

May 16, 2013 - CHINA - The first patient in China's Hunan province with confirmed H7N9 influenza has died, lifting the outbreak's fatality count to 36, according to official and media reports today.

The patient is a 64-year-old woman who died yesterday morning at a hospital in Shaoyang, about 20 days after her illness was detected, according to a report from Xinhua, China's state news agency. The source of the information is the Hunan Provincial Health and Family Planning Commission.

The number of new H7N9 infections has tailed off in recent week, with the latest one reported May 7, which edged the number of cases to 131. However, the death toll continues to rise, because many of the previously confirmed patients are still hospitalized, battling the often serious complications of the disease, which can include acute respiratory distress syndrome and organ failure.

It's not clear why the outbreak has stalled. Influenza experts suspect closures of live-poultry markets could be curbing infections in humans, or the virus could be showing a drop in warm weather months seen with other avian influenza viruses. Another possibility is that H7N9 could be dying out, a pattern that has been seen before with other novel flu viruses.

In other developments, a veterinary epidemiologist from Scotland yesterday raised the possibility that H7N9 could emerge and circulate in the poultry trade without a link to commercial farms. Nick Honhold, BVSc, MSc, PhD, a consultant based in Edinburgh, detailed his suggestion in a post on ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Despite extensive testing by Chinese animal health authorities, the virus has not been detected on poultry farms and has mainly been found in a fairly small number of poultry wholesalers and live-poultry markets. The lack of poultry farm findings has been one of the puzzling aspects of the H7N9 outbreak.

Honhold wrote that the poultry market and trading system in China is varied and complex and more testing is needed to determine the proportions of people who had contact with poultry markets who did and didn't get sick. He added, however, that the lack of another common source suggests that live-poultry markets must somehow be involved.

He questioned if movements of birds, equipment, and people between the markets could spread and maintain the disease. Also, he wrote that more details are needed about the farms that have been tested for the virus, such as whether they're backyard units or facilities that are supplying the markets.

An understanding of China's poultry market system is essential to understanding how the virus could be spreading, he wrote. China's system might resemble that of other countries in which collection points aggregate birds from several sources before smaller shipments make their way to live markets. - CIDRAP.

H5N1 Outbreak Kills 1 Child In Tibet.
While China continues to wrestle H7N9 which had so far claimed 35 lives, it has succumbed to yet another subtype of the Influenza A viruses, this time the H5N1. The country had reported an outbreak in its southern part Tibet, where a child has died and 64 other children remain infected.  Local health authorities theorized the children contracted the disease from eating live chickens that were sold 10 days earlier.

The children came from the Guangxi autonomous region. But cases were likewise detected in the villages of Dingsan and nearby Eshan. School authorities ordered the closure of the Dingsan Elementary School to prevent further spreading.  Health experts are now looking at a possible angle that the Tibet outbreak did not originally start from there. 

A village resident relayed to The Epoch Times that peddlers from Nanning brought in truckloads of chickens and sold them at very low prices 10 days before the outbreak. He noted the flu symptoms started appearing five days later.  "Locals believe these chickens were already carrying the influenza virus. A chicken usually costs around 20 yuan each (AU$3.29), but these ones were only 8 to 15 yuan each.

The people here bought them to eat as they didn't realize the chickens were infected," the villager said.  First detected in 2009, the H5N1 became a world-wide pandemic also in the same year. Although the World Health Organization said the pandemic was already over in August 2010, H1N1 is still very much actively circulating. - IBT.

EXTREME WEATHER: Tropical Cyclone Mahasen Kills At Least 18 In Bangladesh, Burma And Sri Lanka - Could Bring Further Life-Threatening Conditions To 8.2 Million People In Bangladesh, Burma And India; Tens Of Thousands Already Displaced!

May 16, 2013 - BANGLADESH - Cyclone Mahasen buffeted Bangladesh's low-lying coast on Thursday, bearing down on the ports of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, as tens of thousands of people huddled in shelters from a storm the United Nations says threatens 4.1 million people.

Winds of up to 100 kph (60 mph) lashed the coast and whipped up waves, with an expected 2.1 metres (seven foot) storm surge and heavy rain likely to cause widespread flooding.

People carry their belongings as they move to a shelter as cyclone Mahasen approaches, in Cox's Bazar May 15, 2013.

Media reports said five people were killed, some by falling trees, and thousands of rickety huts were destroyed as the storm brought torrential rain.

"We have shifted most of the people who are vulnerable," said Muhammad Abdullah, administration chief for the coastal area, adding that about 1 million people had been moved into hundreds of cyclone shelters. "We had to force some because they refused to leaves their homes."

Bangladesh, where storms have in the past killed many people, has more than 1,400 cyclone-proof buildings.

But across its southeastern border in Myanmar, tens of thousands of people on the coast were sheltering in camps and huts made of timber and palm fronds.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed up to 140,000 people in Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta, south of the main city, Yangon.

Cyclone Mahasen moved in across the bay of Bengal and first hit Khepupara on Bangladesh's southern coast, then weakened as it tracked northeast towards the two ports near Myanmar.

The streets of Chittagong, the country's second city, were almost deserted before the storm hit. Shops were shuttered and roads were empty except for a few cars and rickshaws. The port in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar airport were closed on Wednesday.

Witnesses said low-lying coastal areas were covered in waist-deep water as the storm crossed and trees were uprooted and houses damaged.

Bangladesh raised its storm warning to seven, on a scale up to 10, as Mahasen approached one of the poorest countries in Asia.

The storm killed at least seven people and displaced 3,881 in Sri Lanka as it tracked across the Bay of Bengal towards Bangladesh.

"As per the latest storm trajectory, 4.1 million people have been identified as living in at risk areas in the districts of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar," said the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Meteorologists said Mahasen should weaken quickly into a tropical rain depression over land.

"Mudslides will also be a concern as the heavy rain spreads farther north and east on Thursday night and Friday into easternmost India and northern Myanmar," said meteorologists at storm forecasters.


A child sleeps inside a shelter house before cyclone Mahasen approaches in Chittagong May 16, 2013.
REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

People gather by the shore of Bay of Bengal before cyclone Mahasen approaches in Chittagong May 16, 2013.
REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

The U.S.-based Tropical Storm Risk said Mahasen should track northeast after hitting Chittagong, missing Myanmar.

Myanmar's government had planned to move 38,000 internally displaced people by Tuesday from camps in Rakhine State in the west, most of them Rohingya Muslims who lost their homes in 2012 during violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas.

Many had refused to relocate, afraid of the authorities' intentions and unwilling to get into military trucks, but they changed their minds after strong wind and rain on Wednesday night.

At a camp by Hmanzi Junction near the state capital of Sittwe, a Reuters reporter saw Rohingya loading their belongings into trucks provided by humanitarian groups, the U.N. refugee agency and the government.

Barbara Manzi, head of OCHA in Myanmar, said women and children were moving to shelters in a nearby village, while the men would stay at the camp.

At the Ohn Taw camp at sea level by Sittwe, displaced people were loading their possessions onto trishaw taxis and carts to move to a nearby village. Others were going on foot, carrying pots, mats and blankets.

"People are afraid of losing their place here. They didn't want to go to another place, so they didn't want to go with the soldiers," said Nabi Husain, 36.

Myanmar is a mainly Buddhist country but about 5 percent of its 60 million people are Muslims, including the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and considered by many Buddhists to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

They face a growing anti-Muslim campaign led by radical Buddhist monks. A Reuters Special Report found apartheid-like policies were segregating Muslims from Buddhists in Rakhine State. - Reuters.

WATCH: Cyclone Mahasen - Landfall Near Chittagong.

Cyclone Mahasen has struck the southern coast of Bangladesh, lashing remote fishing villages with heavy rain and fierce winds that flattened mud and straw huts and forced the evacuation of more than 1 million people.

The main section of the storm reached land on Thursday and immediately began weakening, according to Mohammad Shah Alam, director of the Bangladesh meteorological department. However, its forward movement was also slowing, meaning that towns in its path would have to weather the storm for longer, he said.

Even before the brunt of the storm hit, at least 18 deaths related to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka.

The storm could bring life-threatening conditions to about 8.2 million people in Bangladesh, Burma and north-east India, according to the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Danger was particularly high for tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya people living in plastic-roofed tents and huts made of reeds in dozens of refugee camps along Burma's western coast.

Driven from their homes by violence, members of the Muslim minority group refused to follow evacuation orders. Many distrust officials in the majority-Buddhist country, where Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination.

UN officials, hoping they would inspire greater trust, fanned out across the area to encourage people to leave.

A Rohingya family prepare to move to a safer area at a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Sittwe.
Photograph: Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images

Early on Thursday, the cyclone battered the southern Bangladesh fishing village of Khepurpara along the Bay of Bengal with 62mph (100km/h) winds and was heading east toward the city of Chittagong and the seafront resort town of Cox's Bazar. River ferries and boat services were suspended, and scores of factories near the Bay of Bengal were closed. The military said it was keeping 22 navy ships and 19 air force helicopters on alert.

Tens of thousands of people fled their shanty homes along the coast and packed into cyclone shelters, schools, government office buildings and some of the 300 hotels in Cox's Bazar to wait out the storm. Some brought their livestock, which took shelter outside.

"We have seen such a disaster before," said Mohammad Abu Taleb, who shut down his convenience shop in the city of 200,000. "It's better to stay home. I'm not taking any chance."

A 1991 cyclone that hit Bangladesh killed an estimated 139,000 people and left millions homeless. In 2008, Burma's southern delta was devastated by cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people.

Both those cyclones were much more powerful than cyclone Mahasen, which is rated category 1 – the weakest level. But heavy rain and storm surge could prove deadlier than the wind. Bangladesh's meteorological office said the cyclone was moving so slowly it may take a whole day for it to pass the coast.

The Bangladesh ministry of disaster management said more than 1 million people had been evacuated from coastal areas. Television stations reported the deaths of two men, one of whom was crushed by a tree uprooted by the wind.

Related heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka were blamed for eight deaths earlier this week. At least eight people and possibly many more were killed in Burma when overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya capsized as they fled the cyclone on Monday night. Only 43 people had been rescued by Thursday, and more than 50 were still missing.

India's meteorological department forecast damage to the north-eastern states of Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland, and advised fishermen off the west coast of the country to be cautious for the next 36 hours.

Much attention was focused on western Burma because of the crowded, low-lying camps where many Rohingya remain.

In Rakhine state, around 140,000 people – mostly Rohingya – have been living in the camps since last year, when two outbreaks of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists forced many Rohingya from their homes.

"Pack and leave," a Rakhine state official, U Hla Maung, warned as he walked through a camp near Sittwe, the state capital. Accompanied by more than a dozen soldiers and riot police, he suggested that people living there move to a nearby railroad embankment, then left without offering help.

Some Rohingya took down their tents and hauled their belongings away in cycle-rickshaws, or carried them in bags balanced on their heads.

"Now we're afraid. … We decided to move early this morning," said U Kwaw Swe, a 62-year-old father of seven who was hoping the government would transport his family. Otherwise they intended to walk to safety.

Ko Hla Maung, an unemployed fisherman, was among those who had not left.

"We have no safe place to move, so we're staying here, whether the storm comes or not," he said. " … The soldiers want to take us to a village closer to the sea, and we're not going to do that. … If the storm is coming, then that village will be destroyed." - Guardian.

WATCH: Cyclone Mahansen Landfall and Damage Update.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Coronavirus - WHO Reports First Patient-To-Nurse Spread Of New SARS-Like Virus; 2 Health Workers In Saudi Arabia Infected!

May 16, 2013 - SAUDI ARABIA - Two health workers in Saudi Arabia have become infected with a potentially fatal new SARS-like virus after catching it from patients in their care - the first evidence of such transmission within a hospital, the World Health Organization said.

The new virus, known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV, is from the same family of viruses as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003.

A electron microscope image of a coronavirus is seen in this undated picture provided by the
Health Protection Agency in London. Credit: Reuters/Health Protection Agency/Handout

"This is the first time health care workers have been diagnosed with (novel coronavirus) infection after exposure to patients," the Geneva-based U.N. health agency said in a disease outbreak update late on Wednesday.

The health workers are a 45-year-old man, who became ill on May 2 and is currently in a critical condition, and a 43-year-old woman with a coexisting health condition, who fell ill on May 8 and is in a stable condition, the WHO said.

France has also reported a likely case of transmission within a hospital, but this was from one patient to another patient who shared the same room for two days.

NCoV, like SARS and other similar viruses, can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.

Scientists are on the alert for any sign that nCoV is mutating to become easily transmissible to multiple recipients, like SARS - a scenario that could trigger a pandemic.

WHO experts visiting Saudi Arabia to consult with the authorities on the outbreak said on Sunday it seemed likely the new virus could be passed between humans, but only after prolonged, close contact.

Initial analysis by scientists at Britain's Health Protection Agency last year found that nCoV's closest relatives were most probably bat viruses. Yet further work by a research team in Germany suggests nCoV may have come through an intermediary - possibly goats.

The WHO's Wednesday update said that, while some health care workers in Jordan had previously contracted nCoV, these Saudi cases were the first clear evidence of the virus passing from infected patients.

"Health care facilities that provide care for patients with suspected nCoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients and health care workers," it said.

It also advised health care providers to be "vigilant among recent travelers returning from areas affected by the virus" who develop severe acute respiratory infections.

Since nCoV first emerged and was identified in September 2012, the WHO says it has been informed of a total of 40 laboratory-confirmed cases worldwide, including 20 deaths.

Saudi Arabia has had most of the cases - with 30 patients infected, 15 of them fatally - but nCoV cases have also been reported in Jordan, Qatar, Britain, Germany and France. - Reuters.