Thursday, August 8, 2013

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Tracking Developments At The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole - Meet The Town That's Being Swallowed By A Sinkhole; What Could Possibly Go Wrong When Miners, Frackers And Drillers Reshape The Geology Beneath Our Feet?!

August 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - About once a month, the residents of Bayou Corne, Louisiana, meet at the Assumption Parish library in the early evening to talk about the hole in their lives. "It was just like going through cancer all over again," says one. "You fight and you fight and you fight and you think, 'Doggone it, I've beaten this thing,' and then it's back." Another spent last Thanksgiving at a 24-hour washateria because she and her disabled husband had nowhere else to go. As the box of tissues circulates, a third woman confesses that after 20 years of sobriety she recently testified at a public meeting under the influence.

The sinkhole forced the entire town of Bayou Corne to evacuate.
Jerry Dubinsky for

"The God of my understanding says, 'As you sow, so shall you reap,'" says Kenny Simoneaux, a balding man in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt. He has instructed his grandchildren to lock up the ammunition. "I'm so goddamn mad I could kill somebody."

But the support group isn't for addiction, PTSD, or cancer, though all of these maladies are present. The hole in their lives is a literal one. One night in August 2012, after months of unexplained seismic activity and mysterious bubbling on the bayou, a sinkhole opened up on a plot of land leased by the petrochemical company Texas Brine, forcing an immediate evacuation of Bayou Corne's 350 residents—an exodus that still has no end in sight. Last week, Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the company and the principal landowner, Occidental Chemical Corporation, for damages stemming from the cavern collapse.

Texas Brine's operation sits atop a three-mile-wide, mile-plus-deep salt deposit known as the Napoleonville Dome, which is sheathed by a layer of oil and natural gas, a common feature of the salt domes prevalent in Gulf Coast states. The company specializes in a process known as injection mining, and it had sunk a series of wells deep into the salt dome, flushing them out with high-pressure streams of freshwater and pumping the resulting saltwater to the surface. From there, the brine is piped and trucked to refineries along the Mississippi River and broken down into sodium hydroxide and chlorine for use in manufacturing everything from paper to medical supplies.

What happened in Bayou Corne, as near as anyone can tell, is that one of the salt caverns Texas Brine hollowed out—a mine dubbed Oxy3—collapsed. The sinkhole initially spanned about an acre. Today it covers more than 24 acres and is an estimated 750 feet deep. It subsists on a diet of swamp life and cypress trees, which it occasionally swallows whole. It celebrated its first birthday recently, and like most one-year-olds, it is both growing and prone to uncontrollable burps, in which a noxious brew of crude oil and rotten debris bubbles to the surface. But the biggest danger is invisible; the collapse unlocked tens of millions of cubic feet of explosive gases, which have seeped into the aquifer and wafted up to the community. The town blames the regulators. The regulators blame Texas Brine. Texas Brine blames some other company, or maybe the regulators, or maybe just God.

WATCH: Meet the Town That's Being Swallowed by a Sinkhole.

Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven't heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don't fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today's petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear. It's not just sinkholes and town-clearing natural gas leaks: Recently, the drilling process known as fracking has been linked to an increased risk of earthquakes.

"When you keep drilling over and over and over again, whether it's into bedrock or into salt caverns, at some point you have fractured the integrity of this underground structure enough that something is in danger of collapsing," observes ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber, whose work has focused on fracking and injection wells. "It's an inherently dangerous situation."

The domes are not just harvested for their salt. Over the last 60 years, in the Gulf Coast—and to a lesser extent in Kansas, Michigan, and New York—industry has increasingly used the sprawling caverns that result from injection mining as a handy place to store things—namely crude oil, pressurized gases, and even radioactive materials. The federal government considers salt tombs in Louisiana and Texas ideal for the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The hundreds of salt caverns that honeycomb the substrata, as companies like Texas Brine take pains to point out, are mostly safe, most of the time. But when something goes wrong, the results are disastrous—sometimes spelling the end for nearby communities. The dangers are myriad, from sinkholes to natural gas explosions to toxic-fume releases. Salt caverns account for just 7 percent of all natural gas storage facilities in the United States (although that number is increasing) but 100 percent of all major accidents, according to one industry analyst.

Bayou Corne residents need only drive a quarter mile down Highway 70 to see the worst-case scenario. On Christmas Day 2003, a methane leak from a Napoleonville Dome salt cavern storing natural gas forced residents of Grand Bayou, a neighboring hamlet, to evacuate. Dow Chemical, which owned the cavern, bought out the mostly elderly residents, leaving only concrete slabs behind. In places like Barbers Hill, Texas, similar leaks have turned once-thriving neighborhoods into ghost towns. A 2001 cavern leak in Hutchinson, Kansas, spewed 30-foot-tall geysers of gas and water and caused an explosion that left two people dead.

"I hate to say, but it's not an unusual event," says Robert Traylor, a geologist at the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state's oil and gas regulator. "These things happen. In the oil business, a million things can go wrong, and they usually go wrong."

But disasters like the one in Bayou Corne have done little to slow the growth of injection mining. Last spring, lawmakers in Baton Rouge pushed through a handful of modest reforms in response to the sinkhole, but the toughest regulations were knocked down by the chemical industry. New caverns continue to be permitted. It's not a question of whether there will be another Bayou Corne—but where, and how big.

On a scorching June morning, I board a Cessna to survey the sinkhole. My 45-mile flight passes through the heart of southern Louisiana's industrial jungle, a continuous series of pipelines and processing plants that line the Mississippi as it twists like a busted-up slinky toward the gulf. The smoking skyline gives way to a checkered ribbon of cane and soybean fields and at last to the swampy interior of Assumption Parish.

You notice the booms first, bright yellow plastic rolls designed to trap the oil and brine that collect on the surface and prevent them from seeping into the surrounding waterways. A grove of cypress trees has been stripped bare and sits gray and rotting. At 500 feet, the air is thick with the smell of crude, and the water has a rainbow sheen; in the last few hours, the sinkhole has burped again, and workers are scurrying to contain the new release.

The Acadians—the French Canadian refugees who settled here in the 1700s—were drawn to the bayous by their bounty of gators and crawdads and spoonbills. Petrochemical giants came for other reasons: the chemicals in the salt domes and the oil and gas reserves that surround them. Gas and brine pipelines cross over and under the town and its surrounding swamps, carving up the basin into a web of rights of way for companies including Chevron, Dow, Crosstex, and Florida Gas.

Texas Brine's Oxy3 cavern, one of 53 in the Napoleonville Dome and one of six operated by the company, is more than a mile below the surface. At that depth, 3-D seismic mapping is both time-consuming and expensive, and as a consequence, injection-mining companies often have only a foggy—and outdated—idea of what their mines really look like. "Everybody wants to do it within a certain budget and a certain time frame," explains Jim La­Moreaux, a hydrologist who organizes an annual conference on salt-cavern-caused sinkholes. In some cases, he says, it's possible that companies cut corners and fail to commission the proper studies.

Texas Brine's first and last mapping project was in 1982, and by the company's own admission, it understated Oxy3's proximity to the edge of the salt dome and the possibility of a breach. When another company surveyed the dome a few years ago, it found that Texas Brine's cavern was less than 100 feet from the outer sheath of oil and gas, far closer than is permitted in other states. While Louisiana had restrictions on gas storage caverns, it had nothing on the books for active brine wells—only what regulators called a "rule of thumb" that wells be set back 200 feet.

When Texas Brine applied for a permit to expand Oxy3 in 2010, the company pressure-tested the cavern as mandated by the state, but it was unable to build up the requisite pressure, let alone sustain it. "At this time, a breach out of the salt dome appears possible," Mark Cartwright, a Texas Brine executive, notified the state's Department of Natural Resources. The DNR asked Texas Brine to "plug and abandon" the well. The agency did not, as it sometimes does, request further monitoring. Both parties expected the cavern to hold its shape, and it did until early June 2012, when Gary Metrejean felt the ground shake.

"I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want everyone to think I was crazy," he says. But his neighbors noticed it, too. And they also saw something else unusual—bubbles of gas ("like boiling pasta," one resident recalls) appearing around the bayou.

Oxy3 was starting to cave in, but at the time the community was at a loss. The state's experts first suspected a leak from a natural gas pipeline, but that turned up nothing, so they investigated and ruled out the possibility that the bubbling might be "swamp gas"—naturally occurring emissions from decaying plant life. The US Geological Survey confirmed an increase in seismic activity but couldn't determine its exact source—there are no fault lines in the area. At the end of July 2012, with tremors and bubbling increasing and no clear signs of subsidence, Texas Brine, which had emerged as a possible culprit, told state officials that a sinkhole was highly unlikely.

On August 3, Bayou Corne residents awoke to the smell of sweet crude emanating from a gaping pit on the other side of the highway. Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an evacuation order that afternoon. Texas Brine got a permit to drill a relief well. When the company finally accessed the plugged chamber, they found the outer wall of the salt dome had collapsed. The breach allowed sediment to pour into the cavern, creating a seam through which oil and explosive gases were forced up to the surface.

It has been well established that structurally challenged caverns, owing to a lack of maintenance or poor planning, can cause sinkholes. In 1954, the collapse of a brining cavern at Bayou Choctaw, north of Baton Rouge—located in the same dome that today houses part of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve—created an 820-foot-wide lake. In 2008, a 150-foot-deep crater known as "Sinkhole de Mayo" opened up over a cavern 50 miles northeast of Houston that had been used for storing oil drilling waste. But those disasters were all due to top-down pressure. Oxy3 collapsed from the side, something regulators and briners had previously considered impossible—highlighting, once again, how poorly understood the geology of salt caverns truly is.

Texas Brine's official line is that it has no idea why its cavern suddenly gave way; a mess appeared on its property without warning, and it is doing the responsible thing by cleaning it up. Yet it didn't begin paying buyouts to evacuees until nine months after the collapse, when Jindal threatened to shut down its Louisiana operations if it didn't. The settlements come with no admission of wrongdoing—to the contrary, the company insists the town is perfectly safe, and that residents (some of whom have defied the evacuation order) are taking advantage of Texas Brine's generosity by accepting weekly $875 stipends for living expenses while never leaving their homes. Only 59 homeowners have taken deals so far; others have signed onto a class action lawsuit against the company that's set to go to trial next year. Celebrity activist Erin Brockovich has been shuttling back and forth to Bayou Corne enlisting plaintiffs. "I just don't think anyone's gonna live there again," she says. "And if no one lives there, what desire is there for Texas Brine to clean it up? It's a tragedy really all the way around."

I meet Millard Fillmore "Sonny" Cranch, a crisis PR specialist retained by Texas Brine, in a trailer a hundred yards from the edge of the sinkhole. Nearby are two storage silos emblazoned with the company's slogan, "Texas Brine. Responsible Care." Cranch is a self-described "old fart" with Harry Potter glasses that wrap around his curly white hair and a habit of pounding the steering wheel when he wants to make a point.

The company's cleanup crew is rounding the "clubhouse turn," he explains, and they believe the sediment level in the cavern is stabilizing; the sinkhole may still expand slightly, and the burps might continue, but the worst is in the past. Truth be told, he's not even sure why the evacuation order is still active, but hey, if there's a "perceived risk," then safety first, right? According to Cranch, most of the gas that has been detected in explosive levels under the community is "naturally occurring swamp gas." (State officials aren't so sure.) Besides, Cranch tells me, it's not as if there's anything particularly menacing about hydrogen sulfide. "Flatulence is H2S," he says, sensing a chance to lighten the mood. "You're producing H2S as we speak right now."

In the car, Cranch says this morning's burp hadn't released much oil, but once we get to the site and inhale the fumes, he quickly revises his estimate upward: "I lied—that's more than five gallons." While the DNR warns that accurate measurements are difficult, John Boudreaux, the Assumption Parish director of emergency preparedness, told me more than 300 gallons had surfaced. (In July, Boudreaux double-checked the company's estimate of the sinkhole's depth—140 feet, Texas Brine claimed—and found that it had understated the figure by a factor of five.)

Given the class action, Texas Brine has a financial interest in deflecting the blame. During our outing, Cranch floats two possible culprits for the sinkhole: an oil well that another company drilled just outside the edge of the dome in the 1950s, or perhaps an earthquake. This isn't the official Texas Brine position, he's careful to add—"that's just Millard Cranch, theorizing."

The locals find such theories particularly irksome. "They think we're just a bunch of ignorant coonasses," says Mike Schaff, who like a few dozen Bayou Corne residents has ignored the evacuation order and stayed in his home. "We may be coonasses—but we're not ignorant."

Ignorance, willful or otherwise, is inextricable from what happened in Bayou Corne. Not only do Louisiana regulators have a poor grasp on how miners may be disturbing subsurface geology, they also have a pretty vague sense of how many caverns are located close to the outer ring of salt domes. In January, the Department of Natural Resources ordered companies with salt caverns to provide their most recently updated maps, and the agency is working on rules that would require additional modeling of the 29 caverns that are within 300 feet of an edge. And the agency is proposing regulations mandating that caverns be shut down and monitored for five years, rather than simply plugged and abandoned, if they fail a mechanical integrity test.

That's a start. But Wilma Subra, a MacArthur "Genius Grant"-winning chemist who advises the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a group that's been monitoring the Bayou Corne sinkhole, is dubious that any meaningful action will be taken. "The regulatory climate is such that agencies are only allowed to put forth regulations that the industry supports," Subra says. Meanwhile, she adds, "What occurred in Bayou Corne shows what could potentially occur in any number of the other salt domes that have storage caverns."

Just down the road from what's left of Bayou Corne, the slabs and dead grass of Grand Bayou stand as a warning, albeit one nobody paid much attention to. There's a road sign on the water's edge bearing an Oliver Wendell Holmes quote: "Where we love is home—home that our feet may leave but not our hearts." The sign includes a date to mark the beginning of the settlement. There's no year of death, but it reads like the town's tombstone.

Back at the Assumption Parish library, Candy Blanchard has the floor and she's rolling. The exodus is on everyone's mind. She and her husband were planning out their retirement in a community their families had called home for generations. "Anybody who stays here and camps here, you gotta wanna be here," she says. "I mean, it's not a booming place." They hunt, they fish, they frog—or they did, anyway. But for the last 10 months, they've been crashing with friends in Paincourtville, and her husband has fallen into depression. Every morning, Blanchard, an elementary school teacher, breaks down on her drive to work and collects herself in the parking lot. But there's something about her odyssey her students seem to grasp immediately. "I taught migration this year," she tells the sniffling room. "It was the easiest lesson I've taught in my entire life." - Mother Jones.

EXTREME WEATHER: Orrville Tornado - Tornado In Ohio Blows Off Roof On Home, Destroys Crops!

August 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A tornado warning has been issued for southwestern Stark County, southeastern Wayne County, and northeastern Holmes County in northeastern Ohio on Wednesday.

Tornado near Orrville, Ohio. Image: Rob Howard

A tornado warning was first issued for Stark and Wayne counties at 2:56 p.m. EDT and has been extended now for all these counties through 4:45 p.m. EDT.

Law enforcement officials may have spotted a tornado.

“Law enforcement reported a possible tornado,” said the National Weather Service around 3:30 p.m. EDT. “This possible tornado touchdown was located near us, Route 30 and Carr road near Riceland. This storm is moving east at 30 mph.”

The storm as of 3:51 p.m. was located 6 miles northeast of Holmesville and moving east at 30 miles per hour.

Corn field flattened. Image: Mike Vielhaber.

Tornado damage on McQuaid Rd in Orrville. Image: Mike Vielhaber.

The storm as of 4:10 p.m. EDT was still being termed a possible tornado and was located near Wilmot, 13 miles northwest of Dover, moving east at 30 miles per hour.

Trained weather spotters reported high winds with trees and power lines down near Massillion, where the storm moved through earlier.

Police officers in Orrville spotted a funnel at about 3 p.m. near Route 30 and Carr Road.

The service said that the safest place to be during a tornado is in a basement, and if no basement is available, then people should seek shelter on the lowest floor of the building they are in, in an interior hallway or closet.

If you are caught outside, seek shelter in a nearby reinforced building, or as a last resort seek shelter in a culvert, ditch, or low spot, and cover your head with your hands, according to the service.

WKYC said that the number of households out of power are:

Stark County 1,105, Summit 185, Cuyahoga 254, Portage 391

Large pine trees down on the property as well.
Image: Mike Vielhaber.

Home owners being escorted by the FD into the home. No one was home at the time.
Image: Mike Vielhaber.

UPDATE 4:40 p.m. EDT:

All tornado warnings are dismissed by the National Weather Service.

Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings (depending on the county) remain in effect in northeast Ohio and southwest Pennsylvania. See the first photo for specific information.

See a timelapse of the tornado warnings by clicking through the screenshots of the National Weather Service’s forecasts, and see photos below. - TET.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Hog Farms Battling To Contain Deadly Virus - Thousands Of Piglets Have Died This Past Year From A Disease Spreading Across America?!

August 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The outside world is not allowed in a sanitized and isolated pig farm here, not far from the Iowa border.

A swine virus appeared in the United States last spring in Ohio and in weeks had spread to four more states.
How it entered the country is unknown.
Nathan Weber for The New York Times

Visitors must shower before entering, scrubbing from head to toe, trading their street clothes for disinfected coveralls that have never left the premises. Everything inside the temperature-controlled barn housing 3,000 sows has been blasted with antiseptic.

“We do a better job than some hospitals,” said Dr. Matt Ackerman, a veterinarian who works with the farm.

Strict protocols have kept the operation, one of 10 swine facilities run by Great Plains Management, safe from a virus spreading across the country this summer, killing piglets by the thousands and distressing hog producers in 16 states.

But those same precautions have not worked everywhere. A Central Indiana farm that Dr. Ackerman also works with was among the first to lose piglets to the virus in May. “If it gets in, you can’t stop it,” Dr. Ackerman said. “We filled wheelbarrows with dead pigs.”

The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which is deadly only to young pigs and poses no food safety risks or danger to humans, appeared in the United States for the first time last spring in Ohio and within weeks had spread to four other states.

The outbreak led to a flurry of lab testing and a survey of the industry to determine how the virus had entered the country, comparing supplies and feeds in an effort to find a smoking gun. Farmers are cross-referencing vaccine and semen distributors, even the brands of plastic pipettes they use to inseminate sows, desperate to contain a threat that has made the industry feel increasingly vulnerable.

“It’s anybody’s guess at this point,” said Lisa Becton, director of swine health information and research at the National Pork Board, which is spending $800,000 for research into the virus.

First surfacing in Britain more than 40 years ago, the virus has spread throughout Europe and Asia. It has caused problems most recently among pork producers in China, where a 2012 strand of the disease was 99.4 percent similar to cases now found in the United States, according to researchers.

Researchers in the United States are working on a vaccine for the virus, which is passed through fecal matter and resembles transmissible gastroenteritis, another pig-to-pig illness that American farms have at times encountered. Symptoms include severe diarrhea and vomiting, and mortality rates can reach 100 percent for pigs less than a week old. Older swine will be sick for days but most likely recover.

Retroactive testing by a national laboratory pegged the earliest confirmed case of the virus in the United States around April 15 at a farm in Ohio. Within a month, other cases had surfaced in Indiana, Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota.

By the end of July, 403 separate cases had been reported to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network of the Department of Agriculture, with most outbreaks occurring in Iowa (149) and Oklahoma (94). About 30 new cases are reported each week.

“There’s not many times that a new virus hits an industry that has no immunity,” said Robert Morrison, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota who has been studying the virus. “Every pig in the United States is susceptible. It’s like throwing a spark on a bunch of kindling.”

No one quite knows how many pigs have died so far, in part because the virus is not considered a foreign animal disease by the Agriculture Department and farms are not required to report it to the authorities.

Few experts are willing to speculate, saying only that industry losses amount to several hundred thousand piglets nationwide.

Though it is perhaps too soon to predict how the virus may affect the price of pork products, the epidemic has already caused economic hardships for individual farmers, particularly amid soaring feed prices caused by last year’s drought.

An average farm with 2,500 sows could lose nearly every newborn for four weeks if it is hit with the virus, killing roughly 5,000 piglets and causing financial losses close to $200,000. Adult pigs that recuperate typically build immunity to the virus, making recurring outbreaks rare.

“One month can do a lot of damage,” said Mark Greenwood, senior vice president for AgStar Financial Services, which provides financing to hog farms. “It’s really devastating if you’re finally turning the corner.”

The fear has inspired a renewed vigilance across the hog industry to ensure that workers are using basic practices like disinfecting their boots and trailers after visiting packing plants, which researchers have identified as high-risk locations for picking up the virus.

Yet questions remain about how the virus got to the United States in the first place, raising anxiety among producers and farmers.

“The world got a lot smaller that day,” Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said of when the first domestic case was confirmed. “If P.E.D.V. can get into the United States, what about some of the even more nasty viruses?”

Preliminary results from a targeted survey led by the association, which some had hoped would identify a link among infected farms, suggested that more data was needed. Dr. Burkgren said investigators would take a closer look at feed-related risk factors.

Jan Hueber, co-owner of Great Plains Management, the swine consultants, said he would take nothing for granted.

After an Indiana farm he works with lost at least three weeks of piglets from the virus, Mr. Hueber’s truck drivers now wear plastic disposable boots every time they visit a hog facility.

“Do we sleep comfortable at night?” he asked. “Not when you have something looming out there that can be so financially devastating.”

“We assume everything is infected,” he added. - NY Times.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Landslides Sweep Away Houses, People Evacuated In India's Kangra District!

August 08, 2013 - INDIA - Widespread rains on Wednesday dislocated more than 20 houses, leaving other buildings shaky, making people leave their houses in panic and rush to safer places in a village and Army cantonment area near here. About 100 residents were rendered homeless till evening, but no loss of life was reported. The affected area included a major part of Tihra lines and covered Army quarters and about 12 private buildings.

File photo.

Army was arranging food and shelter for effected people. Local administration has evaluated a loss of around Rs 3 crore and has announced Rs 2 lakh as quick relief.

Sources said that presence of mind displayed by the villagers saved many lives. The landslide began at around 3.30 in the morning and continued for over two hours, sweeping away half a dozen Army quarters. The villagers had a miraculous escape after a resident of the village woke up to the continuous hauling by his pets and sounded an alert minutes before the tragedy struck. Victims stated that wearing down of the land started since morning, but no one expected that rains will even dislodge houses. After a building moved away in late afternoon, people vacated houses, taking essential belongings along.

"We were vigilant since morning as the land started wearing off in early morning hours. But we hadn't anticipated that houses will be moved away. This is something totally unexpected. In late afternoon, as one building got shifted away, we started vacating our houses. Soon, about 20 houses were moved away," said Savita Pradhan, resident of an affected panchayat.

Additional district magistrate (ADM) Rakesh Sharma and sub-divisional magistrate Harish Gajju supervised the rescue and relief operations. The affected families were staying in a temporary transit camp set up by the Army in the premises of a Central school, sources said.

"Half a dozen Army quarters buildings and four private houses were completely destroyed while around a dozen houses have been partially damaged," said ADM Rakesh Sharma, adding that the Sansari Mata temple in the locality was swept away and a few buildings belonging to Army left teetering on the edge of a cliff.

He said no loss of life has been reported in the incident. "Loss of property is likely to run into crores of rupees. Immediate relief has been disbursed among victims," he said. Affected people will be shifted from the transit camp to buildings provided by the Army, he added.

Meanwhile, vice chairman, Himachal Pradesh Forest Corporation, Kewal Singh Pathania visited the spot and assured all possible help to the victims.

"I have urged deputy commissioner, Kangra to assess the losses and release financial aid to the victims immediately as per relief manual," said Pathania, adding that he will also take up the matter with chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Urban development minister and local MLA, Sudhir Sharma, has also expressed shock over the incident. 'Government will provide land and financial assistance for construction of houses for rehabilitation. Land will be provided at some alternate place as the hill where the village was situated has become a sliding-prone zone," said Sharma. - Times of India.

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Dead Birds Mysteriously Fall "Like Raindrops" In Winnipeg's North End?!

August 08, 2013 - CANADA - Animal experts are trying to figure out what may have killed dozens of black birds that fell from the sky in Winnipeg's North End on Wednesday.

Conservation officers have picked up more than 50 dead birds near the intersection of King Street and Dufferin Avenue, while the Winnipeg Humane Society took in 11 birds that were still alive.

Erika Anseeuw, the humane society's director of animal health, said all the living birds were reasonably bright and active, although they cannot stand or fly.

The birds will be euthanized and sent to a pathology lab for autopsies.

Anseeuw would not speculate on what exactly may have killed the birds, but she suspects they may have accidentally gotten into something.

"My suspicion is this is what it's going to be rather than any kind of apocalyptic foretelling of birds falling from the sky," she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Up to Speed program.

Possible factors may include exposure to disease or toxins, Anseeuw said.

'Falling out of the trees'

People in the area told CBC News hundreds of black birds — possibly grackles — began flocking in a "bizarre manner" atop vehicles, in the trees and near businesses starting at around 7:30 or 8 a.m.

"There was probably, I would say … almost up to the thousand birds in the trees, and then I was looking up and then one fell right in front of me," said Tanya Lee Viner.

Susan Tiganagis, who works at a Main Street chip shop, said she saw a "blanket of black" in the lane behind the store.

"My husband said, like, 'This is a Hitchcock movie.' It's crazy!" Tiganagis said.

"They were just dizzy. They didn't know where they were going. I've never seen them act like that," she added.

Later that morning, dozens of birds started dropping from the sky. The streets near the intersection of King and Dufferin became littered with bird carcasses.

"They were literally falling out of the trees and they were still dying," Tiganagis said.

 WATCH: Dead birds fall 'like raindrops' in Winnipeg's North End.

"You couldn't step anywhere without stepping on a bird."

Workers at a nearby community services agency said they saw dozens of birds falling from the sky at around 10:30 a.m.

"It was like raindrops falling," said one employee.

The workers said they called the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba Conservation and Environment Canada to see if anyone would investigate what happened.

Finally, a passing police officer called conservation officers and authorities arrived on Wednesday afternoon to pick up the deceased birds. - CBC.

WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: The Pervasive Threat Of Poaching - India Loses 50 Tigers In Six Months, 5 In Madhya Pradesh!

August 08, 2013 - INDIA - Even as India is striving hard to save the big cats, the country has lost fifty tigers so far this year against 72 tiger deaths in 2012.

(National Tiger Conservation Authourity said every tiger in the country is under threat from poaching.)

Heading the list is Karnataka with the loss of 13 tigers till now, followed by eight in Maharashtra, seven in Uttarakhand and five in Madhya Pradesh. Out of the five tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh, two are from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, two from Pench Tiger Reserve and one from Katni forest division.  National Tiger Conservation Authourity (NTCA) DIG, SP Yadav on Wednesday said, every tiger in the country is under threat from poaching. Under the new protocol issued by NTCA on tiger mortality, cause of every tiger death will be considered as due to poaching, till the time state government proves it otherwise with proper evidence. Earlier there was trend among states to hide exact cause of the death. Now rules have been changed so as to highlight the actual cause of tiger deaths. The NTCA directions will bring in more transparency in the post-mortem process.  Earlier there was trend among states to hide exact cause of the death. Now rules have been changed so as to highlight the actual cause of tiger deaths. The NTCA directions will bring in more transparency in the post-mortem process.

Yadav stressed that poaching in India takes place to feed markets in China. Burma and Nepal have emerged as new routes for smuggling of tiger body parts, however, government is taking several steps to check poaching. Focus is on tiger conservation through satellite with uses of more advanced and sophisticated electronic and digital systems. Right now, India has around 1,500 tigers and NTCA is maintaining a photographic record of every tiger. Every tiger in the country has been given unique identification markings based on their stripes. Each tiger's markings are unique, like a fingerprint, and a new computer-driven technique can match images of live animals with illegally traded skins, identifying when and where poachers made their kills. Recently, three tiger skins were seized in Nepal and on the basis of this unique identification, one tiger was found to be from Madhya Pradesh, said Yadav.

When tigers and humans clash, the results are violent and usually fatal. Lives on both sides are lost. Exploding human populations and ever-shrinking forests means the pressure is rising. With so few of these big cats left, finding solutions to human-tiger conflict has become one of the most urgent issues facing conservation today. Yadav said, India has 60 per cent of total tiger population of the world. The country's existing habitat has a capacity to sustain maximum of 2,400 tigers, at present the country has 1,500 tigers), if number of tigers goes beyond this, more challenges are expected.

Tiger mortality in India:

Year, No.

2013 (till now) 50
2012 72

Deaths of tiger state wise (till now)

State, No. of tiger death

Karnataka 13
Maharashtra 8
Uttarakhand 7
Madhya Pradesh 5

Seizure of tiger body parts in the country

Year, No

2013 (till now) 02
2012 17

- Times of India.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For August 8, 2013 - Updates On Kizimen, Rabaul (Tavurvur), Chirinkotan, Popocatépetl, Manam, Veniaminof, Chirpoi, Ketoi, Tolbachik, And Sakurajima!

August 08, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Kizimen (Kamchatka): KVERT reports continuing growth of the lava dome, accompanied by hot avalanches and strong degassing.

Rabaul (Tavurvur) (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): Weak to moderate eruptive activity continues, characterized by frequent explosions and ash emissions from the Tavurvur cone:

RVO reported that during 22-31 July low-level activity consisted of discrete emissions of pale gray ash plumes occurring at short intervals. Some emissions were explosive and generated plumes that rose 2 km above the crater. Plumes drifted E, NE, N, NW, W, and SW, and deposited minor amounts of fine white and gray ash in areas downwind mainly between Namanula and Malaguna No. 1 (with Rabaul Town, 3-5 km NW, in between), and to a lesser extent between the Vulcan area and Malaguna No. 2. Roaring and rumbling noises also continued, often in conjunction with explosions... [read more]

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has been stable with little changes. The rate of emissions decreased yesterday to about 1-2 per hour, but some small to moderate explosions still occur from time to time, producing ash plumes up to about 1.5 km height.

Ash eruption from Popocatépetl yesterday (CENAPRRED webcam).

Manam (Papua New Guinea): RVO reported that activity at Manam's Southern and Main craters remained low during 22-31 July; observers noted white vapor plumes rising from the craters during periods of clear weather. Considerable amounts of blue vapor rose from Southern Crater during 25-26 July.

Deep and low booming noises were heard on the island on most days since 24 July, however, on 30 July a loud explosion was heard in Bogia, 25-30 km SSW of Manam on the N coast of the mainland. Seismicity fluctuated but remained high... [read more]

Veniaminof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): Seismic activity remains above background levels and is characterized by intermittent bursts of tremor. Clouds obscured observations of the volcano in satellite and web camera images, so it is unclear whether low-level eruptive activity is continuing. (AVO)

Chirpoi (Kurile Islands, Russia): SVERT maintains yellow alert level, but could not obtain satellite data during the past week to determine whether activity continued.

Ketoi (Kurile Islands, Russia): Steam-gas emissions and a thermal anomaly continue to be detected from satellite data when atmospheric conditions allow.

Chirinkotan (Northern Kuriles): A steam and gas plume remains visible sometimes on satellite data, suggesting that activity (lava effusion?) continues.

Tolbachik (Kamchatka): Activity has remained stable during the past week. Lava continues to be erupted from the fissure vent on the south side of Tolbachik Dol, feeding two flow fields to the west and south.

MODIS hot spot data (past 7 days) for Tolbachik volcano (ModVolc, Univ. Hawaii)

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano has been stepping up its activity again over the past 2 days. Yesterday alone, at least 6 explosions were registered by VAAC Tokyo, with plumes reaching up to 11,000 ft (3,4 km) altitude.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) forAugust 8, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

THE EURO-ZONE CRISIS: Precursors To The Total Collapse Of The FAILED White Supremacy Paradigm - Unemployment In Greece Hits Record High; Jobless Rate Of 27.6% Reported In May; 65% Of Greeks Aged 15-24 Without Work!

August 08, 2013 - GREECE - Unemployment in Greece rose to a new record high of 27.6 percent in May, leaving almost two thirds of young people without a job, the Hellenic Statistics Authority said Thursday.

The jobless rate rose from 27 percent in April and 23.8 percent in May last year. Young people were by far the worst affected, with unemployment among job-seekers aged 15 to 24 standing at 64.9 percent.

Greece has been depending on funds from international rescue loans since May 2010, after years of profligate spending and fiscal mismanagement left it with a massive budget deficit.

Greeks are angry at the spiraling rate of unemployment driven by deeply unpopular austerity measures.

In return, successive governments have imposed stringent austerity measures, including tax hikes and salary and pension cuts that have caused the economy to contract. The country is currently in the sixth year of a deep recession.

WATCH: Greece jobless rate hits record 27.6%.

The country's bailout from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries that use the euro as their currency is delivered in installments, and Greece's finances are inspected by its creditors before each disbursement.

WATCH: Greek activists fight poverty with guerrilla-style stunts.

The latest measures Greece must push through include the firing of thousands of civil servants. - Huffington Post.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Mother Nature's Disaster Precursors - Huge 'Frankenfish' Hooked In Virginia Sets A World Record; 14-Foot Brumese Python Found Eating Local Cats In Florida; Large Snake Discovered In Leicester Garden Pond, England; Python Holds Up Traffic On Expressway Near Birmingham, England; Escaped Python Kills Two Kids In New Brunswick, Canada; 8-Foot Sturgeon Found Belly Up In Lake Washington; Man Finds 2 Meter-Long Snake In His Car In Bordeaux, France; Australian Police Find 5.7 Metre Python In Queensland Shop; Snake Slips Out Of French Postal Packet; Shark Found On New York Subway Car And 8 Injured After Rodeo Bull Gets Loose At Minnesota Fair?!

August 08, 2013 - EARTH - The following constitutes several of the latest reports of weird animal behavior across the planet.

Huge 'Frankenfish' Hooked In Virginia Sets A World Record.
This fish is even meaner than it looks.

A Virginia man who caught a fish known as "Frankenfish" has set a world record.  Caleb Newton hooked the 17-pound, 6-ounce northern snakehead in a creek in northern Virginia during a fishing tournament June 1. The "Frankenfish" gets its nickname because of its appearance and adaptability. The invasive species native to Asia is able to breathe air and survive in very shallow waters or mud.  The Free Lance-Star reports the International Game Fish Association confirmed the record catch. It beat a snakehead caught in Japan in 2004 by 2 ounces.  Newton is a 27-year-old plumber in Spotsylvania County. He has said it only took him about a minute to get it into the boat, and the 3-foot long fish barely fit into his cooler. - FOX News.

14-Foot Brumese Python Found Eating Local Cats In Florida.
The Burmese Python is one of the six largest snakes in the world, native to a large variation of tropic
and subtropic areas of Southern- and Southeast Asia.
© Creative Commons

Imagine walking into your shed on a balmy Florida afternoon and discovering an enormous snake eating a cat's skull. Sounds like the opening scene for SyFy's next disaster movie right? WRONG! This is a real story with a real 100 lbs. snake. Ok, now that you are genuinely shocked, let's discuss what happened.  A 14-foot Burmese python was found by a man while he was performing home repairs in Hialeah, Florida. Officials immediately responded to the home and when they entered the shed to assess the snake situation the python was eating a cat's skull. The Miami-Dade Venom Unit also discovered that there was a large amount of molted skin in the shed, leading them to the conclusion that the massive snake had made the shed his makeshift home. "It was very nicely holed up in a shed, it's been there a while," Lt. Lisa Wood, of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Unit, said of the reptile.The discovered python had also solved the mystery of why there had been a large number of disappearances of local cats and rabbits. "Speaking with the neighbors, apparently there's a couple of rabbits and a cat missing from the neighborhood recently so the snake may be to blame for that," Wood added.

WATCH: Giant albino python found in florida.

Although officials now had a new mystery on their hands, how exactly did this 14-foot snake make its way into a shed? The Miami-Dade Venom Unit suspected that the python was a pet who ever escaped from his home or was abandoned after the snake had grown too large. According to CBS, it is illegal to own or sell pythons in Florida, and it is against federal law to import the snakes or sell them across state lines. Video crews captured officials attempting to work out the safest way to detain the python and remove the massive animal from the shed. The unit eventually removed the door of the shed to expose the body of the python, they then pulled the snake back, passing through many people's hands before they took hold of the animal's head to ensure safety. The unit then placed the massive white and yellow snake into bag for traveling. What would you do if you encountered a 14-foot Burmese python? I would probably faint, then cry, then faint again. - Latin Times.

Large Snake Discovered In Leicester Garden Pond, England.
Christine McAdam holds the snake she found in netting over her garden pond in Aylestone, Leicester.

A large snake has been discovered trapped in netting in a back garden pond.  Christine McAdam was in her garden in Aylestone, Leicester, on Friday afternoon when she spotted something in the netting that covers her pond.  She said: "I noticed something caught up in the mesh in my pond and I looked closer and it was a big snake.  "It's about two foot long and it's certainly not a grass snake or anything you would expect to find in this country.  "I've never seen anything close up like this before and I was scared it would bite me."  Christine, 58, enlisted the help of neighbour Rick Wright to cut the net and release the snake.  She has been trying to get hold of the RSPCA to take the snake off her hands.  She said: "I've been phoning and getting a message that says if you find a fox or snake or anything, just let it go.  "But I don't think I should with this one. It's so big.  "It's in a plastic box at the bottom of my garden for the moment.  "I'm keeping it out of the sun." - This Is Leicester.

Python Holds Up Traffic On Expressway Near Birmingham, England.
Police photo of the snake discovered on the Aston Expressway.

A five-foot snake caused tailbacks on a busy Birmingham commuter route on Thursday morning.  The exotic pet, believed to be a python, was spotted on the city-bound carriageway of the A38(M) Aston Expressway near to Dartmouth Circus at 9am.  One lane was temporarily closed while the slithering creature was caught and safely removed from the highway by officers from the Central Motorway Police Group.  They are now trying to find out how the roving reptile got there.  The lane closure caused further misery for motorists using the busy Expressway to get into Birmingham.  Traffic has been particularly bad on the road since the St Chad and Queensway tunnels in the city centre were closed for refurbishment on July 19. The 40-year-old tunnels are being given a long overdue overhaul and will remain closed until September 2.  - Twycross Zoo, in Warwickshire, was closed for a while on Thursday after chimpanzees escaped their living area.  A spokesman said: "One of their group of chimpanzees found their way into a secure service area within their enclosure.  This required closure of the zoo whilst keepers encouraged the chimps back into their normal living areas with ice cream and fizzy drinks. At no time were the public at risk, and no people or chimps were harmed during the incident.  "However, it is part of our safety procedures that we close the zoo whilst such events are resolved." - Birmingham Mail.

Escaped Python Kills Two Kids In New Brunswick, Canada.
RCMP forensic investigators at the Reptile Ocean store in Campbellton, N.B., Monday, August 5, 2013. © Claude LeBlanc/QMI Agency

Two young boys who were at a sleepover in an apartment above an exotic pet store in Campbellton, N.B., were killed by a large African python that got loose early Monday. The python escaped from the Reptile Ocean exotic pet store and killed the children, reportedly five and seven years old, who were found at 6:30 a.m.   According to deputy mayor Ian Comeau, the snake escaped and slithered through the ventilation system to the residence above where the children had spent the night.  Well before the tragedy, an online petition was asking for Reptile Ocean to be shut down.  On, the page's administrator wrote: "The way his animals are treated is not right, and I will fight against them till something is done. Sick animals should not be around healthy ones. They should not even be up for adoption. I am disgusted by that place and will no longer step a feet (sic) in there ever again."  On its Facebook page, Reptile Ocean describes itself as an "Exotic pet store open to the public for purchase and viewing! Wonderful animals. fun for everyone."  Responding to a post by Reptile Ocean on Saturday that read "sharing is caring," one visitor to the page commented: "You know what ISNT caring...have your snakes escape and then kill some children."  QMI Agency could not reach Reptile Ocean, local police or the mayor of Campbellton. - The Toronto Sun.

Eight-Foot Sturgeon Found Belly Up In Lake Washington.
A dead sturgeon was found floating in Lake Washington over the weekend. © Keith Magnuson

Keith Magnuson who lives in Seattle along the shores of Lake Washington, was waterskiing Saturday when he came across a giant dead fish.  "At first I thought it was a shark, but then we figured out it was a large sturgeon," Magnuson said.  Magnuson found the sturgeon that he and a friend estimated to be about 8 feet long floating belly up north of Matthews Beach.  The dead sturgeon is now tied to a post, and state Fish and Wildlife planned to send out a biologist to take a look at it in the next couple days.  "It is not a common fish to find in the lake and rather unique," said Annette Hoffman, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Mill Creek. "We recalled another sturgeon was found in the lake (back in 1987 that was 11 feet long and weighed 640 pounds)."  Another 5 ½-foot sturgeon was caught in 2005 by a University of Washington research boat.  According to Hoffman, sturgeon commonly migrate up and down the vast Columbia River. Locally, sport anglers also pursue them near the mouth of the Snohomish River.  "Sturgeon live in deepwater, and are bottom feeders so they're not easy to spot," Hoffman said.  Sturgeon are one of the oldest - dating back to the prehistoric times - and largest freshwater fish in the world, growing up to 20 feet long and weighing more than 1,000 pounds. - Seattle Times.

Man Finds 2 Meter-Long Snake In His Car In Bordeaux, France.
Firefighters in Bordeaux extracted a 2m boa constrictor from a car after the runaway snake fell asleep in the engine.  The unnamed snake was initially seen making its escape down rue du Commandant-Charcotin in the Caudéran area, but by the time fire fighters arrived, it had sought shelter by climbing into the engine of Mario Poularas' car via the gearbox.  Mr Poularas told Sud Ouest newspaper that he was relieved not have needed his vehicle on the morning that fire fighters knocked on his door to tell him that a boa constrictor had fallen asleep inside it.  "I don't know what I would have done if I'd seen the animal in the passenger compartment," he said.  Boa constrictors are not venomous, but are still, as Sud Ouest put it, "not cool to find while changing from first".  Fire fighters took half an hour to extract the animal, during which time its owner realised it had escaped after he left the vivarium door open. - Connexion France.

Australian Police Find 5.7m Python In Queensland Shop.
The huge python was spotted the day after the break-in by terrified shop workers © PA
A 5.7m (19ft) python has been seized after it fell from the ceiling of a charity shop in Australia.  The python, weighing 17kg (37lbs), was recovered by a snake-handler after police investigated a suspected break-in at the shop in Ingham, Queensland.  "Its head was the size of a small dog," said police spokesman Sgt Don Auld.  The snake fell through a ceiling panel, smashing shop goods. Police said it may have got in through the roof, which was damaged by Cyclone Yasi in 2011.  When police were initially called to the property on Monday, they believed a person had fallen through the ceiling because the roof panel had been cut in half.  Crockery, clothes and other goods were scattered all over the floor.  Police were called back to the shop the following day when a large crowd formed outside.  Sgt Auld said the snake must have been hiding when police went there the first time.  It has been released in nearby wetlands. - BBC.

Snake Slips Out Of French Postal Packet.
A French post office employee had the fright of her life when a metre-long python slithered quietly out of a parcel and rubbed against her.  The woman was alone in the post office in the village of Blenod-les-Pont-a-Mousson in eastern France, when she felt the chilling caress and screamed for help.  Firemen caught the fugitive reptile and discovered a second one in the parcel. The pair was identified by a vet as ball pythons - non-aggressive snakes that coil up into a tight ball when threatened - and was donated to a nearby zoo. 

"They're not dangerous but they're very impressive," an officer said. Ball pythons are popular with snake enthusiasts as pets but are also a protected species for which owners need a legal certificate stating they have not been taken from the wild.  Customs officers raided the home address of the parcel's sender, where they found no certificates but two other snakes, a stuffed caiman and a stuffed turtle which the owner had been trying to sell over the Internet. The post office stressed that its terms and conditions clearly forbade the shipping of animals, live or dead. - Daily Times.

Shark Found On New York Subway Car.
Commuters encountered an unexpected passenger when they boarded a New York City subway train early Wednesday: a shark.  A still wet 1-and-a-half foot shark carcass was discovered on the floor of a subway car at around midnight in downtown Manhattan.  "I thought it was just a plush toy or a prank," passenger Juan Cano told CNN. "When I saw the teeth that's I knew it was real, it was no toy."  The shark, described as weighing between five to 10 pounds, was discovered near a row of seats by passengers on the Queens-bound N train at the 14th Street stop.  The shark had blood on its mouth, as though it has recently been punctured by a fishing hook, according to Cano.

The shark quickly drew a crowd, as entering subway riders began to photograph and pose with the shark, even adding a subway fare card, soft drink can and a cigarette to the supine shark as props.  After several stops, an MTA official entered the train at Queensboro Plaza, cleared it of passengers, and locked its doors, Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesmen Kevin Ortiz told CNN. The shark was removed later that night and disposed of.  The shark's species was never identified.  MTA officials were unable to "determine the shark's origin," according to Ortiz.  This is not the first case of a mysterious shark appearance.  In Nantucket last week, a 5-foot-long shark carcass was discovered outside the door of a bar on Water Street.  "I have no idea how or why it got there." Sea Dog Brew Pub manager Jim Agnew told CNN.

WATCH: Shark found on New York subway car.

Asked whether anything out of the ordinary happened that evening, Agnew could only point to having to ask two people to leave, but those were "peaceful ejections" he said -- adding that the customs had since returned to the bar.  Some have speculated that the appearance of sharks in mysterious places is a publicity stunt for the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week." Photos of the two mysterious sharks have exploded on social media using the hashtag #sharkweek.  Discovery Channel denies any involvement.  "Shark Week is all about conservation, so it deeply saddens us that someone would think that this was funny or in any way connected to our celebration of sharks," said spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg.  MTA officials told CNN they have no plans to "continue investigating" how the shark got on the subway. - CNN.

8 Injured After Rodeo Bull Gets Loose At Minnesota Fair.
Authorities say a bull ran through the Dakota County fairgrounds Wednesday night, injuring eight people before being shot by a county deputy and captured by handlers.  Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said a penned 1,200-pound bull got loose at around 8:15 p.m. and ran through the fairgrounds for about 15 minutes.  “It was just stampeding through the crowd,” said Andrew Larsen, a witness.

 WATCH: Several injured after rodeo bull escapes at Minnesota fair.


The bull injured eight people, including a woman who suffered head injuries and was airlifted from the scene. She was not named, but her condition was listed as serious.  The seven other victims, including a child, suffered what medics deemed to be a variety of non-serious injuries. They received treatment on site.  Bellows said bull handlers captured the bull after a deputy shot it twice. The bull is still alive.  Rice Rodeo sponsored the fair event, Bellows said, and the bull is owned by the Gold Medal Cattle Company. - CBS Minnesota.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Namibia's Severe Drought Threatens Hundreds Of Thousands - Dry Conditions Leaves 400,000 Facing Hunger; State Of Emergency Declared!

"It is too early to say whether the seasonal rains, which begin in late November, will be enough to satisfy the demands of the farmers; we can only hope they do." - Richard Angwin, Al Jazeera meteorologist.

August 08, 2013 - NAMIBIA - A severe drought that sparked a state of emergency in Namibia has left 400,000 people facing hunger, the government said.

The government has been criticised for failing to do enough to provide relief to people during the worst dry spell to hit the country in decades.

But the chairman of the Disaster Risk Management Committee defended the government's performance as he announced the new figure on Tuesday.

"We are trying to do the best we can to make sure that the food goes to the intended people. So far so good," he said.

Al Jazeera meteorologist Richard Angwin said that Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world. Seasonal rains are very light and erratic at the best of times.

“Take Walvis Bay, for example. Well known to tourists for its nearby abundant birdlife, including flamingos, the city receives just 22mm of rain in the entire year," he said.

"The capital, Windhoek, fares somewhat better with an annual total of 360mm.

“Coastal regions derive a little moisture from fog which develops over the cool coastal waters, but that only contributes a few millimetres at most. It is too early to say whether the seasonal rains, which begin in late November, will be enough to satisfy the demands of the farmers; we can only hope they do”.

State of emergency

The number of people at risk from hunger has risen from 300,000 in May, when President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared a state of emergency.

In May, the government started handing out maize meal bags to rural areas in a central part of the country and authorities are appealing for international support.

UNICEF says more than 778,000 people including 109,000 children under the age of five are at risk of malnutrition.

The organisation says it needs about $22m to support those people.

The dry spell has destroyed grazing land and raised concerns about the country's spectacular wildlife, which attracts vital tourist income. - Al Jazeera.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Causes Damage In Greece!

August 08, 2013 - GREECE - A magnitude 5.1 moderate earthquake shook up Athens, Greece on the 7th of August, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

USGS earthquake locations.

According to the USGS, the epicentre of Greece earthquake was located at 6 km southwest of Kainouryion and 125 km northwest of capital Athens.

It was 9.7 miles deep.

Picture of the earthquake damage in the village of Drimea

According to Earthquake Report, the earthquake collapsed chimneys and cracked walls in Amfikleia.

The Police Department of Lamia has reported rockfall in the hills near the epicenter.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

Tremor was also felt in Amaroúsion, Athens, Larissa, Lékhaion, Néa Ionía, Sperkhiás and Vólos cities of Greece.

No injuries have been reported from the earthquake.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Mediterranean Region and Vicinity.
The Mediterranean region is seismically active due to the northward convergence (4-10 mm/yr) of the African plate with respect to the Eurasian plate along a complex plate boundary. This convergence began approximately 50 Ma and was associated with the closure of the Tethys Sea. The modern day remnant of the Tethys Sea is the Mediterranean Sea. The highest rates of seismicity in the Mediterranean region are found along the Hellenic subduction zone of southern Greece, along the North Anatolian Fault Zone of western Turkey and the Calabrian subduction zone of southern Italy.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Local high rates of convergence at the Hellenic subduction zone (35mm/yr) are associated with back-arc spreading throughout Greece and western Turkey above the subducting Mediterranean oceanic crust. Crustal normal faulting throughout this region is a manifestation of extensional tectonics associated with the back-arc spreading. The region of the Marmara Sea is a transition zone between this extensional regime, to the west, and the strike-slip regime of the North Anatolian Fault Zone, to the east. The North Anatolian Fault accommodates much of the right-lateral horizontal motion (23-24 mm/yr) between the Anatolian micro-plate and Eurasian plate as the Anatolian micro-plate is being pushed westward to further accommodate closure of the Mediterranean basin caused by the collision of the African and Arabian plates in southeastern Turkey. Subduction of the Mediterranean Sea floor beneath the Tyrrhenian Sea at the Calabrian subduction zone causes a significant zone of seismicity around Sicily and southern Italy. Active volcanoes are located above intermediate depth earthquakes in the Cyclades of the Aegean Sea and in southern Italy.

In the Mediterranean region there is a written record, several centuries long, documenting pre-instrumental seismicity (pre-20th century). Earthquakes have historically caused widespread damage across central and southern Greece, Cyprus, Sicily, Crete, the Nile Delta, Northern Libya, the Atlas Mountains of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The 1903 M8.2 Kythera earthquake and the 1926 M7.8 Rhodes earthquakes are the largest instrumentally recorded Mediterranean earthquakes, both of which are associated with subduction zone tectonics. Between 1939 and 1999 a series of devastating M7+ strike-slip earthquakes propagated westward along the North Anatolian Fault Zone, beginning with the 1939 M7.8 Erzincan earthquake on the eastern end of the North Anatolian Fault system. The 1999 M7.6 Izmit earthquake, located on the westward end of the fault, struck one of Turkey's most densely populated and industrialized urban areas killing, more than 17,000 people. Although seismicity rates are comparatively low along the northern margin of the African continent, large destructive earthquakes have been recorded and reported from Morocco in the western Mediterranean, to the Dead Sea in the eastern Mediterranean. The 1980 M7.3 El Asnam earthquake was one of Africa's largest and most destructive earthquakes within the 20th century.

Large earthquakes throughout the Mediterranean region have also been known to produce significant and damaging tsunamis. One of the more prominent historical earthquakes within the region is the Lisbon earthquake of November 1, 1755, whose magnitude has been estimated from non-instrumental data to be about 8.0. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake is thought to have occurred within or near the Azores-Gibraltar transform fault, which defines the boundary between the African and Eurasian plates off the west coast of Morocco and Portugal. The earthquake is notable for both a large death toll of approximately 60,000 people and for generating a tsunami that swept up the Portuguese coast inundating coastal villages and Lisbon. An earthquake of approximately M8.0 near Sicily in 1693 generated a large tsunami wave that destroyed numerous towns along Sicily's east coast. The M7.2 December 28, 1908 Messina earthquake is the deadliest documented European earthquake. The combination of severe ground shaking and a local tsunami caused an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 fatalities. - USGS.

EXTREME WEATHER: "Head To Toe" Burn Victim Among Three Hurt As Southern California Wildfires Spreads - Fires Swell To 10,000 Acres; 1,500 People Flee Mountain Areas; 15 Homes Destroyed!

August 08, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A Southern California wildfire that left a person with head-to-toe burns and two firefighters hurt swelled Thursday to 10,000 acres and was described by authorities as completely uncontained.

About 1,500 people were told to flee mountain areas nearby, and aerial video from NBC Los Angeles showed homes erupting into flames and black plumes of smoke in the hills of Riverside County, east of Los Angeles. Wind as strong as 40 mph pushed the fire.

The powerful wildfires sweeping through Southern California have scorched 6,000 acres and caused
more than a thousand people to be evacuated, as firefighters work to contain the intense wall of flames.

Earlier Thursday, fire officials said the blaze had already destroyed 15 homes. It was classified earlier in the day as burning across 6,000 acres.

The people who was burned head to toe was at a hospital burn center. Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins told the NBC station that the person “very, very tragically was very badly burned.”

WATCH: Powerful wildfires sweeping through Southern California.

One of the firefighters suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to the hospital, Cal Fire’s Daniel Berlant said.

The fire was first reported Tuesday afternoon.

Cal Fire said that evacuation orders had been issued for the communities of Vista Grande, Mount Edna, Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Silent Valley and parts of Cabazon.

A map produced by Cal Fire showed several other wildfires in the state — including in Riverside County, in the Sierra National Forest, in the Stanislaus National Forest and in the Klamath National Forest.

The West has already suffered a series of destructive wildfires in 2013. Colorado experienced the most destructive wildfire in its history in June, which killed two and destroyed about 500 structures. As that fire burned, 11 other fires plagued the state and more threatened other parts of the Southwest.

The following month, 19 heavily trained Hotshot firefighters were killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona.

WATCH: Footage of several homes and other building being destroyed by a wildfire in Banning, California.


The fire burning over 10,000 acres, known as the Silver Fire, cut off exit routes for some people, and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department told those people to stay where they were. Highway 243 was closed, the Fire Department said.

Berlant said that more than 100 homes were in danger, but noted it was early to make such estimates.

Cal Fire said about 1,000 firefighters were on it, up from 450. There were also 84 fire engines, six air tankers and 13 helicopters in the fight.

"The biggest challenge for us is the people who are in their homes, and when we try to evacuate them, them moving on the same streets as the fire engines," Cal Fire Capt. Lucas Spelman told

A pickup truck is engulfed in flames as the Silver Fire roars through a residential area near Hwy 243 and
Twin Pines Road between Banning and Idyllwild, Calif. on Wednesday.
Frank Bellino / Press-Enterprise via AP

The American Red Cross opened three evacuation centers.

Ashes from the fire were reported to be falling in Palm Springs, 25 miles away.

"The smoke is so thick here in Palm springs, the ashes are coming down like snow, and the air quality is really bad!!" Michelle Renee Robinson-Scruggs wrote on NBC LA’s Facebook page. - NBC News.