Saturday, April 26, 2014

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Train Crash In The Democratic Republic Of Congo - At Least 63 Killed, 80 Seriously Injured!

April 26, 2014 - CONGO - At least 63 people were killed and 80 seriously injured when a train exceeding the speed limit derailed going round a bend in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, a local minister said.

Reuters / Goran Tomasevic

Fifty more people remain trapped inside the train after the accident, according to Reuters. A rescue team is working on the scene.

On Tuesday, 12 carriages of the goods train derailed near Likasi, a mining town between the cities of Lubumbashi and Kolwezi in the copper and cobalt-rich southeast Katanga province.

"Evidently the train was going too fast, the driver came to a curve and had to break suddenly leading to the accident," said Dikanga Kazadi, Katanga's interior minister.

A team has been sent to investigate the causes of the accident.

There are no Russian citizens among the victims, Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In 2007 over 100 people were killed in a similar accident involving a goods train in the southern province of Kasai-Occidental.

The country's infrastructure is in poor condition due to years of civil wars and neglect of funding. Because of a First Congo War in 1996-97 the railway system was not functioning from 1998 until June 2004. During the war 500 kilometers of railway in the provinces of Maniema and Katanga were destroyed. Despite foreign support, Congo Railway Company (CNC) was on the brink of collapse in 2010. In June 2010 the World Bank gave Congo a US$ 255 million grant in order to refurbish the railway system.  - RT.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Plane Crash In Northern Mexico - 8 Killed!

April 26, 2014 - MEXICO - Eight people were killed when a small plane hit a commercial building and then crashed into some warehouses in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, the Excelsior newspaper reported on its Web site Sunday.

The eight-seat Hawker 800 crashed into an empty warehouse in an industrial park, the Coahuila Attorney General's Office said.

Six men, including the two pilots, and two women died in the crash, Excelsior said.

The plane's pilot was Alfonso Andre Reymond and the co-pilot was Israel Cabrera Hernandez, the newspaper said.

Journalist Antonio Davila Campos, his wife, Irma Lopez, and their 10-year-old son were among those who died in the accident, Excelsior said.

The plane was flying from Cozumel Island in Quintana Roo state to Plan de Guadalupe International Airport outside Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, investigators said.

State emergency management office and emergency services personnel, as well as firefighters from the cities of Ramos Arizpe and Saltillo, responded to the crash and extinguished a fire that started at the industrial park. Emergency services workers needed more than four hours to recover the bodies, which were taken to the coroner's office.  - FOX News.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: The Latest Incidents Across The Earth - Half A Million Carp Dead In Cumberland River, Kentucky; UK Barn Owls Suffer Worst Year On Record Due To Bitterly Cold Spring And Too Much Spring Ice Threatens Alaskan Polar Bears!

April 26, 2014 - EARTH - The following stories constitutes some of the latest incidents of mass animal die-offs across the globe.

Half A Million Carp Dead In Cumberland River, Kentucky
The silver carp is known for its explosive and high jumping that can be a danger to boaters.

Several sources in Kentucky - including our colleagues at WKMS in Murray - are reporting on a massive and sudden die-off of silver carp in the Cumberland River below the Lake Barkley dam, downriver from Nashville and Clarksville. Estimates of "tens of thousands", maybe as many as 500,000 of the invasive Asian carp species, are believed to have perished in a 24-hour period.

The cause of the die-off is unknown and being investigated, but Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife's Paul Rister has this to say to online newspaper KyForward:
"Whenever there is one species of fish, you are definitely thinking viral or bacterial. It's not anything water quality wise. If it was oxygen-related or chemical related you would see other species"
The silver carp - known for its high jumping skills that can be a danger to boaters - is one of four invasive carp that are illegal to "possess or transport" in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources agency.

The spread of silver carp is so worrisome that wildlife officials are researching special chemicals to poison them.

Here is some detailed information about Asian carp distribution in the U.S. as of last year. - NPR.

UK Barn Owls Suffer Worst Year On Record Due To Bitterly Cold Spring
A barn owl in flight.
Marlene Finlayson / Alamy
Barn owls suffered their worst year on record in 2013 as they struggled in the bitterly cold spring, conservationists have said.

Results from barn owl monitoring schemes around the UK revealed the number of sites where nesting took place last year was significantly down in every area compared to previous years, and some surveys found no nests with eggs in at all.

Overall the number of occupied nests was down 71% on the average across all previous years, according to the Barn Owl Trust, which collated the information from 21 independent groups stretching from Jersey in the Channel Islands to south-west Scotland.

A survey in Berkshire which normally finds 14 nests in use and a surveyor in Yorkshire who normally finds 25-30 occupied nests both found none at all, while surveys in Buckinghamshire and Sussex were both down more than 90% on normal levels.

Conservationists described the situation as the "worst year ever recorded" for the flagship farmland species.

The dramatic drop in nesting was largely down to the freezing spring in 2013, with the coldest March since 1962 which left many barn owls dead, a report by the Barn Owl Trust said.

Almost four times as many dead barn owls were reported to the British Trust for Ornithology in March 2013 than normal and by mid-April it was possible that there were fewer barn owls alive in the UK than at any time since records began, the report said.

David Ramsden, senior conservation officer for the Barn Owl Trust said: "It's a lot to do with the fact that March was like January. Just when it should be getting warmer and mortality should have been dropping, it continued."

The icy weather, which reduced the availability of the bird's small mammal prey, was the latest in a series of extreme weather events going back to 2009 which had hit barn owl populations, he said.

"If we stop having frequent extreme weather events the population could recover in a couple of years to what it was before the extreme weather events began in December 2009."

But even those population levels were not terribly high, as the barn owl had suffered a historical decline from the mid 1800s through to the late 1980s, as a result of increasingly intensive agriculture which affected barn owls' habitat and prey.

A survey in the late 1990s revealed there were around 4,000 pairs.

Ramsden said the population had probably increased from that level in the face of early springs and mild winters over the past decade or so, before being hit by a string of extremes starting with the very cold winter of 2009-10.

Whether the barn owl could recover from the record lows seen in 2013 would depend on whether climate change would mean more extreme weather conditions, with cold winters affecting barn owls more than wet weather or drought, he said.

Land management also played a role, he said, adding that creating habitat for flagship species such as barn owls would also boost other wildlife such as birds and butterflies. - The Guardian.

Too Much Spring Ice Threatens Alaskan Polar Bears
Female polar bear with cubs.

Five meters of ice - about 16 feet thick - is threatening the survival of polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea region along Alaska's Arctic coast, according to Dr. Susan J. Crockford, an evolutionary biologist in British Columbia who has studied polar bears for most of her 35-year career.

That's because the thick ice ridges could prevent ringed seals, the bears' major prey, from creating breathing holes they need to survive in the frigid waters, Crockford told

"Prompted by reports of the heaviest sea ice conditions on the East Coast 'in decades' and news that ice on the Great Lakes is, for mid-April, the worst it's been since records began, I took a close look at the ice thickness charts for the Arctic," Crockford noted in her Polar Bear Science blog on April 18th.

"Sea ice charts aren't a guarantee that this heavy spring ice phenomenon is developing in the Beaufort, but they could be a warning," she wrote, noting that they "don't bode well" for the Beaufort bears.

"What happens is that really thick ice moves in because currents and winds from Greenland and the Canadian islands push it against the shore," Crockford told

"The male seals arrive in the area in early spring to set up breeding territories. They drill a hole through the ice to maintain breathing holes close to the shore. But there's a limit. They can drill through two meters (about seven feet) of ice. But too much beyond that and they're in trouble."

"The reason that's important is that seals mate right after the pups, who are born in April, are weaned. So the male seal wants to be there, but he has to have breathing holes. If the ice is too thick, he has to move off someplace else," she explained.

But this is the same time that female polar bears are just emerging with their newborn cubs from maternity dens either on or near the shore.

"When those bears come out of their dens in the spring, they need to find seals right away because they will have gone six months without eating," Crockford said. "If there are no seals, they have to go further out, where there's thinner ice."

"Spring and early summer are really a critical time for polar bears. That's when they need to eat as many seals as they can because that's when they put on fat for the rest of the year. If they have trouble doing that in the spring, they're in big trouble."

There were comparably high levels of spring ice in the Beaufort Sea in 2004 and 2006, when bear counts were "one of the pieces of evidence used to have the bears listed as 'threatened' in the U.S.," Crockford pointed out.

"Polar bear biologists were finding some bears quite thin and found a population decline," she said, which they attributed to melting summer ice caused by global warming.

"But the biologists were not there to see the thick [spring] ice. All they saw was thin bears," she pointed out. "They blamed the poor condition of the bears on summer ice, instead of acknowledging that it was likely the condition of the ice in the spring that was the cause of the problem."

"Female [polar bears] with cubs having trouble feeding are one aspect of the repercussions of thick ice," Crockford added. "The other repercussion is that other bears, instead of hanging around and starving, probably left the area. They could have gone to the Chukchi Sea, which is located between the U.S. and Russia near the Bering Strait."

The international IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) conducted a polar bear population survey for the area in 2006. It reported a decline in the adult polar bear population and reduced cub survival rates, which was used to list the bears as a "threatened species" in the U.S. in 2008.

But the PBSG did not take into account the fact that polar bears "can just move" to other areas if their food supply is limited, Crockford told "If some of those bears were part of that count, it would look like they died," she pointed out.

In its 2013 status update, released on February 14th, the PBSG repeated its 2006 "reduced" population estimate, putting the Southern Beaufort Sea at 1,526 bears and "declining due to a negative trend in sea ice conditions, particularly over the continental shelf, resulting from the continuing effects of climate warming."

However, in what Crockford characterizes as an "astonishing admission," the update also stated that "it is important to note that there is the potential for un-modeled spatial heterogeneity in mark-recapture sampling that could bias survival and abundance estimates. A thorough re-assessment of survival and abundance is underway and a final result is anticipated in 2014."

"What's shocking is that the PBSG have now admitted that the 'movement of bears' issue essentially invalidates the 2006 population estimate and the much-touted 'reduced survival of cubs'," Crockford said in a March 24th blog post.

"This is a cyclical pattern that is quite specific to that part of Alaska, which has been known about since the 1970s," when wildife biologists noticed "ten times as many seals as usual in the Chukchi Sea. There were more bears, too," Crockford told

"It seems to happen every 10 years, so it should be expected by people who work in the area. And not just by people who study polar bears, but also people who study seals."

"It looks like similar conditions are setting up now, and we know the timing is right," she added. "We're keeping an eye on it." - CNS News.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Mysterious Land Subsidence - Indiana Attraction To Remain Closed This Summer As Holes Mystery Persists?!

April 26, 2014 - INDIANA, UNITED STATES -  Officials at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore announced Thursday that scientists still do not know what caused holes to appear in Mount Baldy last summer, and the popular attraction will remain closed for further study.

Scientists do not know what caused this hole and others to appear in Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National
Lakeshore since last summer. Additional research will be conducted this summer and may last into the fall. To ensure the
public's safety, Mount Baldy, its parking lot, trail, and beach in front of the dune will remain closed to all vehicular and
pedestrian access while the investigation continues. 
Provided by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Nathan Woessner, 6, of Sterling, Ill., was swallowed by a hole July 12 and rescued by firefighters.

Two additional holes have appeared since July, park officials said Thursday.

Ground penetrating radar studies performed by the Environmental Protection Agency have identified a large number of anomalies below the dune's surface, but scientists from the National Park Service, Indiana University and the Indiana Geological Survey still do not know how these holes were formed.

"Mount Baldy is one of the most visited sites in the national lakeshore, attracting thousands of visitors each year" said Acting Superintendent Garry Traynham in a press release. "But the continued development of these holes in the dune surface poses a serious risk to the public. Our first obligation must be to the welfare of our visitors who are here for an enjoyable outing."

The two additional holes and a number of depressions have been found since July. Officials said the holes are short-lived, remaining open for less than 24 hours before collapsing and filling in naturally with surrounding sand.

Provided by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Officials at the national lakeshore on Thursday announced more testing will be conducted this summer. That work will include mapping of openings and depressions, as well as scientific studies of the internal architecture of the dune.

Park workers will continue planting marram grass on portions of Mount Baldy where the native dune grass used to grow. The extensive root system of the grass holds sand in place and may also help prevent holes from opening up on the dune's surface, officials said.

All other beach access areas within the national lakeshore remain open. - NWI.

PLANETARY TREMORS: The Cascadia Subduction Zone - University Of Washington Launches Effort To Prepare Northwest Region For 9.0 MAGNITUDE QUAKE, 314 Years Since The Last One!

April 26, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Scientists fully expect that the coast of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and part of northern California to see a magnitude nine subduction zone earthquake again.

It's been 314 years since the last one in January of the year 1700. Scientists know of this quake because of written reports from Japan that recorded a tsunami. The reports of a giant wave also correlate with rings in old trees killed when marsh land along the Washington coast dropped several feet, allowing sea water to envelope their roots.

This week, scientists with the University of Washington gathered 55 experts from around the region. Their goal: to step up efforts to prepare for the next magnitude nine earthquake in the Northwest and the ensuing recovery.

"That's the critical part. To be prepared and then to bounce back." said John Vidale, Washington state's seismologist and head of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. Vidale moderated the event.

The project is called M9, as in magnitude 9. But the lessons learned from it could be applied to any major natural disaster in Washington, a state that's currently recovering from the landslide near Oso on March 22 that killed at least 41 people.

In addition to earthquake scientists, M9 participants included structural engineers, transportation experts, representatives from the insurance industry, social scientists, oceanographers, tsunami specialists and emergency managers.

The plan is to update the science to better prepare everything from skyscrapers to bridges to people in their own homes for when a mega-quake hits.

"People may not be preparing themselves adequately for the kind of disaster that's going to happen," said Ann Bostrom with the U.W. Evans School of Public Affairs. But she added that the big quake is just one scenario that threatens people and homeowners.

"I do think about insurance, about the preparations people can do. I think about the mental preparations people have to do in order to plan for all kinds of hazards, and what we can do in our risk communications projects to help people do that," Bostrom said.

WATCH: Earthquake concerns along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Interdisciplinary efforts have happened before, at meetings and conferences. But this time it's a bigger commitment to work together: a three year, $4 million project financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The risk from violent shaking and a tsunami is not just confined to coastal communities. The Seattle area is also considered at an elevated risk. The city and some of the surrounding area sits on a basin of softer soil and rock surrounded by harder materials. That could trap earthquake waves and cause them to resonate for a longer period of time, creating more damage.

An area of further study is how those earthquake waves, particularly ones of certain frequencies will effect tall downtown buildings. - KREM.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Spectacular Meteor Fireballs Seen Over Japan!

April 26, 2014 - JAPAN -  Two bright meteor fireballs were recently seen darting across the night skies over Japan.

See more in the following videos:

WATCH: Meteor fireballs over Japan.

Via Japan's Fireball Network, SonotaCo @