Sunday, March 15, 2015

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Tourist Bus Plunges Into Ravine In Santa Catarina, Brazil - 54 People Dead!

March 15, 2015 - BRAZIL
- Up to 54 people died as a result of an accident in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, in which a bus fell into a ravine from a height of 400 meters, local police said in a dramatic increase of the initial death toll.

The bus fell down a cliff near the town of Campo Alegre when it was some 10 kilometers (six miles) away from its destination in the city of Joinville.

It was bringing a group of evangelical Christians to a religious event in the neighboring state, Reuters reported.

The toll was raised from 32 killed and 11 injured after emergency crews working at the scene discovered another 19 bodies. The total number of passengers was not immediately clear. The latest report says that at least six survivors, including two children, are being treated for injuries.

Police said the brakes of the bus appeared to have failed at a turn in the road.

WATCH: Raw - Bus falls 400m into ravine in Brazil.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff expressed her sympathy for the families and friends of the dead.

Traffic accidents have recently surged in the South American nation, according to the data cited by AFP over the years 2002 to 2012, with about 43,000 Brazilians now killed in road accidents annually. - RT.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Super-Cyclone Pam Batters Islands Of Vanuatu - The Strongest Tropical Cyclone In The South Pacific ON RECORD; 4 Cyclones In The South Pacific Simultaneously; Widespread Destruction; Dozens Of Deaths!

Cyclone Pam was heading southwest when NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image at 1:30 p.m. local time (2:20 Universal Time)
on March 13, 2015, shortly before the storm struck the island of Efate, and Vanuatu’s capital city, Port Vila.

March 15, 2015 - SOUTH PACIFIC
- Tropical Cyclone Pam may have weakened somewhat Saturday morning, but it was still pounding the islands of Vanuatu after hours of fierce winds and torrential rain.

"#CyclonePam still tearing through #Vanuatu. 'Much bigger than expected,' says our colleague in Port Vila. Initial reports of devastation," tweeted the Australian branch of UNICEF.

Pam, one of the strongest storms seen in the South Pacific in years, earlier made a direct hit on Port Vila, the capital, raising fears of mass destruction.

In its 8 a.m. Saturday update, the Vanuatu Meteorological Services warned of "very destructive hurricane force winds" of 155 mph (250 kilometers per hour) in Shefa and Tafea provinces, with several others facing "very rough to phenomenal seas with heavy swells."

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, said the cyclone had weakened from the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane to a Category 4. It has dumped more than 9 inches of rain on the capital in a 36-hour period and has wind gusts of up to 190 mph (305 kph).

A resident assesses damage caused by Cyclone in Tarawa, Kiribati, on March 11, 2015. ©

Pam is forecast to move southeastward along the western edge of the southern islands of Vanuatu. It isn't expected to make any additional landfalls before dissipating.

It will continue to weaken as it crosses cooler waters and encounters higher wind shear.

Pam is expected to pass east of New Zealand on Sunday and into Monday. It could bring heavy rainfall to North Island, including Auckland.

The capital,the biggest city in the Vanuatu island chain,sits on the coastline, which is vulnerable to storm surges during powerful cyclones.

Tropical Cyclone Pam is the strongest storm to make landfallsince the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013.

Chloe Morrison, an emergency communications director for the humanitarian organization World Vision, told CNN that she could see some light between her boarded-up windows but it was still hard to see the totality of the destruction outside the house where she and seven others huddled in a back room during the storm.

WATCH: Passage of Super-Cyclone Pam.

"Seven hours hunkered down and it's still not safe to go outside," she said. "The winds are still really howling. We're really lucky to be in a concrete house."

Part of the tin roof twisted off the house and landed by one of the windows, she said. She also noted that two trees outside didn't get uprooted, but they had not one bit of fruit or any leaves remaining.

Despite the "quite terrifying ordeal," Morrison said, their house didn't have any damage.

Through the night, the wind and torrential rain made it sound like an angry ocean was just outside their doors, she said.

World Vision, which says it's been based in Vanuatu for more than 30 years, said its emergency assessment team would head out to view the damage when it is safe.

The staff helped prepare communities on the islands for the cyclone by positioning water, food, blankets, tarpaulins, and shelter, hygiene and kitchen kits in key places, it said, as well as advising on disaster preparedness.

WATCH: Cyclone Pam menaces Vanuatu.

Residents have been advised to seek shelter in places such as churches, universities and schools.

"The strongest thing they've got is cement churches," said Inga Mepham, program director for CARE International for the Vanuatu program. "Some of them don't have that. It's hard to find a structure that you'd think would be able to withstand a Category 5 (storm)."'Vanuatu Monster'

Earlier, photographer Michael McLennan -- who said the storm is being called the "Vanuatu Monster" -- told CNN that the "strength of winds is incredible."

Video footage he shot earlier Friday showed palm trees being whipped by wind and rain.

Tropical Cyclone Pam slams Vanuatu capital

Evacuation alerts have been issued for several parts of the country.

Even before the sun rose Saturday, Vanuatu was already getting hit hard, with most communication and power cut off due to the storm.

"The wind outside is terrifying," Michael Wolfe, World Vision's national director in Vanuatu, told that organization. "I can't imagine what it's like for families out there who weren't able to find safe shelter before the storm."

The archipelago nation northeast of Australia contains 83 small islands, many of which have little infrastructure and lack the strong housing structures that can endure a walloping storm.

Because of the tropical climate in Vanuatu, some of the housing is made of lighter building materials, including straw and corrugated metals.

Residents prepared for the storm, boarding up windows and chopping down trees that stand close to buildings in case they could become debris or cause further damage or injury.

WATCH: Cyclone Pam make landfall in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

CNN host Bill Weir, who was recently in Vanuatu on assignment, said that while Port Vila has some modern development in the form of an airport, large hotels and a convention center that's under construction, life on some of the islands has remained almost unchanged for thousands of years.

"For search and rescue, for bringing food and supplies and medicine, it's extremely challenging," he said.

Pam has triggered watches and warnings in the Solomon Islands and New Zealand. - CNN.

4 cyclones in South Pacific simultaneously: The biggest, Super-Cyclone Pam, is South Pacific's strongest ever

Three powerful tropical cyclones bearing down on Australia and Vanuatu: Olwyn (left), Nathan (center), and Pam (right)
were seen by MODIS on NASA’s Aqua satellite at 2:20 Universal Time on March 13, 2015.  © NASA

The strongest tropical cyclone on record in the South Pacific, Tropical Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 super storm, hit Vanuatu last night causing deaths and destruction. This morning Pam had a central pressure as low as 899hPa and was gusting up to 335km per hour at its centre.

It is one of four cyclones unusually affecting the South Pacific at the same time.

The Vanuatu Meteorological Services warned very destructive hurricane-force winds of 250 kilometres per hour continued to affect the country's southern provinces this morning. It said the central pressure of the system was estimated at 900 hectopascals, which is among the strongest tropical cyclones on record.

Furthermore, at 8:00 am today, Saturday, the Fiji Meteorological Service reported that Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam (Category 5) was located about 890km West of Nadi.

"It has a central pressure of 899hPa and average wind speeds of 250km per hour close to the centre with gusts up to 335km per hour. It is currently moving South 20km per hour. It is gradually turning southeasterly," Fiji Met stated.


The full impact of Pam on Vanuatu today is unknown as communications in the worst hit areas are not restored, but early reports state dozens of deaths.

NASA's Goddard Space Centre has released images today of Cyclone Pam taken shortly before it struck the island of Efate, which is home to Vanuatu's capital city, Port Vila.

Cyclone Pam was heading in a southwesterly direction when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this image at 1:30 p.m. local time on March 13, 2015.

"The eastern side of Efate likely took the strongest hit from the cyclone's eyewall, but Port Vila, which is on the southwestern side of the island, faced extremely destructive conditions. As the storm approached the city, it had sustained winds up to 265 kilometers (165 miles) per hour, making it the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane. Dozens of people are feared dead and forecasters expect flooding and catastrophic damage in the city," NASA's Earth Observatory website reported.

Nathan, Olwyn and Bavi

On the same day, another major tropical cyclone, Category 3 Olwyn, made landfall in Western Australia near the city of Carnarvon and captured on NASA's Terra satellite. Thousands of people in Carnarvon lost power as a result of the storm, which weakened as it pushed inland.

Nathan has been circling the coast of Queensland, Australia, the last few days, but is expected to dissipate over the course of Friday.

A mosaic image compiled by NASA shows three storms - Pam, Nathan, and Olwyn - swirling near the continent on March 11, 2015. The mosaic is based on data collected during three orbital passes of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP.

A fourth storm, Bavi, is in the Pacific Ocean well north of Pam, and not shown on the image.

After Vanuatu, Pam is expected to head toward northern New Zealand.

According to Wikipedia, on the available records, a total of 70 tropical cyclones attained a pressure of less than 900 hPa (mbar) (26.56 inHg), most of which occurred in the Western North Pacific Ocean. The strongest tropical cyclone recorded worldwide, as measured by minimum central pressure, was Typhoon Tip, which reached a pressure of 870 hPa (25.69 inHg) on October 12, 1979.

The most intense tropical cyclone in the South Pacific was Cyclone Zoe, which formed in 2002, and was also the most intense storm in the Southern Hemisphere.

However, by 10-minute sustained wind speed, the strongest tropical cyclone in the South Pacific is Cyclone Pam. - Matangi Tonga.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes And Landslides Keep Popping Up Across The Globe - Massive Sinkhole Opens Up In Southport, UK; Road Closed Due To Sinkhole In Clarksville, Tennessee; Sinkhole Closes Busy Road In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; Bus Ends Up Stuck In Sinkhole In Lackawanna, New York; School Bus Stuck In Sinkhole In Kensington, Philadelphia; Massive Landslide Shuts Down Road Near Yeager Airport, West Virginia!

March 15, 2015 - EARTH - Here are several of the latest reports of sinkholes and landslides in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Massive sinkhole opens up in Southport, UK

A sinkhole in Churchtown village has caused traffic chaos

A busy road junction in Southport is likely to be closed "for several weeks" after a collapsed sewer caused a large sink hole to appear.

The hole, which is 15ft by 10ft, is at the traffic lights at the junction of the A565 (Cambridge Road) and the A5267 (Preston New Road) in Churchtown.

The sewer collapse caused delays for drivers heading through the village, and motorists commuting from Southport to Preston.

Engineers were on site all day today using tankers to pump water from the hole.

United Utilities spokesman John Martin said: "We've now managed to pump the majority of water away which was escaping from the collapsed sewer.

"This has allowed us to CCTV the sewer pipe which has confirmed the large hole in the road was a result of the sewer collapsing underneath."

He added: "The next stage of work will be to put in some temporary pipes to prevent further flooding.

"We also need some cables to be moved from our working area so we can dig down and expose the damaged pipe.

"From this point, without seeing the full extent of the damaged pipe, we envisage we'll be on site for several weeks.

"We would urge commuters travelling in and around the area to leave some extra time to make their journey. And we're very sorry for the disruption." - Liverpool Echo.

Road closed due to sinkhole in Clarksville, Tennessee

A section of Arrowood Dr. has been closed until further notice for sinkhole repairs. © Clarksville Now

A sinkhole has opened on Arrowood Dr. in Clarksville.

Arrowood Dr. will be closed from the back entrance of Wal-Mart to Jordan Dr. off Purple Heart Parkway until further notice.

Officer Natalie Hall with the Clarksville Police Department says any drivers who go around the barricades in place to enter the blocked roadway will be cited.

"The roadway is blocked off in order to keep those in the immediate area safe from injury and to prevent further damage created by the sinkhole," she said.

A large sinkhole opened on the same stretch of road last September.

- Clarksville Now.

Sinkhole closes down busy road in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

A large sinkhole has shut down Plymouth Road in Montgomery County.  © Mike DeNardo

A busy road in Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County is closed until further notice because of a sinkhole.

Plymouth Road between the Blue Route and Butler Pike is detoured indefinitely while PennDOT assesses how badly a sinkhole has damaged the bridge over Plymouth Creek.

At street level, the 12×3 foot hole takes up the narrow shoulder of the two-lane bridge. But down along the creek bed, exposed utility lines are visible.

Drivers, meanwhile, are being forced to detour to Germantown Pike until PennDOT can assess the damage and repair the bridge. - CBS Philadelphia.

Bus ends up stuck in sinkhole in Lackawanna, New York

Bus stuck in sinkhole.

No students were injured Friday when a bus got stuck in a sinkhole on a street in Lackawanna.

John Sengbusch shared this picture with 7 Eyewitness News, taken on Modern Avenue.

He says there is a water main break on the street, which likely caused the sinkhole.

A second photo with this story from Sengbusch shows the large crater after the bus was removed. - WKBW.

School bus gets stuck in sinkhole in Kensington, Philadelphia

Sinkhole. © Paul Brown/CBS3

Crews responded to the scene after a school bus reportedly became stuck in a sinkhole in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood.

Officials say the incident was reported around 3:30 p.m. Friday at the 400 block of E. Ontario Street.

Chopper 3 was over the scene where it appears the front wheel of the bus got caught in the sinkhole.

Officials tell CBS 3 Eyewitness News no one inside the bus was injured.

The Philadelphia Water Department responded to the scene. They say a large hole in the sewer is what led to the sinkhole.

Water service has been fully restored to about 20 customers who were affected, according to the Water Department.

C and D Streets will remain closed.

Crews will begin repairs Saturday morning. - CBS Philadelphia.

Huge hillside collapse shuts down road near Yeager Airport, West Virginia

A worst-case scenario became reality Thursday when a large portion of the Yeager Airport hillside — which began experiencing some disturbing slippage over the weekend — collapsed into the valley along Keystone Drive, destroying at least one house, damaging a church, blocking a creek and forcing the evacuation of dozens of residents.

Now officials are scrambling to mitigate damage as they wait on a man-made mountain to finish its bow to gravity.

"It's a bad situation," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. "This is a very serious event."

Airport officials initially sounded an alarm Wednesday when they evacuated six people from two houses along Keystone Drive as a precaution when a portion of the hillside underneath the main runway's emergency overrun area slipped about 6 feet over the weekend. Most of the overrun area, known officially as the Engineered Material Arresting System, or EMAS area, was built about eight years ago atop an engineered fill containing about 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt. It was the back portion of that area that began shifting significantly over the weekend.

During an emergency airport board meeting Wednesday, airport officials and representatives from the airport's consulting firm Triad Engineering said the chance of a landslide was slight, but they couldn't discount the possibility.

"The likelihood of a catastrophic failure and it being down in those houses or on that church is slight, but if there is a risk, you're talking about people's lives and I could never live with myself if we didn't strongly encourage them (to relocate)," airport executive director Rick Atkinson said at the time.

However, that remote possibility became a stark reality a short time after noon Thursday when about a third of the engineered fill area began collapsing into the valley below.

Aerial photo by West Virginia National Guard shows the extent of the landslide that’s closed Keystone Drive. Yeager Airport said
about a third of the engineered fill beneath its main runway overrun area has collapsed

Aerial photo by West Virginia National Guard shows the extent of the landslide that’s closed Keystone Drive. Yeager Airport said
about a third of the engineered fill beneath its main runway overrun area has collapsed.

Aerial photo by West Virginia National Guard shows landslide collapsing into Elk Two Mile Creek. Officials worry the
landslide will dam the creek and flood homes along Keystone Drive.

Kanawha County emergency services officials quickly shut down Keystone Drive at its entrances along Greenbrier Street and Barlow Drive and began urging residents in the area, which runs along Elk Two Mile Creek, to evacuate their homes.

Utilities crews from Appalachian Power, Mountaineer Gas, West Virginia American Water and Lumos Networks all rushed to the scene as the landslide toppled power lines, and either severed, damaged or put at risk gas, water and fiber optic lines running through the area.

Mountaineer Gas spokesman Larry Meador said a small gas line ruptured during the landslide, and many in the area reported smelling natural gas as utility crews advised them not to smoke. Meador said crews were able to work quickly to contain the problem.

"There's no danger at this time with our gas line," Meador said.

He said to contain the leak, the company shut off the gas supply to about 30 customers along Keystone Drive. He said crews would work to restore service to those homes later today by piping in gas from a different direction.

West Virginia American Water experienced a similar disruption of service, and crews were working during the evening to reroute water supply.

WATCH: Yeager Airport landslide forces evacuations.

Yeager Airport has been in constant contact with engineers from both Triad Engineering and Canonsburg, Pa.-based Cast & Baker Corp., which did the original engineering for the fill project.

Airport marketing director Brian Belcher said the crews are working on a plan to contain damage and repair the site, but they can't do anything until the hillside settles.

"We have to let this stabilize because it's not safe for anyone right now," Belcher said. "After the engineers and professionals in that area determine it's safe to work, we have equipment on site ready to go to begin remediation."

Belcher said about eight families had been relocated to area hotels as of Thursday evening. The airport is covering the entire cost of the hotel and any needs the families may have while they're away from their homes. Officials with the American Red Cross also are assisting the airport with feeding families and providing any essentials they may need.

Belcher said affected should call Kim Lewis of Yeager Airport at 304-550-8131 for housing assistance.

Carper said local and state officials are monitoring the situation from a safe distance. While they don't have the power to hold the mountain at bay, he said they are working to mitigate any potential complications from the landslide.

"We're preparing for every potential that we can think of," Carper said.

Officials are concerned about potential rainfall that is forecast for Friday and Saturday. That could both worsen the landslide as well as create a potential flooding problem.

Part of the landslide has now blocked a portion of Elk Two Mile Creek. Kanawha Deputy Emergency Manager and Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman said officials are working on a plan to clear the stream, but admitted that could be a tricky situation.

"What we're concerned about, if (the hill) does slide worse and it fills the creek up, we'll have two issues," Sigman said. "We'll have a pretty good-sized dam that we need to not flood people upstream."

Sigman said there was an excavator standing by to break a path through the earthen dam in the creek, but said if too much water builds up upstream, it could create a problem for those living downstream along the creek.

"We don't want it to become too big a dam to where it releases too much at once and floods people downstream," Sigman said.

Residents and businesses along the creek have been warned of the flooding potential.

The Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association is already evacuating animals in case of a flood. All of the cats at the shelter were fostered out with help from the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee and the dogs were being taken to Camp Virgil Tate near Sissonville.

One potential complication worrying officials is a possible additional crack that might be developing at the top of the hill in the runway overrun area. Sigman said officials were warned of the potential new crack Thursday afternoon, but they have yet to be able to evaluate whether it is fully developed or could break away in a second landslide.

"We put in a request through the state which will be granted that way we can get a helicopter and put our airport engineers in it so they can take a look at it and see what's going on," Sigman said as he watched operations along Keystone Drive. "We can't see it from here."

As of Thursday evening, the landslide had yet to affect flights at Yeager Airport.

Only about the farthest third of the 440-foot airport overrun area has been affected by the landslide. Airport officials said only about the first 150 feet or so of the overrun area is really needed to stop the planes that fly into and out of the area, and most of that area sits atop the original mountain rock, not on the engineered fill.

Belcher said the biggest threat to airport operations at this time is the risk of flooding due to the obstructed creek. The only way to drive up to Yeager Airport is on a road that crosses Elk Two Mile Creek. If the creek floods over the bridge leading to the airport, the airport would have to shut down.

"That would close us because that's our only entry," Belcher said.  - Charleston Daily Mail.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Costa Rica's Turrialba Volcano Erupts Again - The Sixth Explosion This Week!

OVSICORI’s webcam recorded the sixth explosion of Turrialba Volcano on Friday, March 13. © OVSICORI

March 15, 2015 - COSTA RICA
- Two new explosion of gas and ash Friday mid-morning broke a brief period of low activity at Turrialba Volcano, located in the province of Cartago, 67 kilometers from the capital San José.

The new explosions follow one that occurred at 4:30 a.m. Friday and four on Thursday.

The Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI)'s web cameras recorded the explosions Friday. The agency reported that columns of material reached some 1,500 meters high (4,921 feet), similar to those recorded on Thursday.

Spewings of ash and gases lasted for periods of some 30 minutes, OVSICORI reported.

Volcanologists are currently examining samples of materials expelled by the volcano in order to determine whether there's fresh magma, Eliécer Duarte González, a volcanologist with OVSICORI's Volcano Surveillance Department, told The Tico Times.

"So far, we don't have any visual confirmation on magma levels rising up," he said, "however the characteristics of the explosions suggest magma levels could be increasing inside the crater," he said Friday morning.

Earlier on Friday, National Police officers closed all main access roads to the volcano, allowing passage only to residents and workers in nearby communities.

Following recommendations of the National Emergency Commission, Public Education Ministry officials suspended classes in 19 schools: 12 in Turrialba and 7 in other cantons of Cartago.

False rumor of water contamination

Hundreds of people reacted with alarm Friday morning to rumors circulating on social networks that the water supply in the metropolitan area had been contaminated by ash.

But Costa Rica's Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) reported Friday that the volcano's activity had not affected drinking water.

AyA Executive President Yamileth Astorga said the rumors were completely false.

"At the time there is no need to issue any public alert on water contamination," she said.

Astorga said experts at AyA's National Water Laboratory are conducting frequent monitoring at all water distribution plants. In case of any detected contamination, AyA would immediately cut off the contaminated supply.

Still, Astorga advised the population to keep fresh water on hand as a precaution, in case any increase in the volcano's activity compromises the water supply in coming days. - The Tico Times.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "Bright Orange,... Green Tail,... Brighter Than Venus,... Then It Exploded,... Incredible,..." - Numerous Reports Of Meteors Over Ireland And Scotland!

March 15, 2015 - IRELAND & SCOTLAND
- The following constitutes the latest eye-witness testimonies from the Lunar Meteorite Hunters of meteors over Ireland and Scotland.

Maga Moate, co.westmeath, Ireland 21:00:00 5-6 seconds N-S. Very bright orange with a green tail, very close like firework, slow moving Brighter than Venus. No fragments. No pictures.

Jamie MacEwan aka Jamie Groobel. Screwtop Fulton, Amisfield, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Approx 20.59 GMt 2-ish seconds South East towards North west. Orange ball followed by a bunson burner effect tail: yellow surrounded by pale blue/ white. Almost like a car headlight at full beam at 400 metres No. I have seen fragmentation once before. I thought that experience would never be topped (2012 - unreported). I feel as if I am in a state of shock. I watched an object travelling east to west in the small hours of the morning on a clear, crisp morning in the spring of 2012 whilst driving an HGV across the A66 from Scotch Corner to Kendal. On that occasion the Orange ball split into around 4 pieces in way that I can only describe as like a rocket breaking apart. Tonight it was not like that -'around 2 or so seconds then it appeared to 'burn out'. Incredible!!

Nick Bangor. Northern Ireland. 21.07 2 sw-ne green. Umm, it lit clouds up and roof of homes yes. Very bright, passed in and out of clouds.

Gregor White Abington, Scotland 21:00:00 6 secs S to N. Me facing West. Fireball with tail. Very bright. No Fast, S to N travel.

We were driving home tonight at 21:00 in Fortstewart ,Ramelton,Co Donegal,Ireland. We saw what looked like a green shooting star streak across the clear sky, it had a red trail, it then appeared to explode creating a large green flash. - Maura M.

- Lunar Meteorite Hunters.