Saturday, April 18, 2015

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 6.5 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Fiji - No Tsunami Warning! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

April 18, 2015 - FIJI
- The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 6.5 earthquake has struck off the coast of Fiji Friday.

The USGS reports the quake’s epicenter was located 139 miles (224 kilometers) northeast of Lambasa, Fiji at a depth of 10 kilometers. The quake hit at 8:52 a.m. PDT, 4:52 a.m. local time.

There are no immediate reports of damage and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates, according to the USGS.

Strong earthquakes with an epicenter off the coast can trigger tsunamis, depending on the size and type of the fault movement. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center tracks earthquake data for the West Coast. - CBS.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate

The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.

Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation. The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.

North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (Greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr.

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.

Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.

Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet".

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics


INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Massive Power Outage Strikes Macau - Paralysing Telephones, Traffic Lights, Elevators And Banking Services!

A sign at a Macau bank notifying business interruption due the power failure. © Xinhua

April 18, 2015 - MACAU
- A massive power outage, triggered by malfunctioning electrical substations, hit Macau yesterday, paralysing fixed-line telephones, traffic lights and elevator services, said the government. Banking services in the affected areas were also briefly suspended before electricity supplies were restored at noon. Some shops were temporarily closed due to the incident as well.

The city's sole electricity supplier CEM - Companhia de Electricidade de Macau - said at 10:56am yesterday morning that a malfunction of the 110kV high-voltage equipment in the Canal dos Patos substation subsequently affected four primary substations including S. Paulo, D. Maria, Porto Exterior and Ariea Preta substations.

Extensive areas in Macau Peninsula were affected, with 100,000 customers on the Macau Peninsula and some customers in Taipa, Coloane and the University of Macau encountering voltage dips caused by the incident. The power supply was fully restored at 12:20pm according to CEM.

Mainland China

CEM has denied the power outage had anything to do with electricity importation from Mainland China. The two existing networks for power supplied by state-owned China Southern Power Grid, situated in Gongbei Port and Lotus Port, respectively, account for 95 per cent of local power consumption.

In a joint press conference held following the incident, the Co-ordinator of the Office for the Development of the Energy Sector, Arnaldo Ernesto dos Santos, said the government is requiring CEM to submit a preliminary report in one week and an extensive report in one month.

A representative of the Public Security Police Force said the border crossing remained normal during the incident and said the government had despatched more police officers onto the streets to ensure public order was maintained.

75 trapped

The Fire Services Bureau activated its emergency mechanism, including mobilising 150 officers and more vehicles to help in rescue work. It handled 75 cases of people trapped in elevators and helped 440 affected by the lift incidents.

The Health Bureau said the incident had only a minor effect on the services of the emergency ward, and the operation of surgery wards and intensive care units, as the hospital has an emergency power supply.

CEM said it took emergency measures by activating the generation units of Coloane Power Plant A to provide emergency supply, which generated the black smoke at its power plant that the company explained is normal.

CEM has apologised for the incident and said the company would learn from it to further optimise the stability of the power supply. It also disclosed that the last regular inspection of the Canal dos Patos substation was conducted last month.  - Macau Business Daily.

MONUMENTAL DELUGE: Widespread Flooding – The Latest Reports Of High Tides, Heavy Rainfall, Flash Floods, Sea Level Rise, And Catastrophic Storms!

April 18, 2015 - EARTH - The following list constitutes the latest reports of high tides, heavy rainfall, flash floods, widespread flooding, sea level rise and catastrophic storms.

At least 4 passengers dead after bus is swept away by floods near Mandera, Kenya

Passengers atop a bus that was swept away by flash floods as it tried to cross a seasonal river at Gadudia in Mandera County on April 16, 2015.

At least four passengers were killed while more than 20 remained unaccounted for after floods swept away a bus in Mandera on Thursday.

County Commissioner Alex ole Nkoyo, who confirmed the four deaths, said rescuers were still searching for more bodies along the river where the incident occurred.

The bus, Mr Nkoyo said, had 59 passengers with an unknown number of children when it was rummaged by the fierce waters. Only 42 passengers had been rescued by around 5pm, Mr Nkoyo said.

There were fears that the number of those killed following the floods could rise as signs of more passengers being rescued faded as darkness neared.

"We had the police escort but their vehicle had already crossed the Gadudia seasonal river in which the bus stalled before it flooded," said Mr Nkoyo. The bus was traveling from Mandera to Nairobi.

Scores of passengers were washed away as others climbed on top of the bus to save their lives.

Mandera Kenya Red Cross Society coordinator Ahmed Mohamed also said 42 passengers who were in the bus as it tried to cross the river had been rescued by 2pm.

Mr Mohamed said the rescue operation was under way and involved the KRSC, the military and other government organs.

"We will brief you as the operation continues. It is ongoing. We will confirm the whereabouts of the rest," he said.

The KRCS official said the bus, which overturned after being rummaged by the floods, had been removed from the waters and turned over.

The bus got stuck in the mud before it was swept away by floods along with its passengers.

Mandera Town

"Several people have been carried away but the rest are on top of the bus after coming out through the windows," Mr Nkoyo had said earlier.

"The water level is coming down and we have formed a human wall to help rescue those on the bus and those who might have drowned," he added.

The incident occurred 35 kilometres from Mandera Town.

The bus was said to be the only one from Mandera that was heading to Nairobi as other bus companies kept off the roads due to heavy rains.

Chile Faces $1.5 Billion Costs of Flood Damage

Chile is now facing costs of around $1.5 billion in construction costs and economic reactivation in the flood-hit north of the country. But based on preliminary analysis, Fitch Ratings believes that insurance industry solvency will not be affected.

In their statement of 14 April, Fitch said it believes that insurance industry solvency will not be affected by the recent floods in northern Chile (second and third region). The Chilean property/casualty insurance industry will adequately absorb the incurred claims and will result in a limited effect in 2015 fiscal year net income.

Fitch say that, compared to Chile’s 2010 earthquake, geographical extent and population density of the flood-affected area is more limited. Meanwhile, the Chilean insurance industry has solid risk coverage, which besides strong underwriting policies, includes solid reinsurance protection for retained risks and catastrophic events.

“The agency considers unlikely an impact on the insurers’ solvency and ratings due to the limited effect in net loss ratios, which mainly will be derived from infrastructure damage, roads, commercial buildings and housing claims”.

Damage and Costs

Fitch say that the largest impact of the catastrophe will be on industrial infrastructure, considering the importance of the mining operations in the area, housing, public buildings, commercial infrastructure and to a lesser extent damage to vehicles. Over 2,000 homes were destroyed and over 6,000 damaged in the floods.

Difficulties in collecting damage information have delayed estimates of the economic costs of the disaster, and therefore also estimations of claims cost that insurers face locally. The Chilean government has estimated the construction costs and economic reactivation in the area at approximately $1.5 billion USD.

Grape and Olive Production

Despite promises of financial help for flood hit farmers, the effects of the flood disaster, particularly in the Copiapo Valley, are expected to result in be felt in decreased table grape output in future seasons.

In a recent statement, Copiapo Valley Agricultural Producers and Exporters Association (APECO) president Lina Arrieta said, “Making a preliminary estimate, it seems as though the table grape production will be reduced by at least 30% over the coming seasons.”

Meanwhile the regions olive farmers are also suffering. Fresh Fruit Portal report that mud up to 50cm deep dumped by the floods is hampering the chances of harvesting olives on time.

Unregulated Development Exacerbated Kashmir Floods

The Jhelum Valley received unparalleled rains during September 2014. However, the inconvenient fact remains that the Kashmir flood disaster was notably exacerbated by human interventions in the river basin, reports Bharat Lal Seth for International Rivers.

Jhelum River Basin Floods, September 2015

Last year the Jhelum River Basin received unprecedented rainfall in the Kashmir Valley. It was the wettest September in recorded history; several weather stations broke their 24 and 48 hour records. The administrators in the region were swift to call the downpour and resulting deluge a “hydro-met tragedy”. Hydro-met is a contraction for the terms hydrological and meteorological, and therefore the loss of lives, infrastructure and property in this flood disaster was laid squarely on unpredictable precipitation patterns and a fast changing climate. Yet, although undeniably the Jhelum Valley received unparalleled September rains, the inconvenient fact remains that the disaster was notably exacerbated by human interventions in the river basin.

The flood waters of the river Jhelum breached embankments at various points in September 2014 Photo: Bharat Lal Seth
The flood waters of the river Jhelum breached embankments at various points in September 2014
Photo: Bharat Lal Seth

In a candid concession, Javed Jafar, chief engineer of the irrigation and flood control department, said that besides heavy rain and discharge, the urban and rural encroachments in the river basin – including infrastructure such as railway lines, expressway and other roads – played a negative role in creating bottlenecks, which exacerbated the floods to the tune of “15-20%”. What Jafar meanderingly acknowledged, but didn’t stress, is the need for better infrastructural planning in the floodplain instead of encroaching and building on the wetlands and lakes that are a natural sponge for floodwaters.

“Our master planning is skewed. Under the garb of tourism there is a cartel, which acts against the preservation of ecosystems. We need to do away with development without planning,” said Iftikhar A. Hakim, chief town planner of Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir that was badly hit by the September floods.

“Srinagar, with a population of 1.4 million, is not only exposed to constant danger from floods, but is itself the cause of floods”

“Srinagar, with a population of 1.4 million, is not only exposed to constant danger from floods, but is itself the cause of floods” he added, saying that unregulated urbanization worsened the impacts of the flood.

At a media workshop held April 6-8, organized by the Centre for Environment Education and The Third Pole, it was made clear by expert presentations and a visit to particular river catchments that urban and rural encroachments in the floodplain worsened the risks and impacts of flooding in the valley. “We didn’t fail in 2014; we failed much before it,” said Saleem Beg, a member of the National Monuments Authority. “We’re doing away with wetlands and water bodies essential for the health of the river system”, he said. The authority, among other things, is responsible for considering permissions for construction in prohibited and regulated areas.

The Jhelum, 725 kilometers in length, has the calmest descent among the Himalayan rivers in the Indus River Basin. In 150 km of the upper stretch the river descends a mere 24-meters, which makes the Jhelum a relatively silent river that is inclined to overflow its banks in the Kashmir valley. This characteristic makes the drainage basin wetland and system of lakes particularly vital to deal with floodwaters. Inspite of this, the spread of Wular Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, and part of the Jhelum drainage basin, reduced from 159 sq km in 1911 to 86 sq km in 2007. Due to such happenings the carrying capacity of the river basin is reducing; the volume of flood discharge in September 2014 was three times the carrying capacity of the river.

The spread of Wular lake, part of the Jhelum drainage basin, reduced from 159 sq km in 1911 to 86 sq km in 2007 Bharat Lal Seth
The spread of Wular lake, part of the Jhelum drainage basin, reduced from 159 sq km in 1911 to 86 sq km in 2007.
Photo: Bharat Lal Seth

Weather Forecaster in Hot Seat

During the period 1901-2013, the average September rainfall in the region has been approximately 33 mm. Notably, six times the average was received last year. At last week’s workshop, Sonam Lotus, scientist with the Indian Meteorology Department, stationed in Kashmir for more than 9 years, talked us through the terrifying days of September 1 to 7. Very high rainfall was received on the 3rd night and 4th morning. Sonam, in the hot seat, gave a warning to the administrators on the 3rd afternoon that they would have a “window period” as they were “not expecting this much water”. Instead there was incessant downpour over the next 48 hours and beyond, with no window period in sight. The misinformation was labeled as “human limitation”, and Sonam claimed that with the technology at his disposal it wasn’t possible to predict such high “abnormal” rainfall with certainty. “Don’t wait for the disaster, prepare now,” says Sonam now, alluding to the fact that much can be done in terms of giving the river space as well as in disaster preparedness. He spoke of a conversation in May last year that he had with a water resources engineer who had a premonition that “the big flood was coming”.

“How good are we at spotting trends? The media is there when it happens, but what happens before?” questioned Joydeep Gupta of The Third Pole, co-organizer of the workshop, stressing the need for pre-disaster awareness and reporting.

Natural calamities are only further heightened when short-term real estate interests eschew the functions of a floodplain. The same was the case in Uttarakhand in 2013, when hydropower projects, rampant muck dumping and river bank encroachments worsened the impact of the raging flood waters.

Given the increasing occurrence of such intense and incessant week-long rainfall events, it is essential to put in place preventive measures that assist in delaying water flow in the catchment – not only to the main stem, but also the streams and tributaries, water bodies and lakes, which together increase the carrying capacity in the river basin. Our interventions on and around rivers need to be scrutinized not just in the postmortem of such tragedies, but re-engineered in to our nonexistent River Basin planning.

Kazakhstan – 15,000 Evacuated as Melting Snow Causes Floods in 4 Regions

Higher temperatures during the last fews days of March, and then again from 06 April, have increased the melting of snow and caused widespread flooding in central and eastern Kazakhstan since 12 April 2015.

Local media say temperatures rose to around 20 degrees Centigrade. The rise in temperatures was accompanied by rainfall in some areas, increasing snowmelt further, and resulting in flooding in at least 4 regions.

Snowmelt floods in Kazakhstan, April 2015. Photo: Emergency Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kazakhstan

Snowmelt floods in Kazakhstan, April 2015. Photo: Emergency Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kazakhstan

Snowmelt floods in Kazakhstan, April 2015. Photo: Emergency Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kazakhstan

The regions of Akmola, Karagandy, Pavlodar and East Kazakhstan have since declared a state of emergency.

The Emergency Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kazakhstan report that 35 people had to be rescued and 14,790 people have been evacuated in total. Around 2,000 of the evacuees were soon able to return to their homes.

Karagandy region is thought to be the worst affected area after local rivers, including the River Nura overflowed. Floods across Karagandy have forced around 6,500 people from their homes. The Emergency Committee say that over 1,700 homes have been flooded in as many as 35 separate villages in the region.
Parts of Kyzylorda Oblast region in southern Kazakhstan suffered similar flooding in March 2014.

- Daily Nation | Floodlist.