Sunday, April 26, 2015

MONUMENTAL DISASTER IMPACT: Over 2,500 Dead In Nepal Earthquake As Aftershocks Terrify Survivors - Dozens Of Bodies Being Cremated; Hundreds Feared Still Buried Under Rock Falls; Search And Rescue Teams Deployed; Massive Aid Underway! [LATEST UPDATES]

A Buddha statue is surrounded by debris from a collapsed temple in the UNESCO world heritage site of Bhaktapur on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Photograph: Omar Havana/Getty Images

April 26, 2015 - KATHMANDU, NEPAL
- The death toll from the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday has risen to more than 2,500. More than 5,000 people have been injured. Powerful aftershocks today between Kathmandu and Everest unleashed more avalanches in the Himalayas and caused panic in the capital, where hospital workers stretchered patients out into the street as it was too dangerous treat them indoors.

Acrid, white smoke rose above the nation's most revered Hindu temple, where dozens of bodies were being cremated at any given time.

Landslides hindered rescue teams that tried to use mountain trails to reach those in need, said Prakash Subedi, chief district official in the Gorkha region, where the quake was centred.

"Villages like this are routinely affected by landslides, and it's not uncommon for entire villages of 200, 300, up to 1,000 people to be completely buried by rock falls," said Matt Darvas, a member of the aid group World Vision. "It will likely be helicopter access only."

Devastating Nepal quake kills over 2,500
  (Photo: Reuters)

At least 17 people believed to have been killed on Everest, and 61 injured, by an avalanche which left mountaineers calling for helicopter assistance to evacuate the most badly wounded.

The UK government has announced that it will donate £5m to help the rescue effort in Nepal.

A state of emergency has been declared Many historic landmarks, including the Dharahara tower, have been reduced to rubble following the quake.

Governments are scrambling to locate thousands of their nationals and relatives took to social media to find their loved ones.

People gather near the cracks on the road caused by Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

The international community has also pledged support and aid packages to Nepal. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said the US will pledge $1m to the aid effort and will also assist with a disaster response team. Australia has also pledged a Aus$5m aid package, while India, Sri Lanka, the UK, China and others are all sending disaster response teams to assist in search and rescue.

Pope Francis led prayers in St Peter’s Square for the dead, displaced and injured in Nepal and surrounding areas.

Weather reports suggested that survivors of the quake - who are sleeping outside because of fear of unsafe building - will face heavy downpours in the next week.

The quakes caused widespread damage to Nepal’s infrastructure which has further hampered search and rescue operations. Injured climbers at Mount Everest, where an avalanche struck following the quake, have been flown by helicopter to receive medical treatment.
Nepal authorities said Sunday that at least 2,430 people in that country had died in Nepal alone, not including the 18 people that the Nepal Mountaineering Association says died in an earthquake-triggered avalanche on Mount Everest. Another 61 people died from the quake in India and a few in other neighboring countries.  With search and rescue efforts far from over, it was unclear how much the death toll would rise.

Some shocking CCTV footage, which shows the moment aftershocks hit in Tibet after Nepal earthquake.

WATCH: Surveillance footage of several aftershocks in Tibet on the same day Nepal was hit by a devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake. The footage, shot on Saturday, shows roads and buildings shaking violently in Gyirong county, which neighbours Nepal.

Reuters have this report on how doctors are having to operate on injured victims of the quake in the streets because of fear of reentering unsafe buildings:
Overwhelmed doctors moved hundreds of patients onto the streets of Nepal’s capital on Sunday when aftershocks rattled hospitals and buildings already damaged by an earthquake that killed more than 2,400 people and devastated Kathmandu valley.

Sick and wounded people lay on a dusty road outside Kathmandu Medical College while hospital workers carried more patients out of the building on stretchers and sacks.

Doctors set up an operating theatre inside a tent and rushed in the most critical, following a particularly big tremor that sent people running terrified into the streets.

The aftershock, itself a strong 6.7 magnitude quake, triggered more avalanches in the Himalayas after Saturday’s 7.9 quake - which unleashed Everest’s worst disaster and was the strongest since 1934 when 8,500 people were killed.

Outside the National Trauma Centre in Kathmandu, patients in wheelchairs who had been under treatment before the earthquake hit joined hundreds of injured with fractured and bloody limbs, who lay inside tents made from hospital sheets.

“We only have one operation theatre here. To be able to provide immediate treatment we require 15 theatres. I am just not able to cope,” said Dipendra Pandey, an orthopaedic surgeon, adding he had done 36 critical operations since Saturday.

Relief agencies and officials said most hospitals were overflowing and short on medical supplies.

“Both private and government hospitals have run out of space and are treating patients outside, in the open,” said Nepal’s envoy to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay.

Neighbouring countries sent in military transport planes laden with medical supplies, food and water. But little sign of organised relief efforts was visible as aid agencies struggled to fly helicopters in cloudy weather, aftershocks forced the intermittent closure of Kathmandu airport and roads were blocked by landslides.

The extent of the damage around the epicentre, near Gorkha in the western highlands, had still not been fully assessed.

Patchy mobile telephone and email communication added to the slow progress of relief as Asia’s poorest country reeled from its worst earthquake in eight decades.

As rescuers dug with their hands through the rubble of brick buildings in crowded Kathmandu, thousands of survivors prepared to spend a second rainy night outside because they were afraid of going back to damaged homes.

Dfid have issued a new press release with details of the aid that will be given to Nepal to help the rescue operation.

The Department for International Development has activated its rapid funding mechanism for charities and partners on the ground dealing with the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today.

This is part of a new £5 million package of UK support in response to the Nepal earthquake which includes:

£3 million released under the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) so partners can address immediate needs on the ground; and
£2 million for the British Red Cross.

UK Government officials in Kathmandu and London are providing consular assistance to British nationals who have been caught up in this disaster and the Foreign Office has opened a crisis hotline for those concerned about friends or family. Britain is also sending Rapid Deployment Teams to provide assistance to British nationals.

Justine Greening said:
“As the death toll rises and the scale of this devastating earthquake becomes evident, the UK is continuing to do everything it can to help all those affected by this tragedy.

“I have now activated the Rapid Response Facility. This means we can fast track funding to aid workers on the ground so they can provide desperately needed supplies including clean water, shelter, household items and blankets. We are also sending humanitarian experts from the UK to provide urgent support on the ground.

“Meanwhile UK Government officials in Kathmandu and London continue to provide assistance to British nationals who have been caught up in this disaster. We will continue to do everything we can to help all those affected.”

Jason Burke has been tweeting from the scene at Kathmandu

Power out in much of #kathmandu  but most people cheerful, scared and cooking dinner in gardens, streets, anywhere but inside. #quake

Saddest story of day: three girls playing cricket outside home. Buried in seconds, mother too. Dad survived no one knows whereabouts. #quake

He’s been speaking to officials in the Ghorka district, close to the epicentre, who say at the moment they only have two helicopters out for rescue operations.

Officials in ghorka district close to epicentre tell me half houses destroyed. Have got two helicopters up for rescue. That's all.
UK announce £5m funding for Nepal relief effort

International Development Secretary Justine #Greening announces £5m in UK funding to contribute towards relief effort #NepalEarthquake

Justine #Greening says the UK has deployed a team of humanitarian experts to #Nepal to provide support for those affected by the #earthquake

Dfid news release on humanitarian support:
The UK has deployed a team of humanitarian experts to Nepal to provide urgent humanitarian support for people affected by the earthquake, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today.

The eight-strong team of disaster response specialists, which includes experts in search and rescue, will travel to Nepal overnight tonight and begin work tomorrow assessing the scale of the damage and helping the Nepalese authorities direct the humanitarian response.

Justine Greening said:
My thoughts are with the people of Nepal, in particular all those who have lost loved ones. The absolute priority must be to reach people who are trapped and injured, and provide shelter and protection to those who have lost their homes.
Nepal needs our urgent humanitarian assistance. That is why we have rapidly deployed a team of humanitarian experts who will immediately begin work assessing the damage and helping the Nepalese authorities respond to this devastating earthquake.
Earlier, Reader Thirdness, whose daughter is in Lhasa, has asked if there is any information from Tibet.

This report from DNAIndia gives a few details, but not much.
Death toll in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region has risen to 17 in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit neighbouring Nepal on Saturday, while the Communist giant on Sunday dispatched a 62-member search and rescue team to help the Himalayan nation.

Nearly 1,500 people, including two Indians, have died in Nepal and hundreds are feared missing, after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake tore through that country flattening houses and buildings including the iconic Dharhara tower and landmark Darbar Square in the heart of its capital. The death toll in Tibet has climbed to 17 after the powerful earthquake struck neighbouring Nepal, local authorities said today.

Meanwhile a 62-member search and rescue team has left for Nepal to carry out humanitarian rescue there. With six sniffer dogs and relevant rescue and medical equipment, the team is expected to arrive in Kathmandu midday today on a chartered plane, the China Earthquake Administration said. Of the rescuers, 40 are from the 38th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army, Beijing Military Area Command.

Twenty percent of the experienced rescuers have participated in international rescue missions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday sent a message of condolence to Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav over the disastrous earthquake, worse in over 80 years of Nepal’s recorded history. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as in his own name, Xi offered his deep condolences to the victims in the earthquake, and offered sincere sympathies to those injured as well as to the families of the victims.

In his message, the Chinese president also expressed his confidence in the Nepalese government, under the leadership of Yadav, to combat the disaster and China’s willingness to provide all necessary assistance. In Tibet the quake also damaged buildings and roads and cut off telecommunications in the two counties and several neighbouring regions. So far, roads leading to the two counties have been cleared, but rescue efforts are hampered by heavy snow in the area.

The temblor damaged several temples in Tibet’s border area, but no casualties have been reported from there so far. Chen Quanguo, Communist Party of China chief of Tibet, has ordered to evacuate people in the quake-hit regions to avoid further deaths and injuries from aftershocks and secondary disasters. About 600 border guards are currently involved in the rescue operation in Nyalam and Gyirong.

A total of 3,204 firefighters and 87 sniffer dogs from Tibet and neighbouring provinces have also been readied to go to the quake-struck areas as a reinforcement. The authorities are sending tents, quilts, clothes, medicine and bottled water to the regions.
This from reader Shashank Suman BTL about the Indian government’s efforts to help the rescue operation:
As part of the nation’s overall relief effort for Nepal, the Indian Army has launched Operation Maitri.

A Multi National Coordination Centre has been set up. In addition, in PPO Pokhra, Head quarters are being established for relief operations.

The following resources have been allocated so far as part of Operation Maitri, in support of the Nepalese Army’s relief effort:-

(a) 18 Medical Teams earmarked. Six Medical Teams have reached and have been deployed while the rest are on standby.
(b) 10 Engineer Task Forces(ETFs) consisting of manpower, skid steers and JCBs (One partial ETF has landed with stores. Balance are on standby in India).
(c) 10,000 blankets and 1,000 tents are on standby.
(d) 10 INMARSATs for satellite communications have reached Nepal.

Aviation assets of five ALH helicopters and two Cheetah helicopters have been staged forward to Gorakhpur.

“Further, taking cognizance of the request of the Nepalese Government for Oxygen on account of problems in the Kathmandu Oxygen plant, additional cylinders are being dispatched (300 located at Bengdubi for dispatch to Nepal),” read a statement.

Indian Army Everest Expedition was training at Base Camp when the Earth Quake struck. Their equipment was buried in the avalanche, however the team is safe and helped in recovery of dead bodies of other foreign climbers.

“19 dead bodies and 61 injured persons were rescued by the Indian Army Expedition Team,” read the statement

The Medical Officer has treated a number of injured international mountaineers.
DART members fly out
Canada is sending aid and disaster experts to the area. Defence Minister Jason Kenney told CBC News on Sunday evening an advance team of experts was already en route and is expected to be in Nepal by Monday night.

The team will assess the situation and determine how to deploy other resources including the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), the military unit that deals with natural disasters or humanitarian emergencies.

A shipment of emergency supplies and the first wave of DART members will depart CFB Trenton on Sunday evening, Kenney said — flying to Europe, Kuwait and then India, where they will wait until called into Nepal.

Nicholson's office said earlier Canada is sending $5 million to help relief efforts.

New footage from Kathmandu shows the aftermath of Saturday’s magnitude 7.9 earthquake with houses toppled and multi-storey apartments reduced to rubble.

WATCH: New footage from the day after a 7.9 earthquake hit Nepal shows the extent of the damage caused, and the situation facing survivors.

Long history of quakes

The quake occurred at the boundary between two pieces, or plates, of the Earth's crust, one of which supports India to the south and the other Eurasia to the north. The Indian plate is moving at 45 millimetres a year under the Eurasian plate, said Marin Clark, a geophysicist at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

So the quake was "definitely not a surprise," she said. Over millions of years, such quakes have led to the uplift of the Himalayas. Nepal suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934, which measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.

The power of Saturday's tremors brought down several buildings in the centre of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers.

Among them was the nine-storey Dharahara Tower, one of Kathmandu's landmarks built by Nepal's royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800s and a UNESCO-recognized historical monument. It was reduced to rubble and there were reports of people trapped underneath.

The head of the UN cultural agency, Irina Bokova, said in a statement that UNESCO was ready to help Nepal rebuild from "extensive damage, including to historic monuments and buildings of the Kathmandu Valley."

- The Guardian | CBC.

PLANETARY TREMORS: "A Nightmare Waiting To Happen" - Deadly Nepal Quake Was Long Predicted By Seismologists, Based On Accumulated Seismic Energy; About 50 Researchers Had Gathered In Kathmandu To Prepare For The "BIG ONE," Just One Week Before The Devastating 7.9 Magnitude Earthquake!

People gather near a collapsed house after a major earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Reuters / Navesh Chitrakar)

April 26, 2015 - KATHMANDU, NEPAL
- Experts had been warning for years that a serious earthquake would decimate Nepal’s overpopulated capital. Specialists had been trying to work out a contingency plan for Kathmandu, in the event of an inevitable tremor however, they were not fast enough.

Saturday's devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake, which claimed over 2,500 lives, was "sort of a nightmare waiting to happen," according to seismologist James Jackson, head of the earth sciences department at the University of Cambridge. “Physically and geologically, what happened is exactly what we thought would happen,” he told AP.

Jackson was one of about 50 earthquake researchers as well as social scientists who gathered in Kathmandu just a week ago to work out a way for the area to prepare for the “big one” they believed was imminent. They just didn't know when exactly it would hit.

"Calculations show that there is sufficient accumulated energy, now to produce an 8-magnitude earthquake." Vinod Kumar Gaur, a seismologist with the Center for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation, said in a 2013 interview with The Hindu. "I cannot say when. It may not happen tomorrow, but it could possibly happen sometime this century, or wait longer to produce a much larger one." It turned out it was coming much too soon, for any preparations to be put in place.

“They knew they had a problem but it was so large they didn’t know where to start, [or] how to start,” Hari Ghi, a Southeast Asia regional coordinator for Geohazards International, told AP. The main concern was the area's complicated geology combined with its urban area, which was growing too quickly and without earthquake safety standards.

The dangers had been felt in Kathmandu before. The previous earthquake in 1934, which was on par with Saturday's tremor, nearly levelled Kathmandu with a 8.2-magnitude force and killed up to 12,000 people.

Earthquakes of the same strength can cause widely different death tolls depending on where they happen. The US Geological Survey (USGS) calculates that a severe quake in California would kill from 10 to 30 people per million, while for countries like Nepal a tremor of the same magnitude would cause 1,000 deaths. In China, India, Iran and Pakistan the consequences would be even worse, with up to 10,000 deaths per million residents, according to USGS seismologist David Wald.

While earthquakes are natural disasters, the “consequences are very much man-made,” says Jackson, who is also the lead scientist of the Earthquakes Without Frontiers project. “It’s buildings that kill people, not earthquakes,” he added, explaining that "large urban populations are now concentrated in vulnerable places, which is why so many recent earthquakes look like bull’s eye targeting of cities." - RT.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Kids At Risk - Extremely High Soil Radiation Detected In Tokyo Playground; 2,000 TIMES Higher Than The Maximum Permitted Levels!

Workers of Tokyo's Toshima ward office carry away a container holding a fragment of an unknown object after it was dug up from the ground
near playground equipment at a park in Toshima ward, Tokyo April 24, 2015 (Reuters / Toru Hanai)

April 26, 2015 - JAPAN
- A playground in Tokyo turned out to be contaminated with radiation levels that 2,000 times exceed the maximums permitted in areas adjoining the devastated Fukushima nuclear plant. Authorities fear some children have been exposed to radiation influence.

The administrative office of Toshima ward in northwest Tokyo reported that soil probes showed 480 microsieverts per hour. Two hours of exposure at such levels would equal one year’s maximum allowable dose of radiation.

Radiation levels measured this month in Okuma, a town less than 20 km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, are ranging from 0.7 to 23.2 microsieverts per hour.

“We are still checking what caused these elevated radiation levels and what type of radioactive substance it is,” Reuters quoted park representative Kyoko Tsujimura, stressing that radiation elsewhere in the park is low.

Authorities believe the incident has no connection to Fukushima disaster, as the contaminated area is not large.

Playground in Tokyo, #Japan closed after extremely high levels of radiation found 

"Because the area in which we detect radioactivity is very limited, and readings in surrounding parts are normal, we suspect radioactive materials of some kind are buried there," AFP quoted local Mayor Yukio Takano’s statement.

The radiation-fouled area was a parking lot before being turned into park in 2013. To do so, new soil was brought in, the Toshima official said.

Now that the park is closed, experts are discussing elimination of the radiation spot and tracing the source of it.

"Many children play in the park daily, so the ward office should explain the situation," a 62-year-old local woman told Kyodo News, as quoted by the AFP.

Radioactivity contamination in the park was spotted by chance as the Japanese stay alert of radioactive contamination after the Fukushima meltdown and constantly measure radiation levels around their houses with personal radiation detectors. - RT.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Southern Costa Rica - Renewed Volcanic Activity At Turrialba! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

April 26, 2015 - COSTA RICA
- In the latest seismological event to happen in Costa Rica this week, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck off the country's southern coast at 2:37 p.m. Saturday, the National Seismological Network (RSN) reported.

The quake's epicenter was 29.8 kilometers off the coast of Puerto Jiménez, Puntarenas, along the Cocos Plate.

It could be felt across southern Costa Rica and in parts of the capital, San José, according to an intensity map released by RSN.

There were no initial reports of damage.

Saturday's tremor followed a week of renewed volcanic activity at Turrialba Volcano, when several eruptions covered the Central Valley in ash and closed Juan Santamaría International Airport for several hours Thursday.

Earlier in April, two similar earthquakes shook the country on Good Friday with magnitudes of 4.8 and 5.2. - Tico Times.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Caribbean Region and Vicinity

Extensive diversity and complexity of tectonic regimes characterizes the perimeter of the Caribbean plate, involving no fewer than four major plates (North America, South America, Nazca, and Cocos). Inclined zones of deep earthquakes (Wadati-Benioff zones), ocean trenches, and arcs of volcanoes clearly indicate subduction of oceanic lithosphere along the Central American and Atlantic Ocean margins of the Caribbean plate, while crustal seismicity in Guatemala, northern Venezuela, and the Cayman Ridge and Cayman Trench indicate transform fault and pull-apart basin tectonics.

Along the northern margin of the Caribbean plate, the North America plate moves westwards with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 20 mm/yr. Motion is accommodated along several major transform faults that extend eastward from Isla de Roatan to Haiti, including the Swan Island Fault and the Oriente Fault. These faults represent the southern and northern boundaries of the Cayman Trench. Further east, from the Dominican Republic to the Island of Barbuda, relative motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate becomes increasingly complex and is partially accommodated by nearly arc-parallel subduction of the North America plate beneath the Caribbean plate. This results in the formation of the deep Puerto Rico Trench and a zone of intermediate focus earthquakes (70-300 km depth) within the subducted slab. Although the Puerto Rico subduction zone is thought to be capable of generating a megathrust earthquake, there have been no such events in the past century. The last probable interplate (thrust fault) event here occurred on May 2, 1787 and was widely felt throughout the island with documented destruction across the entire northern coast, including Arecibo and San Juan. Since 1900, the two largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the August 4, 1946 M8.0 Samana earthquake in northeastern Hispaniola and the July 29, 1943 M7.6 Mona Passage earthquake, both of which were shallow thrust fault earthquakes. A significant portion of the motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate in this region is accommodated by a series of left-lateral strike-slip faults that bisect the island of Hispaniola, notably the Septentrional Fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault in the south. Activity adjacent to the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault system is best documented by the devastating January 12, 2010 M7.0 Haiti strike-slip earthquake, its associated aftershocks and a comparable earthquake in 1770.

 USGS plate tectonics for the region. (PDF)

Moving east and south, the plate boundary curves around Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles where the plate motion vector of the Caribbean plate relative to the North and South America plates is less oblique, resulting in active island-arc tectonics. Here, the North and South America plates subduct towards the west beneath the Caribbean plate along the Lesser Antilles Trench at rates of approximately 20 mm/yr. As a result of this subduction, there exists both intermediate focus earthquakes within the subducted plates and a chain of active volcanoes along the island arc. Although the Lesser Antilles is considered one of the most seismically active regions in the Caribbean, few of these events have been greater than M7.0 over the past century. The island of Guadeloupe was the site of one of the largest megathrust earthquakes to occur in this region on February 8, 1843, with a suggested magnitude greater than 8.0. The largest recent intermediate-depth earthquake to occur along the Lesser Antilles arc was the November 29, 2007 M7.4 Martinique earthquake northwest of Fort-De-France.

The southern Caribbean plate boundary with the South America plate strikes east-west across Trinidad and western Venezuela at a relative rate of approximately 20 mm/yr. This boundary is characterized by major transform faults, including the Central Range Fault and the Boconó-San Sebastian-El Pilar Faults, and shallow seismicity. Since 1900, the largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the October 29, 1900 M7.7 Caracas earthquake, and the July 29, 1967 M6.5 earthquake near this same region. Further to the west, a broad zone of compressive deformation trends southwestward across western Venezuela and central Colombia. The plate boundary is not well defined across northwestern South America, but deformation transitions from being dominated by Caribbean/South America convergence in the east to Nazca/South America convergence in the west. The transition zone between subduction on the eastern and western margins of the Caribbean plate is characterized by diffuse seismicity involving low- to intermediate-magnitude (Magnitude less than 6.0) earthquakes of shallow to intermediate depth.

The plate boundary offshore of Colombia is also characterized by convergence, where the Nazca plate subducts beneath South America towards the east at a rate of approximately 65 mm/yr. The January 31, 1906 M8.5 earthquake occurred on the shallowly dipping megathrust interface of this plate boundary segment. Along the western coast of Central America, the Cocos plate subducts towards the east beneath the Caribbean plate at the Middle America Trench. Convergence rates vary between 72-81 mm/yr, decreasing towards the north. This subduction results in relatively high rates of seismicity and a chain of numerous active volcanoes; intermediate-focus earthquakes occur within the subducted Cocos plate to depths of nearly 300 km. Since 1900, there have been many moderately sized intermediate-depth earthquakes in this region, including the September 7, 1915 M7.4 El Salvador and the October 5, 1950 M7.8 Costa Rica events.

The boundary between the Cocos and Nazca plates is characterized by a series of north-south trending transform faults and east-west trending spreading centers. The largest and most seismically active of these transform boundaries is the Panama Fracture Zone. The Panama Fracture Zone terminates in the south at the Galapagos rift zone and in the north at the Middle America trench, where it forms part of the Cocos-Nazca-Caribbean triple junction. Earthquakes along the Panama Fracture Zone are generally shallow, low- to intermediate in magnitude (Magnitude less than 7.2) and are characteristically right-lateral strike-slip faulting earthquakes. Since 1900, the largest earthquake to occur along the Panama Fracture Zone was the July 26, 1962 M7.2 earthquake.

References for the Panama Fracture Zone:

Molnar, P., and Sykes, L. R., 1969, Tectonics of the Caribbean and Middle America Regions from Focal Mechanisms and Seismicity: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 80, p. 1639-1684.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics


MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Disaster Precursors And Warnings From Mother Nature – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Migratory Patterns, Attacks, Deaths, And Appearance Of Rare Creatures!

April 26, 2015 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Hundreds of dead birds and animals found on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia

Residents of the municipality of Taraco reported that hundreds of birds and reptiles were killed on the shores of Lake Titicaca product of some sort of contamination.

After a site inspection, departmental Assemblyman Jhonson Jiménez asked the departmental secretariat of mother earth who investigates the case.

Originating in Santa Rosa de Taraco authorities and other nearby towns reported that in recent days they found hundreds of wild animals killed on the banks of the sacred Lake. They explained that as of April 8 noticed changes in the coloration of the water which makes them think of some kind of severe impairment.

"After become the place we have walked for more than two hours across several communities of the municipality of Taraco along and we have found that every step is a dead animal and a rotten smell. Villagers say that it is by pollution, because these days the water coloration is greenish-yellow,"he said.

The Authority said that residents suspect some sort of oil or chemical contamination. However, he clarified that they are only hypothesis. A technical Committee looked for the causes of the alleged contamination and verified that close to not working chemical or mining companies.

"We can not weigh what kind of pollution is, if by oil or some chemical." As Commission we have sent a note to the departmental secretariat of mother earth for investigate the case", he said.

Jimenez said that you as a member of the Committee on environment and mother earth's Assembly departmental peace, at the time, carried out a thorough inspection of what happens in the place. He said that the results will be presented in a final report to the public and relevant authorities to make letters on the issue.

"In the Lake have a large problem of contamination that may be the reason" said.
Page seven two weeks ago denounced the change of color in various populations adjacent to the Lake. Environment announced a plan to combat pollution. - Pagina Siete. [Translated]

71,000 birds to be killed due to avian flu in North Dakota, United States

The presence of bird flu has been confirmed in a second poultry flock in North Dakota.

The state Agriculture Department says the H5 virus is in a commercial flock in LaMoure County that includes about 69,000 turkeys and about 2,000 chickens. The operation has been quarantined and the flock will be destroyed.

The state is still waiting on confirmation of whether the virus is the H5N2 strain that has cost Midwestern chicken and turkey producers more than 7 million birds since early March. But the Agriculture Department says whatever strain it is, it is highly contagious.

The H5N2 virus was confirmed at a Dickey County poultry farm earlier this month. The 40,000 turkeys are being destroyed. - KFGO.

White rhino battles with elephants in territorial row in South Africa

White rhino are unlikely to take on a group of elephants, making Sergeant's defensive behaviour unusual.  © The Luxury Safari Company/Sanctuary Retreats

A stubborn white rhino faces off with a group of elephants in this extraordinary set of photographs

The peace of a morning game drive in South Africa was broken this week when a disgruntled male white rhino saw his territory invaded by a herd of breeding elephants.

Sergeant, a proud white rhino, confronted the large mammals as they made their way across the floodplain, watched by safari guests.

While black rhinos are known to show aggression, white rhinos are normally passive, making Sergeant's decision to take on the group highly unusual.

The elephants kicked up dust, blew their trumpets and charged at him in an attempt to stand their ground while protecting their young calf.

Sergeant, however, refused to budge, defending his patch against the intruders.

Elephants are the only land mammals larger than white rhinos, whose male sex can weigh up to 2,000 - 2,300 kg (4,400 - 5,100 lb). Even black rhinos would be unlikely to take on a group of elephants, making Sergeant's actions even more atypical.

The elephants made their retreat into the reserve, which cannot be named, amid recent concerns that geotagging on mobile devices leaves a digital footprint that can help poachers track down rare animals.

According to statistics from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, 1,215 more rhinos were poached in 2014 - more than double the 2011 figure of 448.

Sergeant has been involved in stand-offs before. The Luxury Safari Company and Sanctuary Retreats, which captured the images, said he earned his name after a previous fight with another rhino bull, which left him with a large cut on his ear.

Rose Hipwood, founder of company, said: "To watch elephants and rhino do anything is amazing due to their extremely endangered status, but to see this stand off and feel the soil vibrate under the car is the stuff of dreams." - The Telegraph.

Population of greater sage-grouse breeding males have declined by 56 percent in North America

The number of breeding males in the greater sage-grouse population of the United States and part of Canada has declined by 56 percent in recent years, in a sign of trouble for the ground-dwelling bird, a study released on Friday showed.

The study from the Pew Charitable Trusts comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to make a decision before the end of September on whether the bird should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced on that a sub-species of the sage-grouse found in California and Nevada did not require protection under the Endangered Species Act. Environmentalists criticized the decision.

The move was a victory for mining, energy and farming companies which fear sage-grouse protections could restrict their livelihoods in the 11 Western states where the bird lives, including Washington state, Colorado and Montana.

Millions of sage-grouse are believed to have once inhabited a broad expanse of the Western United States and Canada. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 2010 that between 200,000 and 500,000 birds remain.

The Pew Charitable Trusts study did not give a complete estimate of the total number of sage-grouse birds that might live in their range in the 11 U.S. states and a southern portion of the Canadian province of Alberta.

But the study said just 48,641 breeding males were found in 2013, representing a 56 percent decline from 2007 when the count was 109,990.

Edward Garton, the lead researcher on the study, said sage-grouse populations typically fluctuate greatly, decreasing and then rebounding as a natural phenomenon.

"Is it part of the typical cycle, or are the populations actually collapsing? We don't really know the answer to that," Garton said.

There might have been about 125,000 breeding birds in total in 2013 including females, Garton said.

If the sage-grouse population is falling due to environmental degradation, the chief culprits would be oil and gas development and the increasing prevalence of wildfires, he said.

Projecting 100 years into the future, most sub-populations of the sage-grouse would reach numbers so low they would risk dying off from genetic defects, Garton said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it valued the latest study.

"The Garton study is one of several population trend analyses that will help us assess the health of the greater sage-grouse and inform our status review of the species," it said.  - Reuters.

Two brothers injured by bears in India

Two persons were allegedly attacked by bears in the foothills of Poigai Malai in Aralvoimozhi on Thursday morning. S. Seelan (34) and his brother S. Jegan (32) were on a visit to their agricultural land along with their father Selvaraj when they noticed the bears in close proximity. Even as they tried to run to safety, Seelan sustained injuries in the attack by the bears and Jegan escaped with minor injuries. Their father escaped unhurt.

The brothers were admitted to a private hospital and Seelan was later shifted to Kanyakumari Government Medical College Hospital, where his condition is said to be stable. When contacted, District Forest Officer Vismiju Viswanathan said he was yet to receive any information on the bear attack. - The Hindu.

Rare bird from the Americas turns up in Summerset, UK

The sighting of a rare wader has seen hundreds of excited birdwatchers descend in Somerset this weekend

The sighting of a rare wader has seen hundreds of excited birdwatchers descend in Somerset this weekend after it took a 4,000-mile detour to England.

Each spring the Hudsonian Godwit heads from South America to its breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska. But following its detour, twitchers are hoping to spot the bird only for the third time in the UK.

The kerfuffle started when a birdwatcher identified one on the Somerset Levels and word got around. By Saturday afternoon more than 1,000 twitcher had reportedly lined the water's edge. A similar number of birdwatchers is expected on Sunday.

It is believed the large shorebird - which is now inhabiting the same space as its English counterparts, the Black Tailed Godwit and the Shapwick Heath - was last seen in the UK in 1988.

With a long beak and spindly legs, the bird must have got lost and confused and followed the wrong flock of birds across the Atlantic.

A rare adult summer Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) in Somerset.  © SWNS

A rare adult summer Hudsonaian Godwit with Black-tailed Godwits at Meare Heath, Somerset. © SWNS

One birdwatcher Michael Trew, 70, said word spread about the bird via an online forum at 7.30am on Saturday.

The retired quantity surveyor said: "By the time I got there at about 9.30am there was the best part of 200 people there, but about 1,000 had turned up by the time I left.

"I think the last time anyone saw one of these it was about 30 years ago.

"It's not a migrating bird - it's not supposed to be here at all - and we can only assume it is one that has got lost.

"We only think that it has got mixed up in a flock of migrating birds and made its way here. It is quite a strange affair. We don't know how long it has even been here.

 WATCH: Hudsonian Godwit.

A rare adult summer Hudsonaian Godwit with Black-tailed Godwits at Meare Heath, Somerset
"It was spotted by someone who thought 'that one looks a bit different' but these things have to be verified before you get people driving from all over the place to see it.

"Someone came and checked and the word went out about 7.30am.

"I have only been bird watching for five years so it is quite good to have seen one - some people will have waited 30 years.

"They have just built a new car park down there which is just as well because it was filled and then double parked.

"It was a really nice day with everyone down there." - Daily Telegraph.

Emu injures man in Oakhurst, Australia

Emus might look silly, but don’t underestimate
them. © Alex Leggett/ Gatton Star
A man in his 50s copped a 25 centimetre cut to his left forearm when an emu got spooked and lashed out near Maryborough on Monday afternoon.

It's believed the incident occurred during feeding time at 2pm at the Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary at Oakhurst.

Advanced care paramedic Jeremy Woods said the man was conscious and in good spirits when paramedics arrived a short time later.

"The patient believes the emu might have been spooked by a nearby train track, and that's what's caused the animal to try to escape or get away from the sound," he said.

"Unfortunately at the time this gentleman just happened to be in the same vicinity, and that's when the emu has gone through with its natural instincts and scratched this gentleman on the arm."

Mr Woods said the injury was 25 centimetres long and cut deeply into the patient's forearm,

"The arm is in quite good condition, he's still got good movement, good sensation to his hands," he said.

"[He had] no other injuries at all."

The man was taken to Hervey Bay hospital in a stable condition. - Brisbane Times.

Herd of 15 buffalo shot dead after escaping from farm near Albany

A herd of buffalo crosses a road Friday in Bethlehem, near Albany. © Mike Groll — Associated Press

Fifteen buffalo that escaped from a farm were intentionally shot and killed Friday after they dashed past a group of police, crossed a major highway and ended up near some schools, authorities said.

"The last thing we wanted to do was put these animals down," Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said. "But it wasn't a safe scene."

Three men hired by the farm opened fire on the animals Friday afternoon in woods in the town of Coeymans, about 10 miles south of the capital.

Bethlehem police Lt. Thomas Heffernan said the decision was made after experts agreed tranquilizers would not be effective and no portable corrals or trailers could hold the animals.

WATCH: 15 buffalo killed in Albany.

The buffalo escaped Thursday from a farm across the Hudson River in the Rensselaer County town of Schodack. The owner believes they swam across the river to the town of Bethlehem, where they wandered across a busy stretch of the Thruway and into neighboring Coeymans.

The killing of the buffalo, which were confined in the stream bed, turned chaotic at the start, with deputies detaining a hunter who refused their order to finish off one of the three buffalo that initially were shot.

Apple said the wounded animal was floundering in the water. "We wanted that animal down," he said, and the man continued instead to shoot blindly into the brush at the other retreating buffalo.

"It was turning into the wild, wild West," Apple said. "It was ridiculous."

The hunter was detained but not charged, Apple said. It's not clear why the hunter refused to shoot the wounded buffalo.

The buffalo came from GEM Farms, an operation that has been raising buffalo for their meat since 1973. Authorities said some buffalo that escaped with the others were killed Thursday.

Heffernan said the owner had the right to kill the buffalo. A phone message left at the farm was not immediately returned.

Thomas Gallagher, a Cornell Cooperative Extension large animal expert who has worked with GEM and who consulted with authorities Friday, said tranquilizers are not effective against buffalo because of their thick hides and doses need to be so high they are generally lethal. - Daily Freeman.

Fish kill along the shores of a lake in Florida, United States

Dying fish along the shores of Lake Searcy in Seminole County have some residents concerned about what might be in the water.

Sean Maltby said he lives where he does for the beauty of the area.

"I come out here and relax on one of the most beautiful, pretty lakes in Longwood," Maltby said.

But these days his front-row view is not quite what he bargained for.

"All that stuff you see in the water is dead fish," Maltby said, pointing to the lake.

The city of Longwood is trying to determine what is killing the fish. Channel 9's Janine Reyes was told that it is believed algae blooms are to blame.
The blooms can deprive the water of oxygen, causing several fish to die at once.

"You've got bass that might be 10 years old that have been around for a long time and they just die. That's a big impact on the lake," Maltby said.

WATCH: Dying fish in Longwood lake have residents worried about the cause.  


Maltby said he knows fish kills happen from time to time and if it was just dead fish he was finding he wouldn't be so concerned. Maltby told Reyes that animals that are eating those fish are dying as well.

"My question is, why would an animal die from eating another animal that died from suffocation," Maltby said.

He said he is concerned the problem might be man-made. He said stormwater runoff makes its way to the lake and he wonders if that carried something deadly for the fish.

"It's a shame. It's a crime against nature," Maltby said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said they will get involved if there is a violation to pursue. On Saturday, they would only confirm that an investigation into the fish kill is ongoing. - WFTV.

Large die off of fish in a river in Harbin, China

People in Harbin, April 25 (Yang Haiquan) recently, Hulan district section in Hulan River, Harbin city there are lots of dead fish was reported. April 21, the environmental authorities sent emergency personnel to the Hulan River in Harbin promptly investigate and deal with the phenomenon of dead fish were found in two reach confirmed Zhao lanxinhe Hulan erdao river water pollution from upstream sewage discharge, so far, have not detected specific pollution sources. Harbin Environmental Bureau is based on the development of the Hulan river pollution investigation programme, initiated a full investigation.

April 21 at 11 o'clock in the morning, Harbin Hulan District Environmental Protection Bureau received reports from the Hulan River er DAO he stinks, near fish ponds fish mass mortality. Hulan District Environmental Protection Bureau immediately dispatched, Hulan erdao river water samples were collected, and river reconnaissance, and to report to the municipal environmental protection Bureau.

- HLJ. [Translated]

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The Globe - Sinkhole Causes Death Of A Man In Panola County, Mississippi; Sinkhole Swallows Dump Truck In Aiken, South Carolina; Dangerous Sinkhole Opens Up In Gateshead, United Kingdom; 10-Feet Deep Sinkhole Appears On Road In Powell, Michigan! [PHOTOS]

April 26, 2015 - EARTH - Here are several of the latest reports of sinkholes across the globe as monumental planetary transformations continue.

Sinkhole causes death of man in Panola County, Mississippi

Sinkhole in Panola County.

One man is dead and another is in the hospital after heavy rains formed a sink hole in Panola County Friday night.

Panola County Coroner Gracie Gulledge told Local 24 Mount Olivet Road in Batesville was washed out due to rain.

Officials say the rain led to a car accident involving a truck with two men inside. They are not sure if the truck slid off the road or crashed into the pothole.

The truck's driver was taken to the med. His neice told Local 24 he had surgery today.

The passenger, however, died. An autopsy will be performed Monday to determine if he drowned or died from crash-related injuries. - Local Memphis.

Sinkhole swallows dump truck in Aiken, South Carolina

An Aiken City truck fell through a sinkhole Thursday on Moultrie Drive in the Gem Lakes extension area.© Cindy Kubovic

When a loaded City of Aiken dump truck drove through Gem Lakes as a test to evaluate resident complaints that the streets there were poorly constructed by the developer, it took a tow truck to get it back out when a portion of the scrutinized roadbed collapsed.

Engineers have determined a leaking storm drain under the area caused the truck to fall through the undermined road surface.

City employee Steve Brown was driving the dump truck, filled with rocks and dirt, on Moultrie Drive Thursday to test whether the roads were supportive enough to hold that amount of weight. He said the truck just "kind of started sinking on one side; it didn't just automatically happen." City crews quickly worked to free the truck, and with the help of Wayne's Automotive Towing, lifted it out of the hole successfully, but not without leaving a large footprint. Crews examined the hole by sticking a pole in to see how deep it was - the answer, about 5 feet.

Mike Goss, the supervisor over the City's utilities, said crews were going to have to cut around the hole, and then fill the area with stones for the time being. - Aiken Standard.

Dangerous sinkhole opens up in Gateshead, UK - 'Someone could have been killed'

Resident Sophie Storey, 20, with her daughter Angelica Mason, 10 months.

Worried parents have told of their fears after a 5ft deep sink hole appeared in a Tyneside road.

The hole, measuring 2ft wide, suddenly appeared in Windsor Avenue in Bensham, Gateshead, on Thursday as families were soaking up the sunshine.

Police and council officials were called to make the area safe.

Now mums have said a child could have been killed if they had fallen through the Tarmac.

Sophie Storey, 20, who lives on the road and has 10-month-old Angelica, said: "This is worrying. I walk over that part of the road daily. It could have happened at any point or when we were walking over it. Angelica's pushchair could have gone down it. It's really sickening when I think what could have happened. It's a deep hole, a child could have been seriously injured or even killed, who knows what could have happened."

Sophie, who lives with partner, university student Cameron Mason, 19, added: "Quite a lot of small kids play in the road and this could have ended up being a very serious incident. It was lucky no one was hurt."

Mum-of-three Emily Fairlamb, 32, of Felling, visits her mum Elizabeth Vicarage, 53, who lives in the next street to where the hole appeared.

She said: "We always walk across that part of the road to walk through the alley to go to Coatsworth Road. It could have been us falling down that hole.

"I have a son who is seven, a daughter who is six and Sebastian who is two. They could have been walking across it when it gave way. My mam walks with a stick and it could have been her. Someone could have been very seriously hurt, you could break a leg or anything. It is scary to think this has happened on our usual route."

Grandmother Elizabeth said: "It could have been so serious, anyone could have gone through that. It looks like it was a mine shaft or something, this area is littered with disused mines."

Grandad-of-three Malcolm Whitfield, 61, whose flat is directly opposite the hole, said: "I usually park my car there, it was a good job I had gone to pick up my wife. Over the past few weeks a dip has appeared in the road and when it rains a puddle forms. Now it has totally dropped through and a 5ft deep hole is there. Men from a drainage company arrived and they lifted a nearby manhole cover to check for pressure of the water pipes and then they went. We have barriers around it now until something is done."

A spokesman for Gateshead Council said: "Engineers from Gateshead Council have carried out an initial inspection and have made the site secure. The underlying cause of the failure is now being investigated." - Newcastle Chronicle.

10-foot deep sinkhole appears on road in Powell, Michigan

© Christina Hall / Detroit Free Press

First, came the 32 Mile bridge closure.

Now drivers in northern Macomb County have to contend with another road closure a mile away thanks to a 4-foot-by-4-foot wide and 10-foot deep sinkhole.

"It's pretty deep," county Roads Department Director Bob Hoepfner said of the sinkhole on 33 Mile near Powell.

He said the county was notified of the sinkhole Wednesday night by Michigan State Police.

The sinkhole is blocked off by orange barricades and had a metal pole with yellow flags was sticking out of it this morning. Crews were coming onto the scene, and Hoepfner said he hoped the sinkhole would be repaired and the road reopened today.

He doesn't know what caused the sinkhole, but said additional traffic — especially heavy trucks — may have contributed. That traffic normally would be on 32 Mile, but the deteriorating bridge there is closed and may be so for at least a year, Hoepfner said.

He said the road department is going to design a new bridge structure for 32 Mile and rebuild the bridge "as soon as we possibly can." The cost, he said, is estimated at $2 million.The bridge is located on the border of Armada and Ray townships.

An inspection last month showed rusted-through steel beams are causing part of the bridge deck to settle, road department officials said.

The bridge handled about 15,000 vehicles daily and crosses the north branch of the Clinton River. Hoepfner guesstimated it was about 50 years old.

Last month, he said the closure of the bridge would have a "significant impact."

Though that gravel stretch of 33 Mile where the sinkhole is located is not part of the official bridge detour, Hoepfner said that he believes there has been significant additional traffic in that area, especially from heavy trucks going to and from area businesses.

He said about 350 vehicles pass daily on that part of 33 Mile, but he is guessing about 1,000 vehicles now are passing through daily with the 32 Mile bridge closure. He said getting the bridge reopened is a "priority."  - Detroit Free Press.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Effects Of Magnetic Polar Migration - Rare Waterspout Spotted In Malaysia And Rare Waterspout Seen Off The Coast Of Nanaimo, Canada!

April 26, 2015 - EARTH - As the magnetic polar migration continues, here are two stories of rare waterspouts seen in off the coast of Nanaimo, Canada and Malaysia.

Rare waterspout spotted in Malaysia

The waterspout was spotted by motorist at the New Pantai Highway (NPE) around Bandar Sunway, Subang Jaya area, MalaysiaAdd caption

Motorists at the New Pantai Highway (NPE) had sighted what was described as a waterspout around Bandar Sunway, Subang Jaya area. A local webportal had uploaded a video on the social media of the waterspout which had garnered more than 7,000 views. The 66-seconds videos showed the sighting of what was believed to be a waterspout surrounded by storm clouds.

A Facebook user GP Bestari commented on the video, "Poor night market traders, they have set up their stalls but it was damaged by the strong winds." The heavy rain also affected several areas in Klang Valley including Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. Twitter user @TrafficDotMy had earlier reported the heavy rain had caused flash flood at Persiaran Kuchai, Salak Jaya at 4.16pm.

Traffic was slow moving at the area as motorists could only travel on one lane. The flash flood however had subsided six minutes later and traffic had returned to normal. The user had also re-tweeted a tweet of several fallen trees in Puchong, Selangor. When contacted, the Fire and Rescue Department said it had not received any reports on flash floods and uprooted trees.  - New Straits Times.

Rare waterspout seen off the coast of Nanaimo, Canada

Photo of the Nanaimo waterspout. © Denys Carrier.

If you were in Nanaimo on Thursday and saw what looked like a water tornado, you weren't dreaming.

A waterspout watch was issued by Environment Canada yesterday at 5 p.m after one was spotted a few kilometers off the city's coast.

They form in much the same way as land tornadoes, created from air and water mist moving upward from an ocean or lake. Global BC meteorologist Kristi Gordon says a strong storm that moved down the Strait of Georgia on Thursday created the conditions necessary for this one.

While waterspouts can happen on B.C.'s waters, they are rare - this was just the second on the Georgia Strait this year.

 WATCH: Waterspout off Nanaimo.

- GlobalNews.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: New Avian Flu Viruses Send United States Scientists Scrambling - Highly Pathogenic Viruses Already Decimating The Poultry And Wild Birds Population In The Midwest, Could Have Long-Term Threat To Humans!

April 26, 2015 - UNITED STATES
- Three highly pathogenic avian flu viruses that have infected poultry and wild birds in the U.S. Midwest appear unlikely to present a significant risk to humans. But the presence of the viruses in North America has scientists scrambling to understand their potential long-term threat.

One of the viruses, H5N2, has already led to the slaughter of millions of turkeys and chickens, as commercial farms try to control the spread of the virus.

No humans have yet become infected, but scientists say it is possible that someone in direct contact with sick birds might catch the virus, though it is extremely unlikely that an infected human could pass the disease on to another human.

"Most of the time, these viruses don't have human disease potential, but obviously you need to be very careful," said Dr. Stephen Morse, an expert in emerging infections at Columbia University. "Nowadays, you can't say anything about flu with certainty."

Avian flu, which infects poultry, is caused by an influenza A type virus and is often spread by free-flying waterfowl, such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.

The viruses are classified by two types of proteins. Hemagglutinin or "H" proteins, of which there are 16, and neuraminidase or "N" proteins, of which there are 9. Avian flu viruses are also classified as low pathogenicity or high pathogenicity based on their ability to infect and kill poultry.

The highly pathogenic avian flu viruses currently killing U.S. poultry first originated as a single H5N8 virus in Asia, and quickly spread among wild birds along migratory pathways in the Pacific flyway.

Once the virus reached North America, it mutated, mixing with North American avian influenza strains to create the new viruses now being seen. The H parts, which are highly pathogenic in poultry, originated in Asia, and the N parts come from North American, low pathogenic, avian flu viruses, said Dr. Rubin Donis, an associate director for policy and preparedness in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's influenza division.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still seeing the original H5N8 virus, but it has also identified two strains of mixed-origin viruses, both of them highly pathogenic. One is the deadly H5N2 virus. The other is an entirely new H5N1 virus that has so far been found in only a handful of the recent cases.

Because much is still unknown about these new viruses, the USDA and the CDC are conducting detailed analyses that include sequencing the viruses' genomes. A key question they hope to answer is whether the viruses might mutate and become human viruses.

"This is something we need to avoid: it is something that could happen and which we have to look for," said Dr. Jurgen Richt, an expert in avian influenza at Kansas State University.

Richt said scientists also need to find out whether the viruses are mutating when they come from a wild host into domesticated poultry.

Although infections with H5N1 viruses have been rare, past strains have sometimes caused severe disease and death in people who became infected through close contact with infected birds or prolonged contact with infected people. Since flu viruses evolve and often swap genes, the concern is that they could gain the ability to transmit easily among people, which could trigger a global pandemic.

Donis said the CDC is currently conducting studies in ferrets, which are used as surrogate models for humans, to see how the viruses behave in mammals and whether they can spread easily to animals in nearby cages.

One good sign already is that the H5N2 virus does not appear to be able to replicate readily at lower temperatures, which is required for transmission from person to person.

Donis said human transmission of flu viruses occurs in the upper respiratory tract, where body temperatures are lower.

"You will not have a pandemic without a virus that replicates well in the upper respiratory tract and is easily transmitted by droplets," Donis said.

The CDC has already studied a lab-developed version of the avian hemagglutinin, the "H" portion of the viruses, to see if it contains receptors that could easily attach to human cells. In these experiments, the "H" has bound strictly to avian receptors, and not human receptors, another good sign that the virus may not be easily transmissible in people.

"So far, what we see is a typical avian virus that is not expected to be transmissible in ferrets," Donis said. Results of the ferret studies should be available in a few weeks.


The mere fact that an H5N1 avian influenza virus has arrived in North America, however, represents a significant evolution.

Before 1996, none of the highly pathogenic viruses survived very long in nature. H5N1 viruses had largely been confined to Southeast Asia.

"They always burned out and they were never transmitted long distances repeatedly by wild birds," Donis said.

Things began to change in 2004/2005 when an H5N1 virus began infecting birds in Qinghai Lake, China, and then spread to parts of Europe and Africa.

Scientists in North America began collecting millions of samples looking for the virus in North American birds.

"There wasn't a single H5N1," Donis said, until this past January, when a new, mixed origin H5N1 virus was isolated in a wild duck in the United States.

The question now is what has changed that makes this virus more capable of spreading in both Eastern and Western directions. The concern is if the virus becomes established in the breeding grounds in Alaska and Northern Canada, there is a potential for these viruses to become an annual burden each time the birds migrate south. - Trust.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Major Seismic Activity In The Himalayan Region - New 6.7 Magnitude Earthquake Hits East Of Kathmandu, Nepal; Triggers Avalanche In The Himalayan Mountains; Felt As Far Away As India!

Earthquake 3D map.

April 26, 2015 - NEPAL
- A fresh 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck 17km south of Kodari, Nepal at 07:09 GMT on Sunday, following the 7.9 quake that hit on Saturday and that has killed more than 1,900.

The quake was followed by another tremor, of magnitude of 5, less than 20 minutes later.

AP reported the tremor as a "major aftershock," but others observed that the sheer size of the shake constitutes it as a second earthquake. People near the epicenter were yelling and running for open ground, AP said.

USGS earthquake location.
USGS shakemap intensity.

There are so far no official reports of casualties or damage from the latest quake.

The earthquake triggered an avalanche in the Himalayan Mountains, as well as tremors in the Indian capital, New Delhi, more than 1000km away.

Romanian climber Alex Gavan tweeted that Sunday's aftershock triggered three avalanches.

USGS map showing seismic swarm.

"Another one, we have an aftershock right now, oh s***," Indian mountaineer Arjun Vajpai told Reuters in a phone call made from the Mount Makula basecamp, located 12 miles (19km) from Everest.

Kodari is an alpine village on the China-Nepal border that had a recorded population of 1600 in 2012. - RT.

WATCH: Strong second quake strikes Nepal, panic in Kathmandu.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Himalaya and Vicinity

Seismicity in the Himalaya dominantly results from the continental collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The surface expression of the plate boundary is marked by the foothills of the north-south trending Sulaiman Range in the west, the Indo-Burmese Arc in the east and the east-west trending Himalaya Front in the north of India.

USGS plate tectonics for the region. (PDF)

The India-Eurasia plate boundary is a diffuse boundary, which in the region near the north of India, lies within the limits of the Indus-Tsangpo (also called the Yarlung-Zangbo) Suture to the north and the Main Frontal Thrust to the south. The Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone is located roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin. The narrow (less than 200km) Himalaya Front includes numerous east-west trending, parallel structures. This region has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, caused mainly by movement on thrust faults. Examples of significant earthquakes, in this densely populated region, caused by reverse slip movement include the 1934 M8.0 Bihar, the 1905 M7.5 Kangra and the 2005 M7.6 Kashmir earthquakes. The latter two resulted in the highest death tolls for Himalaya earthquakes seen to date, together killing over 100,000 people and leaving millions homeless. The largest instrumentally recorded Himalaya earthquake occurred on 15th August 1950 in Assam, eastern India. This M8.6 right-lateral, strike-slip, earthquake was widely felt over a broad area of central Asia, causing extensive damage to villages in the epicentral region.

The Tibetan Plateau is situated north of the Himalaya, stretching approximately 1000km north-south and 2500km east-west, and is geologically and tectonically complex with several sutures which are hundreds of kilometer-long and generally trend east-west. The Tibetan Plateau is cut by a number of large (greater than 1000km) east-west trending, left-lateral, strike-slip faults, including the long Kunlun, Haiyuan, and the Altyn Tagh. Right-lateral, strike-slip faults (comparable in size to the left-lateral faults), in this region include the Karakorum, Red River, and Sagaing. Secondary north-south trending normal faults also cut the Tibetan Plateau. Thrust faults are found towards the north and south of the Tibetan Plateau. Collectively, these faults accommodate crustal shortening associated with the ongoing collision of the India and Eurasia plates, with thrust faults accommodating north south compression, and normal and strike-slip accommodating east-west extension.

Along the western margin of the Tibetan Plateau, in the vicinity of south-eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, the India plate translates obliquely relative to the Eurasia plate, resulting in a complex fold-and-thrust belt known as the Sulaiman Range. Faulting in this region includes strike-slip, reverse-slip and oblique-slip motion and often results in shallow, destructive earthquakes. The active, left-lateral, strike-slip Chaman fault is the fastest moving fault in the region. In 1505, a segment of the Chaman fault near Kabul, Afghanistan, ruptured causing widespread destruction. In the same region the more recent 30 May 1935, M7.6 Quetta earthquake, which occurred in the Sulaiman Range in Pakistan, killed between 30,000 and 60,000 people.

On the north-western side of the Tibetan Plateau, beneath the Pamir-Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur at depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. The curved arc of deep earthquakes found in the Hindu Kush Pamir region indicates the presence of a lithospheric body at depth, thought to be remnants of a subducting slab. Cross-sections through the Hindu Kush region suggest a near vertical northerly-dipping subducting slab, whereas cross-sections through the nearby Pamir region to the east indicate a much shallower dipping, southerly subducting slab. Some models suggest the presence of two subduction zones; with the Indian plate being subducted beneath the Hindu Kush region and the Eurasian plate being subducted beneath the Pamir region. However, other models suggest that just one of the two plates is being subducted and that the slab has become contorted and overturned in places.

Shallow crustal earthquakes also occur in this region near the Main Pamir Thrust and other active Quaternary faults. The Main Pamir Thrust, north of the Pamir Mountains, is an active shortening structure. The northern portion of the Main Pamir Thrust produces many shallow earthquakes, whereas its western and eastern borders display a combination of thrust and strike-slip mechanisms. On the 18 February 1911, the M7.4 Sarez earthquake ruptured in the Central Pamir Mountains, killing numerous people and triggering a landside, which blocked the Murghab River.

Further north, the Tian Shan is a seismically active intra-continental mountain belt, which extends 2500 km in an ENE-WNW orientation north of the Tarim Basin. This belt is defined by numerous east-west trending thrust faults, creating a compressional basin and range landscape. It is generally thought that regional stresses associated with the collision of the India and Eurasia plates are responsible for faulting in the region. The region has had three major earthquakes (greater than M7.6) at the start of the 20th Century, including the 1902 Atushi earthquake, which killed an estimated 5,000 people. The range is cut through in the west by the 700-km-long, northwest-southeast striking, Talas-Ferghana active right-lateral, strike-slip fault system. Though the system has produced no major earthquakes in the last 250 years, paleo-seismic studies indicate that it has the potential to produce M7.0+ earthquakes and it is thought to represent a significant hazard.

The northern portion of the Tibetan Plateau itself is largely dominated by the motion on three large left-lateral, strike-slip fault systems; the Altyn Tagh, Kunlun and Haiyuan. The Altyn Tagh fault is the longest of these strike slip faults and it is thought to accommodate a significant portion of plate convergence. However, this system has not experienced significant historical earthquakes, though paleoseismic studies show evidence of prehistoric M7.0-8.0 events. Thrust faults link with the Altyn Tagh at its eastern and western termini. The Kunlun Fault, south of the Altyn Tagh, is seismically active, producing large earthquakes such as the 8th November 1997, M7.6 Manyi earthquake and the 14th November 2001, M7.8 Kokoxili earthquake. The Haiyuan Fault, in the far north-east, generated the 16 December 1920, M7.8 earthquake that killed approximately 200,000 people and the 22 May 1927 M7.6 earthquake that killed 40,912.

The Longmen Shan thrust belt, along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, is an important structural feature and forms a transitional zone between the complexly deformed Songpan-Garze Fold Belt and the relatively undeformed Sichuan Basin. On 12 May 2008, the thrust belt produced the reverse slip, M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, killing over 87,000 people and causing billions of US dollars in damages and landslides which dammed several rivers and lakes.

Southeast of the Tibetan Plateau are the right-lateral, strike-slip Red River and the left-lateral, strike-slip Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang fault systems. The Red River Fault experienced large scale, left-lateral ductile shear during the Tertiary period before changing to its present day right-lateral slip rate of approximately 5 mm/yr. This fault has produced several earthquakes  greater than M6.0 including the 4 January 1970, M7.5 earthquake in Tonghai which killed over 10,000 people. Since the start of the 20th century, the Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang Fault system has generated several M7.0+ earthquakes including the M7.5 Luhuo earthquake which ruptured on the 22 April 1973. Some studies suggest that due to the high slip rate on this fault, future large earthquakes are highly possible along the 65km stretch between Daofu and Qianning and the 135km stretch that runs through Kangding.

Shallow earthquakes within the Indo-Burmese Arc, predominantly occur on a combination of strike-slip and reverse faults, including the Sagaing, Kabaw and Dauki faults. Between 1930 and 1956, six M7.0+ earthquakes occurred near the right-lateral Sagaing Fault, resulting in severe damage in Myanmar including the generation of landslides, liquefaction and the loss of 610 lives. Deep earthquakes (200km) have also been known to occur in this region, these are thought to be due to the subduction of the eastwards dipping, India plate, though whether subduction is currently active is debated. Within the pre-instrumental period, the large Shillong earthquake occurred on the 12 June 1897, causing widespread destruction. - USGS.