Sunday, February 28, 2016

DELUGE: Heavy Rainfall In Central And Southern Peru - 1 Person Killed, Another Missing; Numerous Landslides; Damage To Roads, Bridges And Hundreds Of Houses!

Heavy rains continued to hit Peru on Thursday, causing severe flooding and landslides. Since December,
thousands have been affected by strong rains across the country, according to local media.

February 28, 2016 - PERU - Parts of central and southern Peru have seen heavy rainfall since mid February 2016. The regions of Puno, Areuipa, Cusco and Junín have all been affected.

The severe weather has caused numerous landslides and the flooding of several rivers including the Ramís, Sullca, Urubamba and Coschireni. Roads, bridges and hundreds of houses have been damaged. At least person has been killed and another is missing.

Peru’s National Service of Hydrology and Meteorology (Servicio Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología de Peru, SENAMHI), issued a level 3 Meteorological Alert on 22 February, warning that intense rain can be expected until 25 February.

Puno Region
Carabaya Province, in the North of Puno Region in southern Peru suffered torrential rains that caused a landslide in Usicayos on 20 February 2016, affecting almost 1 km of transport routes. A second landslide in the same area was reported on the 21 February 2016. At least one person is reported dead and another is still missing as a result.

Sandia, San Antonio de Putina and Azángaro Provinces were also affected by the heavy rains that caused river overflow. Damages to houses, agricultural cultivation and the collapse of a bridge have also been reported.

Infrared image of Peru rainfall for 23 February, 2016. Image: SENAMHI

As a result of the intense rain in the region, Peru’s National Institute of Civil Defence (Instituto Nacional de Defensa Civil, INDECI) issued a warning for the increasing water level (up to red alert level) in the upper watershed of the Ramís River.

Arequipa Region
Heavy rain was been reported on 22 February 2016 in Arequipa Province, in the region of the same name, in southern Peru.

Several districts of Arequipa Province, including Cerro Colorado, Yanahuara, Alto Selva Alegre, La Joya, Miraflores and Mariano Melgar, suffered damages to homes, transport routes and public utilities. As many as 813 houses have been affected by the impact of the intense rain event. At least 8 of these houses have totally collapsed, displacing several families. According to INDECI, a health centre and two public buildings have also been affected and suffered damages.

Cusco Region
Severe rainfall events affected the Cusco Region, in central Peru. During the morning of 23 February, 2016, the village of Kiteni, in La Convención Province, suffered flooding due to the overflow of the Urubamba and Coschireni Rivers, caused by 8 hours of continuous rain in the upstream watershed.

According to INDECI, 118 families (out of a total of 250 families in the village) have been made homeless after their houses were completely destroyed by the floods and rain. INDECI say that all of the displaced families have been relocated to safe areas.

A landslide caused by these intense rains interrupted the transport communication route between Cuzco and La Convención, causing problems for public and private transport.

INDECI also reported the overflow of the Sullca River between 21 and 23 February, which caused damage to houses and agriculture in Sullca and Chectuyoc villages, Chancis Province. According to local civil defence, 1 house suffered major damage forcing people to evacuate, while 7 other houses have been affected.

Junín Region
Earlier this month, on 16 February 2016, heavy rainfall triggered landslides and flooding in the district of Pampa Hermosa, Satipo Province, Junín region, damaging homes, roads, crops, schools and health facilities.

The towns of San Dionisio, Santa Viviana Baja, Santa Rosita, Santa Ana, Unión Progreso Ancayo, Monte Olivo and San Francisco de Panamá have all been affected, according to INDECI. Over 30 homes have been destroyed and 226 people displaced. 

WATCH: Severe floods and mudslides in Peru.

- Floodlist.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Eruption Warning Issued For Japan's Mount Io Volcano - More Than 30 Volcanic-Related Temblors Recorded!

Mount Io.  © Wikipedia/ Miya.m
February 28, 2016 - JAPAN - Japan's weather agency on Sunday issued an alert for the possible eruption of a volcano in the southwest of the country.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said that following an increase in noticeable seismic activity and based on recent eruptions, Mt. Io, which spans both Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures, has been issued with a no-entry warning.

The municipal government of Ebino city has declared a no-entry zone around the crater of Mt. Io, which is part of the Kirishima mountains, according to the Kyodo News Agency.

JMA said the alert was issued in light of more than 30 volcanic-related temblors being recorded as of noon Sunday, following increased volcanic activity at the 1,317-meter volcano since last year, in the Kyushu region of Japan. - Xinhua.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: Animal Migratory Patterns And Disaster Precursors - Hundreds Of Dead Sea Lions Wash Up In Chile! [VIDEO]

Most of the dead sea lions that are washing up along northern Chile are newborn pups. The deaths are part of a widespread die-off
observed elsewhere on South America's Pacific coastline. Part of the problem: El Niño.

February 28, 2016 - CHILE - Marine researchers have found more than 100 dead sea lions -- most of them newborns -- washed ashore along a relatively small peninsula in northern Chile over the past three months, part of a more widespread die-off being observed elsewhere on South America's Pacific coast.

"This is happening along the entire coast of northern Chile and we're getting reports that it's also happening in Peru, our neighbor to the north," researcher Carlos Guerra-Correa told CNN. "We could be talking about hundreds of sea lions washing up ashore dead in the entire region."

The South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) is the species affected by the die-off observed in the area of the Mejillones Peninsula in Antofagasta province, where the researchers routinely conduct marine studies.

Guerra-Correa said he is concerned that the vast majority of the dead sea mammals are newborns -- though some juveniles and adults have been found.

"Some of the dead animals we have found still had their umbilical cord attached," Guerra-Correa said. "We found one with a placenta."

What's killing the sea lions?

Guerra-Correa says a series of factors affecting the sea lions' food sources are to blame for the deaths.

First, there's El Niño. The recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific brings warm water to the coasts of Chile. This warm water does not have the same nutrients of phytoplankton that colder water has. Phytoplankton is important because it feeds sardines and anchovies that sea lions thrive on. In other words, sea lions seem to be starving to death because the food chain has been disrupted.

WATCH: Devastating images of dead sea lions found on beach in Chile.

Record number of sea lion pups stranded in California

"Starvation is primarily affecting female sea lions in the latter stages of pregnancy. That's why their babies are dying at birth or being miscarried," said Guerra-Correa, who is director of the Regional Center for Environmental Studies and Education at Antofagasta University.

Also, he says, over-fishing is aggravating the problem because it dramatically reduces feeding options for sea lions and other species.

Whale skeletons found in southern Chile

Teams with Chile's National Fishing Service are investigating what the Chilean government calls "massive deaths of cetaceans." Investigators have found dead whales in Penas Gulf in the Aysen Region located in southern Chile. The National Fishing Service reports the finding of 70 skeletons. They also found the bodies of two other animals, possibly whales, which died recently. Officials also blame these deaths in a disruption in the food chain.

Guerra-Correa the news is not so bad for South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis), which seem to be surviving the disruption of the food chain.

"Unlike the other affected species, these sea lions are able to swim much deeper and find fish that are not present in shallow waters," he said.

Both the fur seal and sea lion can be found along the continent's southern Pacific and Atlantic coasts. - CNN.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.9 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Off Western Indian-Antarctica In The Indian Ocean, South Of Australia - USGS! [MAPS]

USGS earthquake location.

February 28, 2016 - ANTARCTICA - A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 has struck the Indian Ocean between Antarctica and Australia, seismologists say.

No tsunami warnings have been issued.

The earthquake, which struck at about 21:29:43 UTC on Sunday, and was centered about 1106 kilometers (687 miles) southwest of Geeveston, Australia.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The earthquake struck at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) below the seabed, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported.

The earthquake was not strong enough to generate a tsunami, and no alerts were issued by the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre.

No damage or casualties were expected from the temblor.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Storm System Hits Durban, South Africa - Five People Killed; Deluge Of Rain, Hail, Lightning Strikes And Strong Winds Uprooted Trees and Collapsed Walls!

February 28, 2016 - DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - Durban was on Saturday counting the cost of a storm that left at least five people dead and a dozen injured.

The storm that ripped through the Durban area on Friday night delivered a deluge of rain and hail with strong winds that uprooted trees and collapsed walls.

One of those walls collapsed in Durban's Westville suburb, killing a 55-year-old man.

ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said paramedics on the scene were informed that the man, another adult and two teenagers went to inspect the wall before it collapsed.

"‎At this stage it is not clear if they suspected damage to the wall and thus went to investigate. The wall collapsed on the man and pinned him under the rubble and water for some time."

KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Service (EMS) spokesman Robert McKenzie said two people were killed in a lightning strike in Verulam, while another two were killed in a lightning strike in Mayville.

He said EMS paramedics attended to at least another 13 people injured as a result of walls collapsing, roofs being blown off or collapsing, and trees falling on them.

WATCH: Severe storm hits Durban.

On Saturday morning residents across the region could be seen removing branches that had fallen on fences, driveways, and roofs. Roads were littered with debris from the storm and numerous roads bore soil deposited by the water.

Shoppers at Durban's Pavilion Shopping centre had to walk through water to get to shops and movies. - eNCA.

FIRE IN THE SKY: NASA Changes Mind - Says There Is "A CHANCE" Asteroid TX68 Could SMASH INTO EARTH; Celestial Body Expected To Fly At A Close Distance Of 11,000 MILES Of The Planet!

February 28, 2016 - SPACE - NASA has dramatically changed its mind about the risks posed by asteroid 2013 TX68 , a 100ft-wide rock which is currently heading towards Earth.

It said there was "a chance" it could plough into our planet next year when it makes another flyby.

However, we are glad to report that NASA thinks the odds of a collision on September 28, 2017, are "no more than 1-in-250-million".

It it did hit the planet, the asteroid would probably explode in the atmosphere, unleashing as much energy as a powerful nuclear bomb and wiping out anything unlucky enough to be beneath it.

WATCH: Humanity is expected to survive its close encounter with a space rock next week - but we're not out of danger just yet.

"The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for near earth orbit studies .

"I fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more."

Late last night, NASA published a tweet in which it claimed that Earth would be safe from this asteroid for at least the next century.

However, astronomers cannot precisely predict its movements and have given it a "condition code" of eight out of a possible 10, which means they cannot accurately predict its movements.

Experts cannot say for sure whether the space rock will zoom by at the terrifyingly close distance of 11,000 miles - or fly wide of the planet by 1.3 million miles.

"This asteroid’s orbit is quite uncertain, and it will be hard to predict where to look for it," Chodas added.

"There is a chance that the asteroid will be picked up by our asteroid search telescopes when it safely flies past us next month, providing us with data to more precisely define its orbit around the sun."

The asteroid has become something of an internet star, with one joker giving the space rock its very own Twitter feed .

It has also become the subject of a number of bizarre theories suggesting the world is about to end.

Some conspiracy theorists claimed the Messiah could arrive after the asteroid plunges into Earth, followed by a secret planet called Nibiru.

Others claim NASA is covering up the true risk posed by TX 68.

In a rather incoherent and badly-spelt response to NASA's tweet last night, one fearful man wrote: "100 years of notin!? If there was sumit wud ppl b told?

"Nope course the world wudnt be told cos world wud go insane!" - Mirror.

WORLD WAR Z: Plagues And Pestilences - First Sexually Transmitted Zika Case Confirmed In Europe, As United States Reveals Two Cases!

February 28, 2016 - EUROPE - France has confirmed its first European case of the Zika virus transmitted through sexual contact.

Marisol Touraine, minister for social affairs and health, revealed that the case was recorded in a woman in Paris.

The minister told the AFP that the woman had been infected by her partner who had recently returned from Brazil, an active Zika zone.

Two cases of the deadly Zika virus being contracted through sexual contact have also been confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC said on Friday that laboratory tests had confirmed separate cases in two women who had recently been in contact with an infected male.

It follows the health department’s earlier announcement that it was investigating 14 new cases of the disease’s possible sexual transmission.

In an update, the CDC describes four further sexually transmitted Zika cases as “probable,” with two suspected cases being disproven. Six more patients remain under observation.

The two cases confirmed in the US were found in “women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with a symptomatic male partner with recent travel to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission,” a CDC statement read.

Zika is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that has been linked to complications in pregnant women.

Since the virus has been found to be present in semen, men who have travelled to Zika affected areas are advised to abstain from sexual activity if their partner is pregnant, or to “correctly use condoms during sex.” It is not known whether women can transmit the virus to sexual partners.

According to the CDC, no Zika related deaths have been confirmed in pregnant women in the US, but in two cases infants were lost before full-term.

One child whose mother had Zika during her pregnancy was born with an abnormality known as “severe microcephaly,” which prevents full development of babies’ heads and, in some cases, can lead to mental development problems.

There are currently Zika virus warnings in place in 34 countries and territories around the world, according to the latest CDC data.

In a situation report updated on Friday, the World Health Organization noted that links between Zika and neurological disorders “remain circumstantial, but a growing body of clinical and epidemiological data points towards a causal role for Zika virus.”

Almost 4,000 infants in Brazil have been born with microcephaly since October of 2015, compared to 147 for the whole of 2014. - RT.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Global Food Crisis - United Nations Science Report Warns Of Fewer Bees And Other Pollinators!

A bee collects nectar from a flower on April 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
- Albert Einstein.

February 28, 2016 - UNITED NATIONS - Many species of wild bees, butterflies and other critters that pollinate plants are shrinking toward extinction, and the world needs to do something about it before our food supply suffers, a new United Nations scientific mega-report warns.

The 20,000 or so species of pollinators are key to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of crops each year — from fruits and vegetables to coffee and chocolate.

Yet 2 out of 5 species of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are on the path toward extinction, said the first-of-its-kind report.

Pollinators with backbones, such as hummingbirds and bats, are only slightly better off, with 1 in 6 species facing extinction.

"We are in a period of decline and there are going to be increasing consequences," said report lead author Simon Potts, director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at the University of Reading in England.

WATCH: UN warns about decline in bees and butterflies.

And it's not just honeybees. In some aspects they're doing better than many of their wild counterparts, like the bumblebee, despite dramatic long-term declines in the United States and a mysterious disorder that has waned.

The trouble is the report can't point to a single villain. Among the culprits: the way farming has changed so there's not enough diversity and wild flowers for pollinators to use as food; pesticide use, including a controversial one, neonicotinoid, that attacks the nervous system; habitat loss to cities; disease, parasites and pathogens; and global warming. - The Berkshire Eagle.

WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: Rare Breed Of Giraffe Hunted To The Brink Of EXTINCTION In The Congo - With Just 38 Left In Reserve!

The Congolese giraffe has been hunted to the brink of extinction because of its high price. Getty

February 28, 2016 - CONGO - The Kordofan giraffe is teetering on the edge of extinction because its meat commands such a high price, according to conservationists.

A single giraffe can produce up to 270 kilograms of meat, enough to feed an army of poachers for weeks, experts have said.

The distinctive spotted skin is used for luxury goods and carries a high price tag in a country where per capita income is less than $230.

Aimé Balimbaki, the head of research and monitoring at Garamba National Park, says that just 34 adult giraffes survive split between two herds, with four young calves between them.

He told the Times: “At the moment the ratio is one male to 2.4 females, which is still sustainable.

"But if we have bad luck or if there is a serious menace – even if we lose just five giraffes – then the population may no longer be viable”.

Balimaki added that desperate refugees fleeing the bloody conflict in South Sudan often resorted to killing the giraffes for food.

A giraffe can produce up to 270 kilograms of meat, enough to feed an army of poachers for weeks. Getty

Just 34 adult giraffes survive split between two herds, with four young calves between them. Getty

He said: “If more refugees arrive, or if there are political problems here and people come into the park to destroy the giraffe then we will lose them completely”.

Park officials have warned that if they lose just five more giraffes, the population may no longer be sustainable on its own.

Noëlle Kümpel of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said: “Giraffes – like elephants, rhinos, and the like –have been picked off by poachers to feed the illegal wildlife trade and impoverished local people.

“At the same time, their habitat has been severely and, in many areas, irreparably degraded, leaving very few trees left to sustain even this small population of giraffe.”

She said that the remaining giraffes – which live in two small herds – are forced to to travel “incredibly long distances” to find food.

African parks with assistance of the Giraffes Conservation Foundation have now fitted eight of the animals with GPS radio collars to keep track of their whereabouts.

The UK based Charity Spots and Stripes, are in contact with both African Parks and The Giraffe Foundation with the intention of assisting.

A spokeswoman said: "t is heartbreaking that this has not gained the media attention it so deserves. To have a population of only 38 Giraffe's remaining in the Congo is a disaster for both the species and for conservation." - Express.

EXTREME WEATHER: Freak Storm And Deluge Of Heavy Rainfall Hits Jamaica - Houses And Streets Flooded In Montego Bay; And Freak Storm Or Tornado Damages Shops At Fishing Beach In Discovery Bay; Flash Flood Watch In Effect For Northern Parishes! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

Montego Bay city flooded after heavy rain

February 28, 2016 - JAMAICA - The heavy rains that have been lashing section of St James since late Friday afternoon resulted in significant flooding in several sections of downtown Montego Bay and has left several houses in the newly constructed Port Bello Housing Scheme, near Cornwall Courts, under water.

“We have had reports of Creek Street, Dome Street and the Sign main road being under water at this time,” Montego Bay’s mayor, Councillor Glendon Harris, told The Gleaner shortly after 1 p.m.

“We have teams from the National Works Agency, the Police and the St James Fire Department out there monitoring the situation”.

Creek Street in Montego Bay St. James.
Twitter: blackpeal30

Twitter: blackpeal30

Flooding in several sections of downtown Montego Bay has left several houses in the newly constructed Port Bello Housing Scheme, near Cornwall Courts, under water.
Photo: Adrian Frater

As a result of the number of flooded roadways across the western city, traffic was reduced to a snarl in some areas and came to a complete standstill in many other sections, creating a nightmare for motorists and pedestrians.

“Creek Street no good again,” shouted a motorists to a colleague, who was asking where he could drive to get to the Mt Salem community.

WATCH: Flooding in Jamaica.

“It's better you just pull over and get a nap because you won’t be able to drive on Creek Street”.

A man, who was trapped in a vehicle on the Sign main road was rescued by a team from the St James Fire Department.

A freak storm at the fishing beach in Discovery Bay, St. Ann, damaged about 10 shops. 

The roof of a bath house owned by the Red Cross was also lifted during the storm.

Councillor for the Dry Harbour Division Arthur Clemetson, says persons along the fishing beach reported hearing strange sounds before the wind reached them. 

Mr. Clemetson says approximately three of the bigger shops lost their roofing. 

He says the affected beach area is being cleaned up, after debris was left everywhere in the wake of the freak storm.

The Meteorological Service has issued a flash flood watch for low-lying and flood prone areas of northern parishes.

The flash flood watch is effective until 7:00 am on Sunday.

The Meteorological Service said today that projections are for showers and thunderstorms, which could be heavy at times, to affect Jamaica today into Sunday morning. Temperatures are also expected to be noticeably below normal across the island.

A flash flood watch means that flash flooding is possible and residents are advised to take precautionary measures, keep informed by listening to further releases from the Meteorological Service and be ready for quick action if flooding is observed or if a warning is issued.

The Meteorological Service said it will continue to monitor the situation.

- Jamaica Observer | Jamaica Gleaner | Irie FM.

WAR DRUMS: Massive Russian Deployment In Armenia Rattles The United States - Washington Claims That The Growing Russia-Armenia Military Alliance Is Threatening Turkey, A Critical U.S. Ally!

MiG-29 jet fighters of the Russian aerobatic team Strizhi (The Swifts) perform near Moscow. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

February 28, 2016 - UNITED STATES - The Feb. 21 front-page article “For Turkey, high stakes as troubles intensify” highlighted a critical development: The growing military alliance between Russia and Armenia is threatening Turkey, an indispensable U.S. ally and partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

The announcement that Russia is sending a new set of fighter jets and combat helicopters to an air base only 25 miles from the Turkish border is just the latest example of this alliance.

The two countries’ economic and military ties run deep, bolstered by economic and security agreements and two military bases — including one just outside the Armenian capital.

Most significant, Armenia is the only country in the region that shares a border with Turkey and has Russian troops permanently stationed.

Although Armenia has welcomed thousands of Russian troops and advanced weaponry, these developments seemed to have escaped the notice of U.S. officials, who were settling in for the holidays while Russia and Armenia signed a sweeping air defense agreement two days before Christmas.

It’s time for Washington to assess who our real allies in the region are. - Washington Post.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Volcanic Awakening Of Earth's Largest Active Volcano - Hawaii's Mauna Loa Is STIRRING, Showing Signs Of Life And Might Be Waking Up!

One of the new tools deployed by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to better monitor the current unrest on Mauna Loa is a webcam focused on
the volcano’s Southwest Rift Zone, which has been the site of eruptions in 1903, 1916, 1919, 1926, and 1950. USGS image.

February 28, 2016 - HAWAII - Despite not being in the headlines, Mauna Loa continues to be in a state of unrest based on seismic and deformation monitoring data.

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s improved seismic network began to detect increasingly frequent, small earthquakes on Mauna Loa as early as 2013. Renewed inflation of the volcano was detected by HVO’s GPS network and also with Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) in 2014. Based on the elevated rates of earthquakes and persistent inflation, the Volcano Alert Level for Mauna Loa was elevated from Normal to Advisory on September 15, 2015.

According to the USGS Alert-Notification System for Volcanic Activity, an Advisory level indicates that the volcano is showing signs of unrest above known background levels, but does not mean that an eruption certain. Another period of Mauna Loa unrest in 2004–2005 included inflation and anomalous seismicity, but did not result in an eruption.

Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, has erupted 33 times since 1843. These eruptions occurred within the volcano’s summit caldera (Mokuʻāweoweo), along one of its two rift zones (Northeast and Southwest), or from radial vents located on the north and west flanks of the volcano. All historical eruptions started at the summit of Mauna Loa and then either remained in the summit area or migrated down one of the rift zones. Of the 33 eruptions, about half remained within the summit area and about half moved down a rift zone.

Mauna Loa’s two most recent eruptions occurred in 1975 (summit) and 1984 (summit and Northeast Rift Zone). Both eruptions were preceded by at least a year of elevated seismicity. Satellite technology was not as advanced then, so there are no GPS or InSAR records for either of these eruptions.

The current locus of inflation and earthquakes is within the uppermost parts of Mauna Loa’s Southwest Rift Zone and the southern summit area. However, should an eruption occur, it is not clear if it would remain in the summit or move into one of the volcano’s rift zones. The risk to communities downhill of a Mauna Loa eruption depends on where the eruption occurs and if, and how far, erupting fissures migrate down a rift zone.

As is often the case during volcanic unrest around the world, the current activity at Mauna Loa has not followed a steady, predictable trend. Overall, earthquake rates remain above normal background levels. But, a closer look at the seismic record reveals that earthquakes have occurred at higher rates for weeks to months, separated by quieter periods of a week or so. This crude episodic pattern may point to an unsteady influx of magma into the inflating area southwest of the summit caldera, with more magma intruding during times of higher earthquake rates.

An interesting change in the current unrest began in the fall of 2015, when, according to InSAR and GPS measurements, the main source of inflation on Mauna Loa moved from beneath the summit caldera to an area slightly farther southwest on the volcano. Along with this change in deformation, earthquakes beneath the summit caldera ceased. Currently, most of the earthquakes occurring on Mauna Loa are within the volcano’s uppermost Southwest Rift Zone region.

As you can see, unrest at Mauna Loa is not following a simple script. This is why, at this point in time, it is not possible to forecast with certainty if or when the volcano will erupt as a result of this unrest.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to closely monitor Mauna Loa and is developing new tools to help our response to an eruption—should one occur. Observing and recording this current episode of Mauna Loa unrest—however it ends—helps us learn more about the magma plumbing systems of Hawaiian volcanoes and improves our ability to interpret future escalations of volcanic activity.

Volcano Activity Updates
Kīlauea continues to erupt at its summit and East Rift Zone. During the past week, the summit lava lake level varied between about 30 and 56 m (100–185 ft) below the vent rim within Halema‘uma‘u Crater. On the East Rift Zone, scattered lava flow activity remains within about 6 km (4 mi) of Puʻu ʻŌʻō and is not currently threatening nearby communities.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Seismicity remains elevated above long-term background levels, with earthquakes continuing to occur mostly beneath the volcano’s upper Southwest Rift Zone and southern caldera region at depths of less than 5 km (3 mi). Deformation related to inflation of a magma reservoir beneath the summit and upper Southwest Rift Zone of Mauna Loa, with inflation recently occurring mainly in the southwestern part of the magma storage complex, continues.

Two earthquakes were reported felt on the Island of Hawai‘i in the past week. On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, at 6:00 p.m., HST, a magnitude-3.7 earthquake occurred 3.8 km (2.4 mi) west of Kīlauea summit at a depth of 6.6 km (4.1 mi). On Friday, February 19, 2016, at 10:41 a.m., HST, a magnitude-2.8 earthquake occurred 3.9 km (2.4 mi) south of Kīlauea summit at a depth of 2.5 km (1.5 mi).

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey`s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. - BIN.

FUK-U-SHIMA: TEPCO Admits Announcing Fukushima Nuclear Plant Meltdowns Far Too Late - Three Executives Of The Company To Be Indicted; Japan Population Shrinks By ONE MILLION Since The Nuclear Disaster!

February 28, 2016 - JAPAN - Nearly five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the plant's operator has admitted that its staff should have reported the meltdowns almost immediately, stressing that TEPCO employees failed to follow damage assessment guidelines.

According to Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) Disaster Management Manual, a reactor must be declared “in meltdown” if 5 percent or more of its fuel rods are determined to be “damaged.”

TEPCO staff knew just days after the disaster that 55 percent of the fuel rod assemblies of Reactor No. 1 and 25 percent of those at Reactor No. 3 were “damaged,” based on the levels of radiation detected, TEPCO spokeswoman Yukako Handa told the Japan Times.However, it failed to announce the meltdowns at that time.

“Executives in charge of public relations at the time of the accident were not aware of the assessment criteria written in the Disaster Management Manual,” Handa said, adding that TEPCO will investigate why the employees failed to follow the guidelines.

“They believed there was no clear definition of a ‘meltdown,’ so they didn’t make any clear remarks about one,'” she said.

Handa's Wednesday statement was the first confirmation of the existence of a Disaster Management Manual.

Instead of announcing the situation at the nuclear plant, TEPCO refused to use the word ‘meltdown’ for about two months following the disaster, and chose to promptly remove a PR representative who stated following the incident that a “meltdown of a reactor's core” may be taking place at the facility.

The removal of the employee fueled speculation of the government trying to cover-up the extent of the damage.

Although Handa noted that meltdowns would have been declared if the guidelines had been correctly followed, she said that no regulations were broken, because TEPCO reported its estimates of damage to the government immediately, as required by law.

This is not the first admission by TEPCO that the company did not act properly following the disaster. It stated in a 2012 report that it downplayed safety risks caused by the incident, out of fear that additional measures would lead to a shutdown of the plant and further fuel public anxiety and anti-nuclear campaigns.

The Fukushima meltdown occurred after an earthquake hit the region in March 2011, resulting in a tsunami, further devastating the facility. It was the worst nuclear accident to take place since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. - RT.

Three ex-Tepco executives to be indicted over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will be indicted Monday for the allegedly failing to take measures to prevent the tsunami-triggered disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a lawyer in charge of the case said Friday.

The three, who will face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, are Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, chairman of Tepco at the time, and two former vice presidents — Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.

Prosecutors originally decided not to indict the men in September 2013, but the decision was overturned in July 2015 by an independent committee of citizens that mandated the three be charged on the grounds they were able to foresee the risks of a major tsunami prior to the disaster.

Sources close to the matter said the three will be indicted but would not be taken into custody.

But the trial is unlikely to start by the end of the year, as preparations, such as collecting and sorting out evidence and other issues require time, they said.

At the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast, a tsunami triggered by the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011, flooded power supply facilities, crippling the cooling systems of some of the reactors. This led to core meltdowns in reactor Nos. 1 to 3, and masive hydrogen explosions that blew the roofs of the buildings housing units 1, 3 and 4 sky high.

The Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution said the former executives were presented with a report by June 2009 saying the plant could be hit by a waves as high as 15.7 meters and that they “failed to take pre-emptive measures knowing the risk of a major tsunami.”

The committee also said the three were responsible for the injuries that occurred to 13 people from the hydrogen explosions, including Self-Defense Forces members, and the death of 44 hospital patients who evacuated amid harsh conditions.

A group of citizens in Fukushima and elsewhere filed a criminal complaint in 2012 against dozens of government and Tepco officials over their responsibility in connection with what became the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

But as prosecutors decided not to file charges against them, including then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the group narrowed down its target and asked the committee to examine whether the prosecutors’ decision was appropriate. - Japan Times.

Japan population shrinks by one million census confirms

Japan has been grappling with the problem of a rapidly ageing population for years.  EPA

New census figures in Japan show the population has shrunk by nearly one million in the past five years, in the first decline registered since 1920.

As of October last year the country has 127.1 million people, 0.7% fewer than in the last census.

Demographers have long predicted a drop, citing Japan's falling birth rate and a lack of immigration.

The rapidly ageing population has contributed to a stagnating economy and worries of increasing health costs.

Sharp drop-offs

Population (1,000s). Japan Statistics Bureau

Japan now has 947,000 fewer people than when the last census was conducted in 2010, figures released by the internal affairs ministry show.

Only eight prefectures, including the capital Tokyo, saw a population increase, national broadcaster NHK. reported.

The remaining 39 all saw declines, including Fukushima which saw the largest drop of 115,000 people.

Fukushima, site of the doomed nuclear power station, was hit especially badly by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. - BBC.