Archive | September 18, 2014

Deadly Ebola Virus; Eight reported dead in attack on Ebola workers in Guinea

Ebola Virus

When Guinean government officials visited the village of Womme in the country’s southeast, they planned to educate people about Ebola and show them how to avoid it — in a region where many still believe the virus doesn’t exist.
But it all went disastrously wrong.
Villagers responded furiously, pelting the delegation with stones and beating the visitors with clubs, according to Guinean radio. The delegation, which included doctors and journalists, fled into the bush after the attack Tuesday.
The Guinean government said Thursday that eight delegation members had been killed, including several journalists, news agencies reported. There also were reports that 21 people had been injured.
“It’s very sad and hard to believe, but they were killed in cold blood by the villagers,” government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara said, according to Agence France-Presse.
A local police officer, Richard Haba, said the villagers believed that Ebola “is nothing more than an invention of white people to kill black people.”
The incident underscores the challenges for local and international health teams fighting the Ebola virus in West Africa.
Womme is outside the town of Nzerekore, which saw a similar protest in recent weeks.
Since Ebola was first reported in this region in March — perhaps surfacing as early as December — medical agencies have experienced resistance from some residents. Doctors Without Borders, the main agency working in West Africa to stem Ebola, said it couldn’t work in at least 10 villages because of hostility among residents.
The World Health Organization announced Thursday that 2,622 people had died in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, out of more than 5,300 reported cases. The epidemic has put ramshackle local health systems under intense pressure, leaving people no place to seek help for other ailments such as malaria, to give birth, or even to get treatment for broken limbs.
Many health workers have fled their posts, afraid to work where the disease has killed hundreds of doctors, nurses and hygienists.
One reason the outbreak spread out of control in West Africa was fear of an incurable disease that kills more than half those infected and suspicion of outsiders who came to take Ebola patients to hospitals. There was also alarm over warnings that people should abandon long, deeply held and important burial rituals, such as washing the bodies of the dead.
In Guinea’s southeast, a search team was sent to track down the delegation after the attack in Womme, but villagers destroyed a bridge to keep police or the military out, according to national radio.
“A team has been dispatched to verify more information,” government spokesman Damantang Camara told Reuters.
A journalist who escaped the attack said she heard villagers hunting for delegation members, suggesting they may have been abducted, the BBC reported.
Guinean radio quoted one Womme resident as saying that the delegation was attacked after medical workers sprayed disinfectant to control the spread of the virus in public places.
The assault followed similar attacks against medical workers or health officials in several other villages and towns in recent weeks. Last month, riots erupted after a medical team sprayed a marketplace in the same region as rumors spread that it was a conspiracy to infect the population.
In Sierra Leone, government officials ordered everyone to stay at home for three days in an effort to control the spread of the disease. International medical groups including Doctors Without Borders have criticized the measure, saying it will not contain the crisis.
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday that one of its workers caring for Ebola patients in isolation wards was diagnosed with the virus two days earlier and that it took too long to evacuate her.
Brice de le Vingne, operations manager for the organization, said there was an unacceptable delay of 42 hours because the only aircraft equipped to transport the worker, a Frenchwoman, came from the U.S. He called on the European Union and other nations to station an evacuation plane in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, where most new cases are emerging.
The WHO has warned that 20,000 people could be infected before the disease is brought under control.
The International Monetary Fund has announced plans to provide loans of $127 million to the three worst-affected countries to help them cope with the crisis.

Apocalyptic floods affect 2.3 million in Pakistan

Severe Flood Warning

Sher Muhammad, 85, looked on with a sense of bewilderment: “I have not seen such a flood, not since around the time of partition [1947].”
As the flood emergency deepens in Pakistan, now affecting nearly 2.3 million people, humanitarian teams have mobilized to work alongside local government authorities to assess needs in the worst-affected areas.
Late monsoon rains earlier this month hit the mountainous areas of Gilgit-Balitstan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, unleashing a torrent of water flowing into Punjab’s agricultural heartlands. Swollen rivers breached flood defences, sweeping away thousands of villages as the “super-flood” surged south, wreaking havoc throughout Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
The government’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says 312 people have died, with 2,275,000 affected and nearly 1.7 million acres (687,965 hectares) of crops lost. Punjab Province declared a state of emergency as the flood spread through central areas, with Jhang District hit hardest. 
At a distribution by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in the government high school at Vanike Tarar, where 250 households received food rations, Sher Muhammad, 85, looked on with a sense of bewilderment: “I have not seen such a flood, not since around the time of partition [1947].” 
Backed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), PRCS has been one of the first organisations to respond, working across eight of the 10 districts affected in Punjab. Muhammad Saleem, PRCS Punjab secretary, said: “We are aiming to provide food to those worst-affected in the days ahead, initially for 13,000 families.”
Access has only been possible as flood waters have subsided – and the first PRCS distribution of food rations in Punjab took place in Hafizabad District at the weekend.
The district lies southwest of Lahore, where a flood surge spilling from breaches in the river Chenab engulfed more than 130 villages. Some have been washed away permanently, according to District Coordinating Officer Muhammad Usman. He acknowledged the efforts of the local administration and the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) which have been working with the armed forces to coordinate evacuation and rescue operations.
Over 500 roads under water
Access had been a major issue, with more than 520 roads under water across Hafizabad District. The area affected within this district alone totals 385 square miles (620sqkm), with 150,000 people affected. One third of those were without shelter, according to provisional estimates.
Saleem said the flooding has hit Punjab harder than the disaster of 2010, with huge volumes flowing directly into its agricultural heartlands from seven breaches in the river Chenab. 
In nearby Jhang District the flood waters remain high – water having flown from multiple breaches in flood defences. A further food distribution took place from the back of a truck at one of the few points accessible in the village of Jindyana Than Sadar.  As the waters here begin to recede, the damage is acutely apparent among a sea of mud.
Villager Bashir Ahmad, 42, said his wife and five children escaped the high flood by climbing trees. His house now gone, he said he was not aware that the flood would be so severe. The last time his village was affected was back in 1992. “This is worse,” he said, surveying the meagre possessions he has been able to salvage from the mud. “It came suddenly,” he adds. And his crop of sugar cane has been ruined by the more than five feet (1.5 metre) surge. 
A few miles away villagers have yet to receive assistance. The flood is only just receding and the surrounding farmland still lies under three feet of stagnant water. Here the community of tenant farmers constructed an array of flood walls, dykes and channels over the years. It was not enough to stop the flood, but limited the damage.
Years of work destroyed
Farmer Sahib Khan’s two-bedroom home was washed away. His five acres of crops are lost. He has the look of a defeated man, who has seen years of work destroyed within a few days. “The children are growing weaker with each passing day,” he said. They, along with other youngsters in the village are suffering from diarrhoea, eye infections and skin disease, said the 64-year-old.
His neighbours have suffered similarly, though most of their livestock were moved to the higher ground on top of the nearby flood wall. But the villagers here have no food, limited water and no access to medicine. 
Khan says the people were taken unaware by the speed of the flood. “There were warnings,” he said. “But people do not want to leave everything they own, worked for over many years.” So the community hoped its own flood defences would protect them. Yet they failed to stop the torrent of water.
IFRC senior field coordination officer Kamran Ali Kashif said that although the immediate flood surge had largely passed through Punjab, it was only the start of the emergency which was likely to bring a range of additional hardships and further threats.
“Food is the immediate priority and fresh water,” he said. “But there are other issues, including risks to health in the days ahead as those affected are exposed to sickness,” Kashif said. Water, sanitation and hygiene needs are acute, as is shelter for many currently living in the open, he said. And restoring livelihoods is a key issue in the months ahead if communities are to recover.
Rapid assessment training of UN and NGO inter-agency teams, also including government officials, has been taking place in five districts across Punjab, and data collection is planned to start this week, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Meanwhile, the flood surge is still pushing south, threatening millions more vulnerable people in upper Sindh Province.

Severe floods leave thousands without power; sheriff’s deputy missing in Austin, Texas, USA

Severe Weather Alert

Heavy rainfall in Austin early Thursday morning left parts of the city underwater, thousands without power and a Central Texas sheriff’s deputy missing.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office said the deputy was patrolling low water crossings before radioing in that she was being swept away, The Associated Press reported. Minutes later, searchers found her submerged patrol car.
The Texas Game Warden reported on Twitter that they are assisting in the search for the Travis County Deputy with eight wardens, two vessels and a search dog on the scene.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning through Thursday night, according to the Associated Press. Rains on Thursday morning caused flooding on some roads there, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
About 2,500 Austin residents were without power as of 8:30 a.m., the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Amazing 850 lightning strikes in two hours in New Zealand


A thunderous night of lightning and heavy downpours set off a series of fire alarms in buildings around Hamilton City and cut power to parts of Thames and Coromandel. 
In the two hours until 1.30 am, a total of 850 lightning strikes were reported to MetService in the top half of the North Island, most along the coast from Waitomo Northwards. 
MetService duty meteorologist Rob Kerr said from 2am to 4am there were 280 lightning strikes between Hamilton and Great Barrier Island.
 ”Around 2am this morning there was a front that moved through over the northern half of the North Island bringing thunderstorms. In the two hours it crossed up to 3.30am, there were 250 strikes around Hamilton, Coromandel, Thames and parts of Auckland – half of those were between Auckland and Hamilton.”
Northern Fire Communications shift manager Jarron Philips said firefighters were called to seven fire alarms activated by lightning strikes in the space of 10 minutes at different locations around Hamilton. 
”They were all different buildings in different areas – all were false alarms caused by lightning at commercial buildings – we have to respond to each of those.”
The first call came in at 2.07am to Carter Holt Harvey packaging on Pukeko Street in Frankton. Alarms were also activated at Nalco Powder Coating in Maui Street, Pukete and Fraser High School’s sport and recreation centre.
Then three more alarms were set off at 2.10am – two at the University of Waikato, at College Hall and the Aquatic Research Centre, and another at Whitiora School on Willoughby Street.
Chartwell Fire Brigade Station Officer Robert Hos said the brigade attended two of the false alarms, with Hamilton and Pukete attending the rest. 
Thames District Council reported power outages in Coromandel, Pauanui, Tairua, Thames and Whitianga overnight.
Thunderstorms also came with heavy downpours, with a total of 20.5mm of rain falling on Ruakiwi Road, near Hamilton Lake, in the last 12 hours.
”There were rain bands between 2 and 4am, with most places getting a peak rainfall of between 8 and 10mm an hour,” said Kerr. Kerr said Te Aroha had the highest rainfall at 12.5mm per hour.”Its definitely heavy rain, although we do have higher frequencies.”
Showers are set to increase in Hamilton today with another band of heavy rain coming through tomorrow, said Kerr.
”We are keeping an eye on the wind as it is forecast to increase to gusting Northwesterlies tomorrow.”
Unsettled air pushing through behind the front could bring more thunderstorms late Saturday, he said.

Plane catches fire and crashes killing two near Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Plane Crash Alert

Two people were killed Thursday after a small plane crashed near the Monroe County Airport, the coroner’s office confirmed.
Federal aviation officials confirmed the crash occurred around 12:45 p.m. while the plane was on approach to the airport.
Search and rescue crews were dispatched to the scene near the intersection of Oard Road and State Road 48.
Another pilot circling the area could be heard on air traffic feeds confirming the wreck with airport traffic controllers.
“I do see the wreckage,” the pilot says. “There is a fire. We see no one walking around the crash site.”
The Monroe County Coroner’s Office confirmed that two people had been declared dead at the scene.
It was not known whether any other passengers were onboard.


Subject to change

Depth: 6.5 km

Distances: Latitude, Longitude  64.668  -17.481 
(3.8 km NE of Bárðarbunga)

Earthquake location   18 Sept 22:25 GMT

Map of earthquake epicentres

Time and magnitude of earthquake   18 Sept 22:25 GMT

Graph showing earthquake timing and magnitude

Plane’s engine explodes forcing a dramatic emergency landing at Long Beach Airport, USA

Breaking News

Twilight actor Jackson Rathbone has taken to social media to describe the horrifying moment his plane was forced to make an emergency landing after one if its engines apparently exploded.
The actor – who played Jasper Hale in the films – has given a full account of the traumatic ordeal on his Who Say account, as his Jet Blue flight 1416, travelling from Austin to Long Beach in the US, filled with smoke mid-flight.
Jackson, who was travelling with his wife and son, admitted he recited the Lord’s Prayer as air stewardesses manually deployed oxygen masks which had failed to automatically drop down.
He wrote: “We were told to brace as we careened sharply back towards land. Guided by our pilot, and I believe our guardian angels, we landed safely.”
He added: “Over the PA, the pilot yelled “Brace!” The stewardesses made it into a chant.  
I wrapped my arm around us. And we braced.”
According to Sky News, four people were injured in the incident – but it seems Jackson escaped unharmed.
He goes on to describe how the doors were thrown open and the passengers had to escape down the inflatable ramp out the doors.
Long Beach Airport spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Morisky told Sky News the emergency slides were deployed and all 142 passengers and five crew members were able to get off.

Tropical storm Fung-wong is forecast to strike the Philippines as a typhoon at about 12:00 GMT on 19th September 2014

Tropical storm Fung-wong is forecast to strike the Philippines as a typhoon at about 12:00 GMT on 19 September. Data supplied by the US Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Center suggest that the point of landfall will be near 18.5 N, 122.4 E. Fung-wong is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around 120 km/h (74 mph). Wind gusts in the area may be considerably higher.
According to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale the potential property damage and flooding from a storm of Fung-wong’s strength (category 1) at landfall includes: Storm surge generally 1.2-1.5 metres (4-5 feet) above normal. No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage. There is also the potential for flooding further inland due to heavy rain.



***BE ALERT***

Magnetogram 18.09.14  21.28 hrs UTC

Emergency disaster declared due to severe flooding and landslides in parts of the Philippines

State Of Emergency

Following the heavy downpour last Wednesday night until yesterday, floods and landslides were reported in Cebu City and different areas of the province.
PDRRMO reported rock falls along the Transcentral Highway in the boundary between Balamban town and Cebu City. Only one lane was passable in some areas.
“All drivers are advised to carefully drive near the landslide-prone areas. Acacia trees might fall anytime due to the softening of the soil and heavy droplets from the leaves of the trees. Simple hazards but dangerous. We will focus on the warning and potential hazards not just on its impacts. This is a Cebu-wide scenario so all Cebuanos must listen and take extra precaution,” said PDRRMO head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr.
In Bogo City, budget officer Dante Mayor said more than 200 people were evacuated to the city sports complex. Around 600 sacks of relief goods were also distributed to the affected barangays in the city.
A portion of the Guadalupe Bridge in the city also caved in.
Sixty people have been evacuated to the Bogo Central School, around 1,300 to the multi-purpose center in Barangay Anonang Sur, and around 300 to the multi-purpose gym in Barangay Malingin.
In Talisay City, city information officer Vince Monterde said 80 families from three sitios in Barangay San Roque were evacuated to a birthing center after a river overflowed. Another 178 families were also evacuated from Sitio Plangganahan.
Evacuees were served meals by the city government and DSWD.
In Barangay Manipis, a landslide occurred but no casualties and injuries were reported.
The Provincial Information Office said that in the City of Naga, the Lanas Barangay Hall was damaged by rock falls, but there was also no report of casualties or injuries.
Eight Mandaue barangays inundated
In Mandaue City, eight barangays experienced knee-deep floodwaters due to heavy rains.
Overnight rain caused knee-deep floods in barangays Subangdaku, Opao, Umapad, Banilad, Tipolo, Guizo, Mantuyong and Labogon and because of this the city government had to deploy vehicles to transport stranded commuters yesterday morning.
Mandaue City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Felix Suico said two families in Tipolo evacuated to the City Cultural and Sports Complex when the water rose around 4 a.m.
Suico said they have three vehicles —a Kaohsiung bus, a truck and a L300 van— on standby outside the Bantay Mandaue Command Center in case of emergency evacuations.
Suico said they transported commuters stranded in Barangay Ibabao, along UN Avenue and in Parkmall while a truck of the Armed Forces of the Philippines also helped transport commuters from Cebu City to Mandaue and vice-versa.
He appealed to residents living in flood-prone areas, especially along Mahiga Creek and Butuanon River, not to wait for authorities to evacuate them when the water rises to critical level.
Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III suspended the classes in all levels in both public and private schools in the province, as well as work at the Capitol.
However, Capitol’s skeletal force which includes the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, Provincial Health Office, Provincial Engineering Office, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer, remained on standby for monitoring and emergency operations.
Davide said the suspension of classes was done to ensure the safety of the students and prevent a repeat of a recent incident in Argao where three students were killed after they were swept by a flashflood.
Classes suspended
The severe weather condition that caused flooding also led to the suspension of classes in the entire Cebu Province.
First to declare cancellation of classes was Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama who initially announced suspension in all public schools but later included private schools as floodwaters rose.
The cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Talisay, Naga, Carcar then followed with their mayors and spokespersons relaying the announcement through various media outlets.  In Cebu City alone, about 50 percent of all 115 intersections were flooded, City Traffic Operations Management operations head Jonathan Tumulak reported to the council.
Flooded intersections included those in barangays San Nicolas, Basak Pardo, Mambaling, Kalubihan, Duljo-Fatima, Sambag I, Labangon, Kamputhaw, Day-as, Sta. Cruz, Kamagayan, Parian, Sto. Nino, Ermita, San Antonio, Zapatera, Lorega, Tejero, Tinago, San Roque, Hipodromo, Mabolo, Luz, and Carreta.
Portions of South Coastal Road and South Road Properties were also flooded, prompting CITOM to redirect light vehicles away from the Mambaling access road which was heavily flooded.
Showing images and map of flooded areas, Tumulak briefed the council on their monitoring and response which included rerouting vehicles to avoid deeply flooded areas and pulling out stuck vehicles.
He then asked the council to expedite the purchase of a towing truck as these are useful in removing stuck vehicles in flooded street.
Other affected areas in Cebu City included J. Lorente Street in Barangay Capitol Site, sitios Tambisay, Idiang and Lower Puti in Barangay Labangon and Barangay Buhisan.
A minor landslide was also recorded in Sitio Cantipla, Barangay Tabunan, early morning yesterday but the road remained passable.
In Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza instructed Department of Education-Lapu-Lapu City Division Superintendent Edwardo Ompad to cancel classes in prep, elementary and high school levels because of floods.
City Disaster and Management Office deputy officer Andy Berame said barangays Pajo and Basak were worst hit, the latter because it is the city’s lowest-lying barangay, but he said the floodwaters also subsided quickly.  Classes in both elementary and high school in Mandaue City were also suspended in the city yesterday.
State of calamity
Due to massive floods that trapped thousands of commuters around Metro Cebu, a state of calamity was yesterday declared by the Cebu City Council and approved in a special session called by presiding officer Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.
With this, the P5 million calamity fund can be used by the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council for disaster response measures.
Also authorized by the council is the use of the lump sum appropriation of P200 million intended for drainage project in the city, specifically to fund dredging of waterways in the city since most of these overflow after heavy downpour like what happened yesterday dawn.
The Department of Engineering and Public Works is now set to dredge in rivers and waterways in Guadalupe, Ermita, Pahina-San Nicolas, Bulacao, Kinalumsan, among others, the soonest possible time.
The declaration was moved by Councilor Gerardo Carillo and did not meet any objection among council members present. Councilors Margarita Osmeña, Alvin Dizon, Alvin Arcilla, and Dave Tumulak were absent during the emergency session.
In a motion, Councilor Eugenio Gabuya also urged the expediting of purchase of flooding responding equipment like sweepers, decloggers, among others to be charged to the CPDRRMC’s account.
Stranded passengers ferried 
At least a thousand people in Cebu City were ferried by the city government through buses and dump trucks after heavy downpour yesterday morning. 
Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said the estimates was provided by the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Red Alert Status
The Office of Civil Defense-7 declared red alert in Central Visayas to prevent loss of lives even though no storm signal has been raised in the region.
Flor Gaviola, assistant regional director, said that regional director Olivia Luces raised the alert level to red due to the continuous rainfall.
Gaviola urged all local disaster management offices to activate their operation all day long.
She said pre-emptive evacuation will only be effected if the local disaster management office sees a potential threat to the safety of the residents.
Meanwhile the Police Regional Office-7 is on disaster alert starting yesterday, said deputy director for operations Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa. The Regional Public Safety Battalion-7 is on standby in case search and rescue operations are needed.
Cebu Provincial Police Office director Senior Superintendent Noel Gillamac also ordered the provincial station commanders to monitor landslides and flashfloods in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
The Philippine Coast Guard Central Visayas has monitored 73 stranded passengers as of 8 p.m. last night, 17 vessels and 16 rolling cargoes were prevented from sailing.