Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.7 Earthquake hits Kepulauan Talaud, Indonesia.

5.2 Earthquake hits Coquimbo, Chile.

5.2 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Molucca Sea.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Solomon Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Meghalaya, India.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical Cyclone (tc) 18p (Eighteen), located approximately 718 nm west-northwest of Suva, Fiji, and is tracking east-southeastward at 18 knots.

Invest 90C is an area of disturbed weather in the Central Pacific that has the potential for tropical development.

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Environment

Mass-cloning factory slated for 2016

It seems the future is on us – with a plan to open a mass-cloning facility by the end of this year. The factory is part of an ambitious $21-million plan to mass-produce one million cows annually, by the year 2020.

The plan to build this futuristic facility, and begin production on thoroughbred race horses and genetically engineered police dogs too, is backed by the Boyalife group. It will be built in collaboration with South Korean company Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.

The factory will be housed in Tianjin, a northern Chinese port, and will be equipped with a 15 000 square metre laboratory, an animal centre and a gene bank. The plan is to clone animals to meet the demand for meat.

It is apparent that a market for these clones exists, and despite the ethical conundrums that plague cloning consistently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given their thumbs up, saying “meat and milk from cow, pig, and goat clones and the offspring of any animal clones are as safe as food we eat every day”.

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Drought

Drought in Palau, Oceania

Drought-stricken Palau could dry up completely this month , officials warned Monday as the Pacific island appealed for urgent aid from Japan and Taiwan, including shipments of water. The tiny country of about 18,000 people declared a state of emergency last month, the latest Pacific island nation to do so as one of the worst ever El Nino-induced droughts in the region worsens. “We’re still in the state of emergency, there’s a sense of urgency to address the crisis.”

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said last month the El Nino weather pattern – associated with a sustained period of warming in the central Pacific which can spark climate extremes – was unlikely to ease before the second half of the year. The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have also declared states of emergency, while Guam and the Northern Marianas are experiencing low rainfall.

Drought ravages Thai sugar cane crop

A global sugar shortage is looming and prices are soaring. The world’s top sugar cane exporters, India and Thailand, are being ravaged by a severe drought brought on by the El Nino weather phenomenon. Thailand – the world second-largest sugar cane exporter – is going to be shipping 20 to 30 percent less of the sweetener compared to last year. And the situation may even get worse next year.

Drought in Southern Philippines Causes Food Riots

Two people were killed in the southern Philippines after clashes between police and thousands of drought-hit farmers protesting over a lack of food. A parched highway in impoverished Kidapawan city, capital of Cotabato province, had been barricaded by 6,000 farmers since Wednesday to demand 15,000 sacks of rice from the government. Gunshots were fired and rocks hurled into the air during a scuffle between police and demonstrators on Friday, as the authorities tried to disperse the crowds.

“We asked for rice. Instead, they gave us bullets. The farmers are starving because they have nothing to eat. We went there looking for a solution.” 116 protesters were wounded while 89 others were missing.

The Philippines has been gripped by a strong El Nino dry spell since December which has hit food production, particularly in the conflict-wracked south which is home to the country’s poorest and where more than half of the population is reliant on agriculture. The state weather bureau had warned last year that rainfall could decrease by as much as 80 percent during the drought, which is expected to last until the middle of this year.

Disease

Evidence of plague found in dead rat in South African rubbish dump

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it is taking measures to prevent the outbreak of bubonic plague in humans after a dead rat, found in an informal settlement in Mayibuye in Tembisa, near Pretoria, tested positive for plague antibodies on 16 March.

According to John Frean, Associate Professor at the Centre for Opportunistic, Tropical and Hospital Infections at the NICD, the discovery is reason to intensify monitoring and control to prevent the disease occurring in humans.

Plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia Pestis. It is usually spread between rats by bites and by fleas. It is also usually spread to humans by fleas carrying the bacteria from rats. In the 14th century it was known as the Black Death in Europe and killed tens of millions of people. If left untreated, 30% to 60% of people with it die.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, about 1,000 to 2,000 cases worldwide are reported to the World Health Organisation annually, though it is believed the real number of cases is much higher.

The last outbreak of bubonic plague in South Africa was 34 years ago in the Eastern Cape, according to the NICD. The NICD has asked people not to handle live or dead rodents.

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Nigeria: TB Epidemic Hits Anambra

Over 2000 tuberculosis patients are currently receiving treatment at various Directly-Observed Therapy (DOT) centres in Anambra State.

Nigeria has the highest burden of the disease in Africa, and the fourth highest among the 22 high burden countries with an annual incidence of 338 per 100,000, and prevalence of 322 per 100,000 individuals.

Untreated infected individuals can spread the disease to between 10 to 20 persons each year within the poor population, and other key affected populations, including people living with HIV.

Many people in Nigeria still believe that the disease is caused by witches and wizards, making modern treatment often problematical.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): The volcano had a relatively strong explosion yesterday evening at 20:31 local time. It produced a 2 km ash column and ejected incandescent fragments that landed in to up to 3.5 km distance on the eastern and southeastern flanks, igniting some bush fires on the upper slopes of the volcano. An overflight on Saturday with the help of a Federal Police helicopter showed that yet another cycle of dome growth and destruction has recently completed at El Popo (and a new one is about to begin): during their survey, CENAPRED scientists observed that the most recent lava dome, which had been growing since January and lately contained up to approx. 2 million cubic metres of lava, was missing, obviously destroyed by the volcano’s recent series of explosions. In its place, a new inner crater approx. 50 m deep and 325 m in diameter was seen. Likely, the near future will see another dome growing inside it.

Turrialba (Costa Rica): A small, probably phreatic eruption occurred at the volcano’s crater yesterday morning at 09:00 local time. The explosion, which lasted 30 seconds, produced a small dense ash plume that quickly dissipated.

Villarrica (Central Chile): A small lava lake is active inside the volcano’s summit crater. Vigorous degassing produces violent convection and occasional explosions that eject liquid lava spatter outside the inner pit crater.