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Japan nuclear: Radiation halts water clean-up

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Operators of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have suspended an operation to clean contaminated water hours after it began due to a rapid rise in radiation.

Some 110,000 tonnes of water have built up during efforts to cool reactors hit by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. The contaminated water, enough to fill 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools, has been at risk of spilling into the sea. The disaster caused meltdown at three of the reactors, and radiation leaks. It is the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. The powerful earthquake and the tsunami it generated are now known to have killed more than 15,280 people, while nearly 8,500 remain unaccounted for.

Radioactive sludge?

A spokesman for the plant operators, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said engineers were trying to find the cause of the jump in radiation levels. “The level of radiation at a machine to absorb caesium has risen faster than our initial projections,” the spokesman said.

He added that until they knew what was causing the rising levels they would not know when the operation would be able to resume.

“But I’d say it’s not something that would take weeks,” he added.

Dealing with the radioactive water is a key step to bringing the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant under control, reports the BBC’s Roland Buerk from Tokyo.

It is the rainy season in Japan and the pools of contaminated water could overflow, adding to radiation already released into the sea, adds our correspondent.

Earlier this week, officials had warned the radioactive pools were in danger of spilling into the sea within a week.

The Fukushima power station went into meltdown after its cooling systems were crippled by March’ s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The teams at the plant suspect the radiation rise may be linked to sludge flowing into the machinery intended to absorb caesium or the pipes surrounding it. The tsunami destroyed both power and back-up generators at the plant, breaking the cooling systems. The three unstable reactors are supposed to be brought to “a stable and cold shutdown” by January 2012. Despite the setbacks Tepco says it is still on track to meet that deadline.

 

Via BBC

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Nuclear Plant threatened by Missouri River flood

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  • Nuclear plant inches from being totally flooded
  • Damage would be likely to cause energy prices to soar
  • Six to 12 inches of heavy rainfall over the last few weeks
  • Record floods hit 44.4 feet, topping 44.3 feet record set in 1993
  • Levees fail to stem surge of water from rain and melting snow
  • Flooding expected to continue until August
  • Residents begin burning wood to avoid it becoming flood debris
  • Meanwhile, engineers close the Bonnet Carre Spillway near New Orleans

A nuclear plant was inches away from being engulfed by the bloated Missouri River after several levees in the area failed to hold back its surging waters.

Dramatic pictures show the moment the plant was threatened with being shut down today, as water levels rose ominously to within 18 inches of its walls.

The river has to hit 902 feet above sea level at Brownville before officials will shut down the Cooper Nuclear Plant, which sits at 903 feet.

Engulfed: The nuclear power station in Nebraska came within inches of having to be shut down

Engulfed: The nuclear power station in Nebraska came within inches of having to be shut down.

Flooding is a major concern all along the river because of the massive amounts of water that the Army Corps of Engineers has released from six dams. Any significant rain could worsen the flooding especially if it falls in Nebraska, Iowa or Missouri, which are downstream of the dams.

The river is expected to rise as much as five to seven feet above the official ‘flood stage’ in much of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet over in parts of Missouri. The corps predicts the river will remain that high until at least August.

Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said the river rose to 900.56 feet at Brownville on Sunday, then dropped to 900.4 feet later in the day and remained at that level on Monday morning.

The Missouri River set a new record Sunday at Brownville when its depth was measured at 44.4 feet, topping the previous record of 44.3 feet set during the 1993 flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

Stranded: Cars stop hopelessly, stranded by floodwaters over a bridge

Stranded: Cars stop hopelessly, stranded by floodwaters over a bridge.

 

Carnage: Other vehicles were not quite so lucky and were swept away by the floods

Carnage: Other vehicles were not quite so lucky and were swept away by the floods.

Meanwhile, just north of New Orleans, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers workers finally closed the final bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway today.

The gates were opened weeks ago in an effort to redirect high water on the Mississippi River which threatened levees.

The Cooper Nuclear Plant remains operating at full capacity today but the Columbus-based utility sent an emergency ‘notification of unusual event’ to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the river rose to 899 feet early on Sunday morning.

‘We knew the river was going to rise for some time,’ Becker said. ‘It was just a matter of when.’

The nuclear plant has been preparing for the flooding since May 30. More than 5,000 tons of sand has been brought in to construct barricades around it and access roads, according to NPPD.

Should water levels engulf the facility, forcing closure and repairs, energy bills in the area would be likely to rocket to cover the cost.

‘In that case we may have to raise rates,’ a spokeswoman said.

Damage: A worker surveys they scene as he scales a levee attempting to hold back the floodwater

Damage: A worker surveys they scene as he scales a levee attempting to hold back the floodwater.

 

Man versus nature: A levee manages to keep the water from passing

Man versus nature: A levee manages to keep the water from passing.

No passing: Flood waters from the nearby Missouri River cover a county highway

No passing: Flood waters from the nearby Missouri River cover a county highway.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the river level at Brownville had surged about two feet from Saturday morning to Sunday morning and that it continued to rise because of heavy rain on the Nishnabotna River, which flows into the Missouri River from Iowa.

The Cooper Nuclear Station is one of two plants along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. The Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, is about 20 miles north of Omaha. It issued a similar alert to the regulatory commission on June 6.

Deluge: Statues of workers, part of Monument for Labor by Matthew J. Placzek, stand in the rising waters of the Missouri River, in Omaha

Deluge: Statues of workers, part of Monument for Labor by Matthew J. Placzek, stand in the rising waters of the Missouri River, in Omaha.

The river has risen at least 1.5 feet higher than Fort Calhoun’s 1,004-foot elevation above sea level. The plant can handle water up to 1,014 feet, according to OPPD. The water is being held back by a series of protective barriers, including an 8-foot rubber wall outside the reactor building.

Its reactor already had been shut down for refuelling and maintenance since April, and it won’t be turned on again until the flooding subsides.

The entire plant still has full electrical power for safety systems, including those used to cool radioactive waste. It also has at least nine backup power sources.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the NRC thinks OPPD managers have ‘done everything that they need to do to respond to the current conditions’ at the nuclear plant.

Over the weekend, several northern Missouri levees failed to hold back the raging floodwaters, and the hole in a Holt County levee that ruptured last week continued to grow.

The water started pouring over levees on Saturday night and Sunday morning in Holt and Atchison counties, flooding farmland, numerous homes and cabins.

Hope: Engineers close the final bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway just above New Orleans

Hope: Engineers close the final bays of the Bonnet Carre Spillway just above New Orleans.

 

 The recreational community of Big Lake, which is home to a state park and less than 200 people, is being threatened by the floodwater.

Most of Big Lake’s residents have already evacuated. The area 78 miles north of Kansas City has been high for the past couple weeks, has experienced major flooding in three of the last five years.

Disaster: Flood waters from the Missouri River engulf homes in neighbouring Iowa. More than 250 residents have now been evacuated from Missouri after levees broke

Disaster: Flood waters from the Missouri River engulf homes in neighbouring Iowa. More than 250 residents have now been evacuated from Missouri after levees broke.

Water flooded two highways, several homes were under as much as five feet of water and there was extensive farmland flooding, said Diana Phillips, clerk and flood plain manager for the village of Big Lake.

‘It’s only going to get worse because there is lots of water coming in,’ Phillips said.

In Atchison County, where farmland was flooding, people have been evacuating for days, said Julie Fischer, a dispatcher for emergency services.

Gushing: The powerful waters rush through a ruptured levee near Hamburg, Iowa, last week‘Everybody is pretty much gone,’ Fischer said. ‘The roads are closing, there is no way in or out.’

Authorties have urged around 250 people in northwester Missouri to leave their homes.

Jud Kneuvean, chief of emergency management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City District, said the Missouri River dipped by almost 1 foot after the Big Lake breach in Missouri but that the water started to rise again by Sunday afternoon.

He said Big Lake is seeking permission to cut a relief hole in an already-damaged county levee to allow water trapped behind the levee to flow back into the river.

The Corps increased water releases on Saturday from two dams — Oahe above Pierre, South Dakota’s capital, and Big Bend Dam just downstream — to make room for expected potentially heavy rains through early next week.

They have been increasing water releases from five dams in North Dakota and South Dakota to roughly double prior records to relieve reservoirs

Most people left their homes well in advance of the flooding. Those who stayed were told Saturday night that water was flowing into the area.

The Big Lake area, where water has been high for the past couple weeks, has experienced major flooding in three of the last five.

Mike Crecelius, the Fremont County Emergency Management chief, said that in Hamburg, Iowa, the river was expected to crest at 10 feet over flood stage in the coming days.

Crecelius said the river has been over flood stage since late April, and that forecasters are projecting river flows of 150,000 cubic feet (1.1 million gallons) per second through August.

‘[The levees] are not designed for this amount of pressure for this length of time,’ Crecelius told CNN. ‘They’ve never been tested like this.’

Raging: Residents burn wood to avoid it becoming flood debris

Raging: Residents burn wood to avoid it becoming flood debris.

Flames: Residents burn a pile of pallets in near Rock Port, Missouri, to avoid them from becoming debris in flood waters after a levee broke

Flames: Residents burn a pile of pallets in near Rock Port, Missouri, to avoid them from becoming debris in flood waters after a levee broke.

‘There was some talk this morning about more than 150,000 cubic feet per second coming out of Oahe,’ said Jerry Compton, working on Sunday at a convenience store in Missouri Valley.

The threat of flooding is stressful, said Compton, who knows her customers by name and even knows what brand of cigarettes they buy.

‘People either moved out of their homes to another house, or they’re trying to live in a camper. Some people have had their utilities cut off,’ she said. ‘We just sit here and wait.’

Peak releases are planned until at least mid-August and high flows are expected until December.

The National Weather Service said that the six to 12 inches of rainfall in the upper Missouri basin in the past few weeks is nearly a normal year’s worth of raid, while runoff from the mountain snowpack is 140 per cent of average levels.

 

Via DailyMail

Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think

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Scientific experts believe Japan’s nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public.

“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,” Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president.

Japan’s 9.0 earthquake on March 11 caused a massive tsunami that crippled the cooling systems at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. It also led to hydrogen explosions and reactor meltdowns that forced evacuations of those living within a 20km radius of the plant.

Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

“Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed,” he said, “You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively.”

TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water – as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.

“The problem is how to keep it cool,” says Gundersen. “They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?”

Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.

“The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor,” Gundersen added. “TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water.”

Independent scientists have been monitoring the locations of radioactive “hot spots” around Japan, and their findings are disconcerting.

“We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl,” said Gundersen. “The data I’m seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man’s-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometers away from the reactor. You can’t clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl.”

Radiation monitors for children

Japan’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.

TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record.

Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station – an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan – is now likely uninhabitable.

In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

“There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children,” Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety.

Dr Ramana explained that he believes the primary radiation threat continues to be mostly for residents living within 50km of the plant, but added: “There are going to be areas outside of the Japanese government’s 20km mandatory evacuation zone where radiation is higher. So that could mean evacuation zones in those areas as well.”

Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported.

“They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the news is really not talking about this,” he said. “The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days.”

According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as “hot particles”.

“We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo,” he said. “Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters.”

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

“These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant,” he explained, “One cigarette doesn’t get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can’t measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April.”

Blame the US?

In reaction to the Fukushima catastrophe, Germany is phasing out all of its nuclear reactors over the next decade. In a referendum vote this Monday, 95 per cent of Italians voted in favour of blocking a nuclear power revival in their country. A recent newspaper poll in Japan shows nearly three-quarters of respondents favour a phase-out of nuclear power in Japan.

Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama’s biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.
He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

“Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes,” Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. “I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan.”

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

“Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use,” he explained. “The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy.”

As a 13-year-old, Dr Sawada experienced the US nuclear attack against Japan from his home, situated just 1400 metres from the hypocentre of the Hiroshima bomb.

“I think the Fukushima accident has caused the Japanese people to abandon the myth that nuclear power stations are safe,” he said. “Now the opinions of the Japanese people have rapidly changed. Well beyond half the population believes Japan should move towards natural electricity.”

A problem of infinite proportions

Dr Ramana expects the plant reactors and fuel cores to be cooled enough for a shutdown within two years.

“But it is going to take a very long time before the fuel can be removed from the reactor,” he added. “Dealing with the cracking and compromised structure and dealing with radiation in the area will take several years, there’s no question about that.”

Dr Sawada is not as clear about how long a cold shutdown could take, and said the problem will be “the effects from caesium-137 that remains in the soil and the polluted water around the power station and underground. It will take a year, or more time, to deal with this”.

Gundersen pointed out that the units are still leaking radiation.

“They are still emitting radioactive gases and an enormous amount of radioactive liquid,” he said. “It will be at least a year before it stops boiling, and until it stops boiling, it’s going to be cranking out radioactive steam and liquids.”

Gundersen worries about more earthquake aftershocks, as well as how to cool two of the units.

“Unit four is the most dangerous, it could topple,” he said. “After the earthquake in Sumatra there was an 8.6 [aftershock] about 90 days later, so we are not out of the woods yet. And you’re at a point where, if that happens, there is no science for this, no one has ever imagined having hot nuclear fuel lying outside the fuel pool. They’ve not figured out how to cool units three and four.”

Gundersen’s assessment of solving this crisis is grim.

“Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years,” he said. “Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn’t exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor.”

Dr Sawada says that the creation of nuclear fission generates radioactive materials for which there is simply no knowledge informing us how to dispose of the radioactive waste safely.

“Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations,” he explained. “To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.”

Gundersen believes it will take experts at least ten years to design and implement the plan.

“So ten to 15 years from now maybe we can say the reactors have been dismantled, and in the meantime you wind up contaminating the water,” Gundersen said. “We are already seeing Strontium [at] 250 times the allowable limits in the water table at Fukushima. Contaminated water tables are incredibly difficult to clean. So I think we will have a contaminated aquifer in the area of the Fukushima site for a long, long time to come.”

Unfortunately, the history of nuclear disasters appears to back Gundersen’s assessment.

“With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started,” he said, “But they never end.”

 

Via AJTV

 

Tornado Strikes Missouri Town, Killing 116

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Devastation: Destroyed homes and debris cover the ground as a second storm moves in on Monday in Joplin, Missouri

The deadliest single tornado to strike the United States in nearly 60 years has reduced the Missouri town of Joplin to rubble, ripping buildings apart and killing at least 116 people.

Disaster struck on Sunday evening when, with little warning, the monster twister tore a strip six miles long and more than a 1/2 mile wide through the center of the town.

Carnage: Rescue vehicles line up along northbound Rangeline Road in Joplin, Mo. after a fatal tornado swept through the city

Rescuers worked through the night to try to find people trapped in their homes, relying on torchlight as they listened for terrified cries from survivors piercing through the blackness.

Night fall: An emergency worker searches the same Walmart storelater the same day

Heavy winds and strong rain forced teams to halt the effort on Monday morning and some rescuers took advantage of the brief respite to catch a bit of much-needed sleep inside one badly damaged bank.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency late Sunday and activated the National Guard to help out after one of the worst disasters in the state’s history.

Search: An emergency vehicle drives through a severely damaged neighbourhood in Joplin

President Barack Obama called Nixon and offered his condolences to those affected, assuring the governor that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would provide whatever assistance was needed.

Condolences: President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon during his visit to Dublin, Ireland. The President extended his condolences to all impacted by the deadly tornadoes

“The president has directed FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to travel to Missouri to ensure the state has all the support it needs,” a White House statement said, adding a FEMA team had already been dispatched.

Caring for the injured was made more difficult because the main hospital, Saint John’s Regional Medical Center, had to be evacuated after suffering a direct hit — the tornado ripped off its roof and smashed all its windows.

Media reported that cries could still be heard early Monday from survivors trapped in the wreckage, with the latest tragedy coming less than a month after a horrific tornado outbreak left 354 dead across seven U.S. states.

Authorities estimated that up to 30 percent of Joplin, which lies near the border with Oklahoma and Kansas, had been damaged by the tornado, which experts said carried winds of up to 200 miles per hour.

Eye of the storm: The tornado tore a 6-mile path across southwestern Missouri

It was the deadliest of 46 tornadoes reported to the National Weather Service in seven states on Sunday.

Charts: This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration image released on May 23, 2011 shows the storm system moments before spawning the tornado

“It’s a war zone,” Scott Meeker of the Joplin Globe newspaper said.

“We’ve got hundreds of wounded being treated at Memorial Hall (hospital), but they were quickly overwhelmed and ran out of supplies, so they’ve opened up a local school as a triage center.”

Obama earlier sent his “deepest condolences” to victims and said the federal government stood ready to help Americans as needed.

“Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri, as well as communities across the Midwest today,” the president said in a statement sent from Air Force One as he flew to Europe.

“We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time.”

Re-united: A man carries a young girl who was rescued after being trapped with her mother in their home

People in Joplin clawed through the rubble looking for friends, family and neighbors after the storm tore buildings apart and turned cars into crumpled heaps of metal.

Community spirit: Residents of Joplin help a woman who survived in her basement after a tornado tore a path a mile wide and four miles long destroying homes and businesses

Flames and thick black smoke poured out of the wreckage of shattered homes, and water gushed out of broken pipes as shocked survivors surveyed the damage, early photos showed.

Devastation: Emergency personnel walk through a neighbourhood severely damaged by a tornado near the Joplin hospital. There are are no firm details on the number of dead or injured, as the hospital is out of action

A tangled medical helicopter lay in the rubble outside Saint John’s Regional Medical Center.

Emergency: Extensive damage can be seen at the St John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri. An emergency agency spokesman says fatalities had been reported but was unsure of the exact figure

Jeff Law, 23, was able to take shelter in a storm cellar and was overwhelmed by what he saw when he emerged.

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood my entire life, and I didn’t know where I was,” Law told the Springfield News-Leader. “Everything was unrecognizable, completely unrecognizable. It’s like Armageddon.”

Desolation: A residential neighbourhood in Joplin is seen after it was levelled by the tornado

The emergency manager at the neighboring county of Springfield-Greene was told that at least 24 people were killed before he could rush over to help, a spokeswoman said.

Officials said the last twister to wreak such loss of life occurred in 1953 in Worcester, Massachusetts, when a tornado killed 90 people.

On Saturday, a deadly tornado pummeled the east Kansas town of Reading, killing a man and damaging an estimated 80 percent of Reading’s structures, mostly wood-frame buildings.

Meanwhile, a tornado was also responsible for the death of one person in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Sunday, authorities said. At least 30 others in that city and its suburbs were injured.

Path of destruction: No house escaped the wrath of nature in some of Minneapolis

Soul destroying: Jean Logan surveys the damage to her home in Joplin after the tornado. She had taken refuge in her laundry room with her granddaughter

Soul destroying: Jean Logan surveys the damage to her home in Joplin after the tornado. She had taken refuge in her laundry room with her granddaughter

Levelled: Red Cross representatives say 75% of Joplin is gone – here, vehicles and houses in the vicinity of Twenty-fourth and Main Streets are a jumble of rubble after a the tornado swept through

Levelled: Red Cross representatives say 75% of Joplin is gone - here, vehicles and houses in the vicinity of Twenty-fourth and Main Streets are a jumble of rubble after a the tornado swept through

Homeless: Ted Grabenauer sleeps on his front porch the morning after a tornado ripped off the roof of his home when it hit Joplin, Missouri

Homeless: Ted Grabenauer sleeps on his front porch the morning after a tornado ripped off the roof of his home when it hit Joplin, Missouri

Raised to the ground: Blocks of homes lie in total destruction after the devastating tornado

Raised to the ground: Blocks of homes lie in total destruction after the devastating tornado

Somber: An American flag hangs from a twisted tree limb in Joplin

Somber: An American flag hangs from a twisted tree limb in Joplin

Clean-up begins: ‘There was significant damage caused by large hail, which broke windows and broke tree limbs,’ Ms Watson said. The local post office and volunteer fire department were damaged

Clean-up begins: 'There was significant damage caused by large hail, which broke windows and broke tree limbs,' Ms Watson said. The local post office and volunteer fire department were damaged

Until Saturday, no tornadoes had been reported in May, a month that averages nearly 30. Last May, 127 tornadoes tore through the state.

Governor Sam Brownback declared an emergency for 16 counties, including the one surrounding Reading, Ms Watson said.

The declaration allows state resources to be used in recovery and cleanup and paves the way for federal assistance if needed.

Chopper Footage

More Chopper Footage

Via ScienceDaily 

Atmosphere above epicentre of deadly Japan earthquake heated up ‘rapidly’ in days before disaster

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The atmosphere directly above the fault zone which produced Japan’s recent devastating earthquake heated up significantly in the days before the disaster, a study has shown.

Before the March 11 earthquake, the total electron content in a part of the upper atmosphere, called the ionosphere, increased dramatically over the earthquake’s epicentre, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck.

It is believed that in the days before an earthquake, the stresses on geological faults in the Earth’s crust causes the release of large amounts of radon gas.

Satellite images showing changes in the heat of the atmosphere above the epicentre of the March 11 earthquake between March 1 and March 12. The total electron content in the ionosphere increased dramatically before the quake

Satellite images showing changes in the heat of the atmosphere above the epicentre of the March 11 earthquake between March 1 and March 12. The total electron content in the ionosphere increased dramatically before the quake.

This radioactive gas ionises the air, giving it a charge, and since water is polar it is attracted to the charged particles in the air.

This then leads to the water molecules in the air condensing (turning into liquid) – a process which releases heat.

It was this excess heat which was observed in the form of infrared radiation in recordings taken three days before the deadly magnitude 9 earthquake struck.

‘Our first results show that on March 8 a rapid increase of emitted infrared radiation was observed from the satellite data,’ said Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, one of the scientists behind the findings.

Because Japan is a known earthquake hotspot, scientists had set up atmospheric monitoring stations there, using satellites to measure the state of the atmosphere before an earthquake.

A massive wave from a tsunami caused by the March 11 earthquake under the sea off the coast of Japan crashes over a street in Miyako City, in northeastern Japan. A 'rapid increase' of infrared radiation was noticed in the atmosphere before the quake

A massive wave from a tsunami caused by the March 11 earthquake under the sea off the coast of Japan crashes over a street in Miyako City, in northeastern Japan. A ‘rapid increase’ of infrared radiation was noticed in the atmosphere before the quake.

A man walks next to port area destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in Kessenuma town, in Miyagi prefecture on March 28. It is hoped studies on the atmosphere could one day be used to predict earthquakes

A man walks next to port area destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in Kessenuma town, in Miyagi prefecture on March 28. It is hoped studies on the atmosphere could one day be used to predict earthquakes

 It is hoped the findings could lead to similar data one day being used to predict earthquakes.

The March 11 earthquake was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan,

The earthquake struck under the sea off the coast of Japan. The epicentre was approximately 43 miles east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku.

So far over 15,000 deaths have been confirmed and nearly 10,000 more are missing.

Via DailyMail

Japan Earthquake Shifted Seafloor by 79 Feet

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Earthquake slip is the largest ever recorded.

An acoustic transponder used to sense movement of the ocean�s floor.

Japan’s seabed moved by as much as 79 feet (24 meters) during the giant March 11 earthquake—the largest earthquake slip ever recorded, scientists say.

(See 20 unforgettable pictures of the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.)

But that doesn’t mean that it’s the largest such shift ever to have been caused by an earthquake, cautioned Chris Goldfinger, director of the Active Tectonics and Seafloor Mapping Laboratory at Oregon State University.

The March earthquake was, however, the first time that scientists have directly measured such a slippage thousands of feet of underwater.

“Any magnitude 9 earthquake will have similar values,” said Goldfinger, who was not part of the study team.

For instance, the 2004 Sumatra earthquake may have moved the seabed by as much as 100 feet (30 meters), he said by email.

(Related: “Japan Earthquake Shortened Days, Increased Earth’s Wobble.”)

GPS Technology Tracks Fault Movements

For several years, a team led by Mariko Sato of the Japan Coast Guard has been monitoring particular spots along the Japanese fault that produced the recent earthquake.

Scientists had placed transponders on the seabed. Using high-precision sonar techniques, the researchers could then record the transponders’ locations from research vessels, whose own locations were carefully tracked by GPS satellites.

(Related: “Earthquake Fault Under Tokyo Closer Than Expected, Study Finds.”)

This two-step technique is necessary, because GPS signals cannot reach the seabed, Sato said by email.

Shortly after the Japan earthquake occurred on March 11, the scientists returned to measure the changes.

“This is the first time a great subduction earthquake has been directly observed in the submarine part of the fault, which is where most of the action takes place,” noted Oregon State’s Goldfinger.

“We normally have to infer slips from onshore GPS,” Goldfinger said. “Being able to measure it directly is very useful. It confirms the ability to model it from shore. It will help quite a lot in refining such models.”

Understanding Future Tsunamis, Earthquakes

Overall, the more we learn about such earthquakes the better, Goldfinger added. Pre-2011 tectonic models, for example, did not predict a big earthquake around the site of the March epicenter near the east coast of Honshu island, Japan. (Read more about earthquake prediction.)

Furthermore, such research is useful in understanding tsunamis, research leader Sato said by email.

“It is important to continue monitoring seafloor movements in order to evaluate the risks of future earthquakes and tsunami.”

Via NatGeo 

Small Quake in Spain Makes Big Impact

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  • A 5.1-magnitude quake in southern Spain was the deadliest tremor in Spain in more than five decades.
  • Eight people were killed and another 167 were injured. The quake also caused extensive property damage.
  • The tremor struck in the evening with a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles) and could be felt as far away as the capital Madrid

A magnitude 5.1 quake killed at least eight people in southern Spain, sending historic buildings crashing down as panicked residents fled.

Eight people including one child perished in the southeastern city of Lorca in the deadliest tremor in Spain in more than five decades, the regional government of Murcia said in a statement.

Another 167 were injured including three in grave condition in hospital, health officials reported.

The quake collapsed the fronts of buildings and ripped open walls. Streets were littered with crumbled buildings, chunks of masonry, fallen terraces and crumpled cars.

A church clocktower tumbled and smashed into pieces, narrowly missing a television reporter as he conducted an interview on Spanish public broadcaster TVE. A bronze bell lay in the rubble.

Fearful residents including families with children gathered outside with blankets as night fell. About 10,000 people were evacuated from the cordoned-off city-center.

In an outdoor basketball court and children’s playground, dozens of people spent the night on the ground wrapped in blankets.

One group of four evacuees sat in fold-up chairs in the early hours of Thursday, unable to sleep. As they escaped their damaged building they had seen the corpses of three people outside killed by falling bricks.

“I was scared to death,” said one elderly woman who declined to give her name.

The tremor struck in the evening with a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles) and could be felt as far away as the capital Madrid. It hit nearly two hours after a smaller 4.4-magnitude quake.

A doctor said many people had been hurt.

“I had just finished attending to a patient. We all went out into the streets and had to treat people, some with serious injuries, many unconscious, because the ambulances could not reach them,” the doctor, identified only as Virtudes, told the online edition of El Pais. “They just took away a man who had a wall fall on top of him.”

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ordered military emergency units in after being told of the disaster while he was in a meeting with King Juan Carlos, the premier’s office said in a statement.

The damage was concentrated in the towns of Lorca and Totana, which lie in one of the most active seismic zones of the Iberian peninsula, but also spread as far as Albacete and Velez-Rubio in Almeria, the premier’s office said.

Train services were halted and emergency vehicles clogged roads to the city.

A total 225 emergency military units deployed to the quake zone along with another 400 safety workers including rescuers with search dogs, the interior ministry said.

Police also sent in two specialized trucks with floodlights and three helicopters including a Superpuma, the ministry said. The Red Cross moved in 24 ambulances and set up three field hospitals.

A total of 350 ambulances transferred 400 patients out of two of the town’s hospitals, the regional government said.

Residents described confusion in the town of 92,700 inhabitants about 70 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Murcia. Lorca traces its history back more than 2,000 years and boasts many medieval monuments.

Cristina Selva, 32, said she was playing with her two two-year-old daughters.

“The building moved and I was was very scared for the girls. I took them and the three of us got under the table to wait for it to pass,” she told El Pais. “It was the longest 20 seconds of my life.”

Francisco Martinez, 61, was watching television on the fourth floor when the building shook and he fled with his sister.

“We don’t know what the damage is because we cannot get in,” he said as he spent the night sitting down outside.

It was the deadliest earthquake in Spain since April 19, 1956 when a tremor wrecked buildings and killed 11 people in Albolote, a town in the southern Spanish province of Granada.

Ironically, it struck on the same day many residents stayed away from work in the Italian capital Rome fearing a supposed prophecy of a devastating tremor by a self-taught Italian seismologist who died in 1979.

Via Discovery

Written by Nokgiir

May 13, 2011 at 6:40 am