Death Toll Rises In Philippines Earthquake

Bohol Island, Philippines Earthquake 2013 Leaves Dozens Dead

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the central Philippine island of Bohol on Tuesday left over 100 people dead, with the death toll continuing to rise as rescuers struggled to reach patients in a collapsed hospital. Complicating rescue efforts, the area affected was home to many old structures which seemed to simply crumble.

Around the island, 23 bridges were left impassable. Five roads were closed and 17 old coral-stone churches were damaged. The quake was centered about 385 miles south-southeast of Manila at a depth of 12 miles.

“Right now we are in the streets because it is unsafe to be inside,” said Maryann Zamora, a communications specialist with the charity World Vision in a CNN report. “Tell everyone to pray for us.”While there is no widespread threat of a tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center warned that earthquakes this large can sometimes cause tsunamis within 100 kilometers of the epicenter.

Earthquake Creates New Island Off the Coast of Pakistan

Earthquake created island in Pakistan
AP

On Tuesday, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan. In its wake, it has left over 350 people dead, 619 injured and 21,00 homes destroyed. Earthquake destruction is devastating to say the least. But it also gave birth to an island, just off the coast near the town of Gwadar, about 230 miles southwest of the quake’s epicenter.

It’s not really an island, it’s actually what geologists call a “mud volcano,” which is caused by the pressure of sediment breaking up out from underneath the seabed. Basically an island of sand and mud, the mud volcano could last for anywhere from a couple of months to a few years, meaning it’s not here to stay long-term.According to local reporter Bahram Baloch, the island is about 250 to 300 feet in length, and about 60 to 70 feet above the water. You can walk on it, visitors to the island have also said that it is emitting flammable gas.

Within half an hour of the earthquake, inquisitive locals flocked to the island, which according to Rashid Tabrez, the director-general of the Karachi-based National Institute of Oceanography, is the fourth in the region since 1945. Geologists attribute that to the continuing process of continental drift that originally brought the Indian subcontinent to collide with Eurasia. In fact, 700 kilometers to the east of this new mud volcano lies the Makran coast, an area characterized by high seismic activity, and home to several other mud volcanoes.

New Island Emerges from Deadly Pakistan Earthquake

Balochistan, The Unluckiest Corner Of The World

The earthquake that shook Iran and Pakistan last week has already been overshadowed by fatal tremors in Sichuan, China, a few days ago. Perhaps not surprising given that both places are in seismically active areas, but both of these disasters are repeats of far more deadly earthquakes that occurred in the last decade. In 2008, the Great Sichuan Earthquake killed almost 70,000 people, while a 2003 earthquake in the Balochistan area in Iran killed over 26,000.

That the death toll of such strong earthquakes this year is much lower (188 so far in China and 36 in Balochistan) is partly due to luck and partly due to building changes made in the wake of the last disasters. Iran was lucky that this year’s earthquake struck a less inhabited area, while China was lucky that the magnitude of the earthquake, though great, was still far less than in 2008 (6.6 vs. 7.9 is a huge difference on the logarithmic quake-measuring scale). In Iran, it’s certain that upgrades to buildings would have helped in this year’s disaster. Part of the reason the earthquake in 2003 was so devastating was due to mud brick buildings that didn’t comply with 1989 earthquake building codes. Two years ago when I visited Bam, the city devastated in 2003, almost all of the buildings were girded with steel support beams. It remains to be seen whether Chinese building integrity, which was lacking in 2008’s earthquake, will be to thank for the lower death toll this time around, but it seems likely.
The Iranian earthquake last week was actually almost directly on the border of Iran and Pakistan, in a murky and little-visited area known as Balochistan. Where Iranians and Chinese have enjoyed an immediate and effective response to the crises of the past week, the Pakistanis have not been so lucky. China has literally had to turn away volunteers from Sichuan. And Iran, which in case you’re not paying attention was just hit with its own 7.8 M earthquake, has offered earthquake aid to China. Meanwhile, Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province is suffering something of a humanitarian crisis.

Few people ever travel to Balochistan. It’s bleak and desolate and basically on the way to nowhere. Even the hippies, self-medicating their way to India along the hippie trail in the ’60s and ’70s, would divert through Afghanistan rather than going through the dusty deserts of Balochistan.

I traveled there in 2011, on my way overland to Southeast Asia. We (a convoy of travelers) were assigned armed guards along the way, who took regular naps as we trundled across the desert. The Baloch people, with their sun-beaten faces and piercing stares, often seemed sinister, but it turned out curiosity was simply mistaken for menace. Few Baloch see any Westerners except on TV, though the elder of them will remember a time pre-Partition when British were still garrisoned in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital.

I’m not naive. Balochistan is a dangerous place. Kidnappings perpetrated by al-Qaeda radicals are not uncommon (though they rarely target foreigners). Sectarian violence is a big problem. And there’s always the chance one might get in the crossfire between the Pakistan military and the stout and very armed advocates of an independent Balochistan.

But the regular Baloch, like everyone else on the planet, is just on his hustle, trying to eke out a living for himself and his family. He is abiding by ancient customs of hospitality in his native land. He is offering tea to the strange foreigner who wandered into his shop dressed in a moose toque and suede shoes in the middle of the desert. He is napping in the passenger seat of some foreigner’s car so they can safely transit his homeland. He is yelling at an idiot foreigner to turn off the bloody radio during the call to prayer, but then smiling to show he wasn’t being hostile or anything. And he is helping said sartorially inept foreigner navigate the hectic markets of Quetta to buy local dress that won’t make him stand out so damn much. So spare a thought for the Baloch and their homeland of Balochistan, a small, unlucky corner of the globe where you will probably never go.

%Gallery-186482%

[Photo credit: Jae Pyl, Adam Hodge]

Video Of The Day: Rail Company Spreads Happiness Through Japan

To announce the launch of a new rail line, the Kyushu Rail Company loaded one of its bullet trains with cameras and sent it speeding through Japan. Onlookers came out in droves to catch sight of the train, which linked Japan’s southernmost island to the mainland for the first time. They dressed in a rainbow of colors and waved, danced and smiled as the train went by (the Power Rangers even made an appearance; look for them in the video). The rail company had caught something special: an unscripted, bubbly video that showed varied landscape and happy people of Japan. But what the marketers at the rail company didn’t realize was that the commercial was set to air the very day of the horrific 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Kyushu immediately pulled the two-minute celebratory commercial from the air. But after a month or so of unbearable news about the nearly 16,000 fatalities and the 3,000 plus who still remained missing, the company decided to air the commercial. It immediately became an immediate phenomenon; viewers literally shed tears of joy when they saw the smiling faces across the island. The commercial shows the united power of the country, and most importantly made the grieving nation smile. Today, almost a year and a half after the earthquake, the video is still a morale booster.

Tsunami powered ghost ship closes in on Canadian shores

tsunami ghost shipWhen last year’s earthquake and resulting tsunami rocked Japan, the destruction of property and disruption to travel plans were immediate. Minor quakes after the initial tremor did little more damage. But a Japanese squid-fishing boat has been drifting across the Pacific Ocean all year and is now closing in on British Columbia’s north coast.

“It’s been drifting across the Pacific for a year, so it’s pretty beat up,” said marine search coordinator Jeff Olsson of Victoria’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in a Times Colonist article.

The 150-foot tsunami ghost ship was sent out to sea by the weather event and first found drifting right-side-up about 140 nautical miles (260 km) from Cape Saint James on the southern tip of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago on the North Coast of British Columbia. A Canadian Coast Guard plane on a routine surveillance patrol spotted the ship on March 20, causing them to issue a warning to all vessels that the ship is an obstruction to navigation.

“The ghost ship is probably going to be pretty much worthless – nobody’s going to want to have anything to do with it because of the huge costs that are going to be incurred [towing it to shore],” said Gray, senior captain with the Vessel Assist towing company reports the Times Colonist, adding “All that garbage, it’s going to hit Alaska, it’s going to hit B.C. and it’s going to hit Washington.”

Check out Antarctica in Pictures!
%Gallery-147996%

Flickr photo by elmas156