Fires break out again in Portugal after respiteView gallery 8 hours ago NatureFirefighter Forest fires in Portugal, which had appeared to be coming under some sort of control, resumed on Sunday as authorities mobilised some 700 firefighters in the north and central parts of the country.The firefighters were supported by five French and Croatian aircraft.A brush fire close to Gondomar, in the district of Poto, was fought by 254 firefighters, planes and two helicopters from the Portuguese army.Residents from 10 houses were evacuated in the afternoon as the flames also threatened a petrol station, said Fernando Paulo, a councillor in Gondomar.Many people were in a state of shock and received psychological help, he said.View gallery.”A Portuguese soldier helps combat a wildfire around Caramulo, central Portugal, on August 30, 2013. …In the south, a forest fire near Sever do Vouga led to the mobilisation of 100 Portuguese firefighters who were helped by Croatian planes, which had arrived on Saturday.”The wind blows with such an intensity that it constitutes the main obstacle to firefighters,” said Jose Bismarck, commander of the firefighters in Aveiro.Portugal had enjoyed a lull in its battle against forest fires since Friday after successfully mastering blazes in the mountainous region of Caramulo where three were killed and five missing.”We thought we were in a war zone,” Marta Rosa, a young resident of the village of Caramulo, told AFP.”The firefighters who came to save the house of my parents told me it was like a firestorm.”The period of respite came after „less intense winds on Saturday night and Sunday”, said Carlos Guerra, a spokesman for the national authority of civil protection.Guerra noted that some 313 new fires had been recorded by the authorities since Saturday.A desperate Portugal had requested reinforcements from its European neighbours. Spain, France and Croatia had responded, sending aircraft to help fight the blazes.Portuguese firefighters remain on alert as the weather forecast predicts more high temperatures and strong winds until Tuesday.
New fracking touted as Quebec eyes energy boomView gallery Clement Sabourin 7 hours ago EnvironmentNatureNatural gas Fresh moose tracks dot the ground where plans are afoot to dig for oil.Quebec’s largest energy firm, Petrolia, is eyeing an estimated 40 billion barrels of oil beneath the surface of Anticosti Island, an ecological gem at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence.But it has caused a rift among the island’s few inhabitants and sparked a broader debate about the economic benefits and environmental risks of oil and gas development.The company wants to try a novel fracking technology, injecting natural gas instead of water into the ground in easternmost Canada to push crude oil to the surface.Petrolia chief executive Andre Proulx explained that injecting water into the rock on the island would just gum up the oil.”It would actually prevent the oil from getting out,” he told AFP.Natural gas used in the operation, meanwhile, would be recovered and reused, he said, doing away with the need to decontaminate the water that would have been used in fracking.The company aims to test the technology in 2014 and if it proves sound, start production two years later.A handful of other Canadian firms are trying it too.Quebec’s Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet said the technology meet strict environmental standards before it could be authorized.Economist Pierre-Olivier Pineau is skeptical, citing the „high risk of the gas escaping” and thus fuelling climate change.The technology is being touted as an alternative to using water in fracking where locals fear contamination of ground water.As the industry ramps up fracking to access unconventional oil and gas, so has opposition.View gallery.”Denis Duteau, former mayor of Anticosti, inspects a well on August 13, 2013 on Anticosti Island, Can …In the coming months, Quebec is expected to start producing crude for the first time, following in the footsteps of five other Canadian provinces.Forty percent of its energy currently comes from hydro-electric dams in the north, which is sufficient for the needs of its population, with excess supplies sold to the United States.Quebec Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet said the province is looking at oil and gas production to further bolster its „energy independence.”Petrolia, whose principle shareholder is the Quebec government with a 10.4 percent stake, holds the rights to 71 percent of hydrocarbon reserves in the province.The company hopes this autumn to unleash the first geyser from an oil well on the Gaspé Peninsula, marking the beginning of what some predict will be an energy boom in the province.Petrolia has estimated that the so-called Haldimand project near the town of Gaspé holds 7.7 million barrels of oil.The rights are jointly held by the Bouygues family, one of the richest in France, through its Canadian investment arm Investcan Energy.Investcan Energy has invested Can$15 million in the project.In order for it to proceed, however, the province must ease its strict water protection laws, which brings with it political risks.Quebecers are keen to reap the wealth that comes from energy resources but do not want to sacrifice clean air and water to do it.Developing the province’s energy resources has the tentative support of Quebec’s separatist Parti Quebecois government, despite objections from some of its supporters.”We’re cautiously open to it,” said Blanchet.Once the tiny Haldimand project gets underway, Petrolia hopes to develop a second gas field in the Gaspé region believed to hold another 28 billion cubic meters of natural gas.View gallery.”Marc Lafrance, an employee of a hunting camp who has been fighting the oil companies, is pictured on …On Anticosti, fracking is at least three years away but detractors say it has already been destructive to the handful of inhabitants.Marc Lafrance, smoking a cigarette outside his hunting cabin among the conifers, watching a beaver swim across a nearby lake, opposes oil development.”If the phreatic layers are contaminated the wildlife will no longer have access to clean drinking water. They have a right to a good quality of life too,” he says.Lafrance has fought the energy industry for the past three years, writing to the government, going to court and waging an online public relations campaign.Anticosti, he says, „already has an industry: fishing and hunting” and its wild rivers and majestic cliffs, 400 moose and 200,000 deer are best left alone.He and others accuse the former mayor of the island’s only town of Port-Menier — population 216 — of having schemed with Petrolia to get the project approved, after suddenly quitting politics to work as a lobbyist for the company.Strains of the rift are visible on Lafrance’s face: „It gets tiring after a while fighting with the people you live with.”Christopher came to camp with his wife and two children.”It’s so beautiful here,” he said. „Why take the risk (of resources exploration and development). An accident would be disastrous.”Others point out that the island community has fallen on hard times and could use an injection after a local forestry company recently shuttered its doors.Some fear letting slip away a last chance at economic recovery offered by Petrolia.”It’s essential for the survival of the village that it happens,” said Martine Leboeuf, a bank staffer and mother, who was convinced by a trip organized by Petrolia to oil-rich Alberta to witness firsthand how resource royalties have transformed the province.”I see a glimmer of hope for our lives to get better,” echoed Denise Ouellet, another local woman who trekked to Alberta and back.
Protests in Romania against shale gas, Canadian gold mine7 hours ago PoliticsThousands of people took to the streets of Romania on Sunday to protest against shale gas exploration and a controversial Canadian gold mine project using cyanide.Protesters also lashed out at the government and the president for supporting these controversial projects.In Bucharest, between 4,000, according to the police, and 7,000 people, according to organisers walked between the central University Square and the government building, shouting slogans against a gold mine project planned by Canadian company Gabriel resources in the village of Rosia Montana, in the heart of Transylvania.The open-cast mine would be the biggest in Europe, according to the company.The project has triggered fierce opposition as the mine would use an average of 12,000 tonnes of cyanide a year in a leaching process, destroy four mountains and threaten to partially damage Roman mining galleries.View gallery.”People protest against a Canadian gold mine project on September 1, 2013, in Bucharest, Romania. Tho …The company says European environment regulations will be respected.”We don’t want cyanide”, protesters, mainly young people and families, shouted.In the evening, they organised a sit-in on one of Bucharest’s main avenues, partially blocking traffic.”We hope we can save Rosia Montana,” Irina Enea, a jewellery designer who came to protest with her husband and two children, told AFP.”We are angry because the right to a safe environment is violated and because the government adopted a draft law saying the mine is of national interest,” she added.View gallery.”People take part in an anti-fracking protest in Barlad, Romania on September 1st, 2013. Thousands of …Romania’s government on Tuesday approved a draft law granting national interest status to the Canadian gold mine project.The draft law will have to get approval from Parliament to be valid.Protests also took place in several other Romanian cities gathering hundreds of people each.In Barlad (north-east), more than 3,500 people gathered to protest shale gas drilling plans by US giant Chevron.They oppose the controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing or „fracking” which involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.”We inherited a clean land from our ancestors. Our duty is to transmit as clean (a landscape) to our children and grandchildren but if Chevron proceeds with shale gas, they will poison the land”, 86-year-old Mihai Berlea said.Chevron says it will respect „the highest standards in terms of safety and environmental protection”.”Many protesters took to the streets today not only because of environmental concerns but because they feel they have been betrayed”, sociologist Mircea Kivu told AFP, recalling that rhe ruling centre left coalition was against these two projects while in opposition.
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6.5-magnitude quake off eastern Indonesia: USGSView galleryFile picture shows a man points at a seismic chart at the Central Weather Bureau in Taipei on March 4, 2010. A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off eastern Indonesia Sunday, the United States Geological Survey said, sending people running from their homes in panic but causing no damage or casualties. (AFP Photo/Sam Yeh)15 hours ago Nature A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off eastern Indonesia Sunday, the United States Geological Survey said, sending people running from their homes in panic but causing no damage or casualties.The quake was also felt about 500 kilometres (300 miles) away in Darwin, Australia, where it set bookshelves shaking and moved furniture, the national AAP news agency reported.The earthquake hit in waters near the remote Barat Daya islands in Maluku province at 8:52 pm (1152 GMT) at a depth of 132 kilometres, the USGS said. It was 411 kilometres (254 miles) east of Atambua and 425 kilometres south of Ambon.The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue an alert.Indonesia’s national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said some people in southwest parts of Maluku province felt strong shaking for about 10 seconds and ran out of their homes.But Suharjono, an official from the meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, added: „We have not received any reports of casualties or damage. I don’t think there’s going to be any significant impact.”And Amin Bin Tongke, chief search and rescue official for Maluku province, said: „The quake is in a really remote area, near a cluster of small islands away from cities or towns, with a very small population.”In Australia, the quake was felt in the Northern Territory and further east in Queensland, AAP reported.”It went for quite a length of time, around 30 seconds… We had books moving,” Steph Bond, senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology in Darwin, was quoted as saying.Indonesia sits on the Pacific „Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.