Hurricane Manuel lashes northwest Mexico as storm misery spreadsLizbeth Diaz and Anahi Rama 5 minutes agoView galleryA car lies partially submerged in floodwater at the golf course of a hotel in the flooded Mexican beach …By Lizbeth Diaz and Anahi Rama MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Hurricane Manuel lashed Mexico’s northwest coast with heavy rains on Thursday, prompting evacuations amid the threat of fresh flash floods that storms have unleashed across Mexico, killing at least 81 people.Storms have inundated vast swathes of Mexico since late last week, wrecking roads, destroying bridges, and triggering landslides that buried homes and their occupants. Roads became raging rapids in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, stranding some 40,000 tourists.Emergency services said heavy rains were beating down on the northwestern state of Sinaloa, and that hundreds of people had been evacuated from coastal communities.The U.S. National Hurricane Center said an area of low pressure over the oil-producing southern Gulf of Mexico had a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours and was expected to dump heavy rains on already flooded areas in southern and eastern Mexico.The fresh misery comes after tropical storms Ingrid and Manuel converged on Mexico from the Gulf and the Pacific over the weekend, triggering the flash floods. Ingrid dissipated, but Manuel then strengthened and gained Hurricane strength.More than a million people have been affected across the country, and 50,000 have been evacuated from their homes.”It’s raining really heavily. I saw lots of fallen trees on my way to work,” said Cristian Nunez, 26, a hotel receptionist in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. „Many employees didn’t make it in … we’re basically alone.”The flooded tourist resort of Acapulco further south, which was hit by looting, was still reeling on Thursday.Tens of thousands of people were still trapped in the city, awaiting evacuation as airlines and Mexico’s armed forces worked to get them home.Some 58 people are still missing after a mudslide in Atoyac, a municipality near Acapulco in Guerrero state, President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Wednesday night. Pena Nieto said 288 people had already been rescued from the site.Hotels in the state of Baja California Sur, home to the popular beach resorts of Los Cabos, which is popular with U.S. tourists, reported rain and wind on Wednesday, but nothing like the conditions seen in Acapulco.As the cost of the flooding continued to mount, the finance ministry said it had around 12 billion pesos ($925.60 million) available in emergency funding.While all but two of Mexico’s ports remained open to large ships, including its three main oil export hubs along the Gulf, nearly 40 ports along both the Gulf and Pacific coasts were closed on Thursday morning to smaller boats, the transport ministry said.State oil monopoly Pemex said it had dispatched technicians to fix a ruptured 12-inch oil pipeline between the Gulf port of Madero inland to Cadereyta, which connects two refineries.The pipeline was damaged when the Pablillo River burst its banks due to heavy rains.(With reporting by Miguel Gutierrez, Gabriel Stargardter and David Alire Garcia; Editing by Simon Gardner and David Brunnstrom)
Hurricane Manuel hits land in northern MexicoView gallery MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN 30 minutes agoACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Mexico’s government said 58 people were missing after a massive landslide smashed through a tiny coffee-growing village deep in the country’s southern mountains, where fresh waves of rain threatened more danger for rescue workers trying to evacuate the last residents from the isolated hamlet on Thursday.The same storm that devastated Acapulco and surrounding areas over the weekend regenerated into Hurricane Manuel and made landfall again on Thursday, this time farther north in the state of Sinaloa.Sinaloa civil protection authorities said some areas were already flooding and more than 200 people were evacuated from small fishing villages on the coast.The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and it was centered about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Los Mochis. It is a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch of Manuel’s first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico’s eastern coast.Hundreds of stranded tourists remained lined up for a second day Thursday at an air base on the outskirts of Acapulco, where military aircraft were slowly ferrying people out of the resort, which was cut off by road from the rest of the country by dozens of landslides and washed-out bridges.View gallery.”This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Manuel taken at 3:45 a.m. EDT Thursday Sept. 19, 2013. T …So isolated is Acapulco that cargo ships have been contracted to supply food to the city by sea. Only about 10,000 of the estimated 40,000 stranded tourists have been flown out since the improvised air lift began two days ago.Increasingly angry, frustrated travelers — many of whom had to wait through the night on the roadside — began to block army trucks heading into the base with what the stranded travelers believed were wealthy, well-connected people or foreigners cutting line to get on airplanes without waiting. The angry crowds forced the trucks to detour a few blocks along the beach to get to the base.”The problem is that they didn’t get in line like all the rest, who spent the night out in the open, hungry,” said Blanca Flores, 24, a call center supervisor from Mexico City.Federal officials raised the death toll from the passage of Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid from 60 to 80 earlier Wednesday. They said they were not yet including landslide victims in the village of La Pintada, several hours north of Acapulco, but „It’s very likely that these 58 missing people lost their lives,” said Angel Aguirre, governor of storm-battered Guerrero state.Heavy rains also began pelting the state of Guerrero again Wednesday night, increasing the risk for federal police trying to evacuate the last 45 residents of the village of La Pintada, where tons of dirt and rocks smashed through the center of town Monday night, burying a church and a number of two-story homes.View gallery.”People stand on the edge of a collapsed bridge as they wait to ferry their goods via a boat across t …Federal authorities reached La Pintada by helicopter and evacuated 334 people, some of whom are hurt, one seriously, said Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.
Osorio Chong said the landslide went right through the middle of the village of some 600 people, accessible in normal conditions by winding mountain roads now broken multiple times by landslides and flooding.
In Acapulco, three days of Biblical rain and leaden skies evaporated into broiling late-summer sunshine that roasted thousands of furious tourists trying vainly to escape the city, and hundreds of thousands of residents returning to homes devastated by reeking tides of brown floodwater.
The depth of the destruction wreaked by Manuel, which first hit Mexico on Sunday as a tropical storm, was highlighted when the transportation secretary said it would be Friday at the earliest before authorities could clear and reconnect the parallel highways that connect this bayside resort to the rest of the world.Hundreds of residents of Acapulco’s poor outlying areas slogged through waist-high water to pound on the closed shutters of a looted Costco, desperate for food, drinking water and other basics.View gallery.”Residents of Mochitlan, carry supplies up a hill, as others come down to get supplies, on the outski …Many paused and fished in the murky waters for anything of value piling waterlogged clothing and empty aluminum cans into plastic bags.”If we can’t work, we have to come and get something to eat,” said 60-year-old fisherman Anastasio Barrera, as he stood with his wife outside the store.With a tropical disturbance over the Yucatan Peninsula headed toward Mexico’s soggy Gulf coast, the country could face another double hit as it struggles to restore services and evacuate those stranded by flooding from Manuel and Ingrid, which hit the Gulf coast.Mexico’s federal Civil Protection coordinator, Luis Felipe Puente, said 35,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.Elsewhere in the verdant coastal countryside of Guerrero, people turned motorboats into improvised ferries, shuttling passengers, boxes of fruit and jugs of water across rivers that surged and ripped bridges from their foundations over the weekend.View gallery.”Residents of Mochitlan, haul supplies up a hill on the outskirts of Chilpancingo, Mexico, Wednesday, …In Acapulco’s upscale Diamond Zone, the military commandeered a commercial center for tourists trying to get onto one of the military or commercial flights that remained the only way out of the city. Thousands lined up outside the mall’s locked gates, begging for a seat on a military seat or demanding that airline Aeromexico honor a previously purchased ticket.”We don’t even have money left to buy water,” said Tayde Sanchez Morales, a retired electric company worker from the city of Puebla. „The hotel threw us out and we’re going to stay here and sleep here until they throw us out of here.”Mexican officials said that more than 10,000 people had been flown out of the city on about 100 flights by Wednesday evening, just part of the 40,000 to 60,000 tourists estimated to be stranded in the city.A lucky few held up ransacked beach umbrellas against the sun. Temperatures were in the mid-80s but felt far hotter. Dozens of others collapsed in some of the few spots of shade.”Forty-eight hours without electricity, no running water and now we can’t get home,” said Catalina Clave, 46, who works at the Mexico City stock exchange.View gallery.”Residents of Mochitlan haul supplies up a hill on the outskirts of Chilpancingo, Mexico, Wednesday, …___Associated Press writers Martin Duran in Culiacan, E. Eduardo Castillo, Mark Stevenson and Olga R. Rodriguez in Mexico City contributed to this report.____Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein
Japan PM wants Fukushima plant entirely scrappedOKUMA, Japan (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the operator of the country’s crippled nuclear power plant Thursday to scrap all six reactors at the site instead of just four already slated for decommissioning and to concentrate on tackling pressing issues like radioactive water leaks.After taking a firsthand look at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, however, Abe insisted that radiation-contaminated water had been contained at the complex and said he would fend off „rumors” regarding Fukushima’s safety.Following a three-hour tour of the plant, Abe instructed its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to decommission the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors, which survived the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The disaster caused three other reactors to melt and damaged a fuel cooling pool at another. TEPCO has been unsure about what to do with the two surviving reactors, leading some to believe that it may be still be hanging on to hopes of keeping them alive.”I told (TEPCO) to ensure decommissioning of reactors No. 5 and 6 so that they can concentrate more on dealing with the accident,” Abe told workers and reporters as he wrapped up the tour at the plant’s emergency command center.TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told Abe that a decision on the reactors would be made by the end of the year, the prime minister said.View gallery.”Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at a facility housing water treatment equipment called ad …Abe said that he urged TEPCO to ensure it has enough funding on hand to take care of urgent work needed to clear the way for the plant’s decommissioning, and that Hirose promised to obtain 1 trillion yen ($10 billion).The prime minister said he stood by the reassurance about Tokyo’s safety that he gave to the International Olympic Committee before the city of 35 million was awarded the right to host the 2020 summer games earlier this month.”One of the main purposes of this visit was to see it for myself, after I made those remarks on how the contaminated water has been handled,” Abe said.Officials have acknowledged that radiation-contaminated groundwater has been seeping into the Pacific since soon after meltdowns and explosions crippled the plant following earthquake and tsunami.Abe said he was convinced that all of the contaminated water had been contained.View gallery.”Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inspects an area along the coast between the No. 1 and No. 2 reac …”In light of that, I will work hard to counter rumors questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant,” he said.During his tour, Abe was shown some of the 1,000 tanks containing radioactive water, water treatment equipment and a chemical dam being installed along the coast — steps meant to contain the water leakage, which experts say is a major obstacle for the decades-long cleanup process.Abe’s adamant reassurance to the IOC that the leaks are „under control” had backfired at home, as many Japanese believe he was glossing over problems at the plant.Thursday’s plant visit was Abe’s second since taking office in December, when he took his first tour on a bus.Hours before the IOC chose Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics, Abe gave a speech declaring that radioactive contaminants from the leakage had no impact on seawater outside the bay near the plant. Tokyo was not at risk, he insisted.View gallery.”Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, arrives at a facility housing water treatment equipment …Senior TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita told opposition Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers last week that the water situation was „not under control,” appearing to contradict Abe. DPJ leaders said they would demand that Abe explain his remarks to the IOC.TEPCO later said Yamashita was referring to isolated incidents and had not contradicted Abe’s comments.The most heavily radiated water pools inside the reactor and turbine basements, where waste cooling water that leaked out of melted reactors has gathered, have mixed with groundwater seeping through cracks in the damaged buildings, generating 800 tons of contaminated water per day.Much of the water is being pumped out and partially treated — half is recycled as cooling water, the other half stored in tanks. The plant has 350,000 tons of water kept in the 1,000 tanks.The chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, has proposed using a new water treatment machine capable of removing all radioactive elements apart from less toxic tritium so the water can be eventually released into the ocean once it is safe enough.View gallery.”Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, is briefed about tanks containing radioactive water by F …Meanwhile, the government is funding the development of more advanced water treatment equipment and paying for a costly ice wall to surround the reactor and turbine buildings and prevent them from contaminating outside groundwater.
Warming lull haunts authors of key climate reportView galleryKARL RITTER 2 hours ago STOCKHOLM (AP) — Scientists working on a landmark U.N. report on climate change are struggling to explain why global warming appears to have slowed down in the past 15 years even though greenhouse gas emissions keep rising.Leaked documents obtained by The Associated Press show there are deep concerns among governments over how to address the issue ahead of next week’s meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Climate skeptics have used the lull in surface warming since 1998 to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that humans are cooking the planet by burning fossil fuels and cutting down CO2-absorbing forests.The IPCC report is expected to affirm the human link with greater certainty than ever, but the panel is under pressure to also address the recent lower rate of warming, which scientists say is likely due to heat going deep into the ocean and natural climate fluctuations.”I think to not address it would be a problem because then you basically have the denialists saying, ‘Look the IPCC is silent on this issue,'” said Alden Meyer, of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists.In a leaked June draft of the report’s summary from policy-makers, the IPCC said the rate of warming in 1998-2012 was about half the average rate since 1951. It cited natural variability in the climate system, as well as cooling effects from volcanic eruptions and a downward phase in solar activity.
But several governments that reviewed the draft objected to how the issue was tackled, in comments to the IPCC obtained by the AP.
FILE – In this July 19, 2007 file photo an iceberg melts off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland. …Germany called for the reference to the slowdown to be deleted, saying a time span of 10-15 years was misleading in the context of climate change, which is measured over decades and centuries.The U.S. also urged the authors to include the „leading hypothesis” that the reduction in warming is linked to more heat being transferred to the deep ocean.Belgium objected to using 1998 as a starting year for any statistics. That year was exceptionally warm, so any graph showing global temperatures starting with 1998 looks flat, because most years since have been cooler. Using 1999 or 2000 as a starting year would yield a more upward-pointing curve.Hungary worried the report would provide ammunition for skeptics.Many skeptics claim that the rise in global average temperatures stopped in the late 1990s and their argument has gained momentum among some media and politicians, even though the scientific evidence of climate change is piling up: the previous decade was the warmest on record and, so far, this decade is even warmer. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice melted to a record low last year and the IPCC draft said sea levels have risen by 7.5 inches (19 centimeters) since 1901.Many researchers say the slowdown in warming is related to the natural ocean cycles of El Nino and La Nina. Also, a 2013 study by Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research found dramatic recent warming in the deeper oceans.Stefan Rahmstorf, a German climate scientist, said it was possible that the report’s authors were feeling pressured to address the warming slowdown because it’s received so much attention recently.View gallery.”
View galleryAn aerial view shows Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power …LONDON (Reuters) – Two years after catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima plant, sellers of atomic reactors woo potential buyers with the promise that lessons learned from one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters make the technology safer than ever.The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns and radiation leaks at the plant, 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, causing widespread contamination and prompting mass evacuations.The shockwave through the nuclear industry has not subsided and Fukushima plant owner Tepco is still struggling to contain the consequences. Last month the firm said new spots of high radiation had been found near storage tanks holding highly contaminated water, raising fear of fresh leaks.Barbara Judge, a UK-based nuclear expert appointed by Tepco to improve its safety culture, says the disaster has made safety the top priority.”My opinion is that after Fukushima everything will be safer and that the safety agenda will be first in everyone’s minds,” she saidIn the aftermath of the accident many reactor developers reviewed their designs following government guidance and engaged in deep soul-searching that continues more than two years later.Germany, with a traditionally anti-nuclear voting force, went as far as completely shunning nuclear power, vowing to switch off its nuclear fleet by the early 2020s.As a consequence of the political rethinking on nuclear power after Fukushima, companies such as France’s Areva, Toshiba’s Westinghouse unit or GE-Hitachi have seen orders dry up and costs for new plants explode due to additional safety requirements set by regulators.At the end of 2010, 120 nuclear reactors were planned across the world. By the end of last year this number had dropped to 102, according to statistics published by the International Atomic Energy Agency.The International Energy Agency (IEA) also scaled back the 2035 nuclear capacity forecast by some 50 gigawatts in its latest World Energy Outlook due to policy changes.”The prospects for nuclear power worldwide have been clouded by the uncertainty surrounding nuclear policies after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March 2011,” said IEA analysts in the outlook.In a bid to win new business, nuclear reactor makers largely ignore references to the Fukushima accident in marketing material, and those who do refer to it say the event has made their designs safer.”Since March 2011, the context has changed, but the fundamentals remain the same,” Areva’s chief commercial officer, Tarik Choho, says in a statement in a brochure promoting the company.Areva has long realized that chasing nuclear customers alone is not a sustainable business and has been selling renewable energy technology alongside nuclear reactors since 2006.Its stall at the London-based annual conference of the World Nuclear Association last week had a picture of an offshore wind turbine that caught the eye before images of its nuclear plants.In two bold examples showcasing how costly it is to build new reactors, Areva’s European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) projects in Finland and in its home market in France are billions of euros over budget and years behind schedule.”Utilities worldwide are increasingly required to reduce emissions, while adapting to regional resources and producing profitable, competitive electricity – with the utmost safety,” he said.SAFER AFTER FUKUSHIMA–Russia’s Rosatom, which is now building more nuclear reactors worldwide than any other vendor, says a safety push following the Soviet Union’s own radioactive catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986 has given it an edge over reactors built at the height of the nuclear market in the 1970s.”Chernobyl was a turning point for the Russian nuclear industry,” said Jukka Laaksonen, a former Finnish regulator and now a vice president in Rosatom’s export branch.”In the 1990s, all the focus of global nuclear safety research was in Russia, testing and experiments were run here in cooperation with Western experts.”Canada’s CANDU nuclear reactor design simply states in a marketing brochure that it can prevent severe accidents, while a Westinghouse spokesman said the company had developed and brought to the market technology that increases safety based on lessons learned from Fukushima.Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor can maintain safe shutdown conditions without any manual interference and without the need for power or pumps, the spokesman said.The only nuclear reactor designer hitting the Fukushima subject explicitly is GE Hitachi.GE’s boiling water reactors (BWR) were used at the Fukushima nuclear site, supplied by GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, putting most publicity pressure on the companies which designed and supplied the technology that was hit by the world’s second most dangerous nuclear accident.GE Hitachi’s nuclear joint venture business, which sells the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), includes four pages in its marketing material dedicated to how its design has been improved to prevent what occurred at Fukushima.”To accomplish an enhanced level of nuclear safety, supplementary safety enhancements against severe conditions have been incorporated,” the 46-page brochure reads.”These enhancements (…) are designed to address the Fukushima-Daiichi NPP (nuclear power plant) accident caused by the huge earthquake and subsequent tsunamis on March 11, 2011,” the company said.(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; editing by Keiron Henderson)
Nearly 40 percent of Rim Fire land a moonscapeView gallery TRACIE CONE 1 hour ago SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A fire that raged in forest land in and around Yosemite National Park has left a barren moonscape in the Sierra Nevada mountains that experts say is larger than any burned there in centuries.The fire has consumed about 400 square miles, and within that footprint are a solid 60 square miles that burned so intensely that everything is dead, researchers said.”In other words, it’s nuked,” said Jay Miller, senior wildland fire ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. „If you asked most of the fire ecologists working in the Sierra Nevada, they would call this unprecedented.”Smaller pockets inside the fire’s footprint also burned hot enough to wipe out trees and other vegetation.In total, Miller estimates that almost 40 percent of the area inside the fire’s boundary is nothing but charred land. Other areas that burned left trees scarred but alive.View gallery.”In this September 2013 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a soils scientist from the Burned …Using satellite imagery, Miller created a map of the devastation in the wake of the third-largest wildfire in California history and the largest recorded in the Sierra Nevada.Biologists who have mapped and studied the ages and scarring of trees throughout the mountain range have been able to determine the severity and size of fires that occurred historically.Miller says a fire has not left such a contiguous moonscape in the Sierra since before the Little Ice Age, which began in 1350.In the decades before humans began controlling fire in forests, the Sierra would burn every 10 to 20 years, clearing understory growth on the ground and opening up clearings for new tree growth. Modern-day practices of fire suppression, combined with cutbacks in forest service budgets and a desire to reduce smoke impacts in the polluted San Joaquin Valley, have combined to create tinderboxes, experts say.Drought, and dryness associated with a warming climate also have contributed to the intensity of fires this year, researchers say.View gallery.”In this September 2013 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, Brad Rust, a soils scientist from …”If you had a fire every 20 years, you wouldn’t have many like this or you’d never have trees that were 400 years old,” Miller said.Some areas of the Stanislaus National Forest ravaged by the Rim Fire had not burned in 100 years. Most of the land that now resembles a moonscape burned on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22, when the fire jumped to canopies and was spreading the fastest.In Yosemite National Park, where lightning fires mostly are allowed to burn out naturally and prescribed burns mimic natural conditions, the destruction was much less.The Rim Fire has burned 77,000 acres in wilderness areas in the northeast corner of Yosemite, but only 7 percent of that area was considered high intensity that would result in tree mortality, said Chris Holbeck, a resource biologist for the National Park Service.”It really burned here much like a prescribed fire would to a large degree because of land management practices,” Holbeck said. „Fire plays a natural part of that system. It can’t all be old growth forests, though Yosemite holds some of the oldest trees in the Sierra.”View gallery.”In this September 2013 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a doe deer returns to its’ home ra …Short-term impacts in the park could include the displacement of a unique and threatened subspecies of great gray owls that makes home in treetops in the fire’s range.The Rim Fire started Aug. 17, when a hunter’s fire spread, and continues to burn. It is named for a ridge near the location where the fire started — The Rim of the World, an overlook above a gorge carved by the Tuolumne River. The area that burned in 1987 and again in 1996 was filled with chaparral.By the time the Rim Fire ripped through the canyon, it developed its own weather system that pushed it to consume up to 50,000 acres in a day.The satellite was able to map only the parts of the fire where the canopy of trees was destroyed. Other areas burned closer to the ground, so it could take a year to determine whether root systems of trees outside the worst areas of destruction will die as well.Researchers used satellites to measure the amount of chlorophyll left in canopies to determine which areas will now resemble a charred moonscape.”We look at where the photosynthetic vegetation is killed,” Miller said. „It’s not a measure of the intensity of the fire but a measure of a change in the chlorophyll that is there by and large.”While the landscape has been ravaged, the soil that determines the amount of post-fire erosion that might occur when winter storms hit didn’t suffer as badly as scientists feared.Severe soil damage occurred on just 7 percent of the land inside the fire’s footprint, said officials with the federal Burned Area Environmental Response team. Fire can destroy soil and make it susceptible to erosion by either burning the fine roots and other organic matter that holds it together, or by burning chaparral that releases oils that create an impervious barrier preventing rainwater from being absorbed.”Before we can start talking about erosion, we have to figure out where the soil is damaged,” said forest service soil scientist Randy Westmoreland.