Puerto Rico declares state of emergency after wide quake damage•
Scientists initially sent out an alert about a potential tsunami but it was later canceled.
The island’s electricity authority said the quake had forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid, already severely damaged by Hurricane Maria more than two years ago.
The worst damage appeared to be in towns on the southwest coast, including Ponce, Guayanilla and Guanica.
El Nuevo Dia newspaper said a 73-year-old man died after a wall fell in his home in Ponce. Eight others there were reported injured.
Two power plants in Guayanilla sustained major damage, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said. The city could be without power for two weeks, its mayor Nelson Torres Yordan said.
Celebrity chef Jose Andres announced that a charity he runs, World Central Kitchen, had started serving meals and distributing solar-powered lamps in quake-hit areas.
Vazquez announced that $130 million in emergency aid funding will be disbursed.
On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake.
One woman on Twitter said she had been „wrenched from sleep.”
„Everybody is awake & scared all over,” she posted.
In Guayanilla, the Inmaculada Concepcion church, built in 1841, was heavily damaged.
Volunteers salvaged statues and other valuable items from the ruins as a priest consoled distraught parishioners.
– ‘Be safe’ –
A 5.8 magnitude quake on Monday toppled some structures, caused power outages and small landslides, but did not result in any casualties.
It also destroyed a popular tourist landmark, Punta Ventana, a natural stone arch that crumbled on the island’s southern coast.
Vazquez, the governor, said government employees were being given the day off on Tuesday to take care of their families.
„We want everyone to be safe,” she said.
She said ports were undamaged and there are several weeks’ supply of gasoline, diesel and natural gas stored so people need not worry about shortages.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and Pete Gaynor, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), had been in touch with the governor.
Trump’s administration came under severe criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria.
The Category 4 storm destroyed the island’s already shaky power grid, overwhelmed public services, left many residents homeless and claimed several thousand lives, according to government estimates.
She said power should be restored to most of the island within 24 to 48 hours. Puerto Rico schools will remain closed and public employees, other than health workers and police, will stay home on Wednesday while checks are made on the structural safety of buildings, Vazquez said.
„There are people who have lost their lives, there are people who have lost all their property,” She told reporters, without giving further details on the extent of damage and injuries.
Puerto Rico’s electricity authority said it hoped to re-establish services during the night in the metropolitan area of San Juan, the capital, which is home to about 2.3 million people.
At least 346 people were left homeless, officials said, after homes were flattened, mostly in the south of the island. Many damaged buildings sat next to piles of rubble.
Bottled water, batteries and flashlights ran low at San Juan supermarkets and ice was scarce as residents tried to keep food from rotting, said resident Luis Borri, 31.
„Water is running out, people are grabbing like 10 boxes,” said Borri, who recharged his cellphone at San Juan’s international airport where he works and where backup generators allowed normal services to continue.
Puerto Rico’s emergency declaration will facilitate federal financial aid. President Donald Trump has been briefed on the earthquakes, and administration officials were monitoring the impact in coordination with Puerto Rico officials.
The mid-Atlantic was blanketed by the first snow of 2020 on Tuesday, but while some enjoyed the snow-covered scenery, others faced frustration when heading out to navigate snowy roads.
The snow started the day over eastern Kentucky and West Virginia and spread into Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania as Tuesday progressed. This was a far cry from a major winter storm with accumulations generally ranging from 2 to 4 inches, but the fast-moving nature of the storm quickly covered many surfaces in a blanket of powder.
This ended a snow drought for places like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., that had not seen measurable snow since mid-December.
Interstate 81 was one of the major highways across the region that faced weather-related disruptions as the snow fell across Virginia. The northbound lane near mile marker 168, just north of Roanoke, was closed late Tuesday morning following a pileup amid snowy conditions. Two people were taken to area hospitals for injuries, according to Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS. The accident was cleared and traffic began flowing again by early Tuesday afternoon.
Crews were busy responding to numerous accidents around Roanoke, Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS reported.
As the snow continued to spread northeastward midday Tuesday, school district and government offices around Washington, D.C., began to announce early dismissals so fewer people were on the roads when the snow arrived during the afternoon.
„All employees MUST DEPART at no later than 1:00 pm at which time FEDERAL OFFICES are CLOSED,” the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said in a statement on Tuesday morning.
Federal employees that left their offices early on Tuesday beat the snow, but they didn’t beat the crowds with reports of packed trains and buses as thousands of people rushed to leave the nations’s capital.
Dozens of flight delays were also reported at Ronald Reagan National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Tuesday afternoon as rain and snow moved through D.C. and Baltimore.
The storm will depart the region Wednesday night, but a renewed round of snow showers and snow squalls on Wednesday may deliver additional snow to part of the mid-Atlantic before dry and mild weather builds in by the weekend.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A Ukrainian airplane carrying at least 170 people crashed Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport, state TV reported. There was no immediate word on casualties.
The plane had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport. The crash is suspected to have been caused by mechanical issues, TV reported, without elaborating.
An investigation team was at the site of the crash in southwestern outskirts of Tehran, civil aviation spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh said.
“After taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport, it crashed between Parand and Shahriar,” Jafarzadeh said. “An investigation team from the national aviation department was dispatched to the location after the news was announced.”
State TV earlier said there were 180 passengers and crew aboard. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled.
Flight data from the airport showed a Ukrainian 737-800 flown by Ukraine International Airlines took off Wednesday morning, then stopped sending data almost immediately afterward, according to website FlightRadar24. The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A photo later published by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency showed rescue officials in a farm field, with what appeared to be pieces of the aircraft laying nearby.
The crash came hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting two bases in Iraq housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The Boeing 737-800 is a very common single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner used for short to medium-range flights. Thousands of the planes are used by airlines around the world.
Introduced in the late 1990s, it is an older model than the Boeing 737 MAX, which has been grounded for nearly 10 months following two deadly crashes.
A number of 737-800 aircraft have been involved in deadly accidents over the years.
In March 2016, a FlyDubai 737-800 from Dubai crashed while trying to land at Rostov-on-Don airport in Russia, killing 62 onboard. Another 737-800 flight from Dubai, operated by Air India Express, crashed in May 2010 while trying to land in Mangalore, India, killing more than 150 onboard.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. was „aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information,” spokesman Michael Friedman told The Associated Press.
Boeing, like other airline manufacturers, typically assists in crash investigations. However, that effort in this case could be affected by the U.S. sanctions campaign in place on Iran since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018.
Both Airbus and Boeing had been in line to sell billions of dollars of aircraft to Iran over the deal, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But Trump’s decision halted the sales.
Under decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircraft fleet has aged, with air accidents occurring regularly for domestic carriers in recent years, resulting in hundreds of casualties.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Bangkok and Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran contributed to this report.
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Large areas of Australia are being consumed by wildfires that have destroyed thousands of homes, killed 24 people and potentially as many as 480 million animals. At least 15 million acres have burned, more than in recent fires in California and Brazil combined.
While the fires are affecting the entire country, the most significant damage is in the southeastern state of New South Wales. Residents of some rural towns have been forced to flee to nearby beaches to escape advancing flames. So much smoke has entered the air, it’s creating its own weather systems and turning glaciers gray.
Dangerous wildfires are not new to Australia. In 2009, 173 people were killed as extreme conditions fueled hundreds of bush fires on a day now known locally as “Black Saturday.” Similar circumstances have fed the current fires. In recent weeks, Australia has seen unprecedented heat — including the country’s hottest day ever — along with powerful winds. These conditions have arisen as Australia faces its worst drought in decades.
Why there’s debate
The most commonly cited explanation for the severity of the fires is climate change. Due to the already extreme conditions found throughout its enormous landmass, Australia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. The effects aren’t limited to fires: Unprecedented floods forced mass evacuations in early 2019, and rising ocean temperatures have devastated the Great Barrier Reef.
Some of the factors fueling the fires are beyond Australia’s control. No one country is solely responsible for climate change. For its size, Australia has a relatively small population, which limits the manpower and financial resources it has to combat the fires. Unlike California and Brazil, where most fires are sparked by human activities, Australia’s fires are believed to be started primarily by natural occurrences like lightning.
At the same time, the Australian government has been criticized for not taking the fires and the climate effects that fuel them seriously. Due to the country’s massive coal industry, Australians are among the worst polluters per capita in the world. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticized for saying that the fires do not justify a reduction in coal production.
Morrison has committed $1.4 billion in funds to help communities recover from the fires. Temperatures dropped slightly on Monday, offering firefighters a chance to make progress in their efforts to contain the blazes. The worst isn’t necessarily over, however. It is the middle of summer in Australia, which means fire season is still in full swing. “The fires are still burning. And they’ll be burning for months to come,” Morrison said.
Australia is experiencing the predictable results of climate change
“Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It’s not complicated. The warming of our planet — and the changes in climate associated with it — are due to the fossil fuels we’re burning.” — Michael Mann, Guardian
Australia is a window into the how climate change will affect other parts of the planet
“Australia serves as a microcosm of all the complicated ways that climate variables interact. Its weather this year also shows what other parts of the world may face as temperatures continue to rise.” — Umair Irfan, Vox
Australia feels the impacts of climate change more acutely than anywhere else
“Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.” — Richard Flanagan, New York Times
The fire threat has been underplayed because it historically doesn’t affect major coastal cities
“The most remarkable thing about this bushfire season is that people can see it, taste it and feel it. While fires have long been a product of the country’s hot, dry climate, they remained a remote idea for most Australians — something you caught for a few minutes on the evening news.” — Daniel Moss and Tim Culpan, Bloomberg
Australia has put economic growth over limiting carbon emissions
“For the past few decades, the arid and affluent country of 25 million has padded out its economy — otherwise dominated by sandy beaches and a bustling service sector — by selling coal to the world. … But now Australia is buckling under the conditions that its fossil fuels have helped bring about.” — Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic
Modern agriculture broke a balanced natural burn cycle
“Before colonization, fire was managed with cultural burning, sometimes called fire-stick farming, which prevented vegetation build-up, germinated seed pods and regenerated the trees and grasses that need fire to grow new shoots. … That changed after 1788. When the country was forcibly settled, large swaths of managed land were cleared to make way for livestock unsuited to an Australian environment.” — Jessica Friedmann, Globe and Mail
The country’s extreme environments are particularly vulnerable
“The magnetic physical beauty of Australia is based, literally, on its fragility. The continent lives very close to the fine line between supportable life and extinction. When you drive into the outback, as I have done, and into the endless flatness of red desert, and eventually come to a small road town, it’s evident that this outpost of life can have no physical roots: It sits directly and rudely on the earth’s crust.” — Clive Irving, Daily Beast
People have come to accept extreme natural events as just another part of life
“The duration of this climate horror has allowed us to normalize it even while it continues to unfold — continues to torture, and brutalize, and terrify.” — David Wallace-Wells, New York
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Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Kate Geraghty/The SMH/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered another Earth-sized, potentially habitable planet orbiting around a star in the range of distances where conditions could allow for the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface.
„TESS was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars,” said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement. „Planets around nearby stars are easiest to follow-up with larger telescopes in space and on Earth. Discovering TOI 700 d is a key science finding for TESS. Confirming the planet’s size and habitable zone status with Spitzer is another win for Spitzer as it approaches the end of science operations this January.”
The TESS satellite monitors sectors of the sky for 27 days at a time, allowing the satellite to track changes in the brightness of a star caused by an orbiting planet crossing in front of it.
Scientists determined that TOI 700 d is a small, cool M dwarf star (also known as a red dwarf) located more than 100 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado, according to JPL.
The star that TESS examined has about 40% of the mass of the Sun and has a lower surface temperature — roughly half of the Sun’s 9940.73 degrees Fahrenheit. Three planets orbit the star, which initially appeared larger and hotter than they now are considered, thanks to a misclassification in the TESS database, which originally labeled its star as more similar to the Sun (the error was spotted by a team of researchers, including high school student Alton Spencer).
„When we corrected the star’s parameters, the sizes of its planets dropped, and we realized the outermost one was about the size of Earth and in the habitable zone,” said Emily Gilbert, a graduate student at theÂ University of Chicago. „Additionally, in 11 months of data we saw no flares from the star, which improves the chances TOI 700 d is habitable and makes it easier to model its atmospheric and surface conditions.”
The nearest planet to the star is almost exactly the same size of the Earth, according to JPL, and completes its orbit every 10 days. The star’s middle planet is 2.6 times larger than Earth — between the sizes of Earth and Neptune — and has a 16-day orbit.
It’s the outermost planet — one about 20% larger than Earth — that exists in the habitable zone. That planet orbits every 37 days and receives about 86% of the energy from its star that Earth receives from the Sun.
All of the planets are thought to be tidally locked to their star, which means that they rotate once per orbit. And because TOI 700 d is tidally locked to its star, the planet’s cloud formations and wind patterns may be strikingly different from Earth’s.
Right now, scientists will rely on computer modeling based on the planet’s size and the type of star it’s orbiting to make predictions about its composition and potential geography.
In one simulation, scientists envisioned an ocean-covered world with a dense, carbon-dioxide rich atmosphere akin to their assumptions about what Mars was like when it was first forming. That model of the atmosphere has a deep layer of clouds on the star-facing side. Meanwhile, another potential vision of the planet predicts a cloudless, entirely land-covered version of Earth, where winds whip from the night side of the planet and converge on a point directly facing the planet’s star.
Researchers use signals called spectral lines, which are detected from the passage of starlight through the planet’s atmosphere, to project what the planet’s surface might look like.
When starlight passes through a planet’s atmosphere, it interacts with molecules like carbon dioxide and nitrogen to produce distinct signals, called spectral lines.
„Someday, when we have real spectra from TOI 700 d, we can backtrack, match them to the closest simulated spectrum, and then match that to a model,” said Gabrielle Engelmann-Suissa, a Universities Space Research Association visiting research assistant at Goddard, and the leader of the modeling team. „It’s exciting because no matter what we find out about the planet, it’s going to look completely different from what we have here on Earth.”
TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Mass., and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Va.; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, according to a statement.