Forget those 70-degree days. ‘Snow showers’ are expected in Charlotte this
LEMERY, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine volcano belched smaller plumes of ash Thursday but shuddered continuously with earthquakes and cracked roads in nearby towns, which were blockaded by police due to fears of a bigger eruption.
Taal volcano’s crater lake and a nearby river have dried up in some of the signs of its continuing volcanic restiveness. That has prompted army troops and police to block villagers from sneaking back by boats to the volcanic island and nearby towns to retrieve belongings, poultry and cattle.
There have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries from the sudden eruption, which began Sunday, but many houses and farms have been damaged by volcanic ash, which briefly forced the shutdown of Manila’s international airport and caused more than 600 flights to be cancelled. The volcano in Batangas province lies more than 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the capital, Manila.
Amid warnings of an imminent and more dangerous eruption, police cordoned off at least four towns along or near the coast of a lake surrounding volcano island, sparking arguments with villagers.
“We’ve lost everything, our house got damaged, but I need to retrieve my pots and cooking wares and other things. They should not be very, very strict,” Erlinda Landicho, a 59-year-old mother, told The Associated Press.
Landicho, who fled with her son from Lemery municipality as the volcano erupted, was among a throng of villagers stopped by police from reentering the ash-blanketed town. A firetruck blocked a key access road and police set up checkpoints. Beyond the barricade, Lemery looked like a ghost town partly shrouded in swirling ash.
More than 121,000 people fled their homes just in Batangas province, which has declared a state of calamity to allow faster releases of emergency funds. At least 373 evacuation sites were crammed with displaced villagers and needed more ash masks, portable toilets, bottled water and sleeping mats, according to a provincial disaster-response office.
The government’s main-disaster agency reported a little more than 65,000 people were displaced by the eruption in Batangas and Cavite province. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.
Among those displaced were about 5,000 people who live on the island where the Taal volcano lies. The island had been a popular tourist destination for its stunning view of the volcano’s crater lake and lush hills teeming with trees and birds. Some villagers have slipped past checkpoints to retrieve some of the hundreds of cows and horses they left behind, prompting the coast guard and police to intensify a security cordon.
A villager who returned from the island described to AP how the island now resembles an ash-blanketed wasteland.
About four villages exist on the island despite it being declared a state-protected area and a permanent danger zone. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has recommended that villagers should not be allowed back.
The 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal is one of the world’s smallest volcanoes but also one of the most restive of 24 active volcanoes across the Philippines. The Southeast Asian archipelago of more than 100 million people is located in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a vast region in the ocean basin where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated billion animals
Nowra (Australia) (AFP) – Rain fell across parts of bushfire-ravaged eastern Australia on Thursday and more wet weather was forecast, giving some relief following months of catastrophic blazes fuelled by climate change.
The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated billion animals.
Sustained hot weather and only very rare periods of light rain in the affected areas have deepened the crisis.
So authorities had been looking forward to this week’s rain hoping it would help contain or even extinguish some fires.
In the state of New South Wales, where many of the worst fires have burnt, there were „good falls” on some blazes early Thursday, the local meteorology bureau reported.
„Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW,” the state’s Rural Fire Service said in a social media post accompanying video footage of rain falling in a burning forest.
„Although this rain won’t extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment.”
Before the rains, there were 30 blazes burning out of control in New South Wales.
Smoke from bushfires had also choked the southern city of Melbourne from Monday to Wednesday, disrupting the build-up to next week’s Australian Open tennis tournament.
However thunderstorms late on Wednesday cleared the smoke, with the wet weather then moving east towards fires in the southern state of Victoria.
„Storms have improved air quality in most parts of the state,” the Victorian Environment Protection Agency said
More rain was also forecast on Friday and the weekend which, if it does occur, would be the most sustained period of wet weather since the crisis began in September last year.
„This will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed,” the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said early this week in reference to the forecast wet weather.
The fires have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burnt 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land — an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.
– Climate-change crisis –
Australia endures bushfires every year but they started much earlier than normal last year and have lasted far longer.
Forests and farming land were already extremely dry due to a prolonged drought, providing the foundations for the fire crisis when extreme hot weather hit well before the southern summer.
Australia experienced its driest and hottest year on record in 2019, with its highest average maximum temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in mid-December.
Scientists say the bushfires are the type of extreme disaster the world can expect more of as global warming intensifies.
The past decade was the hottest on record globally, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
„What’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which provided one of the datasets for the UN report.
„We know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
The Italian fashion house Versace will no longer use kangaroo leather in its products, as millions of the animals are burnt to death by Australia’s sweeping bush fires.
The decision was taken some time ago, affecting the fashion brand’s 2019 collection, but only came to light this week.
It was not directly related to the devastating impact that Australia’s bush fires have had on kangaroos, koalas and other animals.
The move by Versace follows a campaign launched by Italian animal rights campaigns in the autumn, in which they protested against the number of kangaroos which are culled each year in the wild.
The campaign groups had called for Italian companies to boycott kangaroo products.
“We welcome Versace’s announcement,” said Simone Pavesi from LAV, an Italian animal welfare organisation.
“It’s an important gesture, no more so than now when the bush fires devastating Australia are having such dramatic consequences on kangaroo populations.
“We hope it will help save an animal that is the symbol of Australia as it faces an unprecedented threat.”
A Versace spokesman told The Telegraph: “We can confirm that there will be a complete stop to the use of kangaroo leather.”
Australian scientists have estimated that up to a billion mammals, birds and reptiles may have been killed by the bush fires.
Chris Dickman, a professor of ecology at Sydney University of Sydney, had previously estimated that 480 million creatures had perished but recently doubled that figure.
The figure includes animals killed directly by the fires as well as those which have died of dehydration, starvation or habitat loss.
Two years ago, Versace announced that it was renouncing the use of real fur in its clothes and accessories.
Donatella Versace, the company’s creative director, said: “I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”
Real fur has been eschewed by an array of fashion houses in recent years, including Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Armani.
A firefighter rappels into a gorge as a crew tries to save pre-historic Wollemi Pines in the Blue Mountains
A secret operation by specialist firefighters has saved the world’s last stand of Wollemi Pines, a pre-historic species known as „dinosaur trees”, from Australia’s unprecedented bushfires, officials said.
Fewer than 200 of the trees exist in the wild, hidden in a gorge in the World Heritage Blue Mountains northwest of Sydney, which have been hit by one of the biggest bushfires that have been ravaging much of Australia for months.
With flames approaching the area late last year, firefighters deployed air tankers to drop fire retardant in a protective ring around the trees while specialist firefighters were winched down into the gorge to set up an irrigation system to provide moisture for the grove, officials said.
Matt Kean, environment minister for New South Wales state which encompasses the Blue Mountains, described the operation as „an unprecedented environmental protection mission.”
While some of the trees were charred by the flames, the grove was saved from the fires, he said in a statement late Wednesday.
The pines, which fossil records indicate are more than 200 million years old — pre-dating many dinosaurs — were believed extinct until the Wollemi grove was discovered in 1994.
Its location has remained a closely-guarded secret to protect the trees from contamination by visitors.
„Illegal visitation remains a significant threat to the Wollemi Pines survival in the wild due to the risk of trampling regenerating plants and introducing diseases which could devastate the remaining populations and their recovery,” Kean said.
The trees have been propagated and distributed to botanic gardens around the world to preserve the species, but the Wollemi gorge is the only wild stand.
Australia’s wildfires have since October claimed 28 lives, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burned 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land — an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.
About one billion animals may have died in the fires which have driven many species closer to extinction, according to environmental groups.
The country was enjoying a long-awaited respite on Thursday as rainstorms blanketed much of Australia’s east, though a return to warm and dry weather was forecast for later in the southern summer.