Monday, 30 April 2012

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 30 April 2012 16h00 SAST

Western Cape Province - Watch: Be prepared
Subject: Gale Force Wind
Detail: Valid 30 April 2012: 1. A gale force NW wind (35kt/ 65km/h) is expected in places between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas.

All other Provinces - No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts.
Detail: No Alerts.


SA Weather Satellite Image: 30 April 2012 15h38 SAST

Images: NOAA18 (Nick Cronje, Nelspruit) Click on images for larger view.

Flooding in Kenilworth ( 30 April 2012 15h45 SAST)

Image: Rosmead Avenue, 3.45pm, 10-15cm deep water at intersection. Obs. Gordon Richardson

Rain in the greater Cape Town area: 30 April 2012 16h55 SAST

Image: Cape Town Webcam (Click on image for larger view.)

35 dead, 200 missing in Assam ferry capsize

At least 35 people, including women and children, were killed and nearly 200 missing when a ferry packed with 300 passengers capsized in a river in Brahmaputra river on Monday.

According to the sources, the ferry bound from Perabhita ghat of Dhubri to another bank of the Brahmaputra drowned in the middle of the river because of heavy storm.

Sources said that there were more than 300 passengers in the ferry out of which 50 passengers were able to come out of the river.

BSF jawans and police forces have recovered 35 dead bodies till now.


Family rescued from Paarl mountain

A family of six has been rescued from the Paarl Mountain, in the Boland, Western Cape emergency services said on Monday.

“The family was found along the hiking route close to the waterfall. They were fine, just a bit cold,” spokeswoman Keri Davids said.

The father, his two boys and three girls, all under the age of 12, went for a hike on Sunday afternoon, she said.

When it became too dark for them to turn back, the man phoned the local police for help.

Twenty-five police officials, paramedics and mountain rangers searched for the family and found them shortly before midnight.

“They did not require any medical assistance afterwards,” Davids said.

The family was guided down in about 30 minutes.

– Sapa/IOL

Real Time Weather Observation: Mossel Bay ( 30 April 2012 07h35 SAST)

Images: SAWDOS (Click on image for larger view.)

Light Aircraft Crash Images: Margate ( 29 April 2012)

Images: Netcare911 (Click on images for larger view.)

Bystanders pepper-sprayed after plane crash

Durban - Horrified eyewitnesses of Sunday's fatal plane crash in Margate were pepper-sprayed as they tried to come to the aid of the pilot and his passenger caught in the inferno.

The experimental aircraft burst into flames on takeoff at about 11:00 at Margate Airport, killing the woman passenger and seriously injuring the pilot, who sustained 80% burns.

The couple were reportedly from Pinetown and the plane was based at Camperdown.

The pilot, whose name is known to The Witness but whose details were not officially released, was first stabilised at Margate Hospital before being airlifted to Durban’s St Augustine’s Hospital, where he is in a critical condition.

Pilot tried to avoid homes

On going down, the aircraft went through a fence before entering bush close to homes in a residential area, eyewitnesses said.

Photographer Jacques Sellschop, who was in a helicopter taking pictures of the Africa Bike Week event, said that when a Mayday call came over the air, helicopter pilot John Rud­ling immediately diverted to the accident scene.

“Unfortunately the flames and heat were too intense to land and it appeared evident from the air that little could be done to assist the pilot and his passenger in the burning aircraft,” he said.

“Eyewitnesses who saw the plane take off, said the pilot apparently lost engine power as he approached the end of the runway and sent out the Mayday call.

“It would appear that he might have deliberately put the plane down into the fence in an effort to avoid hitting the houses that lay directly in his path.

“Netcare’s emergency response vehicles summoned from the Margate Hospital reached the scene within four minutes,” Sellschop said.

Horrified witnesses rushed towards the crash, within the airport perimeter, but emergency service officers prevented them from doing so.

Some found themselves on the receiving end of pepper spray.

Hibiscus Coast Municipality Director Protection Services, Victor Chetty, said: “Unfortunately we have prescribed emergency procedures to adhere to.

“Officers did use pepper spray. It was to contain people wanting to get on to the airport. These officials have strict instructions on crowd control.

“I can understand why people wanted to help in the principle of ubuntu, or in trying to help their fellow man, but unfortunately we couldn’t do anything else because we had to adhere to the prescribed regulations.

Engine cut off

Craig Ralph, vice-president of the Experimental Aircraft Association and president of its local chapter, said the aircraft was one of around 100 that had brought members to the annual general meeting in Margate.

Experimental aircraft are generally home-assembled, though some may be factory-assembled. They also include aircraft that fall under a certain weight category.

The AGM had ended on Saturday night.

Margate Airport Manager Graham Berriman told the Witness it appeared that the pilot’s engine had cut off, resulting in a crash landing.

“The plane landed on the rocks, but we cannot at this stage know exactly what caused the accident until the investigation is completed,” said Berriman.

He said the aircraft was a Rally Echo.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said an investigation was under way and confirmed that the aircraft was a Rally aircraft.

People in the aviation fraternity told the Witness they were shocked and saddened, but did not wish to comment further.

Margate police spokesperson, Sergeant Pumzile Makaula said the pilot sustained 80% burns.

“He’s still in a critical condition,” Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha.

The name of the deceased passenger had not yet been made public.

- The Witness

Knysna dawn looks like the end of the world.

Image: Ivo Vegter (Click on image for larger view.)

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 30 April 2012 04h00 SAST

Western Cape Province: Warning Take action - Subject: Fire Danger and Gale Force Wind
Detail: Valid 30 April 2012: 1. A high veld fire danger rating is expected for the Breede River Valley, Eden and Central Karoo Districs of Western Cape. WATCHES: 1. A gale force NW wind (35kt/ 65km/h) is expected in places between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas in the afternoon.

All other Provinces - No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts.
Detail: No Alerts.


SA Weather Satellite Image: 30 April 2012 06h00 SAST

Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

GFS Medium Range Forecasts of Vertical Velocity and Precipitation: 29 - 30 April 2012

Image: U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Click on image for larger view.

Spear-fisherman missing, feared drowned

At 16h03 on Saturday, 28th NSRI Richards Bay crew were activated following reports of a spear-fisherman gone missing while spearfishing.

A group of 4 men were free-dive spearfishing from the ski-boat Tjienkie 1 nautical mile North of St Lucia lighthouse and approximately 1 nautical mile off-shore. They had launched at 07h00 in the morning from the Meerensee ski-boat club to spend a day at sea spear-fishing.

The 4 men are – boat owner and skipper Koos Joubert, 63, his son Jacque-Pier, 22, and crewman Martin Bosman, 33, all from Richards Bay, and their friend Hilton Grove, 31, from Port Elizabeth. They are all experienced spear-fishermen and qualified open water divers.

Hilton and his wife Lisa were visiting their friends in Richards Bay for the weekend.

While spear-fishing Hilton Grove reportedly failed to surface from a dive, just before 16h00, and the remaining 3 men raised the alarm while initiating a search.

“Our NSRI Richards Bay volunteer crew launched our sea rescue craft Spirit of Richards Bay and Spirit of Round Table and a Transnet National Ports Authority rescue helicopter and the SA Police Force were activated and on arrival on-scene an extensive sea, shore and air search commenced, in 1.5 meter swell and light Northerly winds, for the missing man.” said Cornel du Toit, NSRI Richards Bay deputy station commander.

The local yacht Spirit of Adventure, that was in the area at the time, joined in the search.

When no sign of the missing man had been found, by 22h00, (Saturday, 28th April) the search was suspended and has been resumed since first light today, (Sunday, 29th April), by Police boats, the Transnet Ports Authority rescue helicopter and Police conducting shore patrols in an ongoing effort to find the missing man who is feared to have drowned.

The yacht Spirit of Adventure remained on-scene at anchor throughout the night to continue a watch.

The missing mans wife and the 3 spear-fishermen are being assisted by Police trauma counsellors.

It is unknown what caused missing Hilton Grove to fail to surface from the dive.

Police have opened an inquest docket. Our thoughts are with the Grove family.


Wind farms affect local weather

Wind turbines can affect local weather, the study confirms - but not further afield

Wind farms can affect weather in their immediate locality, raising night-time temperatures on the ground, researchers working in Texas have shown.

They used satellite data to show that land around newly constructed wind farms warmed more than next-door areas.

The result - published in the journal Nature Climate Change - confirms an earlier, smaller study from 2010.

The scientists believe the effect is caused by turbines bringing relatively warm air down to ground level.

They suggest that turbines in other places might not produce the same value of ground temperature change.

The study area, in west-central Texas, saw a major turbine building programme in the middle of the last decade, with the number soaring from 111 in 2003 to 2325 just six years later.

Researchers used data from the Modis instruments on Nasa's Aqua and Terra satellites to measure ground temperatures across the study region and between the beginning and end of the construction boom, defined as as the difference between the average for 2003-5 and that for 2009-11.

The entire region saw a rise, but it was more pronounced around wind farms.

The researchers looked for other factors that could have affected the results, such as changes in vegetation, but found these were too small to produce the observed change.

Limited reach

The change was not identical across all of the wind farms. Having averaged the data, the researchers say the scale of the effect they saw is equivalent to a warming of about 0.72C per decade.

Recognising that this could wrongly be interpreted as suggesting the local temperature will continue to rise, lead researcher Liming Zhou cautioned: "The estimated warming trend only applies to the study region and to the study period, and thus should not be extrapolated linearly into other regions or over longer periods.

"For a given wind farm, the warming effect would likely reach a limit rather than continue to increase if no new wind turbines are added."

At night, air above ground level tends to be warmer than the ground. Dr Zhou and his colleagues believe the turbine blades are simply stirring up the air, mixing warm and cold, and bringing some of the warmth down to ground level.

"The result in the paper looks pretty solid to me," commented Prof Steven Sherwood from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

"Daytime temperatures do not appear to be affected. This makes sense, (and) this same strategy is commonly used by fruit growers who fly helicopters over their orchards to combat early morning frosts."

The 2010 study, also from the US, used data from a single location and computer modelling to show that wind turbines could produce local warming.

Dr Zhou, from the State University of New York in Albany, US, now plans to look across bigger scales and to decipher the mechanisms better.

"This article is a first step in exploring the potential of using satellite data to quantify the possible impacts of big wind farms on weather and climate," he told BBC News.

"We are now expanding this approach to other wind farms, and building models to understand the physical processes and mechanisms driving the interactions of wind turbines and the atmospheric boundary layer near the surface."


NSRI JBay takes part in expo

Louis Lombard, Danél Jordaan & Rieghard Janse Van Rensburg at the expo.

Once a year the Fountains Mall in co-operation with the Jeffreys Bay SAP organizes a Safety and Security Expo offering all Emergency Services and Security product suppliers an opportunity to showcase their Services and Products. For Sea Rescue Jeffreys Bay, this provides an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the public, meet new potential recruits, and receive some much needed donations!


How many wind farms? - government asked

There are said to be 1,826 turbines currently planned for England and 8,581 for the UK overall

A countryside pressure group is calling on the government to say how many more onshore wind turbines will be built and where they will be located.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says its groups feel "powerless in the face of speculative applications from big, well-funded developers".

Some 1,800 wind turbines more than 30 metres tall (100ft) are currently planned in England.

An industry spokesman said restrictions would put green energy targets at risk.

The CPRE wants to know when the applications will stop and is asking the government to develop a strategic plan which limits the number of turbines in sensitive rural landscapes.

It also wants planning inspectors to put more weight on local concerns.

It says that in 2008 685 turbines more than 30 metres high were built, being built or awaiting approval in the countryside.

But by March of this year, the number had risen to more than 4,100, the CPRE claimed.

Merit approach

Chief executive Shaun Spiers said: "CPRE accepts onshore wind in the right places as part of the mix required to meet the UK's carbon reduction targets, but we are seeing more and more giant turbines sited in inappropriate locations.

"Communities feel increasingly powerless in the face of speculative applications from big, well-funded developers, and this risks undermining public support for the measures needed to tackle climate change."

He said that the government's policies was leading to the "industrialisation of valued countryside".

"The government must take responsibility and set out far more clearly a framework for meeting the country's energy needs while protecting our matchless countryside," he added.

Industry body RenewableUK said 1,826 turbines were currently planned for England, and 8,581 for the UK overall.

The organisation's director of policy, Gordon Edge, said: "Onshore wind is the cheapest source of low-carbon power and restricting its development would jeopardise our firm commitment to offer value for money to the consumer, as well as green energy.

"It's clear that only some locations are suitable for wind, but the way to identify those is by assessing each wind farm on its own merits, not the top-down approach the CPRE is proposing."

Friends of the Earth's head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said the clean energy produces by wind turbines "is essential for reducing our reliance on expensive fossil fuels and tackling rocketing fuel bills".

"Wind turbines should always be sensitively sited, but one of the biggest threats to our countryside is climate change - and this is exactly what wind power can help defeat."

A government spokesman said the planning system was balancing the needs of the landscape and meeting the UK's targets for clean energy.


Body recovered off Kings Beach, Port Elizabeth

At approximately 15h10 on Sunday, 29th April, while NSRI crew assisted during the Hobie-Cat Nationals, taking place off-shore in Nelson Mandela Bay, a contestant boat reported coming across a body floating approximately 1 nautical mile off-shore of Kings Beach.

“NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated and launched our sea rescue craft Eikos Rescuer IV and on arrival on-scene a body of an unidentified person was secured and recovered onto the sea rescue boat and brought to our sea rescue base where Police have taken custody of the body,” said Ian Gray, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander.

A week ago, on Sunday, (22 April), NSRI Port Elizabeth had launched an extensive search operation after a fisherman had been reported missing, suspected to have gone overboard, from a Chokka fishing boat off-shore of Kings Beach. The man was discovered to be missing off the boat at around 18h00 and his life-jacket was still onboard at his bunk.

Two NSRI Port Elizabeth sea rescue craft and 4 Chokka fishing boats had joined in a search and Police have been continuing with an ongoing search during this week.

While it is suspected that the body found today may be that of the (believed to be aged 38)fisherman, from Jeffreys Bay, who had gone missing off that Chokka fishing boat last week Police will investigate and attempt to establish the identity of the body and if the body is that of the missing fisherman.


Tewkesbury sets up flood incident room as river rises

Image: Much of Tewkesbury was flooded in 2007, leading to thousands of people having to leave their homes for temporary accommodation

Tewkesbury, which was devastated by flooding five years ago, is on alert again following heavy rainfall and rising river levels.

The Environment Agency has set up an incident room amid fears that the River Severn could rise further.

The Gloucestershire town was one of the worst hit places during flooding in July 2007, with more than 1,800 households devastated.

Thousands of people were forced to move into temporary accommodation.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said three incident rooms had been set up in the Midlands, including at Tewkesbury, while a further incident room was set up for the Wessex area.

Ian Lock, landlord of the Boat Inn at Ashleworth, which is south of Tewkesbury next to the Severn, told the BBC the water was "worryingly high".

He said: "We still could flood; the worry is if other towns further up the river put their flood defences up the water will come down here and we'll suffer."

The Environment Agency (EA) has more than 25 flood warnings in place on rivers including the Wid in Essex; the Ouzel at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire; the Derwent in East Yorkshire, and the River Stour in Warwickshire.

Most are for the South West, and include several rivers such as the Yarty at Axminster; the Torridge at Bideford, and the Otter at Honiton, in Devon, and the sections of the Brue and Doniford Stream in Somerset.

Flooding alerts
Among those areas also subject to warnings were parts of the Ouse at York, where the river flooded footpaths following torrential rain on Thursday. The Ouse is currently 9ft 2in (2.8m) above normal summer levels, the EA said.

A flood warning also relates to riverside properties in Chelmsford, and the area around the Essex County Cricket Ground in the city.

There are more than 170 alerts in place, warning of possible flooding in areas throughout England and Wales, except for the North West and Cumbria.

Thousands of homes in south Wales, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Somerset have been left without electricity after strong winds and heavy rain brought down trees and power lines.

The heavy rain comes as many areas are currently in a state of drought following two unusually dry winters.

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: "It's not unusual to experience heavy downpours and some flooding - mainly of farmland - at this time of year, but we're continuing to closely monitor the forecast and rainfall particularly in areas along the rivers Severn, Teme and Avon, including Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

"Environment Agency teams are out on the ground continuing a close watch on river levels as well as checking defences and clearing any potential blockages to reduce the risk of flooding."


Chinese yacht towed into Simon’s Town

The 51 foot Chinese yacht O-Feeling under tow. Picture Gerry Norris/NSRI

Sunday 29th April 2012. Damaged yacht assisted:

NSRI Simon’s Town volunteer sea rescue crew were called out following a request for assistance from the 51 foot Chinese yacht O-Feeling with 5 sailors onboard, all from Xiamen, China. They were 15 nautical miles south of Cape Point reporting to be limping towards Cape Town after suffering some structural damage during their voyage from South America and required assistance to get into port.

The yacht, originally heading to Cape Town from Chile, South America, had a broken boom and engine failure, but the crew had managed to continue sailing towards Cape Town under foresails according to Darren Zimmerman, NSRI Simon’s Town station commander.

NSRI Simon’s Town duty crew launched the sea rescue boat Spirit of Safmarine III at 10h52 on Sunday 29th April and rendezvoused with the yacht 5 nautical miles South of Cape Point.

O-Feeling under tow. Picture Gerry Norris/NSRI

"On arrival on-scene we found the yacht making good progress under sail and we escorted them into False Bay and then took them under tow, bringing them into Simon’s Town harbour where they will effect repairs,” said Darren.

By pure coincidence, NSRI Simon’s Town crewman Gerry Norris, duty navigator onboard Spirit of Safmarine III speaks Chinese fluently after having spent a number of years working and living in China.

“We were informed when we embarked on the rescue operation that the yachtsmen we were going to assist were Chinese and Gerry mentioned to me, as we left Simon’s Town harbour, that if there were any communication barriers he spoke Chinese fluently,” said Darren.

“With Gerry onboard, speaking to the Chinese in their home language, everything went pretty smoothly.”

NSRI Simon's Town duty crew were called out following a request for assistance from the 51 foot Chinese yacht O-Feeling. Picture Chops Craig/NSRI

The Chinese yacht O-Feeling alongside at Simon's Town. Picture Chops Craig/NSRI


Peru investigates deaths of more than 500 pelicans

The government of Peru is investigating the deaths of more than 500 pelicans along a 70km stretch of shoreline in northern Peru.

Officials say tests suggest the birds died on shore over the past few days.

Scientists also found the carcasses of dozens of other sea birds.

The animals were found in the same region of Peru where more than 700 dolphins were washed ashore earlier this year. The cause of their death is still unknown.

The Peruvian government said it was "deeply worried".

A preliminary report said that there was no evidence to show the pelicans had died at sea, but rather that they had died on the beach where they were found.

But it said further tests would be needed to establish the cause of their death.

Virus link?

Reports said a total of more than 1,200 pelican corpses had been found in the Piura and Lambayeque region.

So far, government scientists have been able to examine a 70km stretch of shoreline, on which they found 592 dead sea birds, 538 of them pelicans.

Between January and April of this year, at least 780 dead dolphins have been washed ashore in Lambayeque, according to government figures.

Peru's Deputy Minister for Natural Resource Development, Gabriel Quijandria Acosta, said a virus might have killed the dolphins.

A viral epidemic outbreak was linked to similar deaths of marine wildlife in Peru in the past, as well as in Mexico and the United States.

Scientists from the Peruvian Maritime Institute said results of tests carried out on the dead dolphins would be released in the coming days.


Extreme Weather in Bangladesh on Sunday, 29 April, 2012 at 18:32 (06:32 PM) UTC.

At least three persons including a 76-year-old man was killed and 500 houses collapsed when rain storms swept different parts of Tripura, official sources said on Sunday.A 76-year-old farmer died in Dharmanagar town area and a 30-year-old man died in Panisagar in northern Tripura district when lightning struck them on Saturday, police said.A nine-year-old boy died of electrocution when he came in contact of live wire at Sonamura in Sipahijala district, police said.The pre-monsoon rain accompanied by hailstorm swept different parts of the state collapsing at least 500 houses, uprooting many trees and electric posts.Security forces and civil defence volunteers were engaged in distribution of relief and immediate relieves were given to the next of keens of the deceased, official sources said.At least 12 persons had died within this month due to lightning and electrocution.

- RSOE Edis

Philippines: Kalibo's disaster plan in place

KALIBO, Aklan, April 28 (PIA) -- The municipality of Kalibo has put in place plans for disaster risk reduction management and in mitigating climate change as a result of a three-day orientation workshop held recently by the municipality.

The orientation-workshop was participated by various sectors of Kalibo, who helped outline plans to keep Kalibo’s constituents free from suffering grave effects of natural and man-made disasters and protect them from the ill-effects of climate change.

Kalibo Mayor William Lachica, who heads the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management (MDRRM) Council, said that with the plans in place, barangays will now be well-versed in utilizing their respective 5 percent calamity fund.

Lachica also expressed his belief that Kalibo is the first municipality to come up with such plans in accordance with RA 10121 and RA 9729 or the Climate Change Adaptation Act.

Meanwhile, the offices of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) through Municipal Local Government Operations Officer Maricel Bechayda, Civil Defense Office through Terence Toriano and Municipal Planning and Development Office through MPD Coordinator Marlo Villanueva pledged their commitment to assist in the finalization as well as on the implementation of the plans.

Based on their timetable, the submission and adaptation of the MDRRM Council of the final copies of the Contingency and Operational Plan and Climate Change Adaptation is on April 26 while reproduction of the copies is set today, April 27 and partial distribution of the copies on April 30 of this year. (JCM/VGV-PIA 6, Aklan)

- ReliefWeb

Sunday, 29 April 2012

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 29 April 2012 16h00 SAST

Western Cape Province - Warning: Take action - Subject: Fire Danger and Gale Force Wind
Detail: Valid 30 April 2012: 1. A high veld fire danger rating is expected for the Breede River Valley, Eden and Central Karoo Districs of Western Cape. WATCHES: 1. A gale force NW wind (35kt/ 65km/h) is expected in places between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas in the afternoon.

All other Provinces - No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts.
Detail: No Alerts.


SA Weather Satellite Image: 29 April 2011 19h00 SAST

Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

Plane crash at Margate airport

Durban - A person was killed and another injured when their plane crashed at Margate airport in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday morning, paramedics said.

"What we do know is that one person was critically injured, and has been rushed to the Margate hospital," Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said.

No further details were immediately available.


Valskermspringer val hom dood

Johannesburg – ‘n Man het in ‘n valskerm-ongeluk by ‘n valskermklub in Carletonville, wes van Johannesburg, gesterf, het die Valskermvereniging van Suid-Afrika gesê.

Roelof Hattingh (39) was Saterdagmiddag besig met 'n solo-sprong toe die voorval gebeur het, het Mark Bellingan, woordvoerder van die vereniging, in ‘n verklaring gesê.

Hattingh se valskerm het oopgemaak en gewerk, maar het wegbeweeg van die landingsgebied.

Hy het ernstige beserings opgedoen, maar die oorsaak van sy dood is nog onbekend.

- SAPA/Nuus24

Plane crashes on Swiss farm

Geneva - Six people, including the pilot, died when a small tourist plane crashed in a field in western Switzerland, regional police said Sunday.

The plane came down on Saturday near the village of Tatroz, in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, police said.

They said the victims, who had not yet been identified, were four men and two women. Two bodies were found on the ground and four were in the wreckage.

The single-engine Piper plane had taken off from Belcherette, in the western canton of Vaud at around 14:30 on Saturday.

Witnesses said it overflew Tatroz twice before coming down 100m from a farm.

- SAPA/News24

Woman dies after jumping from train

A woman was killed and another seriously injured when they jumped from a moving train near Ballito on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast on Sunday, paramedics said.

“Reports from the scene indicate that the mother and daughter tried to jump from the moving train at the Compensation Station at around 8am when disaster struck,” Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said.

The mother died on the scene.

“Her daughter sustained serious injury and after medics stabilised her on scene, they transported her to an area hospital for the care that she required.”

- Sapa/IOL

Update: NO REPLY FROM SA WEATHER SERVICE: Request for free detailed weather radar images in South Africa.

SAWDOS - The following letter has been forwarded to the Chief Executive Officer of the SA Weather Services via registered mail for her attention and consequent reply. Up to now NO REPLY or acknowledgement of  receipt of the letter has been received from the SA Weather Service.  This is really unacceptable and the SAWDOS will now send a reminder to the SAWS in this regard.

 The SAWDOS and the public once again ask that free detailed weather radar images and life saving weather information be made available to the general public free of charge. The letter speaks for itself and highlight the current frustration by the public with the limited amount of free weather information and inaccurate storm maps displayed on the SAWS web-site. As soon as we receive a reply we will publish the said reply for public viewing. I really trust that the SAWS will adhere to the request of the public and look forward to a positive reply on this letter from the SAWS.  

Recent weather events (Cyclones Dando and Funso, Flooding in Limpopo and Mpumalanga and Severe Thunderstorms in many provinces) placed the emphases on the fact that the public in South Africa need free detailed radar images and free weather information and data to survive severe weather events.

SA Weather and Disaster Observation Service

                                                                                       PO Box 11488
                                                                                       31 January 2012

The Chief Executive Officer
SA Weather Service
Head Office
Private Bag X097

Dear Sir/Me

Non availability of  free static weather radar images leaves the general public in South Africa vulnerable to severe weather; request for free detailed weather radar images.

I have been tasked by the SA Weather and Disaster Observation Service (SAWDOS) and members of the public in South Africa to approach the SA Weather Service (SAWS) with the request to again make static weather radar images freely available to the public of South Africa.

As motivation the SAWDOS would like to focus your attention on the following:

The SAWDOS is fully aware of :

  • The SAWS’s strategy/policy  in generating commercial revenues from companies and the general public that gain from access to weather information for profit. 
  • The SAWS’s strategy/policy to decrease the funding burden of the state and the attempts by the SAWS to generate revenues through the sale of weather information.
  • The SAWS’s strategy/policy in executing its public good requirement to provide weather information for the safety of life and property through the media strategy in place and through formal relationships with disaster management entities across the country.
  • The SAWS’s strategy/policy to include products of a specialized nature in subscription offers where individuals can gain access to weather radar imagery.  Originally at a cost of … “you speak of for as little as R300.00 per annum”…. but reduced recently to R180.00 per month.
  • Resolution 40 from the 12 th Congress of the World Meteorological Organization.
  • The SAWS Act that lists the pursuit of commercial revenues as an objective of  the SAWS.
  • That the SAWS engaged the services of Weather Intelligence Systems to reduce the tax burden the SAWS places on government.
  • Both letters received (11 and  23 August 2010) from Weather Intelligence Systems relating to the availability of free static weather radar images and their view in this regard. 
The SAWDOS on many occasions in the past and present  expressed it's concern and disappointment with the decision of the SA Weather Service to withdraw the availability of free static and detailed weather radar images to the general public. The SAWDOS is feeling so strongly about the fact that free detailed weather radar images must be available to the general public that it used several media platforms to express it's concern. Readers of the SAWDOS blog also responded and voiced their concern and dismay via email messages, while others commented via the media and social media.

As a result the then SAWDIS (Now SAWDOS) received a letter from Weather Intelligence Systems a firm that the SA Weather Service engaged to create and maintain the SAWS web-site. A letter was received from Weather Intelligence Systems on the 11 August 2010 and several other letters were send to and fro discussing several pertinent matters. It was clear from the onset that the outcome of the engagement would not result in free detailed weather radar images being made available to the general public of South Africa. In a letter dated 6 September 2010 received from Weather Intelligence Systems this was confirmed and I quote:

"In regards to your stated requirement that free detailed radar images be made available to your organization, we are executing a board and shareholder approved strategy to generate revenues on behalf of the South African Weather Service through the sale of information. To this end, products of a specialized nature have been included in subscription offers. Individuals can gain access to the radar imagery you speak of for as little as R300.00 per annum.

As noted in our correspondence with you, the South African Weather Service is executing its public good requirement to provide weather information for the safety of life and property through the media strategy in place and through formal relationships with disaster management entities across the country. Other persons and organizations with an interest in weather are welcome to subscribe to any of the products and services offered through the website."

(Please note that the then SAWDIS at the time never requested that free radar images must only be made available to the SAWDIS. In all correspondence the request was for free detailed weather radar images to the general public of South Africa.)

It is clear from the above that at that time you did not reconsider your decision pertaining to the availability of free detailed weather radar images to the public, but would prefer to continue with generating commercial revenues from parties and the general public that gain access to weather information.

Up to April 2010 free detailed SA Weather Radar Images were freely available and extensively used by the general public. There can be no finer reward than to know that the public's efforts have given communities the precious gift of time, that helped to alert them against severe thunderstorms approaching their area.  At that stage the only real time warning system in South Africa by the public for the public.

By not making detailed weather radar information freely available to the general public the nations first line of defense against severe weather and the precious gift of time was destroyed by the decision of the SAWS. This has surely put more lives at risk as a result of the pursuit of commercial revenues in trying to reduce the tax burden as an objective. No life of any individual must ever be put at risk by any weather service in pursuing commercial revenues or trying to reduce a countries tax burden.

Research by the SAWDOS confirmed that all major countries in the world provide detailed weather radar images to their citizens free or charge. South Africa is now the only country in Africa if not the World that does not provide free radar images to it’s citizens.

The SAWDOS asked it's readers to comment on your decision.  The SAWDOS received many concerned emails and even outraged comments from our readers in this regard.  Every single email/comment received expressed disbelief that such and important system is no longer available to the man in the street.  The reason given by the SAWS that weather radar is a tool used only by their forecasting team is not correct and misleading.  A survey will prove that many members of the public did use weather radar images to monitor severe and damaging thunderstorms for intensity, size and storm track on a daily basis during the stormy season in the past.  Only a few privileged enough can now afford your subscription rates, while the not so privileged has to fend for themselves when severe weather threatens.

The SAWS should not under estimate the intelligence and knowledge of the general public when it comes to analyzing weather radar images.  Since the inception of the SAWDIS in October 2008, the SAWDIS were involved in educating weather observers and the public throughout the country.  This also included providing information on how to analyze weather radar images and information.  Information was however mutually exchanged between the SAWDIS and the general public up to a point were weather observers and the public were able to feed the SAWDIS with severe weather analysis using free radar images and real time weather observations.  Many other non profitable organizations and schools formed part of this educational drive. In many instances learners were able to compile school related tasks about weather observation using SAWS Weather Radar Images and the SAWDIS Blog as references.

The decision by the SAWS to go the subscription route has left the general public in the dark and more vulnerable to severe weather and storms.  Not only this but the educational impact will definitely be felt by every citizen and scholar in this country.

The SAWDOS still maintain that the SAWS has an obligation under the constitution of this country to make all weather information available free of charge to members of the public to keep them informed about impeding severe weather and storms. The current animated radar images and static storm map displayed on your web-site is inaccurate and respectfully serve no other purpose than to indicate that  there is storm activity in a specific province. The SAWDOS has studied your maps against real time storm observations and have come to the conclusion that there is nearly a 30 – 45 minute time difference in storm locations.  In other words the storm map and animated radar map serves no purpose to warn the public of impeding storms and severe weather.  Weather and Weather Radar information should be free of charge to any member of the public, rich or poor. If you look at the USA, New Zealand and Australia you can get info from top to bottom free of charge. You can even get South African weather charts free from the USA. However here in South Africa we must PAY for lifesaving weather information.

The SAWDOS can go into great detail of how static detailed radar images can be used to inform the public of a severe storm approaching a specific town or area.  However the SAWDIS blog contain several such real time examples and post storm analyses that illustrate the urgent need for free detailed radar images.

The decision to remove detailed static radar images from the public domain is totally contrarily to the fundamental objectives of weather organizations in most world countries where the aim is to provide the maximum amount of real-time accurate data to the widest range of their citizens free of charge.  SAWS rather follow the commercial route instead and leave the public vulnerable to severe weather.

As far as limited access to certain general weather information is concerned one should ask whether the current limited information/data provided by your service is sufficient in protecting lives and property.  The recent severe weather events in the past month indicated that the limited free weather information on your web-site is far from adequate to keep the public sufficiently informed.  The comments section on your web-site is a good reflection of the current unhappiness of the public in this regard. (Noted that some complaints by the public were removed for some reason.)

The SAWDOS can take the layback approach and watch from the sideline but who suffers the most during severe weather? The poorest of the poor and that is one of the reasons why the SAWDIS was established in 2008.  The SAWDOS will always have compassion for the poorest of the poor as the founder of the SAWDOS grew up amongst the poorest of the poor in the former Transkei area.  This is the reason why the SAWDOS associate with several relief organizations to assist the general public when severe weather or a disaster cause havoc and destruction.  References of such events are to be found on the SAWDIS and SAWDOS Blogs in abundance.

Being a non profitable and free community based organization and the fact that all weather data must be freely available to any member of the public, the SAWDOS and the majority of citizens in South Africa is not willing to pay for radar images or any other weather data.  A solution to solve the current unhappiness by members of the public would be to make detailed static weather radar images and other weather data freely available to the general public as was the case before April 2010.

The SAWDOS and the public of South Africa would like to request the SA Weather Service to re-consider their decision in forcing the public to pay for weather radar information and other weather information and data. We respectfully request that fee detailed weather radar images and critical weather information and data be made available to the general public free of any charges.

Your kind consideration would be highly appreciated and the SAWDOS and public of South Africa is awaiting your decision in anticipation.


Johan Terblanche
Founder: SA Weather and Disaster Observation Service
Mossel Bay

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 29 April 2012 04h00 SAST

All Provinces in South Africa - No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts.
Detail: No Alerts.


SA Weather Satellite Image: 29 April 2012 06h00 SAST

Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

GFS Medium Range Forecasts of Vertical Velocity and Precipitation: 28 - 29 April 2012

Image: U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Click on image for larger view.

Rubber Chicken in Space

(Click on images for larger view.)

In March 2012, the Sun unleashed the most intense radiation storm since 2003, peppering satellites with charged particles and igniting strong auroras around both poles. A group of high school students in Bishop, California, knew just what to do: They launched a rubber chicken.

The students inflated a helium balloon and used it to send “Camilla” to an altitude of 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers), where she was exposed to high-energy solar protons. “We equipped Camilla with sensors to measure the radiation,” said Sam Johnson, age 16, of Bishop Union High School’s Earth to Sky student group. “At the apex of our flight, the payload was above 99 percent of Earth’s atmosphere.”

Launching a rubber chicken into a solar storm might sound strange, but the students had a reason: They are doing an astrobiology project. “Later this year, we plan to launch a species of microbes to find out if they can live at the edge of space,” said team member Rachel Molina, age 17. “This was a reconnaissance flight.”

Many space enthusiasts are already familiar with Camilla, the mascot of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. With help from her keeper, Romeo Durscher of Stanford University, Camilla corresponds with more than 20,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ about the latest results from NASA’s heliophysics missions.

Camilla actually flew twice: once on March 3, before the radiation storm, and again on March 10, while the storm was raging. On the outside of her space suit—knitted by Cynthia Coer Butcher from Blue Springs, Missouri—Camilla wore a pair of radiation badges, the same kind worn by medical technicians and nuclear workers to assess their dosages.

On March 3, the Earth to Sky team and a local class of fifth graders attached Camilla to the payload, a modified department store lunchbox full of instruments. The payload included four cameras, a cryogenic thermometer, and two GPS trackers. Seven insects and two-dozen sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus) were also sent up to test their response to near-space travel.

The students adjusted the payload and parachute, inflated the balloon, and released the “stack” into a cloudless blue sky just before local noon. "It was a beautiful lift-off," says Amelia Koske-Phillips, age 15, the team's payload manager and launch boss.

During the two-and-a-half-hour flight, Camilla spent approximately 90 minutes in the stratosphere, where temperatures (-40 to -60C) and air pressures (1 percent of sea level) are akin to those on Mars. The balloon popped (lower photo) at an altitude of 36.5 kilometers (22 miles), and Camilla parachuted safely back to Earth. The entire payload was recovered intact from a landing site in the Inyo Mountains.

One week later, on March 10, 2012, with a solar storm underway, the students repeated the experiment and Camilla flew into one of the strongest proton storms in years.

Sparked by activity in sunspot AR1429, the Sun unleashed more than 50 solar flares during the first two weeks of March. At the peak of the storm from March 7–10, the charged particles hitting Earth's upper atmosphere deposited enough energy to power New York City for two years. At the moment of Camilla's launch on March 10, Earth-orbiting satellites reported solar proton counts at approximately 30,000 times normal.

The fifth grade assistants are now planting the sunflower seeds to see if radiated seeds produce flowers that are different than those grown from the seeds that stayed on Earth. They're also pinning the corpses of the insects—none survived—to a black “Foamboard of Death,” a rare collection of bugs that have been to the edge of space.

Meanwhile, Camilla’s radiation badges have been sent to a commercial laboratory for analysis. The students say they are looking forward to reviewing the data and perhaps sending Camilla back for more.

Photo courtesy of Science@NASA (top) and Earth to Sky, Bishop California (lower). Caption by Tony Phillips, Science@NASA.

Photograph - NASA

Russia Destroys 62% of its Chemical Weapons

About 25,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 62 percent of Russia’s stockpile, have been destroyed by April 29, the day when the International Chemical Weapons Convention came into force.

In 15 years Russia destroyed about two thirds of its world-largest stockpile of 40,000 metric tons. The goal is to destroy 100 percent of chemical weapons in Russia by 2015.

The 188 states parties to the Convention initially planned to destroy all chemical weapons in the world by 2012. Russia and the United States, who have 40,000 and 27,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, respectively, said they were behind schedule and the deadline was postponed until December 31, 2015.

The U.S. said it had already destroyed about 90 percent of its chemical weapons. The Department of Defense, however, postponed the deadline for destroying the remaining 2,000 metric tons first until 2021 and then until 2023.

As of January 31, 2012, more than 50,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 73 percent of the global stockpile, have been destroyed.

The convention came into force on April 29, 1997, and 188 out of 195 UN member states have joined it. Myanmar and Israel are signatories to the treaty, but are yet to ratify it. Only Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia and Syria are still outside the convention.
The countries that officially admitted having chemical weapons are Albania, Libya, Iraq, India, Russia, the United States and South Korea.

- RIA Novosti

Officials: 1 killed, 16 hospitalized when storm collapses St. Louis tent

(CNN) -- One person was killed and 16 others hospitalized Saturday afternoon when a sports bar tent collapsed during a storm that swept through the St. Louis area, fire officials said.

Five people suffered serious injuries. Nearly 100 others were treated at the scene, mostly for bruises, cuts, twisted ankles and one broken arm, officials said.
St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans had gathered at Kilroy's, which had a tent set up in the rear, according to fire Capt. Dan Sutter.

Wind gusts estimated to be about 50 miles per hour lifted the tent, according to Eddie Roth, the city's public safety director.

While the tent had received a city permit, manufacturer guidelines called for it to withstand winds of up to 90 miles per hour, said building commissioner Frank Oswald.
Oswald said officials had not yet determined whether there was a manufacturing or installation failure. The fire marshal was to conduct an investigation into the incident.

Up to 150 fans may have been under the tent, built of aluminum poles and guy wires, when the storm struck shortly before 4 p.m. (5 p.m. ET). They went to Kilroy's, south of Busch Stadium, after the Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers.

"We had live wires lying on the ground. We have severe injuries to quite a few people," said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. "This gives us nightmares."
"The music was loud and people had been in attendance at the ball game all afternoon," Deputy Fire Chief John Altmann told reporters. "I don't think they were really aware of the seriousness of the situation."

The tent came to rest on a railroad trestle.

The area had been under a severe thunderstorm watch, with a warning issued shortly before the incident.

"Anytime we put a lot of people in open areas and you have hazardous weather, it is a dangerous situation," Altmann said.

Oswald said he believed the tent met manufacturer construction specifications. The city inspects such structures for fire safety and exit lights, but installation is up to the contractor. Inspectors were on site after the permit was issued earlier this month, according to Oswald.

"Like the chief said, it is important that people are aware of the weather situation," he said. "These are temporary structures. They are certainly not designed to any stretch of the imagination to handle a severe weather event like this. Be aware of your surroundings and try to get somewhere safe."

Video shot by KSDK showed remains of the crumpled tent and dazed patrons standing outside.

A strong thunderstorm north of the city produced golf-ball-sized and larger hail, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kramper.


HAMNET Weekly Report 29/4/2012

The AGM for 2012 has come and gone and we have four new councillors in our midst. We not only welcome them but also wish them well in their new portfolios. We also say goodbye to John Williscroft ZS6EF and Henry Chamberlain ZS1AAZ and we thank them, especially Henry, who served us for a long time as Secretary!

Coming back to current affairs, we had a week of floods, floods and more floods around the world – and not forgetting our own Karroo with almost unseasonal rain coming down in buckets over a wide area!

The countries that suffered flooding were Haiti, Kenya, Columbia, Russia and Paraguay!
For Haiti, it’s the beginning of their rainy season bringing with misery to a country still suffering from the effects of the devastating earth quake of 2010. Nine people died and many displaced.
Kenya suffered heavy rain in two regions which ended in 10 deaths and many displaced by wash-a way’s.

In the south of Columbia, 17 people lost their lives and as many as 56000 were displaced by exceptionally heavy rains.

In Paraguay, 2 were killed and about 5000 displaced due to heavy rain and finally in Russia, east of Belarus in the Russian Federation, 2600 were displaced by heavy rain in that region.

Locally, the S. A. Weather Bureau issued a warning of heavy rain stretching from as far north as Upington right through the Karroo to the Southern Cape and east through the Eastern Cape.

Although no reports of severe flooding were received, it was reported that thunder storm activity in the Western Cape is on the increase. This is a phenomenon that was predicted by a weather expert a few years back and seems to be materialising. Hail was also reported from Franschhoek.
Winter is now fast approaching and we await the first real cold front with its snow and cold weather!

Reporting for Hamnet, this is Francois Botha – ZS6BUU.

Sea change in salinity heralds shift in rainfall

(Reuters) - Scientists have detected a clear change in salinity of the world's oceans and have found that the cycle that drives rainfall and evaporation has intensified more than thought because of global warming.

The finding published on Friday helps refine estimates of how different parts of the globe will be affected by increased rainfall or more intense droughts as the planet heats up, affecting crops, water supplies and flood defenses.

Scientists led by Paul Durack of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reported clear changes in salinity patterns across the world's oceans between 1950 and 2000.

Oceans cover 71 percent of the planet's surface and store 97 percent of the world's water and are therefore the main source of moisture in the atmosphere through evaporation.

The global cycle of rainfall and evaporation of water from the land and surface of the ocean comprise the global water cycle, with some areas such as the tropics naturally wetter and others, such as large parts of Australia, the United States or northern Africa, drier.

Some ocean regions are saltier, meaning less rainfall and others are fresher, meaning high rainfall, making salinity measurements a good way to measure changes in rainfall patterns.

Durack and team, in a study published in the journal Science, found that the water cycle intensified 4 percent from 1950-2000, twice as much as projected by climate models.

"These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming," Durack, a post-doctoral fellow, said in a statement.

Scientists have long understood the link between evaporation and rainfall and ocean surface salinity levels but have struggled to accurately quantify the relationship.


Durack and team combined salinity data from 1950-2000 and the relationship between salinity, rainfall and evaporation in climate models to find that for every degree Celsius of warming at the Earth's surface, the water cycle strengthens by 8 percent.

Temperature data shows the planet heated up by 0.5 deg C between 1950-2000. But climate models suggest the world is on track to warm by 3 deg C by the end of the century unless the current growth of greenhouse gas emissions is quickly halted.

A warming of that magnitude would mean the water cycle intensifying by up to 24 percent, with wet regions getting wetter and dry regions drier.

"This has big implications for dry regions, such as Australia, which are already dry," Durack said in an email to Reuters.

He said he believed his team's work was the first to formally quantify the link between the water cycle and salinity change.

"Once we developed the relationship between salinity and evaporation-rainfall change in models, we could then use this relationship to scale our observed salinity change estimate to provide an inferred evaporation-rainfall change estimate."

He said ocean salinity data might now receive more attention as a health check on the world's climate, boosted by measurements from 3,500 robotic devices called Argos deployed across the world's oceans and satellites.

Over the past decade, the Argo float system has revolutionized the way scientists understand how oceans operate by providing a large amount of data on temperature, salinity and other indicators.

"It's a Goldilocks' time for oceanography because we're had this abundant new source of data from the Argo system that we've been able to use to better understand the oceans and how they are changing," Durack said.

- Reuters

Could Early, High-Risk Weather Warnings be on the Rise in the USA?

The series of tornadoes that killed at least six in Oklahoma and raised havoc in other parts of the Central Plains April 14-15 was preceded by a rare early, high-risk warning.

For the second time in U.S. history, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center issued a high-risk warning more than 24 hours in advance of the more than 75 tornadoes that later hit Oklahoma as well as Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and north Texas.

High-risk warnings are issued on average two to five times a year but not with a 24-hour lead time. So what was different about these events? The storm was “well forecast” by the computer models as potentially dangerous and forecasters have been gaining confidence in forecasting every year, according to Russ Schneider, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

“The conditions were favorable, based on computer model guidance, for a potentially major tornado outbreak,” Schneider said. “When there is sufficient confidence, what we want is to state what we’re seeing in the data and what our expert forecast is so that people can prepare.”

The increased confidence comes from: a better understanding of science; improved observations, including satellite, radar and other observing systems; and greatly improved numerical forecast models and numerical modeling or ensemble forecasting. The latter is numerical modeling on a smaller scale (down to individual thunderstorms) that involves taking numerous computer forecasts and determining whether the storm will be isolated and a potential super cell or a solid line squall. Solid line storms tend to have less potential to become tornadoes than the isolated super cells.

“This will be an increasing trend within severe weather forecasts where we’ll be able to give the emergency management community a greater range of information on what the worst possible outcomes are and what some of the less severe outcomes are and the chances of each,” Schneider said.

He said most communication to the public will be the day of the event, but FEMA will continue to receive warnings up to three days and sometimes four days in advance of storms. “We certainly want to stay responsible in our communication both to the emergency management community and to the public. We certainly don’t want to ‘over warn’ so to speak.”

The early spring storms like the one that prompted the early warning on April 13, are more likely candidates for early warnings than later storms when the jet stream weakens, Schneider said.

“We certainly won’t always be able to makes these kinds of decisions, particularly with a high-risk storm so many days in advance, although we are able to identify areas that may prove to be troublesome many days in advance, particularly very early in spring.”

Although Schneider sees a trend of more early warnings, he said predicting the future is a difficult business. “We don’t actually know the complete state of the atmosphere at any one moment with certainty, so we can’t calculate the future with certainty.”


Gobi Desert Dust Storm

(Click on image for larger view.)

Dust plumes blew out of the Gobi Desert on April 26, 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image the same day. Arising from source points along the border between southern Mongolia and China, the dust plumes fanned out toward the southeast.

The Gobi Desert straddles the China-Mongolia border, and holds landscapes ranging from sand and bare rock to grassy steppe. The Gobi is one of the world’s most abundant sources of dust. Dust storms tend to be the most frequent in the springtime, especially March and April.

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. (2010) Forecasting Dust Storms. (Registration required.) Accessed April 26, 2012.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Michon Scott.


Fires in Nepal

(Click on image for larger view.)

Numerous forest fires were burning throughout Nepal when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of the Siwalik Hills on April 24, 2012.

Nepalese officials say they have counted at least 225 fires burning; the largest has destroyed more than 600 hectares (1,480) acres of forest. Officials say the fires have been caused by a long dry spell, windy weather, and discarded cigarettes. There were 1,857 active fires last year, a relatively small number compared to the 4,217 that occurred in 2009, an exceptionally dry year.

“This might be the peak time for fire incidents for this season. However, the rise in the mercury might give rise to more devastating forest fires across the country,” Sundar Prasad Sharma, the coordinator at the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction-South Asia Wildland Fire Network, told the Kathmandu Post.

Nepalese officials are currently testing a pilot version of a new wildfire monitoring system based on data from MODIS. Interactive maps showing fire locations are available here.

Parajuli, K. (2012, April 27) Nepal, the Himalayan Forests are Burning. AsiaNews Accessed April 27, 2012.
BBC. (2012, April 26) More Than 220 Forest Fires Spread Across Nepal. Accessed April 27, 2012.
The Kathmandu Post. (2012, April 24) Forest Fires Raging Across Country. Accessed April 27, 2012.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Adam Voiland.


Saturday, 28 April 2012

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 28 April 2012 16h00 SAST

All Provinces in South Africa - No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts.
Detail: No Alerts.


SA Weather Satellite Image: 28 April 2012 14h12 SAST

Image: NOAA18 (Ben Engelbrecht, Dundee) Click on image for larger view.

Biological Hazard in Ghana on Saturday, 28 April, 2012 at 09:29 (09:29 AM) UTC.

The chief of Googo in the Bawku West District of the Upper East Region, Naaba Akpaam Abugri, is alarmed that some farmers in the community whose animals died of anthrax sold such infected dead animals to a chop bar operator in the area.Veterinary officers in the region, on Wednesday [25 Apr 2012], started the vaccination of cattle and other domestic animals except birdsb against anthrax, following the outbreak of the disease in that community which has claimed 2 human lives.Although veterinary officers say 9 cows have died of the disease, Naaba Akpaam, who briefed this reporter at Googo on Wednesday on thehavoc caused by the disease, said about 30 cows and several donkeys,goats, sheep, and dogs had also died. According to him, one of thefarmers, who lost 8 cows, revealed that he had sold 6 of them to achop bar operator.Naaba Akpaam, who could not readily name the chop bar operator, and neither the specific location of the chop bar, said he had started making inquiries to know the owner and location of the bar, so that the remaining meat could be retrieved and destroyed to prevent the further spread of the disease.

He said some of the people who were infected with the disease had refused to be taken to the hospital,because they claimed if they went to the hospital and giveninjections, they would lose their lives. The Upper East regional veterinary officer, Dr Thomas Anyorikeya, who is leading a team of veterinary personnel to carry out the vaccination exercise, disclosed that on Tuesday -- day one of the exercise -- 497 animals were vaccinated. They included 384 cattle, 86 sheep, 17 donkeys, 8 goats, and 5 dogs. On Thursday [26 Apr 2012], the 2nd day of the vaccination, 104 cattle were vaccinated by about 10:30 am. The number of the personnel on Thursday increased from 5 to 10, and they intended to vaccinate all the animals in the Googo community and adjoining ones such as Bazua and Sapelga. Dr Anyorikeya was worried that for about 10 years now, no animals'census had been conducted. The annual animal census, which was being conducted by the Veterinary Service, provided a database of animals in the regions, districts, and communities, and helped in the operations of the service, including vaccinations. Some of the personnel lamented that they did not have protective wear,such as gloves, wellington boots and overalls. This, they said,exposed them to risk in their line of operation.The vaccination is expected to avert the further spread of the disease. Meanwhile, a ban on the movement of cattle has been imposed on the area.

- RSOE Edis

7 Injured in N3 taxi blaze

Seven people sustained minor injuries this afternoon after a minibus taxi caught fire on the N3 highway just before the Linksfield off ramp.

The cause of the blaze is unknown at this stage, but the minibus taxi had allegedly started ro burn while still moving on the freeway. The vehicle then came to a standstill and all of the occupants were able to get out of the taxi.

When ER24 paramedics arrived at the scene they found a total of seven occupants in need of medical attention. All of the patients sustained injuries in the form of minor burns. They received treatment at the scene before being transported to a nearby medical facility for further medical attention.

Fire and rescue workers managed to extinguish the blaze. The cause of the incident will be investigated by the appropriate authority.

- ER24

Woman, medics assaulted in Johannesburg

Johannesburg - A woman was stabbed in Ivory Park and two paramedics attending to her were assaulted on Saturday, Johannesburg emergency service said.

"They [the paramedics] found a pensioner with multiple stab wounds to her body," said spokesman Synock Motobako.

"While treating the old lady, four drunk women intervened... and the men were manhandled and hit with a bottle."

Police arrived a short while later and arrested the four, including the pensioner's daughter.
The injured woman was taken to hospital.

- SAPA/News24

SA National Severe Weather Warning: 28 April 2012 04h00 SAST

All Provinces in South Africa - No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No Alerts.
Detail: No Alerts.


SA Weather Satellite Image: 28 April 2012 05h45 SAST

Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

GFS Medium Range Forecasts of Vertical Velocity and Precipitation: 27 - 28 April 2012

Image: U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) (Click on image for larger view.)

World Weather Information Website Hits One Billion Mark

The World Weather Information Service (WWIS) website has just exceeded one billion page visits since it was launched in 2001.

The WWIS website was developed and maintained by the Hong Kong Observatory on behalf of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WWIS aims to provide authoritative and reliable weather information from worldwide National Meteorological Services. At present, 131 WMO Members provide official weather forecasts covering more than 1 600 cities on the website. It is also available in 10 different languages, serving the international public in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Apart from website, a mobile version of the WWIS, MyWorldWeather, was launched on the iPhone platform in October 2011. Equipped with location-based technology to detect the user’s location, the application automatically displays the latest official weather forecasts and climatological information of the city nearest to the user. The MyWorldWeather has also become popular and around 39 000 copies have been downloaded since its launch.

My WorldWeather is a free mobile application downloadable  here


Helmets Save Lives During Tornadoes, Scientists Say

Image Credit: Stewart Family

As families in Alabama come together to remember the nearly 250 people killed one year ago today in devastating tornadoes, authorities were begging residents to pay close attention to the story of 8-year-old Noah Stewart.

“He was caught up as high as a power pole … just being spun around and then he came down and hit the ground” said Noah’s mother, Lisa Stewart.

Noah is alive today because of a bicycle helmet his mother gave him to put on his head.
“It felt like I went head-first into the concrete. I think it actually just broke in pieces,” Noah Stewart told ABC News. “I think I just went straight down and just hit my head and it completely broke.”

Today, the Centers for Disease Control reports that many of those who were killed did exactly what they should. They ran to basements, bathrooms and other safe places. There was plenty of warning, but none of this was enough.

Scientists at the University of Alabama found that in one county they studied at least half of those killed died from head injuries that could have been prevented.

“If there is a severe weather alert, protect your head,” Russ Fine, an injury epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told ABC News, “whether it’s a hard hat from a construction site, a football helmet, a motorcycle helmet [or] a bicycle helmet.”

In Joplin, Mo., it was a bicycle helmet that saved the life of Augie Gonzales. Of all things, it was a toilet that hit him in the head. Fortunately, he was uninjured.
“I know the helmet saved my son,” said his mother, Natalie Gonzales.

- ABC News

Paramedic pull lady from burning building

A female sustained some injuries this afternoon after a fire broke out at her house in Randburg.

The cause of the incident is unclear at this stage, but a ER24 paramedic noticed the smoke from the building when driving past. The paramedic then investigated the smoke and discovered that a flat was on fire.

Concerned bystanders and onlookers were attempting to extinguish a gas cylinder engulfed in flames. Upon investigating the inside of the apartment the paramedic discovered that a female resident, believed to be aged in her 50′s, was entrapped in the building.

Paramedics escorted the lady from the house before treating her for burns to her hands as well as for smoke inhalation. She was later transported to a nearby medical facility for further treatment.

- ER24

Epidemic in Ukraine on Friday, 27 April, 2012 at 18:57 (06:57 PM) UTC.

Since January 2012, over 5100 cases of measles have been reported and it is expected that this will increase. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that unvaccinated people traveling to the European Football Championships in Ukraine and Poland who have not previously had measles should take the vaccine in good time before they travel. The Ukrainian outbreak is concentrated near the border with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, but it is expected that the outbreak will increase in the next few months and spread to more areas. As measles is highly infectious and vaccine coverage in Ukraine is low, there is a high chance of exposure to the measles virus. People who are unvaccinated or are not immune to measles are at significant risk of infection. Measles is extremely contagious and is the most serious of the childhood diseases included in the childhood immunisation programme in Norway. Of the childhood diseases that can be prevented by vaccine, measles is the most common cause of death globally. Young children and children with other diseases are most at risk for serious complications, but older children and adults can also become seriously ill with measles.

- RSOE Edis

Lightning Safety

Each year lightning kills approximately 10 Canadians and injures approximately 100 to 150 others. So, how do you keep yourself and your family safe when lightning strikes? Read the tips and information below and stay safe!

The first and most important thing to remember is that if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Take shelter immediately, preferably in a house or all-metal automobile (not convertible top). If caught outside far from a safe shelter, stay away from tall objects, such as trees, poles, wires and fences. Take shelter in a low lying area.

Once indoors, stay away from electrical appliances and equipment, doors, windows, fireplaces, and anything else that will conduct electricity, such as sinks, tubs and showers. Avoid using a telephone that is connected to a landline.

If you are in your car during lightning, do not park under tall objects that could topple, and do not get out if there are downed power lines nearby. If you are caught outside, don’t stand near tall objects or anything made of metal, and avoid open water.

If caught on the water in a small boat with no cabin during thunder and lightning, quickly get to shore. Boats with cabins offer a safer environment, but it’s still not ideal.

Remember, there is no safe place outdoors during a thunderstorm. Once in a safe location, remain there for 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard before resuming your outdoor activities.

People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and can be safely handled, but victims may be suffering from burns or shock and should receive medical attention immediately. If you come across someone who has been struck, call for medical assistance immediately and, if breathing has stopped, administer mouth-to-mouth or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Additional precautions to take during a lightning storm

If caught outdoors:

Avoid putting yourself above the surrounding landscape. Seek shelter in low-lying areas such as valleys, ditches and depressions but be aware of flooding.
Stay away from water. Don't go boating or swimming if a storm threatens, and get to land as quickly as possible if you are already on the water. Lightning can strike the water and travel a substantial distance from its point of contact.
Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as tractors, golf carts, golf clubs, metal fences, motorcycles, lawnmowers and bicycles.
Avoid being the highest point in an open area. Swinging a golf club, or holding an umbrella or fishing rod can make you the tallest object and a target for lightning.
You are safe inside a car during lightning, but be aware of downed power lines which may be touching your car. You are safe inside the car, but you may receive a shock if you step outside.
In a forest, seek shelter in a low-lying area under a thick growth of small trees or bushes.
Keep alert for flash floods, sometimes caused by heavy rainfall, if seeking shelter in a ditch or low-lying area.

Indoor Precautions:

Before the storm hits, disconnect electrical appliances including radios and television sets. Do not touch them during the storm.
Don't go outside unless absolutely necessary.
Keep as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
Don't handle electrical equipment or telephones. The electrical current from the lightning strike will travel through wires and cords and if you are directly connected with them, you could be struck. Use battery operated appliances only. Cordless telephones are safe however you could receive a very loud noise on the phone which may seem like a shock. This would be consistent with the house or somewhere nearby being struck by lightning.

Information on this page was a compilation of various sources mentioned below.

Recent Updates in Lightning Safety by William P. Roeder
Canada National Weather Service
Environment Canada