Monday, 18 July 2011

Newswatch - July 2011

Newswatch is a regular round up of some key stories relating to the geosciences in international development. In the past Newswatch has examined stories relating to geohazards, and in particular landslides. This month there have been a number of geoscience-related things in the news that are well worth a mention:

Mount Lokun (Source: Wiki)
Thousands of people have been evacuated on the island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia. An evacuation zone has been established, affecting around 28,000 people, some of whom have begun to evacuate. There are reports of one fatality (a woman had a heart attack during the evacuation process) and forest fires as a result of the eruption. Indonesia has many active volcanoes, which have caused many fatalities and disruption when erupting in the past. Mount Merapi, for example, killed more than 350 people when it erupted last year. The Jakarta Globe has regular updates on the situation and The Guardian Natural Disasters page also has more details

July sees the beginning of the monsoon season in Bangladesh - in which there is routine flooding and displacement of communities. These striking images by NASA show the increase in water in the north of the country. Increased precipitation is likely to result in landslides as well. 

An article written in the past week suggests there have been significant problems in communication between scientists and decision makers following the drought in East Africa. Forecasters issued warnings about very poor rainy seasons, and yet the region has found itself in significant turmoil. It is also suggested that the international community as a whole failed to respond in the provision of funds so that humanitarian organisations could prepare and respond effectively. Meanwhile, there is still a significant crisis in the region and a shortfall of funds. The UK has pledged over £52million more, and is calling on the international community to do more to avoid a catastrophe in the region. The UK public have donated a fantastic £13million through the Disasters Emergency Committee. There is some indication that the drought is also affecting Tanzania more than reported too as they impose power rationing to conserve water in their hydro-electric schemes.

Figures suggest that the first two quarters of 2011 have been the costliest, in terms of losses from natural hazards, on record. The huge economic cost of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has resulted in losses from the first two quarters of 2011 exceeding the total annual cost of the previous highest year, in 2005. The number of fatalities, however, is below the 2001-2010 average.