TIME California

4.0-Magnitude Earthquake Hits San Francisco

There are no reports of injuries

(SAN FRANCISCO) — A short sharp earthquake rattled the San Francisco Bay Area, but there are no reports of injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 4.0 magnitude quake Monday morning was centered just north of Piedmont, near Berkeley, and felt in downtown San Francisco, along the Peninsula and in the East Bay.

The shallow quake at 6:49 a.m. was a sharp jolt, followed by a couple of gentle rolls. It was not immediately known if the quake caused damage.

Bay Area Rapid Transit is holding trains to check the tracks on the public transit system. Commuters should expect delays.

 

4.2 magnitude earthquake, close to San Francisco, USA
USGS/EPAA shake map released by the US Geological Survey on 17 Aug. 2015 shows the location of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake, close to San Francisco.
TIME New Jersey

Small Earthquake Hits New Jersey

United States Geological Survey

78 people initially reported feeling the quake

(BERNARDSVILLE, N.J.) — People in parts of New Jersey got an early wake-up call Friday from a small earthquake that caused no damage or injuries.

The magnitude-2.7 quake hit around 3:41 a.m., roughly 2 miles north of Bernardsville, about 35 miles west of New York City, at a depth of 3 1/2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was initially recorded as a 2.5 magnitude.

Seventy-eight people initially reported feeling it, USGS geophysicist Zachery Reeves said.

Stuart Heiser, who was visiting family in Morris Plains, felt the house shake and heard an explosion that sounded like a tree had fallen.

“It lasted one second, but it was definitely loud enough and physically violent enough to wake everyone up,” Heiser said.

The quake struck along a branch of the Ramapo Fault, said Won-Young-Kim, who heads the seismic network for Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Such small earthquakes happen in the region every few years, he said, but “we can’t rule out bigger ones because a magnitude 5 hit around New York Harbor in the 1870s.”

The last earthquake reported in New Jersey had a magnitude of 1.9 and happened about 17 miles east-southeast of Trenton on Dec. 13, 2014.

TIME Japan

Japan Restarts First Nuclear Reactor Since Fukushima Meltdown

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the plant

(TOKYO) — A power plant operator in southern Japan restarted a nuclear reactor, the first to begin operating under new safety requirements following the Fukushima disaster, and said Wednesday that there has been no major problem so far.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said Tuesday it had restarted the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant as planned. The restart marks Japan’s return to nuclear energy four-and-half-years after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan following an earthquake and tsunami.

The plant said the nuclear chain reaction started safely late Tuesday.

The national broadcaster NHK showed plant workers in the control room as they turned the reactor back on. Tomomitsu Sakata, a spokesman for Kyushu Electric Power, said the reactor was put back online without any problems.

The Fukushima disaster displaced more than 100,000 people due to radioactive contamination and spurred a national debate over this resource-scarce country’s reliance on nuclear power.

A majority of Japanese oppose the return to nuclear energy. Dozens of protesters, including ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was in office at the time of the disaster and has become an outspoken critic of nuclear power, were gathered outside the plant as police stood guard.

“Accidents are unpredictable, that’s why they happen. And certainly not all the necessary precautions for such accidents have been taken here,” Kan shouted to the crowd of about 300 people.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority affirmed the safety of the Sendai reactor and another one at the plant last September under stricter safety rules imposed after the 2011 accident, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl explosion.

The Sendai No. 1 reactor is scheduled to start generating power Friday and reach full capacity next month. The second Sendai reactor is due to restart in October.

Yoichi Miyazawa, Japan’s industry minister, said Tuesday that the government would “put safety first” in resuming use of nuclear power.

All of Japan’s 43 workable reactors were idled for the past two years pending safety checks. To offset the shortfall in power output, the country ramped up imports of oil and gas and fired up more thermal power plants, slowing progress toward reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Miyazawa said nuclear power is “indispensable” for Japan.

“It would be impossible to achieve all these three things simultaneously — keep nuclear plants offline, while also trying to curb carbon dioxide and maintain the same electricity cost. I hope to gain the public’s understanding of the situation,” Miyazawa said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to have the reactors restarted as soon as possible to help reduce costly reliance on imported oil and gas and alleviate the financial burden on utilities of maintaining the idled plants.

“There are very strong vested interests to reopen nuclear reactors. Accepting them as permanently closed would have financial implications that would be hard to manage,” said Tomas Kaberger, chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation.

Utilities are seeking approvals to restart 23 reactors, including the other Sendai reactor.

The government has set a goal to have nuclear power meet more than 20 percent of Japan’s energy needs by 2030, despite the lingering troubles at the Fukushima plant, which is plagued by massive flows of contaminated water leaking from its reactors.

Removal of the melted fuel at the plant — the most challenging part of the 30-to-40-year process of shutting it down permanently — will begin only in 2022.

Still, the government favors restarting other plants judged to meet the new safety criteria, for both economic and political reasons. Japan invested heavily in its nuclear power program and many communities rely on tax revenues and jobs associated with the plants.

Japan also faces pressure to use its stockpile of more than 40 tons of weapons-usable plutonium, enough to make thousands of nuclear weapons. The plutonium, as fuel called MOX, will be burned in reactors since the country’s nuclear fuel recycling program at Rokkasho in northern Japan has been stalled by technical problems.

To burn enough plutonium, Japan needs to restart as many as 18 reactors. Nuclear experts say this could pose a challenge.

__

Associated Press writer Emily Wang in Satsumasendai, Japan, contributed to this report.

__

The first name of the industry minister has been corrected to Yoichi. The story has been also corrected to say Japan’s plutonium stockpile is worth thousands of nuclear weapons.

TIME weather

Oklahoma Hit By 4.5 Magnitude Earthquake

The state had two earthquakes in one day

Residents of Oklahoma experienced an earthquake on Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

At around a little past 1 p.m., the state experienced a 4.5 magnitude earthquake near Crescent, Oklahoma in Logan County, local news reports. A 4.0 earthquake was also reported slightly earlier at 12:49 p.m.

Residents in several states reportedly felt the shake, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas, the Weather Channel reports.

So far there are no reports of major damage.

The Rocky Mountain region is infrequently hit by earthquakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which will be monitoring any further seismic activity.

TIME Nepal

Is It Really Safe to Go Trekking in Nepal Again?

Plenty of well-meaning organizations say the best way to support quake-ravaged Nepal is to spend your tourist dollars there, but many local tour operators have concerns

Nepal’s Himalayan tour operators are criticizing a new government-sanctioned report that declared one of the country’s most popular trekking circuits safe for tourists after massive earthquakes ravaged the country in late April.

They say the study was hastily conducted, without enough fieldwork to back up the findings.

The report, funded by the U.K. and conducted by structural-engineering company Miyamoto, found that the Annapurna circuit was not as badly damaged as initially feared, the BBC says.

The government welcomed the report’s conclusions that very few trails in the area needed repairs after quakes on April 26 and May 12 killed more than 9,000 people across the tiny mountain nation.

Several companies and associations that facilitate trekking expeditions across the Himalayan mountains surrounding Nepal, however, are less enthusiastic. Most say they were not consulted for their input, despite their intimate familiarity with and practical knowledge of the region.

“Such assessments need to have the involvement of stakeholders like us to have any credibility,” Ramesh Dhamala, president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), told the BBC.

Nepal Mountaineering Association president Ang Tshering Sherpa added that the report was “totally insufficient” because only one week of fieldwork was carried out.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Their criticisms come just over a month after U.N. officials voiced their fears over the safety of several quake-damaged World Heritage Sites reopened by the Nepalese government.

Speaking to the New York Times in June, Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu, said that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening of certain monuments — including some of the country’s most popular attractions — because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Meanwhile, representatives of Miyamoto told the BBC they involved multiple trekking and mountaineering companies in compiling their report on the Annapurna circuit.

The global engineering firm, which is based in Sacramento, Calif., is also compiling a similar safety report on the world’s tallest peak Mount Everest and its surrounding areas.

Dhamala, however, says operators belonging to TAAN will not be sending tourists to either region based on Miyamoto’s findings.

The association’s CEO, Ganga Sagar Pant, said in an interview with TIME on May 8 that they were conducting “assessment” expeditions of their own to ensure the trails were safe for visitors. Pant, along with other government officials and tour operators, insisted at the time that Nepal was safe for tourists — but that was before the second earthquake, which struck a week after the interview.

Around 17,000 fewer tourists have visited Nepal between May and July compared to the corresponding period last year, severely depleting one of the mainstays of the small landlocked country’s already struggling economy.

TIME Nepal

Go Inside the Effort to Rebuild Nepal

As delegates from around the world gather in Kathmandu for an international conference on rebuilding Nepal, here's how the country's farmers are recovering from an earthquake that, two months ago, claimed thousands of lives

Two months ago, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, centered in a mountainous region northwest of Kathmandu, devastated Nepal, shaking apart ancient temples, splitting roads, leveling homes and bridges, and setting off angry landslides and avalanches across the Himalayan nation.

The temblor, which struck shortly before noon local time on April 25, was felt in neighboring China and India, and even as far away as Pakistan. A series of panic-inducing aftershocks followed, and then, on May 12, the country was rattled by a magnitude 7.3 quake centered northeast of Kathmandu, near the country’s border with China.

In Nepal, the death toll from the two earthquakes stands at nearly 9,000, with over 22,000 people injured. (Deaths were also recorded in neighboring countries.) Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. The country’s health infrastructure suffered a body blow. According to a recent government report, nearly 450 public heath facilities, including five hospitals, were completely destroyed. In what was already one of the region’s poorest countries, the earthquakes—the result of an ancient geological fault deep below Nepal—are estimated to have pushed an additional three percent of the population into poverty. That, according to the World Bank, means “as many as a million more poor people.”

As Nepal slowly rebuilds, among the most pressing challenges is supporting agriculture in a country were two-thirds of the population depends on farming. Rice is a staple food in Nepal—and for many rice-farming communities, the earthquakes “struck at the worst possible time,” according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). June is when the annual monsoon rains arrive in Nepal. And the weeks leading up to them are critical for farmers who must ensure that their rice saplings are in the ground before the rains hit. But as many half of all farming households in the country’s worst affected districts are estimated to have lost nearly all their stores of rice and other crops in the earthquakes.

The rice farmers of Samantar Village in Nepal’s Dhading district, whose struggle to plant their rice crop ahead of the monsoon is chronicled in this TIME video by Nehemiah Stark and Nick Wilson, were among those who lost their supplies in the April 25 quake. “The rice seeds in people’s houses were ruined,” Bakhat Bahadur Rai, local agricultural leader, says.“The houses fell down and the seeds became a part of the rubble.”

What followed was a race against time to secure new seeds for planting before the rains for a healthy harvest. Samantar was lucky. With the help of an Israeli NGO called Tevel b’Tzedek, the rice farmers of Samantar managed to get new supplies in early June, before the rains. Elsewhere in Nepal’s hardest hit areas, the FAO has distributed 40,000 five kilogram bags of rice seeds to farmers for the current planting season.

But much still remains to be done across Nepal, where the government puts the total cost of recovery and reconstruction at some $6.6 billion over five years. It is an enormous challenge, and one that Nepal can’t meet on its own—the estimated cost equates to roughly a third of the size of the country’s economy. To help with the effort, the government is hosting an international donors conference with delegates from the around the world, including the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers.

As the visiting delegates consider the challenges ahead, over in Samantar, attention is focused on this year’s rice crop. “I have a feeling that I will survive,” Phoolmaya Rai, a local rice farmer says, “if there’s not another earthquake.”

TIME Nepal

Heritage Sites Damaged in the Nepalese Quake Have Reopened Despite Safety Concerns

Remains of a collapsed temple are pictured at Bashantapur Durbar Square
Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters Remains of a collapsed temple at Bashantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, on May 7, 2015

Tourism chief insists they "should not remain closed forever"

Several Nepalese World Heritage sites previously closed due to earthquake damage were reopened on Monday, the result of nearly two months of work stabilizing structures and removing rubble.

But some United Nations officials expressed concerns that some buildings—damaged during the April earthquake that killed more than 8,700 people—were still too unsteady, the New York Times reports.

Nepal’s tourism secretary, Suresh Man Shrestha, nonethess told the Times “The treasures of the Nepalese economy should not remain closed forever.”

More than 700 monuments in Kathmandu and its environs were damaged in the quake, and the cost of rebuilding is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Some of the most notable reopened monuments include the plazas and courts of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, as well as the central squares of both the ancient city of Bhaktapur (the entirety of which is a UNESCO site) and Patan, a traditional center for handicrafts.

Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu told the Times that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

“At Kathmandu Durbar Square there is the huge palace museum—one very big building which is totally shaky,” he said. “The walls are disconnected from one another so this big wall can fall down at any moment.”

In response, Nepal’s Tourism Department said that museum would not reopen and that other safety measures, such as providing helmets to visitors, would mediate these concerns.

But Manhart said that even allowing tourists in proximity to unstable buildings could pose a risk. He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Dahal was not available for comment.

[NYT]

TIME Nepal

The Nepal Earthquakes Are Now the Nation’s Deadliest-Ever Disasters

Aftermath of Earthquake in Nepal
Anadolu Agency —Getty Images A Nepalese woman carrying her child walks past a destroyed building in Sankhu village in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 16, 2015.

More than 8,500 people have died as a result of the back-to-back earthquakes

On Sunday, Nepal’s Home Ministry confirmed at least 8,583 deaths from the past month’s two major earthquakes and subsequent tremors, making the combined disaster the deadliest in the country’s history, reports Reuters.

The last massive temblor to rock the landlocked Himalayan nation killed 8,519 people in 1934.

On April 25, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake erupted approximately 85 miles east of the capital, Kathmandu, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying a half-million homes nationwide. Three weeks later the country was struck again by a 7.3-magnitude tremor near Mount Everest that killed more than 100 people and triggered fresh landslides.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

U.N. officials report that millions of people remain in need of basic humanitarian assistance as the looming monsoon threatens to inundate the country’s fragile transportation network and hamper ongoing aid efforts.

[Reuters]

TIME portfolio

James Nachtwey’s Latest Dispatches From Nepal

TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey reports from the quake-devastated country

This is second part in a two-part series of dispatches filed by TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey from Nepal, days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated parts of the central Asian country. Read part one.

The mountains of Nepal are weeping. The restless earth shifted, and thousands of people perished. Many more thousands have been injured. Hundreds of villages have been flattened. Stone houses made by hand were literally shaken apart. But what was created by hand can be rebuilt the same way, and that is exactly what the Nepalese villagers are doing. What can never be replaced are the loved ones, many of whom are still being discovered buried beneath the rubble.

Having witnessed the destruction in Kathmandu and surrounding towns, I attempted to see what had happened in the remote mountain villages. The epicenter of the quake was located in Gorkha District, most of which was inaccessible, except by helicopter. The 301 and 206 Aviation Squadrons of the Indian Army were flying out of Pokhara, airlifting food and supplies and evacuating the injured. It was a fast paced, non-stop operation that required highly skilled pilots to land with very little clearance on small terraced fields carved into the steep mountainsides. Some flights could find no place to land. Others hovered and shoved food, blankets and tarps out of the open helicopter doors.

Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

One mission took us to an extremely remote Buddhist monastery deep in the snow-covered, high Himalayas to evacuate a group of young monks from their damaged dwellings.

Barpak is one of the larger villages in the district. 1,200 out of 1,475 houses were destroyed. 69 people were killed. Some are still missing. 150 were seriously injured. The inhabitants quickly began the rebuilding process. Furniture, utensils and personal possessions were slowly salvaged from the ruins, and piece-by-piece, individual stones, wooden planks and corrugated metal, were retrieved and sorted, to be used again. The people were on their own, fending for themselves, as they always had.

A rescue team discovered Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, buried in the wreckage of a house. Only then did the natural stoicism of the people break down.

International Medical Corps flew into the village of Gumda and set up a two-day, mobile health clinic. As in Barpak, the people busied themselves with dismantling the ruins in order to rebuild. Rejina Gurung, aged 3, was found beneath a fallen roof, and alongside four others from the village who had died, was buried in a field overlooking a broad valley, far below.

The Nepalese are known for their strength and self-reliance, their equanimity, friendliness and spirituality. As their character was being tested by a natural disaster, they revealed an unshakeable resilience. It became clear that who they are has been forged in hardship and closeness to nature.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

TIME Innovation

How Survivors in Nepal Are Getting Better Earthquake Aid

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. When local systems failed them, survivors in Nepal lifehacked earthquake aid.

By Abe Streep in Wired

2. Can the same brain drain that’s crippling health care in Africa be used to save it?

By Serufusa Sekidde in Project Syndicate

3. Find out how female Marines are getting the job done.

By Hope Hodge Seck in the Marine Corps Times

4. Learning to use a drill is good. Learning to run the plant is better.

By Sophie Quinton in National Journal

5. We might be able to starve cancer cells to death.

By Sandia National Laboratories

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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