TIME weather

Earthquake Hits Hawaii as it Braces for Two Hurricanes

Hawaii Braces For Multiple Hurricanes
In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the GOES-East satellite, four separate weather system (L-R) Halong, Genevieve, Iselle, and Julio are tracked in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the United States Getty Images

No damages were immediately reported

A 4.5-magnitude earthquake rattled Hawaii’s Big Island on Thursday morning just as residents prepare to weather twin hurricanes.

There were no reports of damage yet, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira told the Associated Press, and small quakes like this are “not uncommon.”

“We felt a pretty good shake,” Joanna Cameron, owner of the Kohala Club Hotel, told TIME of the tremor at 6:24 a.m. local time. Cameron’s hotel is located close to the epicenter, estimated 7 miles from Waimea. She plans to keep the hotel open throughout the storm despite numerous cancellations and the closures of nearby schools and businesses.

“We have an earthquake this morning,” she added. “Now the sun is coming out and we’ll have a hurricane at 4 p.m. No one is enjoying this.”

Hurricane Iselle is expected to strike the Big Island on Thursday night, followed by Hurricane Julio. Hawaii hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane in 22 years and, according to ABC meteorologists, this will be the first to ever impact the Big Island.

When asked what’s next, Cameron replied: “Locusts.”

— Additional reporting by Jonathan D. Woods

TIME China

Death Toll in Southwest China Quake Rises to 589

China Earthquake
A woman stands next to an injured child near a damaged house following Sunday's earthquake in Longtoushan, Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Tuesday, August 5, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

More than 2,400 people are also injured

(LUDIAN, China) — The death toll in southern China’s earthquake rose to 589 on Wednesday as search and rescue teams pushed into isolated mountain communities to clear debris from collapsed homes.

The Yunnan provincial government said more than 2,400 people were injured in Sunday’s 6.1 magnitude quake in the mountainous Yunnan farming region of Ludian county — the country’s deadliest temblor in four years.

At a makeshift headquarters in the forecourt of a cracked middle school in the worst-hit town of Longtoushan, a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army said there might still be hope to find survivors.

“There are a lot of people that we may never be able to dig out,” said senior Col. Feng, who declined to give his full name because he was not an officially designated spokesman. “But there is still hope.”

Wednesday’s big jump in the death toll — up from 410 on Tuesday — was due to rescuers arriving in places where they had previously been unable to contact anybody, in small farming villages built into the mountains above the main towns, said Feng, a military officer based in Sichuan province.

Thousands of troops and hundreds of volunteers have rushed to Ludian to dig out possible survivors from the debris, but landslides and bouts of heavy rains have complicated rescue efforts.

The quake struck an area of steep hills and narrow roads that are not well suited to all the traffic of the massive relief effort. Landslides have shorn shear rocky faces into the region’s valleys.

The weather was clear Wednesday and the roads into Longtoushan were clogged with rescue vehicles, ambulances and military jeeps along with residents and volunteers on foot.

The region is prone to earthquakes. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people. In September 2012, a series of quakes killed 81 people.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead.

TIME China

China Quake Death Toll Nears 400 With Rain Hampering Rescue Efforts

Villagers sit in front of their destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Aug. 5, 2014.
Villagers sit in front of their destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Aug. 5, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

Thunderstorms and huge downpours are forecast for the next three days, forcing rescuers to race against the clock

As rescuers continue to sift through the rubble left by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck southwestern China’s Yunnan province on Saturday, heavy rain and landslides are slowing down rescue efforts and the delivery of desperately needed supplies to survivors — with worse weather to come.

Thunderstorms and torrential downpours are forecast over the next three days for Ludian County, one of the worst affected areas, forcing thousands of troops, police and other aid workers to race against time.

The death toll in what local officials say is the most destructive earthquake to strike the mountainous area in years is now 398, with 1,801 injured, China’s official news agency Xinhua reports. Over 411 aftershocks have also been recorded, some as high as 4.9 magnitude.

Around 80,000 homes have been destroyed, and 124,000 others seriously damaged, the Yunnan Civil Affairs Bureau said on its website. And though some 230,000 people have been evacuated, thousands more remain threatened by aftershocks, landslides and floods. A lake has formed near the Hongshiyan hydropower station and is rising at one meter per hour, engulfing homes, forcing further evacuations, and threatening several power stations downstream, the South China Morning Post reports.

Collapsed infrastructure means that many survivors have yet to be reached. “The blocked roads and the continuous downpours have made some disaster areas inaccessible for heavy relief vehicles,” Liu Jianhua, a local party official, told Xinhua.

A volunteer teacher in Longjiang Village, Huang Min, told the Post that the situation was desperate. “We’re in desperate need of food, water, tents and electricity,” Huang said.

Yunnan province is prone to earthquakes. A series of tremblors in 2012 killed 81 and injured over 800.

TIME China

Earthquake in China Kills at Least 589

Infrastructure and buildings in remote area of Yunnan province left in ruins after huge temblor

Update: Aug. 6, 10:05 a.m. ET

At least 589 people were killed after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit a rural area of Yunnan province on Aug. 3, causing several buildings to collapse. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake was less than a mile below the ground.

TIME

China’s Red Cross Is Still Dealing With a 3-Year-Old Scandal Involving Sex and Fast Cars

A 2011 imbroglio involving a young woman's feigned connection to China's biggest charity could hamper a drive to raise relief funds for victims of an earthquake in Yunnan province that has claimed at least 381 lives

+ READ ARTICLE

On Aug. 3, the ground shook in southwestern China, crumbling homes and killing around 400 residents of a remote, mountainous part of Yunnan province.
 
Six years earlier, when a much greater earthquake ravaged neighboring Sichuan province, extinguishing some 90,000 lives, the state-run Red Cross Society of China was flooded with generous donations from Chinese nationwide. This time, however, there are fears that the public won’t be as generous — and that’s all because of a certain 23-year-old maiden named Guo Meimei, who once claimed to be a “commercial general manager” of an entity related to the Chinese Red Cross.
 
Guo almost single-handedly ruined the organization’s reputation in 2011, when she posted pictures of herself jet-setting in business class, and cavorting in a Maserati and Lamborghini. Today, the Red Cross, the nation’s biggest charity, is having to plead with the public to focus on the devastation in Yunnan and forget about the scandal.
 
Showy displays from China’s nouveau riche aren’t anything new, but Guo shattered confidence in the Chinese charity at a time when the public had already begun to question just how aid organizations spend their money. In the wake of the Guo affair, donations to the Chinese Red Cross dipped. (Her notoriety was such that someone designed a fake TIME cover with her pretty, pouting image on it.)
 
On Sunday, the same day as when the temblor of at least 6.1 magnitude struck Yunnan, China’s state-run media released highlights from a confession Guo made in which she owned up to various misdeeds, such as helping to run an illegal gambling ring in Beijing and offering sexual services, including a $60,000-evening tryst. (Official news agency Xinhua noted that most of Guo’s sexual partners were foreigners.)
 
Arrested last month, Guo — whose name means “beautiful, beautiful” — now languishes in a Beijing detention center. CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster, aired images of her stripped of makeup and clad in a prison-orange vest. Another alleged gambling-ring member was quoted by Xinhua describing Guo as “particularly evil, unscrupulous.” The lengthy Xinhua exposé described what it said was Guo’s unsavory family background: a father with a fraud conviction, a mother who ran a sauna, an aunt once suspected of harboring prostitutes and an uncle jailed for drug trafficking.
 
Then, there was her purported “godfather,” the man who may have linked her to the Red Cross, through an organization bearing the unlikely name of the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce. According to Xinhua, Guo met a wealthy southern Chinese real estate investor surnamed Wang when she was just 19-years-old. Soon, she was surrounded by luxury cars and other baubles. On social media, she changed her stated profession from “actor singer” to the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce’s “commercial general manager.”
 
Wang, married with kids, is now in jail. The CCTV segment meanwhile captures Guo in tears, disavowing any relationship with the Red Cross. “I made a huge mistake because of my vanity,” Guo is quoted as saying in the Xinhua report. “My mistake brought severe damage to the Red Cross’s reputation … I want to say sorry to the Red Cross and sorry to the masses, especially to those vulnerable people who do not get relief.”
 
Seeking to further distance itself from the Guo affair, the Chinese Red Cross released a statement on Monday morning reiterating that the disgraced young lady was not a staff member and that her fortune had no connection to the charity or its funds:

Such slanders [linking Guo to the Red Cross] not only affect social justice, mislead the public and disturb public order, but they also do serious damage to humanity, public welfare and philanthropy. As a time-honored charitable organization, the Red Cross of China has been dedicated to providing humanitarian relief to the vulnerable. We sincerely hope the public will continue to support and participate in our undertaking.

 
Nonetheless, the salacious details about Guo and her sugar daddy have kept Chinese social media buzzing. “How can a prostitute be so rich?” asked one person on the Sina Weibo microblogging service. Another expressed enduring skepticism in the charity she once claimed to have represented: “No matter what the Red Cross says, I will never donate money to them.” So far, the Chinese Red Cross says it has donated 2,000 quilts, 2,000 jackets and 200 tents to the victims of the Aug. 3 Yunnan earthquake. The charity refused to speak to TIME about Guo.
 
With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME China

Strong Earthquake Kills 381 in Southwest China

#CHINA-YUNNAN-ZHAOTONG-EARTHQUAKE (CN)
Rescuers transport injured people after an earthquake in Zhaotong City in the densely populated Ludian county in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Sunday Aug. 3, 2014. Zhang Guangyu—Xinhua/AP

In one of the strongest earthquakes that has struck the Southern Chinese province of Yunnan in recent years, a 6.1 quake hit Ludian city on Sunday, killing 381 people and injuring 1,891

(BEIJING) — Rescuers dug through shattered homes Monday looking for survivors of a strong earthquake in southern China’s Yunnan province that killed at least 381 people and injured more than 1,800.

About 12,000 mostly brick homes collapsed when the quake struck Sunday afternoon in the impoverished Ludian county, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast of Yunnan’s capital, Kunming, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The streets of Ludian county seat of Zhaotong were like a “battlefield after a bombardment,” resident Ma Liya told Xinhua. She added that her neighbor’s house, a new two-story building, had toppled, and said the quake was far worse than one that struck the area in 2012 and killed 81 people.

“I have never felt such strong tremors before. All I can see are ruins,” Ma said. “The aftermath is much, much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago.”

The magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Its epicenter was in Ludian county township of Longtoushan. China’searthquake monitoring agency put the magnitude at 6.5.

Rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the area in the coming hours, complicating efforts to bring tents, water food and other relief supplies to survivors. Roads had caved in, and rescuers were forced to travel on foot.

Xinhua and state broadcaster CCTV said 381 people were killed, citing rescuers. CCTV said 1,891 were injured, three were missing and 29,400 had been evacuated. The death toll was expected to rise, once rescuers reached remote communities to assess casualties.

Many of the homes that collapsed in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were old and made of brick, Xinhua said, adding that electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county.

The mountainous region where the quake occurred is largely agricultural, with farming and mining the top industries, and is prone to earthquakes.

Relief efforts were underway, with more than 2,500 troops dispatched to the disaster region, Xinhua said. The Red Cross Society of China allocated quilts, jackets and tents for those made homeless by the quake, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macau and neighboring Sichuan province also sent relief supplies.

Premier Li Keqiang was en route to Yunnan to oversee quake relief, Xinhua said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered “his condolences to the Chinese Government and the families of those killed,” according to a statement from his office. The statement said the U.N. is ready to “lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs” and “to mobilize any international support needed.”

The White House also offered its condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives,” said National Security Council deputy spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. “The United States stands ready to assist.”

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the quake was the strongest to hit Yunnan in 14 years.

In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake in the province killed more than 1,400 in 1974. In September 2012, 81 people died and 821 were injured in a series of quakes in the Yunnan region.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

___

Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen and researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.

TIME natural disaster

7 Quakes Hit Oklahoma in Less Than a Day

Oil Drilling Earthquakes
Computer screens displaying data of real-time monitoring of seismic activity throughout the state of Oklahoma are pictured at the Oklahoma Geological Survey at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Thursday, June 26, 2014. Earthquakes that have shaken Oklahoma communities in recent months have damaged homes, alarmed residents and prompted lawmakers and regulators to investigate what's behind the temblors — and what can be done to stop them. Sue Ogrocki—AP

The biggest temblor clocked in at 4.3 on the Richter scale

Oklahoma was rocked by seven small earthquakes in a span of about 14 hours over the weekend, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Three quakes hit between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, centered in the areas of Guthrie, Jones and Langston, and ranging between 2.6 and 2.9 in magnitude. They followed four larger temblors earlier on Saturday, including one near Langston shortly after noon that clocked in at 4.3 on the Richter scale.

TIME

The Seismic Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes

Environmentalists fear that fracking could cause more quakes if it expands to California Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

New research indicates that wastewater disposal wells—and sometimes fracking itself—can induce earthquakes

Ohio regulators did something last month that had never been done before: they drew a tentative link between shale gas fracking and an increase in local earthquakes. As fracking has grown in the U.S., so have the number of earthquakes—there were more than 100 recorded quakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger each year between 2010 and 2013, compared to an average of 21 per year over the preceding three decades. That includes a sudden increase in seismic activity in usually calm states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio—states that have also seen a rapid increase in oil and gas development. Shale gas and oil development is still growing rapidly—more than eightfold between 2007 and 2o12—but if fracking and drilling can lead to dangerous quakes, America’s homegrown energy revolution might be in for an early end.

But seismologists are only now beginning to grapple with the connection between oil and gas development and earthquakes. New research being presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America this week shows that wastewater disposal wells—deep holes drilled to hold hundreds of millions of gallons of fluid produced by oil and gas wells—may be changing the stress on existing faults, inducing earthquakes that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Those quakes can occur tens of miles away from the wells themselves, further than scientists had previously believed. And they can be large as well—researchers have now linked two quakes in 2011 with a magnitude greater than 5.0 to wastewater wells.

“This demonstrates there is a significant hazard,” said Justin Rubinstein, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey. “We need to address ongoing seismicity.”

Rubinstein was speaking on a teleconference call with three other seismologists who have been researching how oil and gas development might be able to induce quakes. All of them noted that the vast majority of wastewater disposal sites and oil and gas wells weren’t connected to increased quake activity—which is a good thing, since there are more than 30,000 disposal wells alone scattered around the country. But scientists are still trying to figure out which wells might be capable of inducing strong quakes, though the sheer volume of fluid injected into the ground seems to be the driving factor (that’s one reason why hydraulic fracturing itself rarely seems to induce quakes—around 5 million gallons, or 18.9 million L, of fluid is used in fracking, far less than the amount of fluid that ends up in a disposal well).

“There are so many injection operations throughout much of the U.S. now that even though a small fraction might induce quakes, those quakes have contributed dramatically to the seismic hazard, especially east of the Rockies,” said Arthur McGarr, a USGS scientist working on the subject.

What scientists need to do is understand that seismic hazard—especially if oil and gas development in one area might be capable of inducing quakes that could overwhelm structures that were built for a lower quake risk. That’s especially important given that fracking is taking place in many parts of the country—like Oklahoma or Ohio—that haven’t had much experience with earthquakes, and where both buildings and people likely have a low tolerance to temblors. Right now there’s very little regulation regarding how oil and gas development activities should be adjusted to reduce quake risk—and too little data on the danger altogether.

“There’s a very large gap on policy here,” says Gail Atkinson, a seismologist at the University of Western Ontario. “We need extensive databases on the wells that induce seismicity and the ones that don’t.”

So far the quakes that seem to have been induced by oil and gas activity have shaken up people who live near wells, but haven’t yet caused a lot of damage. But that could change if fracking and drilling move to a part of the country that already has clear existing seismic risks—like California, which has an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale formation that could only be accessed through fracking (limited fracking has been done in California, but only in the lightly populated center of the state). Environmentalists who seek to block shale oil development in the Golden State have seized on fears of fracking-induced quakes, and a bill in the state legislature would establish a moratorium on fracking until research shows it can be done safely.

Regulation is slowly beginning to catch up. In Ohio, officials this month established new guidelines that would allow regulators to halt active hydraulic fracturing if seismic monitors detect a quake with a magnitude of 1.0 or higher. But it will ultimately be up to the oil and gas industry to figure out a way to carry out development without making the earth shake.

“I am confident that it is only a matter of time before we figure out how to exercise these technologies in a way that avoids significant quakes,” says Atkinson. Otherwise the fracking revolution may turn out to be short-lived.

TIME Earthquake

Tsunami Warning Issued After Solomon Islands Quake

The 7.5 earthquake occurred 69 miles south of Kirakira on the Solomon Islands Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The tremors could lead to a violent tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papa New Guinea after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake shook the Pacific.

The earthquake occurred 69 miles south of Kirakira on the Solomon Islands Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was initially categorized a magnitude 7.7 before being revised down to a 7.5.

The tremors could lead to a violent tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Authorities in the region were advised to take action.

“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours,” warned the PTWC.

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake in February 2013 set off a tsunami that killed at least five people in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, Al Jazeera reported at the time.

TIME Nicaragua

Nicaragua on Red Alert as Aftershocks Follow 6.1 Magnitude Quake

An earthquake earlier Friday injured 200 and was linked to one death.

The president of Nicaragua issued the country’s highest earthquake alert level Friday as ongoing aftershocks rock the area after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the country earlier in the day, the Associated Press reports.

The alert forced some schools to close and 155 people in at-risk areas to be evacuated.

The government said 200 people were injured and one 23-year-old woman died of a heart attack after the initial earthquake. It also said 800 homes were damaged in the town of Nagarote, about 30 miles northwest of the capital, Managua.

[AP]

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