3 August 2014

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed over 617 people in Yunnan, China.

The 2014 Ludian earthquake struck Ludian County, Yunnan, China, with a moment magnitude of 6.1 on 3 August. The earthquake killed at least 617 people, injuring at least 2,400 others. As of 5 August 2014, 112 people remain missing. Over 12,000 houses collapsed and 30,000 were damaged. According to the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred 29 km WSW of Zhaotong city at 16:03 local time 08:03 UTC.

The Ludian earthquake occurred at 16:03, Beijing time 08:03 UTC, on 3 August 2014. American geological surveys indicated that the epicenter was 29 km WSW of Zhaotong city at a depth of 10.0 km, in the quake-prone province of Yunnan in southwestern China, about 18 km from Zhaotong. It was especially felt in the province of Yunnan, and less in the provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan.

The magnitude of the earthquake was 6.1 on the moment magnitude scale, with an intensity of up to VII on the Mercalli intensity scale. The quake was the result of a strike-slip fault, whose fault plane has a southwest-northeast strike.

Seismicity in this region of southeast Asia is the direct result of the orogenic activity of the Himalayan mountain belt. Due to the complex interaction between the Eurasian Plate and Indo-Australian Plate from Afghanistan in the west to Burma and China in the east, many shallow sub-surface faults are present in both southwest China and neighbouring Myanmar.

Recent earthquakes
This particular part of Yunnan Province was struck by the Mw 6.3 Burma earthquake in 2003. Similar events have occurred in recent years due to strike-slip faulting in the nearby vicinity, such as the 2006 Yunnan earthquake of magnitude 5.0, which killed 19 people, the largest of recent times, the Mw 7.9 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed over 69,000 people, the Mw 6.9 2011 Shan earthquake, and more recently, the 2012 Yunnan earthquakes, which was the result of reverse faulting and not strike-slip faulting like the Ludian earthquake, killing 81 people and injuring 821 others.

he earthquake caused significant damage in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter, principally in the city of Zhaotong, where power outages and significant structural damage were reported. Chinese authorities announced that the quake left at least 391 dead, and over 1,801 injured.

According to the South China Morning Post, the tremor was felt in nearby towns, including the capital of Yunnan, Kunming, also in Chongqing, Leshan and Chengdu in the neighboring province of Sichuan. Road access to Longquan Village of Longtoushan Town, Ludian County, was blocked, where buildings collapsed. In Ludian, it was reported that around 12,000 homes had collapsed, many of them being aged brick structures.

Aftershock: 21 August 6:00 a.m. until 9 UTC in times or morethan nine times more than M 3.0 up by China Seismic Bureau. The largest aftershock earthquake M 4.2.

27 September 2014

Mount Ontake in Japan erupts.

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A volcanic eruption of Mount Ontake took place on September 27, 2014, killing 63 people. Mount Ontake is a volcano located on the Japanese island of Honshu around 100 kilometres northeast of Nagoya and around 200 km West of Tokyo. It was the first fatal volcanic eruption in Japan since the 1991 collapse of a lava dome at Mount Unzen,and the deadliest volcanic eruption in Japan since Torishima killed an estimated 150 people in 1902.

The volcanic eruption happened at 11:52 Japan Standard Time. There were no significant earthquakes that might have warned authorities in the lead up to the phreatic eruption—caused by ground water flashing to steam in a hydrothermal explosion. The mountain is a popular tourist attraction for hikers, being considered good for beginner climbers and relatively safe, and the weather was also good, so there were several hundred people on its slopes at the time.The police said that they were searching for people remaining on the mountain. By 17:00 the police reported that three people were missing and were believed to be under ash. Another person was rescued from under the volcanic ash, but remained unconscious. Six people were injured, one by flying rocks.

By 19:30, the number of people believed to remain buried in ash rose to six. Nine people had been reported to be injured, five of whom had fractured bones Later, at least 40 people were reported to be injured, and another 32 were believed to be missing. The JSDF began carrying out helicopter searches for missing people. One woman was reported to have died from the eruption.

On September 28, the police reported that over 30 people had been found in “cardiac arrest” near the summit. Japanese emergency services often refer to people who show no vital signs, and are apparently dead, as being in cardiac arrest, as legally, only an authorised physician can pronounce a person dead.

By September 29, a total of 36 bodies had been found, and 12 people had been pronounced dead; the search was suspended due to dangerous conditions, including hydrogen sulfide gas spewing from the mountain. On September 30, fears of escalating volcanic activity on Mount Ontake continued to hinder rescue efforts.

17 July 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shot down near the border between Ukraine and Russia.

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A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crashed in a rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, spurring swift accusations from Ukrainian officials that “terrorists” shot down the aircraft.

The United States has concluded a missile shot down the plane, but hasn’t pinpointed who was responsible, a senior U.S. official told CNN’s Barbara Starr.

The Boeing 777 with 298 people aboard fell from the sky near the town of Torez in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, officials said. A top Ukrainian official said the plane, which was on the way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was flying at about 10,000 meters (nearly 33,000 feet) when the missile hit.

A radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down, the senior U.S. official said. A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit, the official said. The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from, the official said.

The Obama administration believes Ukraine did not have the capability in the region — let alone the motivation — to shoot down the plane, a U.S. official told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

23 June 2014

Syria’s declared chemical weapons are shipped out for destruction.

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Syria has handed over the last of its declared stockpile of chemical weapons, which will be destroyed at sea over the next two months, the UN’s chemical weapons watchdog has said.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons (OPCW) announced that the final 8% of Syria’s acknowledged arsenal of chemical weapons and precursors had been loaded on to a Danish freighter.

The ship, the Ark Futura, is now sailing to the Italian port of Gioia Tauro for a rendezvous with an American vessel, the MV Cape Ray, which is specially equipped to neutralise the most dangerous of the chemical agents at sea.

“The mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been a major undertaking marked by an extraordinary international cooperation,” said Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW’s director-general. “Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict. And this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight timeframes.”

However, Uzumcu added that the OPCW was not in a position to certify that Syria no longer had any chemical weapons. The materials removed were those that the regime had declared.

Western governments claim to have intelligence suggesting that Damascus has not admitted to all its chemical arms. An OPCW investigation team has found evidence that chlorine gas was used against civilians in recent months “in a systematic manner”, but the team has been unable to reach the site for further investigation because it came under attack.

Possession of chlorine is not a violation of the chemical weapons treaty, as it is a commonly used chemical, so Syria was not required to list chlorine on its declared inventory. But its use as a weapon is a violation of international law.