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Study: Large aftershocks may cause mega earthquake in California

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A large earthquake on one fault can trigger large aftershocks on separate faults within just a few minutes and could have important implications for earthquake hazard prone regions such as California, where ruptures on complex fault systems may cascade and lead to mega- earthquakes, according to a study released Friday by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

In the study published in the Sept. 9 issue of the journal "Science,'' Scripps geophysicist Peter Shearer and Scripps graduate student Wenyuan Fan discovered 48 previously unidentified large aftershocks from 2004 to 2015 that occurred within seconds to minutes after magnitude 7 to 8 earthquakes on faults adjacent to the mainshock ruptures.

In one instance along the Sundra arc subduction zone, where the magnitude 9 Sumatra-Andaman mega-earthquake happened off the coast of Indonesia in 2004, a magnitude 7 quake triggered two large aftershocks more than 124 miles away, the study showed.

These aftershocks miles away reveal that stress can be transferred almost instantaneously by the passing seismic waves from one fault to another within the earthquake fault system.

"The results are particularly important because of their seismic hazard implications for complex fault systems, like California,'' Fan said. "By studying this type of triggering, we might be able to forecast hosting faults for large earthquakes.''

Large earthquakes often cause aftershock sequences that can last for months.

Scientists generally believed that most aftershocks are triggered by stress changes caused by the permanent movement of the fault during a main seismic event, and mainly occur near the mainshock rupture where these stress changes are largest.

The new findings show that large early aftershocks also can be triggered by seismic wave transients, where the locations of the main quake and the aftershock may not be directly connected.

"Multiple fault system interactions are not fully considered in seismic hazard analyses, and this study might motivate future modeling efforts to account for these effects,'' Shearer said.

The National Science Foundation funded the study.

U.S. Doctor: 300,000 Face Death or Starvation in Aleppo, Syria
by Alastair Jamieson

An American doctor treating the horrific injuries suffered by Syrian civilians has warned that the closure of a vital highway has put 300,000 people at risk of death and starvation.

Dr. Samer Attar, a Chicago-based orthopedic surgeon who volunteered to help local medics in the embattled city of Aleppo, said last weekend's severing of the Castello Road has already caused shortages of food and medicine.

"People are running out of fresh fruit and meat. Hospitals and their staff are exhausted," he told NBC News from southeastern Turkey, where he returned after a two-week stint in a makeshift underground hospital.

The entire city "is going to be bombed and starved to death … unless the international community acts," he said.

The bomb-cratered and wreck-strewn two-lane highway was the last humanitarian supply line into eastern Aleppo. It was cut off last Sunday.

The northern city — Syria's largest, and the country's commercial hub until the start of the war — is a major battleground in the conflict. Its capture would be a strategic prize for President Bashar al-Assad.

Fighting there has escalated after U.N.-brokered peace talks and a cease-fire unraveled earlier this year.

"The situation now is much worse," Attar said. "The Castello Road was permanently cut due to heavy Syrian government aerial bombardment and ground sniper fire. Before, it had been risky, but now it is impassable ... a death sentence."

He said government forces "shot and bombed anything that moved on the road," describing Aleppo as "besieged."

Attar said: "No one allowed in or out — no fuel, no medicines, no food."

Attar, an assistant professor at Northwestern University's School of Medicine, was working in an underground hospital run by local doctors but supported by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

"On a daily basis, sometimes twice daily, I witnessed civilians horrifically and brutally injured from rockets, barrel bombs, and cluster bombs," Attar said. "Homes, schools, and markets were hit. You would hear about dozens killed, scores more injured. It's devastating and overwhelming to witness."

Related: Three Syrian Hospitals Bombed in Just Three Hours

He added: "In spite of these conditions, Syrian doctors and nurses have been living this way for years and refuse to abandon their posts out of a sense of duty and obligation to help the local population. It is a highly remarkable group of people, to say the least."

Earlier this week, Assad likened himself to a doctor in an exclusive interview with NBC News. The Syrian president denied accusations he was a brutal dictator despite the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in his fight to cling to power.

"If a doctor cuts off a limb to save a life, you don't say he's a brutal doctor. He's doing his job," Assad said.

Attar has made multiple visits to Syria, and recently gave a heartbreaking account of what he described as "the hell of Syria's field hospitals" to the New England Journal of Medicine.

He told NBC News that the international community needed to act to prevent a worsening crisis in Aleppo.

"There are innocent people dying on all sides of the front lines in Syria but allowing the Syrian government to systematically bombard and starve hundreds of thousands of people is not the answer," Attar said.

50,000 children face death by starvation in northern Nigeria
by Con Coughlin

An estimated 50,000 children are facing death by starvation in northern Nigeria this summer as a result of the Nigerian government’s faltering campaign to defeat Boko Haram Islamist militants, aid agencies are warning.

Aid experts say the humanitarian crisis caused by the seven-year conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram militants has left an estimated 500,000 people homeless in northern Nigeria, the majority of whom are in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care.

Of these, 244,000 are children, and the French charity Doctors Without Borders, which has set up a network of emergency camps in the region, warns that one in five will die in the coming weeks if they do not receive urgent treatment and food supplies.

Western aid officials have also raised concerns about the Nigerian government’s handling of the crisis, with accusations that President Muhammadu Buhari, the country’s Muslim president, is not doing enough to confront the threat posed by Boko Haram’s Islamist militants.

Britain’s Department for International Development contributes an estimated £870 million to Nigeria to support the government’s ability to fight Boko Haram, which has been responsible for a number of terrorist outrages, including the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls.

But Western officials are worried that Mr Buhari is exploiting some of the aid to persecute Christian political rivals instead of tackling Islamist militants.

Mr Buhari was involved in an embarrassing diplomatic row with Downing Street earlier this year after David Cameron was overheard remarking to the Queen that Nigeria was one “of the most corrupt countries in the world” ahead of an anti-corruption summit in London.

But while Mr Buhari denied his government was involved in corruption, aid officials are becoming increasingly concerned about his handling of the campaign against Boko Haram, which could now create Nigeria’s worst humanitarian disaster since the Biafra conflict in the 1960s.

The latest refugee crisis is centred on Borno state is north-eastern Nigeria, and aid officials say around 244,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition. “Some 134 children on average will die every day from causes linked to acute malnutrition,” said a spokesman for the children’s charity Unicef.

Last month aid workers reported that more than 1,200 people had died from starvation and illness at one refugee camp in northeast Nigeria - of these 480 were children.

Yesterday (Friday) the UN said it was suspending aid to dangerous areas of Borno state after Boko Haram ambushed a humanitarian convoy on Thursday.

But while Western governments are keen for Nigeria to continue the military campaign against Boko Haram, which claims to have close links with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), there are growing concerns that Mr Buhari’s determination to crush his political opponents is diverting vital resources away from the military effort.

In recent months Mr Buhari, a former military dictator, has intensified his efforts to give key government appointments to Muslim political allies at the expense of Christian officials. This has resulted in increased tensions between the government and southern Nigeria, which is predominantly Christian, where in May the military killed 15 people during a peaceful Biafran protest.

But while Mr Buhari has been concentrating his efforts on tackling political unrest in southern Nigeria, U.S. military officials involved in the campaign against Boko Haram report there has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks carried out by the group in recent weeks.

“One of the reasons we have this humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria is that Mr Buhari is diverting vital resources away from the campaign to pursue his own political agenda,” explained a senior Western official. “The Nigerian government, which is receiving significant amounts of foreign aid, needs to understand that its main priority is to deal with Boko Haram, and also to make sure Nigeria does not suffer the worst humanitarian disaster in its history.”

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