Breaking News -- Earthquakes, Famines, Pestilence and Disasters
5.5 magnitude earthquake shakes lower North Island
by Brendan Manning
A magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck the lower North Island around 2.30am this morning.
The earthquake occurred 15km southwest of Pongaroa, a small township in the Tararua District 200km northeast of Wellington.
GNS data showed the earthquake was 24km deep, with a Mercalli intensity of 7.
A smaller, magnitude 3.8 earthquake occurred 20km north of Castlepoint just after 12am.
A police spokesman said there had been no initial reports of damage.
"It was a good jolt," Heidi Hill from Pongaroa Hotel said. "I heard it before I felt it."
She said the hotel was fine.
People 200km away from the epicentre felt the quake.
"...It felt like the epicentre was here in Paraparaumu Beach," Miles Lacey tweeted.
Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States
by MICHAEL WINES
LAKE MEAD, Nev. — The sinuous Colorado River and its slew of man-made reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.
The once broad and blue river has in many places dwindled to a murky brown trickle. Reservoirs have shrunk to less than half their capacities, the canyon walls around them ringed with white mineral deposits where water once lapped. Seeking to stretch their allotments of the river, regional water agencies are recycling sewage effluent, offering rebates to tear up grass lawns and subsidizing less thirsty appliances from dishwashers to shower heads.
But many experts believe the current drought is only the harbinger of a new, drier era in which the Colorado’s flow will be substantially and permanently diminished.
Faced with the shortage, federal authorities this year will for the first time decrease the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, from Lake Powell 180 miles upstream. That will reduce even more the level of Lake Mead, a crucial source of water for cities from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and for millions of acres of farmland.
Reclamation officials say there is a 50-50 chance that by 2015, Lake Mead’s water will be rationed to states downstream. That, too, has never happened before.
“If Lake Mead goes below elevation 1,000” — 1,000 feet above sea level — “we lose any capacity to pump water to serve the municipal needs of seven in 10 people in the state of Nevada,” said John Entsminger, the senior deputy general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Since 2008, Mr. Entsminger’s agency has been drilling an $817 million tunnel under Lake Mead — a third attempt to capture more water as two higher tunnels have become threatened by the lake’s falling level. In September, faced with the prospect that one of the tunnels could run dry before the third one was completed, the authority took emergency measures: still another tunnel, this one to stretch the life of the most threatened intake until construction of the third one is finished.
These new realities are forcing a profound reassessment of how the 1,450-mile Colorado, the Southwest’s only major river, can continue to slake the thirst of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Agriculture, from California’s Imperial Valley to Wyoming’s cattle herds, soaks up about three-quarters of its water, and produces 15 percent of the nation’s food. But 40 million people also depend on the river and its tributaries, and their numbers are rising rapidly.
The labyrinthine rules by which the seven Colorado states share the river’s water are rife with potential points of conflict. And while some states have made huge strides in conserving water — and even reducing the amount they consume — they have yet to chart a united path through shortages that could last years or even decades.
“There is no planning for a continuation of the drought we’ve had,” said one expert on the Colorado’s woes, who asked not to be identified to preserve his relationship with state officials. “There’s always been within the current planning an embedded hope that somehow, things would return to something more like normal.”
Unfortunately, the Colorado during most of Lake Mead’s 78-year history was not normal at all.
Studies now show that the 20th century was one of the three wettest of the last 13 centuries in the Colorado basin. On average, the Colorado’s flow over that period was actually 15 percent lower than in the 1900s. And most experts agree that the basin will get even drier: A brace of global-warming studies concludes that rising temperatures will reduce the Colorado’s average flow after 2050 by five to 35 percent, even if rainfall remains the same — and most of those studies predict that rains will diminish.
Already, the drought is upending many of the assumptions on which water barons relied when they tamed the Colorado in the 1900s.
The Colorado basin states tried in the 1920s to stave off future fights over water by splitting it, 50-50, between the upper-basin states of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming and the lower-basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California.
In fact, the deal underestimated how much water the fast-growing lower-basin states would need. During most of the wet 20th century, however, the river usually produced more than enough water to offset any shortage.
Now, the gap between need and supply is becoming untenable.
Lake Mead currently stands about 1,106 feet above sea level, and is expected to drop 20 feet in 2014. A continued decline would introduce a new set of problems: At 1,075 feet, rationing begins; at 1,050 feet, a more drastic rationing regime kicks in, and the uppermost water intake for Las Vegas shuts down. At 1,025 feet, rationing grows more draconian; at 1,000 feet, a second Las Vegas intake runs dry.
Lake Powell is another story. There, a 100-foot drop would shut down generators that supply enough electricity to power 350,000 homes.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-month forecasts of water levels at Powell and Mead do not contemplate such steep declines. But neither did they foresee the current drought.
“We can’t depend on history to project the future anymore,” Carly Jerla, a geological hydrologist and the reclamation bureau’s Colorado River expert, said in an interview. The drought could end tomorrow, she said — or it could drag on for seven more years.
That raises questions that the states are just beginning to sort out.
The river’s upper-basin states are worried that they might have to curb their consumption to meet their obligations downstream. But the thorniest problems are in the lower basin, where a thicket of political and legal deals has left Arizona holding the bag should the Colorado River continue to diminish.
In the 1960s, California’s legislators demanded first dibs on lower-basin water as a condition of supporting federal legislation to build the Central Arizona Project, a vast web of canals irrigating that state’s farms and cities. Should rationing begin in 2015, Arizona would sacrifice a comparatively small fraction of its Colorado River allotment, while California’s supply would remain intact.
Painful as that would be, though, it could get worse: Should Mead continue to fall, Arizona would lose more than half of its Colorado River water before California lost so much as a drop.
That would have a cascading effect. The Central Arizona Project would lose revenue it gets from selling water, which would raise the price of water to remaining customers, leading farmers to return to pumping groundwater for irrigation — exactly what the Central Arizona Project was supposed to prevent.
“By going back to the pumps, you’ll have made the decision that agriculture will no longer be an industry in central Arizona,” David Modeer, the project’s general manager, said in an interview.
Even Californians doubt Arizona would stand for that, but no successor to the 1960s agreement is in place. And California has a vital interest in holding on to its full allotment of water. The Southern California region using Colorado water is expected to add six million people to the existing 19 million in the next 45 years, and its other water source — the Sierra Nevada to the north — is suffering the same drought and climate problems as the Colorado basin.
“The basic blueprint of our plan calls for a reliable foundation that we then build upon, and that reliable foundation is the Colorado River and Northern California water,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “To the extent we lose one of those supplies, I don’t know that there is enough technology and new supplies to replace them.”
There may be ways to live with a permanently drier Colorado, but none of them are easy. Finding more water is possible — San Diego is already building a desalination plant on the Pacific shore — but there are too few sources to make a serious dent in a shortage.
That leaves conservation, a tack the lower-basin states already are pursuing. Arizona farmers reduce runoff, for example, by using laser technology to ensure that their fields are table flat. The state consumes essentially as much water today as in 1955, even as its population has grown nearly twelvefold.
Working to reduce water consumption by 20 percent per person from 2010 to 2020, Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District is recycling sewage effluent, giving away high-efficiency water nozzles and subsidizing items like artificial turf and zero-water urinals.
Southern Nevada’s water-saving measures are in some ways most impressive of all: Virtually all water used indoors, from home dishwashers to the toilets and bathtubs used by the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year, is treated and returned to Lake Mead. Officials here boast that everyone could take a 20-minute shower every day without increasing the city’s water consumption by a drop.
Moreover, an intensive conservation program slashed the region’s water consumption from 2002 to 2012, even as the area added 400,000 residents.
Even after those measures, federal officials say, much greater conservation is possible. Local officials say they have little choice.
“The era of big water transfers is either over, or it’s rapidly coming to an end,” said Mr. Entsminger, the southern Nevada water official. “It sure looks like in the 21st century, we’re all going to have to use less water.”
Desperation grows in the Ebola zone
by Elizabeth Cohen and Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN) -- A young boy wanders through the high grass, looking lost after attending church services in Kakata, Liberia.
The child, Moses Kallie, wears a black T-shirt that's too big for him. It reads "Trouble is my middle name."
Trouble has certainly come into his life. He's lost 13 of his relatives recently -- his parents among them. They were all killed by Ebola. His village is a hotspot for the virus.
Desperation grows in heart of Ebola zone
So far 1,578 people are believed to have died from Ebola in Liberia alone, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization. The country has seen a 52% of increases in cases in just the past three weeks.
That's in large part because there is little or no outside medical help for residents who get sick there.
Searching for the answers: Can the world stop Ebola?
In Monrovia, the country's crowded capital, doors to hospitals and clinics are shut tight, locked with thick padlocks. Many health care workers in West Africa have lost their lives due to the way the virus spreads -- through contact with bodily fluids from those who are infected. On Monday, the World Health Organization urged the affected countries to give health care workers both the adequate security and safety equipment they need, as well as appropriate education and training on infection control.
A new Ebola clinic opened in Monrovia this week, but bodies lay on the ground outside its walls. Ambulances filled with Ebola patients, some that have traveled seven hours to get there, are not unloaded. Without help to get them inside, the patients fall in the dirt, mere feet away from treatment.
Without help, family members must care for these Ebola patients. And without the proper safety equipment, they too fall sick and Ebola continues to spread. The virus forces the local dead body management teams to work 12 hours a day, six days a week. All for a paycheck of $300 to $500 a month.
Why I became a human guinea pig for Ebola
Dressed from head to toe in white protective suits and thick goggles, the burial teams try to stay safe, but nothing can shield them from the unspeakable horrors they've seen when they make their regular rounds. On Friday, Kiyee described what he saw when he entered a home:
"I took the key and opened the door and went in and saw a 6-month-old child licking on the mother's skin," said Kiyee. The mother was lying on her stomach. She had died from Ebola. The baby was searching for the mother's milk. "Right away I started shedding tears."
WHO said on Monday the overall death toll in the Ebola outbreak has risen to 2,803 in the five countries at the heart of the epidemic: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal.
When people go out in public, they are encouraged to take whatever precautions they can. In Monrovia, people get their temperatures taken wherever they go -- at the grocery store, the office and at church. A fever is one of the early symptoms of the disease.
At the little boy's church in Kakata, the pastor is both practical and philosophical about Ebola. He has spent his career thinking deeply about death and what happens afterward.
When his congregation asked the Rev. Victor King if he's afraid of death he said "No," but "I don't want to die from Ebola."
Ebola outbreak: How to help
At his church, he's called off the part of the service where congregation members shake hands. He tells them not to hug when they see each other, and no one takes communion wine from the same chalice any more. Many in his congregation were at first displeased when he ended that practice, he said. Communion is the high point of the church service and it is central to their tradition of worship.
But he believes the congregation, like many in Liberia, are starting to better understand the disease and how it spreads.
After services, the congregation files out the door and stops at a container the pastor has placed right outside.
The container looks like it should hold a sports drink. Instead, it contains bleach for them to wash their hands. To a person the congregation stops and takes their time to wash up thoroughly.
Anthony Kallah, a teacher, is one of them.
"We are all afraid," Kallah said. "This is a threatening disease."
CNN's John Bonifield contributed to this report
|(Disclaimer) What to Look For in World Events: Audio & Text Video|