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Sunday, August 31, 2008

City firemen to help Bihar flood victims

Two teams of 22 skilled firemen each, with state-of-the-art equipment, will soon head for Bihar to help flood victims

DEEPTIMAN TIWARY



    Two teams of 22 skilled firemen, each with three motorboats headed by Additional Municipal Commissioner R A Rajeev will take off to Bihar, for rescue operations.
    The team will reach Bihar as part of the state government's decision to provide assistance in the devastated region.
    "The team will be carrying flood rescue equipment. The personnels are trained to handle such situations in swift waters, opposing current and effectively rescue people trapped in such situations," said P Karguppikar, Deputy Chief Fire Officer.
    The team will use inflatable motorboats, floating stretchers, pneumatic lifting airbags (used to remove debris to rescue people in house collapses), rocket launchers; which inflate into a safety tube as soon as they touch water, water-proof torches with a signaling system, wet suits that keep a rescuer's body temperature in control, inflatable life jackets that can be strapped to even an unconscious victim and bags that when thrown towards a victim open up into inflated tubes.

    Speaking to Mumbai Mirror, Rajeev said that the team will immediately start work in the affected areas and aims at saving maximum lives.
    He said, "We would like to assure the people of Bihar that all Indians will support them through this difficult time."
ABOUT THE FLOOD
The Kosi river breached its banks ten days ago on the border with Nepal, flowing through a channel it had previously abandoned. Brahmdeo Yadav's village in badly-hit Saharsa district was reduced to an island surrounded by murky water.
    More than 400 boats have already been pressed into service and hundreds more would be used to shift people to relief shelters and higher ground by Bihar government. At least 46 people were reported to have been washed away in floods, as troops and air force helicopters rushed to help police in the rescue operation.

    BIHAR'S SORROW
The Kosi, which flows into the Ganges, is known as the 'River of Sorrow' due to its record of disastrous floods during the monsoon season. More than 800 people have been killed in monsoon-related accidents following the heavy June-to-September rains across India. Report on Page 12 

The firemen will be taking motorboats along with them for the rescue operations in Bihar



Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bihar town goes 6 ft under

Hapless Govt Looks On As Raging Kosi Has People On Run

Abhay Mohan Jha


Madhepura: The turbulent Kosi is on an unrelenting rampage. After chasing away lakhs of people from the hinterland and threatening to devour thousands of marooned villagers, the marauding waters are flowing six feet deep through Madhepura town, the district headquarters.
    The town is sinking by the hour. SOS calls from distressed people are bouncing back from a government conspicuous by its inadequacy.

    "Officers running the district control room say they cannot help,'' said an inconsolable Mukesh Verma, who managed to reach the district headquarters on Saturday after a distress call to evacuate 25 members of his family from their roof in Jorgama village in Kumarkhand block. "They will all die. They are without food and water...please help me, sir,'' he cried.
    Madhepura, home to 15 lakh, was until now famous as the home of B P Mandal of Mandal Commission and for the battles between Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav for a Lok Sabha seat.
    Experts from the state water resources department fear a further worsening of the situation with the catchment area in upstream Nepal reporting more than 100mm of rainfall overnight.

We blundered, says Nepal
Admitting that Nepalese inaction had led to the Bihar flood crisis, Kathmandu has promised to work with India on building dams and embankments on the Kosi. P 9 

Flood-hit villagers run to collect relief supplies dropped by an IAF chopper in Madhepura's Kumarkhand block on Saturday



Fran Lebowitz  - "Life is something to do when you can't get to sleep."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Soon, to alert the Fire Brigade, press button

Plans are afoot to install a wireless system in buildings, schools and malls, that will immediately alert the Fire Brigade to any emergency

 In order to drastically reduce the time taken for the Fire Brigade department to respond to emergencies, the BMC has decided to make a wireless disaster communication system (WDCS) mandatory in all residential buildings, shopping malls, hospitals and schools.
    The BMC has appointed Electronic Corporation of India (ECI), a public sector company, to work out the technicalities. The system will comprise an electronic box located in the building, which will be connected to the city's fire station network. The box will make it possible for residents of an affected building or locality to alert the fire brigade at the mere press of a button.
    N D Raut, head of the Mumbai Fire Brigade wireless department said, "When a button will be pressed, the control rooms at fire stations will receive information about the exact location of the disaster on a digital screen."
    Mayor Shubha Raul said that the system will certainly reduce time
taken to locate a disaster site. "Often, the fire brigade receives information late, after which the search and rescue starts. But this system will solve that problem. Once a resident presses the button, firemen will receive detailed information of the address of the building, the secretary of the society and his cell number, along with phone numbers of other flat owners," she said. For this, the Fire Brigade will be collecting all the necessary data.
    The new system will also help in curbing hoax calls. The Fire Brigade estimates that of the 6,000-7,000 emergency calls they receive a year, 30 per cent are fake.
    "Presently, we receive fire calls on the number 101. But once this system is in place, we will keep 101 as a standby. Then, gradually, we will discontinue the number altogether," a fire official said.
    The estimated cost of the project is Rs 80 crore.

Once a resident presses the button, firemen will receive detailed information of the address of the building and his phone number

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bihar floods leave a million stranded

New Delhi: More than a million people have been rendered homeless within five days in "flood-safe areas" of six east Bihar districts as the Kosi—the "sorrow" of the state—has suddenly reverted to nearly its 18th century "original course".
    Causing a three-km breach in the Kosi's Bhimnagar barrage a few days ago near Kushaha village in Nepal, which adjoins Bihar's Supaul district, the river has jumped drastically eastward, wreaking unexpected havoc in Madhepura, Saharsa, Araria, Purnea and Katihar districts. Supaul, though, is the worst hit. Kosi is now flowing through the Araria-Kursela stretch before meeting the Ganga, of which it is one of the largest tributaries. The high-current inundation is so massive that it has altered the habitation pattern of decades, if
not centuries. Top Bihar officials put the affected population at 10.74 lakh in 417 villages of these districts with only two reported deaths in Madhepura. But rescue workers told TOI that the number of dead could well run into "hundreds". The state has sent an SOS to the Centre. TNN

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: Villagers wade through floodwaters of the Ganga in Bihar's Vaishali district


MONSOON IS SEEING MOSQUITO’S DEADLY STING

Construction, Pollution Being Blamed For High Number Of Malaria Cases, Deaths

Mumbai: It is quite likely that the city is this year witnessing its worst assaults of malaria, even as there has been the worrisome emergence of mixed malaria.
    Nine people died due to complications arising from malaria within a week, said BMC officials on Sunday. The malaria toll this monsoon has reached 61, with most of the deaths occurring in the July-August period.
    Also, in the first 22 days of August, 3,423 cases of malaria were registered across the city. "Until three
years ago, we would start panicking the moment the monthly surveillance figure crossed 2,000,'' said a civic official.
    The private sector, too, has been
seeing a steady stream of malaria cases. "This year, the malaria outbreak is definitely the worst I have seen in my entire career,'' said Dr K Bhajan from Hinduja Hospital in Mahim. "Eight out of 10 patients getting admitted this season have malaria,'' he said, adding that on a single day last week, he admitted six seriously ill patients who were later diagnosed with malaria.
    "There have been one or two deaths every day because of malaria,'' said Dr Neera Kewalramani, who heads the BMC's epidemiological cell.
    According to Dr K Harboli, who is in charge of malaria surveillance in Mumbai, "Of the 3,423 cases in August so far, 2,823 cases are of vivax malaria, 505 of falciparum and 95 cases of mixed malaria.'' Asked if this was the highest figure
for malaria in the city so far, he said, "It seems so, but we will have to check the corresponding figures for last August before drawing such a conclusion.'' The figures were not available on Sunday.
    But the BMC's daily figures on Sunday reported that 105 patients had been admitted with malaria in a 24-hour period.
    There also is the worrisome emergence of cases of mixed malaria.
    "While patients with vivax malaria who come to public hospitals get radical treatment—that is a dose of primaquine for 15 days—this
is not done in the private sector. Hence, many patients of vivax malaria get a relapse. If in this time they get another infection, like falciparum, it could be worse,'' explained Dr Kewalramani.
    Why is the incidence of malaria so high? Doctors blame the construction boom and growing pollution for it. According to Dr J Thanekar, who is the executive health officer of the BMC, "We carried out an analysis of the malarial deaths this monsoon and found that most deaths had occurred in the vicinity of construction sites.''
    Civic officials say that it is difficult to carry out antilarval operations in and around construction sites. "It is not humanly possible for pest control officers to trudge up 30 storeys to locate a puddle and pour anti-larval oil. At times, the builders don't give them access to such sites,'' said an official from the insecticide department.


Ogden Nash  - "The trouble with a kitten is that when it grows up, it's always a cat."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Looking for energy, Google goes to hell

Deep underneath your feet is a hellish stone soup, kept hot by a torrent of radiation from poisonous isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium in the earth's superheated mantle. This is the heat that helps cause volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. And it is the heat that powers a modest number of electricity generators around the world, from Iceland to Indonesia.

This energy source remains largely untapped, though, simmering either too far below the surface to reach, or isolated from water that could carry it up.

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But on Tuesday, Google.org, the philanthropic arm of search giant Google, announced it would try to help spur companies to reach underground to produce clean electricity. It is investing a total of $10 million in a geothermal energy company called AltaRock Energy and a drilling company called Potter Drilling, and it is funding research and mapping efforts and a policy agenda.

It is part of Google.org's effort to help bring about renewable energy that is cheaper than coal by investing in companies, research and policy development. The organization is focusing on three main technologies: solar thermal power, which uses the sun's heat to generate electricity; advanced wind technology; and, now, a way of tapping geothermal energy called enhanced geothermal systems, or EGS.

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In traditional geothermal energy, engineers drill near a geyser, hot spring or volcano, stick a valve and turbine on the hot water, and that's pretty much it. With EGS, holes are drilled deep into hot rock and water is injected into the cracks. When pressure forces the water up other, nearby wells, it is hot enough to run a turbine and produce electricity. Engineers would, in a sense, be making their own geysers, and this opens up far more of the globe for geothermal energy development.

"It's a big resource, it's got a good cost curve, and it's not getting enough attention," says Dan W. Reicher, Google.org's director of climate and energy initiatives.

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Last year a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said EGS could open up an additional 100,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. by 2050, up from 2,000 MW today. That could mean 800 million megawatt-hours of more power every year, up from just 15 million megawatt-hours today. Researchers estimate the cost would start at about 9 cents a kilowatt-hour for the first EGS project and fall to as little as 4 cents, including construction, development and financing but not including any government subsidies that may be available. That would compare well with gas at 8 cents, wind at 6 cents and solar at 31 cents or more.

Because geothermal produces consistent, base-load power--it doesn't depend on the wind blowing or the sun shining--utilities will pay up to three times more for geothermal electricity than for electricity from an intermittent source, like wind.

Geothermal heat has been a source of electricity since 1904, when steam vents in Larderello, Italy, were used to power a handful of light bulbs. That site now powers a million homes in Tuscany, turning out 5 million megawatt-hours per year. But, like Larderello, today's geothermal electricity comes from unique geologies, where hot rocks and underground water sit together, close to the surface of the earth. Geothermal energy provides just 0.5% of the world's electricity and 0.4% of the needs in the U.S.

EGS was first proposed by Los Alamos National Laboratories in the 1970s, but the technique was largely forgotten about when oil prices fell. High energy prices and technological breakthroughs helped resurrect the idea. And the idea is attracting some sudden attention. After recently pulling funding for geothermal energy, the U.S. Department of Energy is now offering $90 million in research money for EGS research. It is just a small start, says Alexander Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the Department of Energy.

"The government is going to lean into this issue," he says. "This is a renaissance."


Engineers hope to tap the earth's heat by drilling as deep as 15,000 feet into the earth's crust. They pump water down an injection wells (the blue well), where it is heated by the rock. Pressure forces the hot water up the production wells (the red wells). The heat from the water is transferred to a working fluid, which boils at a low temperature, which spins a turbine to create electricity.

Still, there is not a single megawatt of EGS-produced power on line yet, and, at best, it will be quite a while before it becomes a significant energy source. It takes years to fully develop a site, from surveying the geology, drilling test wells, receiving permits, drilling working wells and building generators. And it takes capital. Each well can cost $5 million to drill, double the cost of an oil or gas well, because the holes need to be twice as deep, 15,000 feet or more, and sites need at least four wells. Geologists and engineers have a lot to learn about the rock formations they will encounter.

An Australian company called Geodynamics, which is conducting the first major commercial test of EGS now, was surprised to find hot, high-pressure water in the granite it first thought was relatively dry. While that is ultimately a pleasant discovery for the company, the surprise cost it dearly: The pressurized water led to the failure of Geodynamics' second well in 2005 and nearly bankrupted the infant company.

Geodynamics' first 50-megawatt station will cost a staggering $250 million, says Chief Technical Officer Doone Wyborn. (That's $5 million per megawatt; Duke Energy's new coal-fired plant in Cliffside, N.C., will cost $2.3 million per megawatt.) But now that the company understands where, how and how deep to drill, Wyborn says costs will soon plummet, and by the time the company gets 150 megawatts online, in 2014, Geodynamics' costs per watt will be cheaper than that of coal.

There is another major EGS test under way in Soultz, France. The first test in the US is scheduled to begin this year near Reno, Nev.

Even as Google.org, Geodynamics and others try to develop EGS, traditional geothermal is experiencing its own revival. There is plenty of traditional, high-grade geothermal resources that haven't been found yet. The University of Nevada at Reno estimates 80 per cent of these easier-to-develop hydrothermal systems are hidden, and companies are now starting to look for them. The most recent maps showing the heat flow underneath the US are based on data gathered in the 1970s. Google.org is financing a group at Southern Methodist University to update the data.

Worldwide geothermal investment was up 83 per cent last year to $1.7 billion, according to Mark Taylor, a geothermal analyst at New Energy Finance. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had its first ever land-lease auction for geothermal resources, and it produced 57 leasing agreements. It will hold another auction this month.

Traditional geothermal could provide thousands of megawatts of electricity capacity, which would be welcome. But Google.org was attracted to EGS because it could add tens of thousands. "It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7," says Reicher. "And be captured nearly anywhere on the planet."



Mike Ditka  - "If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn't have given us arms."

11-km-long crack in ice shelf threatens Greenland future

Washington: In northern Greenland, a part of the Arctic that had seemed immune from global warming, new satellite images show a growing giant crack and an 11-square-mile chunk of ice haemorrhaging off a major glacier, scientists said on Thursday.
    And that's led the university professor who spotted the wounds in the massive Petermann glacier to predict disintegration of a major portion of the Northern Hemisphere's largest floating glacier within the year. If it does worsen and other northern Greenland glaciers melt faster, then it could speed up sea level rise, already increasing because of melt in sourthern Greenland. The crack is 7 miles long and about half a mile wide. It is about half the width of the 500 square mile floating part of the glacier. Other smaller fractures can be seen in images of the ice tongue, a long narrow sliver of the glacier.

    "The pictures speak for themselves," said Jason Box, a glacier expert at the Byrd Polar Research Centre at Ohio State University who spotted the changes while studying new satellite images. "This crack is moving, and moving closer and closer to the front. It's just a matter of time till a much larger piece is going to break off.... It is imminent." The chunk that came off the glacier between July 10 and July 24 is about half the size of Manhattan. AP

HEAT IS ON: Picture shows a giant crack and a chunk of ice haemorrhaging off the Petermann glacier in Greenland

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Madrid plane crash kills 45

MADRID: At least 45 people were killed when a Spanair jet crashed on takeoff and burst into flames at Madrid airport on Wednesday, the government said, but an emergency services source reported about 150 deaths.
    A large cloud of smoke billowed up near Terminal Four from the remains of Flight JK5022, an MD-82 jet bound for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. It shot off the runway carrying 164 passengers and nine crew at 2:45 pm local time (8:45 a.m. EDT), according to Spanair. The government said 45 people were confirmed killed, 19 seriously hurt and 35 were unhurt.
    Newspaper El Pais quoted a government official on its website saying at least 100 people had been killed. The health service of the Madrid regional government said 26 injured had been taken to hospital, though it was unable to pro
vide a death toll. "The (plane's) tail has broken off. It's difficult to describe the scene, because it's just a mess of metal," an emergency services spokesmen told national radio. The flight was a code-sharing operation with Lufthansa serving the Canary Islands. — Reuters



Mike Ditka  - "If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn't have given us arms."

Friday, August 15, 2008

India to be 4° hotter in 40 yrs

Monsoons To Be Shorter & More Intense, Mumbai's Flood Woes Won't Ease: Pune Study

New Delhi: The effect of climate change on India could be far worse than previously estimated. Latest projections indicate that after 2050, temperatures would rise by 3-4 degrees over current levels and rainfall would become both heavier and less regular, posing a grave threat to agriculture.
    This is part of the research conducted by scientists at Pune's Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, one of the key government institutions studying climate change in India. The findings are currently under review by a well-recognized scientific journal.
    This provides another, more serious wake-up call for India's planners to look at adapting to the impending climatic changes. Just as importantly, it demands that developed countries reduce their emissions substantially before their accumulated emissions turn these projections into a reality
for India and the developing nations.
    If even a part of the projections turn into reality, the IITM modelling has dire implications for almost all aspects of life—agriculture, power, water resources and biodiversity.
    The team, led by Dr Krishna Kumar, used what is known as "A1B scenario" to pick a curve against which greenhouse emissions are calculated. The A1B scenario refers to a UN-accepted set of changes in the world economy that drive greenhouse gas emissions. It presumes a global economy growing by 3% annually with high rates of investment and innovation, use of varied sources of energy and an economic convergence between the developed and developing countries.
    With the emissions growth curve drawn from the scenario, the team used data relevant to India in complex climate models to generate future projections for dozens of climate parameters that allowed them to map out how temperatures and monsoon would change
if emissions rose.
    The results will be used by others to calibrate how vulnerable India could be on different fronts if the projections come true.
    The study says the rise of temperatures would be far more over northern India than the peninsular region. Temperatures would begin rising in northern and western regions and then the pattern would shift eastward. The increase would occur in both night and day temperatures.
    Global modelling results have suggested that average annual precipitation in the country may see about an 8-10% increase. The pattern of increase in rainfall is predicted to move from the north and north-west towards the east.
    The consequences are easy to see—cities like Delhi that are unable to handle the occasional heavy shower even today, could get flooded rapidly. The scene may not be much better for cities like Mumbai.

The results of the study are key as they will be used by others to calibrate how vulnerable India could be on different fronts if the projections come true



Airport checks disaster response

Chinmayi Shalya | TNN

Mumbai: The Mumbai airport witnessed an unusual sight on July 25: two vehicles were ablaze on the main runway 09/27, fire brigade personnel rushed in to control the flames, and security officials ferried 'victims' to safety, first to the airport casualty centre and then to Cooper Hospital.
    The sequence of events was supposed to be a microcosm of what happens in the aftermath of an air crash. It was a mock exercise conducted by Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) to check its disaster management reaction.
    "Though the drill was successful, there are certain areas we need to improve on. For instance, we need to im
prove access to the site, get communication sockets fixed, add lights and train people better on handling the situation at the site,'' said airport director Philip Cash.
    The airport set ablaze a bus and truck and conducted a two-hour, full-scale emergency drill to test its response timing and accuracy in the event of an emergency. The exercise, which is mandated for all airports according to rules laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), involved airport officials and agencies like the BMC and public hospitals.
    "The idea was to check if we are ready to handle a crash situation without warning,'' said MIAL director Cash. "We had to check not just the response time, but also our shortcomings, so as to rectify them.''
    The Mumbai airport will submit a report to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on its preparedness. "The report would encompass the strengths as well as the lessons learnt through the drill,'' Cash added.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Disaster victims can apply for aid online


The Capital Times  —  8/06/2008 8:55 am

Disaster victims looking for assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration can now file applications online.

Dane County Emergency Management spokesman J. McLellan said using a secure Web site will enable low-interest loan applicants to get a decision from the SBA in a quicker time frame as well as get a loan processed faster if approved. The Web site is https://disasterloan.sba.gov.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also has a Web site for victims to use for applying for aid at http://www.fema.gov/assistance.

McLellan said contacting FEMA should be the first step that victims take if requesting federal assistance.

"If anyone has questions regarding qualifications for assistance, make application with FEMA," McLellan said. "Applicants may then be directed to complete an SBA application."

FEMA can also be contacted toll-free at 800-621-3362.

Those who are eligible include those affected by the massive flooding and storms that hit Wisconsin between June 5 and July 25 in 30 counties included in the federal disaster declaration. Applications for federal disaster assistance may be made by homeowners and renters who suffered damages to their homes and personal property and businesses or nonprofits suffering property loss or loss of business.

FEMA extended the deadline for applying for federal assistance by 33 days last week, making the new deadline Sept. 15 instead of Aug. 13.

Through July 31, FEMA awarded more than $43 million to Wisconsin residents and business owners, and the SBA issued more than $19 million in low-interest disaster loans.




Tuesday, August 5, 2008

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