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Found 3 results

  1. Wildfires have been blazing on all summer, and the latest of them is occurring in Oregon, near the Columbia River Gorge. Owners of 140 homes have already evacuated, and despite the efforts of 400 firefighters, the flames have continued to spread over five square miles. Meanwhile in northern Idaho, another brushfire has burned across 64 square miles and destroyed five structures. But efforts to combat the blazes may be fruitless, because the money to fight them is running out. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said Aug. 5 that the U.S. Forest Service's annual budget for fighting wildfires is rapidly dwindling; in fact, it may run out by the end of the month. The fires, on the other hand, will keep burning. He suggested they were in the midst of a catch-22, as when the Forest Service's funding runs dry, it will need to dip into other projects designed to help prevent future wildfires, in order to put out the ones currently blazing. Specifically, about $400-500 million will be taken away from such projects, putting the future in jeopardy in terms of further disasters. Vilsack, who is lobbying for an extra $615 million for the Forest Service to fight wildfires this year and next, remarked, "When we begin to run out of money, we have to dip into the very programs that will reduce the risk of these wildfires over [a longer period of] time." And those accounts aren't the only ones that suffer; in the past, they have also had to draw from other programs not related to wildfires. Such a transfer occurred in 2012, when the funding for road repairs in Arkansas' Ouachita National Forest was instead used to contend with fires throughout the U.S. The fire in Idaho, called the Big Cougar Fire, is only 15 percent contained, and 200 more structures in its path risk becoming damaged or destroyed unless firefighters can contain it further. Resources are being used while there's still funding for them, and include four helicopters, four fire engines, and three dozers. Isolated thunderstorms are expected, but those are unpredictable; rain could help quell the flames, but lightning could spark an entirely new blaze. One of the reasons the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture are so hot and bothered over the depletion of yearly wildfire money is due to the likelihood that there will be many more fires. In the past, a depletion of funding by the end of August might have been manageable, but global warming has changed that. Wildfires are now likely to occur much later in the year than August. "The really amazing thing is that we don't just see an increase in one or two regions," said Philip Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. "We're seeing it almost everywhere - in the mountain regions, in the Southwest... That tells us that something bigger is going on, and that thing appears to be climate change." This increases the risk for firefighters as well - even more reason why sufficient funding is necessary. Robert Bonnie, undersecretary for natural resources with the Department of Agriculture, explained, "Fire behavior is more extreme now. We're seeing larger fires. We're seeing fires where we have more houses and people. That makes them more dangerous and more difficult to fight." The money isn't there because the Republican controlled Congress isn't doing anything to put it there, according to a report by U.S. News. A bill to overhaul the way wildfire fighting is funded was introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho - and then promptly abandoned by him. Simpson gave no explanation why. Vicki Minor, executive director of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, said, "Because of these fires, we lose our watersheds, we lose our hunting ranges, we lose our homes. These fire seasons are not going away, and for them to not fund wildfires... I'm just disgusted with them."
  2. The Golden State is being blackened by the most menacing brushfires in nearly two decades. As climate change continues to rear its ugly head, thousands of places including homes, a university campus, a nuclear plant, and parts of military bases have been evacuated in southern California. Nine fires have already burned more than 10,000 acres, and unfortunately, the blazes have merely gotten off to an early start. Experts believe the fires will worsen and spread more quickly as summer approaches. The fires broke out on May 13, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for San Diego County. Paul Mendes, police captain of Carlsbad, Calif., remarked, "This is May. This is unbelievable. This is extreme. This has gone from dry conditions to volatile conditions." So far there is one reported fatality, and at least 20 buildings were destroyed in Carlsbad alone, with one burning house visibly exploding from an unknown cause. Santa Ana winds were whipping up and fanning the flames, making the situation direr. Several firenados were observed - devastating flaming cyclones that develop during very intense wildfires. Though those winds have begun to die down now, Mayor Matt Hall warned, "That does not mean they may not pick up again." "A heat wave and tinder-dry brush have created a dynamic, dangerous situation," California fire captain Mike Mohler said. "It's just unfortunately a recipe for a large fire and that's what we're seeing right now." Something of a reprieve, at least, was expected today, according to meteorologist Jon Erdman. He said, "Santa Ana winds, record heat, and low humidity will persist in southern California through Thursday. Beginning Friday, winds will begin to turn onshore, with much cooler 60s and 70s returning to the coast this weekend." In Carlsbad today, however, it is currently still almost 90 degrees. On a more positive note, firefighters are reporting that the fire there is about 50 percent contained - a large uptick from the mere 10 percent two days ago. Some evacuation orders have been lifted. Officials estimated the Carlsbad wildfire alone has caused $18.5 million in damage so far. Another fire near San Marcos is only five percent contained and has produced smoke plumes so large they can be seen from space. Seven more fires are still being fought in other areas. Meanwhile, some 2,300 people across San Diego County are dealing with power outages, according to San Diego Gas and Electric. Gov. Brown stated, "The heat is terrible. The last few years have been the driest in recorded California history. They think they've got this [Carlsbad fire] contained, or are about to have it contained. But they've got other fires all over the place, and most serious of all, California has a fire season that is getting longer. And the most serious fires have occurred in the last decade, so things are getting worse." He said the blazes were undeniably tied to global warming, adding, "Despite what you hear in Washington, climate change is a factor here. It's not about theory. It's not about politics. This is about fires on the ground, people's homes, firefighters. And yes, these conditions are definitely caused by climate change; global warming induced by human activity. So we've got to make changes. But right now in California we are dealing with it and handling it as best we can." San Diego fire chief Javier Mainar said, "It is pretty amazing to see these fires in May. We certainly have seen climate change and the impact of climate change. My understanding is we've seen twice the number of wildfire starts in the state of California as we typically see this time of year." On Thursday, some Carlsbad residents returned to find their homes gone. The fires, and in particular the firenadoes, in many cases demolished and flattened entire houses. "We walked up to our place, and it was like a bomb went off," said resident Anya Bannasch. "I can't even explain just how horrific it was." The fires are an ongoing disaster, and far from over, she said. There are "other families out there that are going through this right now," she added. "There's fires everywhere." This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  3. 283 victims, dozens of missing people. These are the numbers of the tragedy that happened in a mine in Soma, Turkey. 450 were saved and 80 are wounded Hurriyet (one of the most important turkish newspapers) reported. Hundreds of rescuers continue to search for workers in the galleries of the mine more than 400 meters below the ground. At the time of the fire, probably sparked by a short circuit, in the galleries (4 km long), there were 787 workers. Carbon monoxide is the main cause of the death. Two weeks ago, the main opposition party, the Chp of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, had asked for an inquiry into mine safety in Soma. The proposal was rejected by the Akp, Erdogan party, which has the absolute majority in the great Assembly of Ankara. The country is in revolt and the protests have reached alarming levels. Erdogan has been contested because of lack of safety controls in the mine and the statement "it is something that can happen and happens in many other countries." hasn't calmed the protesters. Apparently Erdogan also launched an anti-semitic insult to a protester and it's uncleared if he beated him or the daughter of one of the workers who died in the fire. What's for sure is that the body guards of the president beat the protester. I think what happened is shocking and tragic. The security conditions were insufficient or even absent and there's a horrible explanation. The owner of this coal mine a few months ago boasted of the decrease of coal price, from $130 to $30, and now we understand where he found the money. These innocent workers died because of the greed of one man and the people who wanted to help them were in a minority situation. These workers have been forgotten by a blind government and the counselor of president Erdogan beat a protester lying on the ground (see the photo). These are signs of incivilty and inhumanity that brings us back of centuries to a barbarian society where workers have to work as slaves in tragic conditions. We have to fight this incivilty protesting and denouncing the responsables of this disaster. Photo from NY Daily News.