Sunday, July 29, 2018

Laotian Deluge

"Laos dam collapses; hundreds are missing" by Mike Ives New York Times  July 24, 2018

NEW YORK — Hundreds of people were missing Tuesday after a billion-dollar hydropower dam that was under construction in Laos collapsed, killing several people and displacing more than 6,600 others, a state news agency said.

KPL, the official Lao news agency, reported that the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydroelectric dam collapsed at 8 p.m. Monday, releasing roughly 175 billion cubic feet of water and sweeping away homes in the southern province of Attapeu, which lies along the country’s border with Vietnam and Cambodia. The agency did not give an exact death toll.

Heavy rain and flooding caused the collapse, according to a South Korean engineering and construction company that Reuters said was building the dam.

The company, SK Engineering & Construction Co., has sent helicopters, boats, and personnel to aid rescue operations, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“We are running an emergency team and planning to help evacuate and rescue residents in villages near the dam,” a spokesman for SK Engineering, known as SK E&C, told Reuters by telephone.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos suspended a government meeting and led members of his Cabinet to monitor rescue and relief efforts around the collapsed dam, the KPL agency reported Tuesday.

Laos is a landlocked authoritarian state and one of the poorest countries in Asia.

The 410-megawatt dam was being built as a joint venture of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Co., SK E&C and several other companies, the KPL agency said. Construction began in 2013, KPL reported.

SK E&C is an affiliate of SK Group, one of South Korea’s largest business conglomerates. SK E&C has built power plants at home and abroad.

The dam was expected to begin operating by 2019 and to generate approximately 1,879 gigawatt hours of electricity a year, the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Co. says on its website. Ninety percent of the electricity would be sold to neighboring Thailand and the other 10 percent within Laos, the company says.

The phone lines of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Co.’s two offices in Laos were either busy or rang unanswered Tuesday. The dam was designed to generate electricity from water that has been diverted from three rivers — the Houay Makchanh, the Xe-Namnoy, and the Xe-Pian — in the southern Laotian province of Champasack. The Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Co. says on its website that water from the project would be discharged into the Xe Kong River before it flows into the Mekong.

Hydropower dams are a major source of energy in Laos and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but they are also controversial, in part because they often displace rural poor and cause severe impacts on fisheries and watersheds.

Last year, Radio Free Asia news service, funded by the US government, reported that more than 100 families in three villages near the dam were facing forced eviction. RFA quoted an unidentified resident as saying that villagers there did not want to move to the land the Laotian government had offered them as compensation, which they said was not suitable for farming.

Why did Palestine just come to mind?

In a 2013 letter to the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Co., the advocacy group International Rivers said its staff had visited the resettlement zone for the dam and seen firsthand that people there were struggling “with a lack of access to sufficient food, water and land.”

“In addition, families have found that the shallow soil around their homes is inappropriate for growing vegetables, fruits or staple crops, and consistently attest to going hungry,” the letter said.

For years, one of the region’s most controversial hydropower projects was the Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River in northern Laos.

Thailand is scheduled to buy nearly all of the Xayaburi dam’s electricity and the Laotian government announced in 2012 that it would go ahead with the project, saying that it would generate billions of dollars in revenue, but scientists have long worried that the Xayaburi dam would disturb spawning patterns and lead to the extinction of many species of fish, a main source of protein for millions of people along the Mekong. They also worry that it would embolden developers to proceed with other projects along the river, which flows from Laos into Cambodia and Vietnam.....


May God help them all.

"In Laos, a Boom, and Then, ‘The Water Is Coming!’" by Mike Ives   July 25, 2018

PAKSONG, Laos — At a news conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said 131 people were still missing and more than 3,000 were homeless. Many had been rescued from rooftops and trees after villages and farmland were flooded.

At least 26 people have been reported killed.

Video posted by the Thai News Agency showed vast quantities of water cascading over what appeared to be the diminished structure of the dam, known as Saddle Dam D.

The official Lao News Agency reported that the dam had collapsed. The main builder of the hydropower project, SK Engineering & Construction of South Korea, said it would investigate whether the dam had collapsed or overflowed because of heavy rains.

International Rivers, an advocacy group that has opposed the rapid growth of hydropower dams in Laos, said in a statement posted online that the auxiliary dam collapsed as flooding from heavy monsoon rains caused it to overflow Monday night.

The group, which seeks to protect rivers around the world, said the disaster showed that many dams were not designed to handle extreme weather events, such as the rains Monday.

“Unpredictable and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent due to climate change, posing grave safety concerns to millions who live downstream of dams,” International Rivers said.

Or weather weapons(?).

People living below the dam had only a few hours’ warning to evacuate before it failed, according to the group.

“Communities were not given sufficient advanced warning to ensure their safety and that of their families,” the statement said.

Seven villages in Sanamxay, which is in Attapeu province, were flooded and more than 6,000 people were displaced by the dam’s failure, officials said.

The Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy is one of 70 hydropower plants that are planned, underway or have been built in Laos, most of them owned and operated by private companies, International Rivers said.....

You can meet one of the victims courtesy of the New York Times.


Also see: 
A Day Before Laos Dam Failed, Builders Saw Trouble 

I've seen more articles on Laos the last three days than the last three years before washing away along with the landmines.

Last thing I remember is when Obama visited and acknowledged the scars of America’s secret war. Even as he was unlikely to drop option of nuclear first strike and remains a central world figure, there was a palpable sense at the G-20 gathering that the world is waiting for a new president to reset US policies on Syria, Ukraine, and North Korea," just not who he thought.

If only he had been running, huh? 

Only question is would he have spied on the Trump campaign like his DoJ and FBI did for Hillary?

They could have used some of that water in Greece:

"Wildfires near Athens kill dozens; some jump in the sea to escape" by Niki Kitsantonis, Richard Pérez-Peña and Russell Goldman, New York Times July 24, 2018

ATHENS — Fast-moving wildfires near Athens have killed at least 74 people, officials said Tuesday, and have forced thousands of tourists and residents to flee in cars and buses, on foot, aboard boats, and on makeshift rafts.

In desperation, some people plunged into the waters of the Aegean Sea and tried to swim to safety, but in Mati, a coastal village wiped out by fire, 26 men, women and children gathered in the hope that they could find the narrow path leading to a small staircase down to the water. With smoke blotting their vision and choking their lungs, they appear to have lost their way. Officials found their bodies the next day, Tuesday; several were clinging to one another.


"It’s a two-day plane ride from Hawaii, followed by a car ride through the desert, culminating with a journey down a stretch of sandy, unmarked roads that lead to the ocean....."

Speaking of Hawaii, they were warned of toxic gas as the earth opened and spewed lava, so hold fast for fear the volcano will blow its top in the coming days and hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air and encircle the island in a ‘‘Ring of Fire.’’

The new menace is now 20 active fissures that put residents on alert for a possible major eruption and a huge ash cloud of spatter, resulting in a toxic steam cloud from an eruption that began more than two weeks ago ‘‘reminding us again who’s boss.’’

This is going to go on for a long time as another ash cloud spews into the air, and besides lava and ash, the volcano is pumping out ‘vog’ as Imperial troops have entered the base (what do you mean fracking is the source of the earthquakes that led to the eruption?).

Caps a strange spring and summer regarding weather in the U.S. A Montana river crested at its highest level in century as campers escaped to Iowa, and thunderstorms created a small weather-generated tsunami off the New Jersey coast as well as flash flooding that caused havoc from Georgia to Utah.

A milder hurricane season was predicted as the US Gulf Coast braced for Alberto and its dangerous surf and heavy rains.  It then made its way north while Florida officials have made few changes for upcoming storm season, but National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said his office’s job ‘‘is going to spend time spinning them up on the hurricane season, spinning them up on the science.’’  He is also working with Craig Fugate, who was the state’s top emergency official under Governor Jeb Bush and later headed FEMA under President Barack Obama. Too bad they were on the wrong coast as two more storms hit.

It comes as no surprise that 2018 is shaping up to be one of the slowest tornado years in recent memory, and the words weren't even dry on the page before a tornado that tore across the Wyoming prairie was about as big as they get in the state, officials said. Thunderstorms also spawned a small tornado in a Connecticut, and 2 tornadoes  were confirmed in central Massachusetts. Must have been the hot spell that brought temperatures near record levels on Mount Washington despite a cold April and June.

Time to get the fires going again:

Gale-force winds topping 50 miles per hour fanned a pair of fires that tore through seaside areas popular with travelers, leaving behind a trail of charred resorts, burned-out cars, and smoldering farms, and wrapping the region in a pall of smoke.

Officials said that at least 187 people were injured, including 23 children.

Greece’s emergency services were stretched to capacity, as more than 600 firefighters and 250 fire engines were deployed to the sites of the two largest fires, in and around Rafina, about 20 miles east of Athens, and Kineta, about 30 miles west of the capital.

The country’s entire fleet of water-dropping aircraft was deployed Monday, the military sent specially trained units for fire prevention patrols, and officials called on their partners in the European Union for help.

In a 24-hour period that ended Tuesday morning, 47 new fires broke out, though all but four were quickly extinguished, said Stavroula Maliri, a spokeswoman for the national fire service. Government officials and others speculated that at least some of the fires had been set deliberately.

I was wondering about that.


"A 32-year-old man has been charged with intentionally starting nine Southern California fires, including one that has chased thousands of residents from mountain communities. In a separate development....."

He claims he is just a patsy as Yosemite is evacuated (they just reopened the sequoia patch) as thousands of residents throughout rural regions north of San Francisco flee their homes. The smoky haze settling on areas to the south and west was rattling nerves near wine country because there is no way out except up

Proving he has more class and dignity than do his opponents, President Trump issued an emergency declaration for California on Saturday, allowing counties affected by wildfires to receive federal assistance. 

Also see:

"The Costilla County sheriff’s office said Jesper Joergensen of Denmark was arrested on charges of starting the 78-square-mile wildfire in southern Colorado....."

They also arrested three others. Also burning in Michigan as some contractor in Florida started theirs, and as for who started the New Mexican fireswho knows?

My question is who benefits? 

What forces or concerns are going to benefit from these arsons and why? That is not to say every single fire is set; however, the problem, reaction, solution method of control calls for it.

Europe has sweltered through an unusually hot and dry summer, breaking temperature records and fueling significant fires in several countries, including Sweden and Britain.

You know what is the culprit.

In Greece, blazes have consumed entire towns, locals said, and officials warned that the death toll would rise as emergency workers cleared burned homes and cars, in which some evacuees had become trapped.

On social media, people posted pleas for information about missing family members, offers of accommodation for people forced out of their homes, and appeals for blood donations.

Nikos Economopoulos, president of the Hellenic Red Cross, said 26 of the dead had been found in a field near Mati, north of Rafina. Some were locked in an embrace, he told Greek state television.

“Mati doesn’t even exist as a settlement anymore,” a resident told Skai TV. “I saw corpses, burned-out cars. I feel lucky to be alive.”

Many people fled ahead of the flames into central Rafina, while rescue boats and ferries returning from the islands put passengers ashore there, leading to crowding along the waterfront. The intense wind, heat, and flying ash made conditions miserable, but for a while, at least, the people packed into the area had nowhere else to go.

Among them were the Stavrindis family, who returned to their home Tuesday morning and found it intact, the fire having come within about 100 yards of it.

Roads into Athens were choked by residents trying to flee, hampering rescuers’ efforts to reach the fires. Penned in by the flames, some looked to the sea to escape, hitching rides on passing fishing boats, putting to sea on anything that would float, or just diving in.

The coast guard said it had recovered the bodies of at least four evacuees.

Twelve coast guard vessels, aided by about 30 private boats, rescued 710 people trapped in Mati and nearby Kokkino Limanaki and pulled dozens of others from the sea, according to the deputy shipping minister, Nektarios Santorinios.

Greek television channels aired the dramatic escape tales of survivors. The former leader of the country’s Communist Party, Aleka Papariga, who was vacationing in Mati, said she had got out “just in time.” She said that the field where the blaze broke out was flanked by rocks and a precipice, limiting the avenues for escape.

On Monday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short an official visit to Bosnia because of the fires, and Tuesday he announced three days of national mourning for the victims.

“It’s a difficult night for Greece,” Tsipras said. “We are dealing with something completely asymmetric.” Wildfires are an annual occurrence in Greece, but a drought and a recent heat wave, with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, have helped make this the country’s deadliest fire season in more than a decade.....

And his government was already on shaky ground.


"As Greek wildfire closed in, a desperate dash ended in death" by Jason Horowitz   July 25, 2018

MATI, Greece — Greece, a country that understands tragedy all too well, woke Tuesday morning to its worst one in a decade. In addition to those killed by smoke or fire, or who drowned in the sea while trying to flee, 187 people were hospitalized, more than 20 of them children. Ten people remained in serious condition, the government said Tuesday night.

The fires forced the evacuation of thousands of tourists, as well as residents and retirees, from this vacation area about 20 miles east of Athens. Flames were still licking at the fields of Kineta, about 30 miles west.

“We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it,” Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said in a televised statement on Tuesday as he announced a state of emergency in the Attica region, which includes Athens.

The government, which has declared three days of mourning, dispatched forces from the army, coast guard and fire brigades. It has also called in help from the European Union to quell the fires.

How many refugees you willing to settle?

“We mustn’t let mourning overwhelm us, because these hours are hours of battle, unity, courage and above all solidarity,” Tsipras said.

The acrid smell, wafts of smoke and pools of incinerated garbage lent this seaside community an apocalyptic air on Tuesday. The streets were slicked black and police lights reflected off the broken windows as tow truck operators raised and lowered the ashen remains of burned cars onto flatbed trucks.

Elena Apostolov, a pet store owner, walked around with an empty pet carrier. “We’ve found nothing,” she said.

Danae Koliou, 23, sidestepped dead bodies in the morning and picked up an abandoned cellphone with 48 missed calls.

Firefighters wore gas masks and rescue workers collected bags of crackers, Argos orange juice, bread, and Choco Balls cereal for the hungry survivors, many of whom had lost everything.

“Everything is bad,” said George Roumeliotis, the president of the local civil protection task force. He paused to yell over to colleagues in orange shirts to start bringing food to other sites. “We have dead,” he said, “we have people looking for their friends and their family.”

The seemingly arbitrary blowing of the winds left some houses and bougainvillea bushes relatively untouched by fire and others reduced to nothing but cinders. One family hovered on a relatively untouched balcony near the sea. A few feet away, there was nothing left.

Residents said the flames had come fast.

The sea, too, took its toll. Some residents swam to safety, only to see their neighbors drown. Others treaded water for hours, their eyes burning from smoke, until fisherman pulled them aboard.

The death toll, Greece’s worst since wildfires killed 60 people in the country’s Peloponnese region in 2007, seemed likely to grow as the authorities began the grim task of inspecting the torched cars and wrecked homes in which some evacuees sought escape or refuge, only to find themselves trapped.....


The fires must be out now because the Globe hasn't covered them since, although the burn wards are starting to fill up.

Sunday Updates: 

"Heavy rain fell on parts of Japan and airlines canceled flights Saturday as an approaching typhoon threatened to dump more rain on a region devastated by floods and landslides earlier this month. Typhoon Jongdari was heading west along Japan’s Pacific coast and was expected to make landfall in central Japan by Sunday. It had maximum sustained winds of 78 miles per hour with gusts up to 112 (AP)."

"Cambodians voting in Sunday’s general election will have a nominal choice of 20 parties, but only two serious options: extend Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 33 years in power, or stay home. Any credible opposition was eliminated in November, when the Supreme Court declared the Cambodian National Rescue Party complicit in trying to overthrow the government. The leaders of the now defunct opposition party have called for a boycott of the vote (AP)."

Also see:

Death toll from Greek wildfire reaches 91 as village grieves

With opposition silenced, Cambodia’s Hun Sen coasts to win

Raging California blaze claims 6th victim

Does make you wonder how jet fuels fires melted steel skyscrapers, doesn't it?

Search on for 13-year-old Boy Scout in Wyoming mountains

"Polish rescue workers on Sunday found the bodies of two miners after an earthquake hit a coal mine in southern Poland in the town of Jastrzebie-Zdroj, close to Poland’s border with the Czech Republic....."

Heavy rain causes flooding, sweeps away vehicles in Turkey

They still won't bend.

"In Kenya, at least 80 people have been killed and 244,000 people displaced from their homes by the heavy rains since March, according to the U.N. humanitarian agency....."

"Turtle Hospital officials said that releasing the reptile over Mother’s Day weekend was especially meaningful because they are confident the turtle will lay eggs after reaching maturity. Turtles also face a threat from the plastic pollution, according to a new study from Florida State University researchers. The study found that seed-sized microplastics in sand may be heating up beaches and changing the balance of male and female sea turtles....."