Congo to begin phased return of residents to volcano-hit city

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo will start a phased return of residents who fled Goma in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that destroyed thousands of homes and threatened to overrun the city, the government said on Monday.

Less than a week after the initial eruption on May 22, which only just stopped short of the city limits, some 400,000 people scrambled to leave when the government warned underground tremors could cause a new eruption, or trigger the release of toxic gases.

The tremors have since subsided, and many people have returned to Goma. About 245,000 remain displaced in nearby towns and villages, according to the latest survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The government said it would provide buses and trucks beginning on Tuesday to help people return.

But Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde told journalists that sites on the outskirts of Goma that were destroyed by the eruption could no longer be inhabited.

“We must learn from the 2002 and 2021 eruptions so that our populations are never again so close to danger,” Lukonde said.

Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, had last erupted in 2002, killing more 200 people and sending lava gushing through Goma. Last month’s eruption killed at least 31.

On Saturday, the government re-opened Goma’s airport, which is eastern Congo’s main hub for delivering aid to the strife-torn region.

People made homeless by the eruption would be temporarily rehoused and given assistance to rebuild, the government said in a statement.

(Reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Antarctica rocked by 30,000 tremors in 3 months, Chilean scientists say

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – More than 30,000 tremors have rocked Antarctica since the end of August, according to the University of Chile, a spike in seismic activity that has intrigued researchers who study the remote, snowbound continent.

Scientists with the university’s National Seismological Center said the small quakes – including one stronger shake of magnitude 6 – were detected in the Bransfield Strait, a 60-mile wide (96-km) ocean channel between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Several tectonic plates and microplates meet near the strait, leading to frequent rumbling, but the past three months have been unusual, according to the center.

“Most of the seismicity is concentrated at the beginning of the sequence, mainly during the month of September, with more than a thousand earthquakes a day,” the center said.

The shakes have become so frequent that the strait itself, once increasing in width at a rate of about 7 or 8 mm (0.30 inch) a year is now expanding 15 cm (6 inches) a year, the center said.

“It’s a 20-fold increase … which suggests that right this minute … the Shetland Islands are separating more quickly from the Antarctic peninsula,” said Sergio Barrientos, the center’s director.

The peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, and scientists closely monitor the changing climate’s impact on its icebergs and glaciers.

But climate scientist Raul Cordero of the University of Santiago said it was not yet clear how the tremors might be affecting the region’s ice.

“There’s no evidence that this kind of seismic activity … has significant effects on the stability of polar ice caps,” Cordero told Reuters.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Reuters TV; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Tremors worsen on New Zealand volcano island, prevent recovery of bodies

Tremors worsen on New Zealand volcano island, prevent recovery of bodies
By Charlotte Greenfield

WHAKATANE, New Zealand (Reuters) – Increasing tremors on a volcanic island in New Zealand on Wednesday heightened the risk of another massive eruption, preventing the recovery of bodies two days after an eruption engulfed dozens of tourists in steam and hot ash.

Six people were killed in Monday’s explosion at White Island, which lies some 50 km (30 miles) off the mainland, with another nine officially listed as missing, and 30 injured.

Australian Gavin Dallow, 53, and his stepdaughter Zoe Hosking, 15, were the latest victims to be identified on Wednesday.

“Our hearts break at the loss of Zoe at such a young age,” the Dallow family said in an emailed statement. “We mourn the loss of Gavin and Zoe.”

And the death toll could rise with 29 people in intensive care in several hospitals around the country.

Twenty seven people have horrific burns to 30% or more of their body and 22 are also on airway support due to the severity of their burns, said medical authorities.

“We anticipate we will require an additional 1.2 million square centimeters of skin for the ongoing needs of the patients,” Counties Manukau Chief Medical Officer, Dr Peter Watson, said at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

“The nature of the burns suffered is complicated by the gases and chemicals in the eruption. This has necessitated more rapid treatment of these burns than is the case for thermal-only burns,” said Watson.

Surgical teams were engaged in around-the-clock treatment.

“This is just the start of a very long process that for some patients will last several months,” he said.

The Australian government said it expected to transfer up to 10 injured citizens from New Zealand starting in the next 24 hours, if medical staff approve them for travel.

 

TOO RISKY TO RECOVER BODIES

Authorities monitoring the uninhabited island said conditions were worsening and there was now a 40-60% chance of a massive eruption similar to Monday in the next 24 hours.

“In summary, yesterday there was a high risk of an eruption. Today there is an even higher risk of an eruption. And the parameters are worsening at the moment,” Graham Leonard, a senior volcanologist at GNS Science, told a news conference in Wellington.

A plume of smoke could still be seen coming from the island.

“I’ve spoken to many of those involved in the operation and they are very, very eager to get back there, they want to bring people’s loved ones home,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an interview with Reuters in Wellington.

Aerial surveillance has detected no signs of life on the island, where at least one tour group was captured on automated webcams in the crater just a minute before the eruption.

GRAPHIC: Volcano map of New Zealand – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEW%20ZEALAND-VOLCANO/0100B4PY2EJ/New-Zealand-Volcano-Map.jpg

Police said the safety of recovery teams was the priority and are awaiting advice from experts on when they could access the island. That has prompted some criticism authorities are being too cautious.

“We cannot put other people in jeopardy to go out there until we’re absolutely certain that the island is actually safe,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Bruce Bird told a media conference in Whakatane, the town that is an access point for tourist trips to the island.

There were 47 people on White Island at the time of the eruption. Twenty-four of those were from Australia, nine from the United States, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and Britain and one from Malaysia.

A mother and daughter were the first Australians to be named as victims, media said on Wednesday. Brisbane woman Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, had been confirmed dead, family friend John Mickel told Sky News.

The death toll from Monday’s eruption rose to six after one victim died in hospital on Tuesday.

Daily tours bring more than 10,000 visitors to the privately owned island every year, marketed as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano”.

GeoNet raised the alert level for the volcano in November because of an increase in volcanic activity. The alert level was increased further after the eruption, and remains elevated.

 

(Additional reporting by Praveen Menon, Jane Wardell and John Mair in Wellington; Editing by Peter Cooney, Sam Holmes and Michael Perry)

Italy’s Mount Etna erupts, authorities close airport

CATANIA, Italy (Reuters) – Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, erupted on Monday, sending a huge column of ash into the sky and causing the closure of Catania airport on Sicily’s eastern coast.

A chain of around 130 earth tremors have rocked the volcano since around 0800 GMT on Monday, Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology said, with the strongest posting a magnitude of 4.0.

There were no reports of any injuries.

The 3,330 meter high volcano can burst into spectacular action several times a year, spewing lava and ash high over the Mediterranean island. The last major eruption was in 1992.

(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni, writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Shallow quakes shake parts of western Japan, more tremors expected

A stone torii gate damaged by an earthquake is seen at Karita Shrine in Ohda, Shimane Prefecture, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo April 9, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – A series of shallow earthquakes shook parts of western Japan on Monday and authorities warned that further strong shaking is possible over the coming days.

A quake at 1632 GMT measured at magnitude 5.8 by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), at a depth of 10 kms (7.5 miles), causing strong shaking in parts of Shimane prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

Shaking of that intensity can cause walls to collapse, open cracks in the ground and trigger landslides. The United States Geological Service Survey (USGS) measured the initial quake at magnitude 5.6 at a depth of 7 kms.

A JMA official warned at a press briefing that the region could experience further jolts over the next week, particularly in the coming two or three days.

No injuries have so far been reported as a result of the earthquakes, public broadcaster NHK said.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Earthquake hits already battered central Italy, no casualties

Firefighters inspecting Norcia, Italy after earthquakes

ROME (Reuters) – A strong earthquake hit the same area of central Italy on Thursday that has already been battered by a spate of recent tremors, but there were no reports of casualties or further serious damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initially measured the quake at 5.0 but later revised it to 4.8. Its epicenter was in the Marche region, one of three areas hit repeatedly since August.

Nearly 10 hours after the latest quake, there were no reports of casualties, injuries or serious damage to buildings already weakened by previous tremors.

Earthquakes measuring 5.5 and 6.1 hit the area on Oct. 26, followed by a 6.6 magnitude quake on Sunday, the biggest tremor to strike Italy for 36 years.

The recent quakes have reshaped more than 600 square km (230 square miles) of land, lowering areas around the epicenter by up to 70 cm (28 inches), according to data released by Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV)..

Central Italy was hit by an initial earthquake on Aug. 24 that killed 300 people, most of them in the town of Amatrice. Since then, some 21,600 aftershocks have battered the region, the INGV said, driving most residents from their homes.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome and Sandra Maler in Washington; Editing by Tom Heneghan)