Posted: 01 January 2011 0928 hrs
MAJURO, Marshall Islands: Twenty people were missing after a supply ship sank about 80 miles (130 kilometres) from the Marshall Islands capital Majuro early Saturday, officials said.
The 90-foot Jeljelet Ae was eight hours into a 200-mile open ocean journey to
outlying Likiep Atoll when the crew radioed "they were in trouble," said Marshall
Islands Shipping Corporation chairman Alson Kelen.
The vessel, carrying heavy equipment and construction material to workers building
a school on the atoll, sank about 4:00am (1600 GMT Friday), he added.
US embassy deputy chief of mission Eric Watnik confirmed the US Coast Guard in
Honolulu has responded to a call for assistance and a C-130 search plane has been
directed to the area, which lies around 2,000 nautical miles from Hawaii.
"They had two life rafts on board and enough life jackets for everyone," said Kelen,
speaking by phone from a speedboat heading out to search for survivors.
"They gave us good location coordinates before communication was cut off," Kelen
said. "They are about 80 miles north of Majuro."
An emergency locator beacon was also transmitting details of the location of the sinking.
A Marshall Islands government patrol vessel left Majuro at daybreak to launch a sea
search and a second vessel was to leave later in the day.
The cause of the sinking was not immediately known, but Marshall Islands Shipping
Corporation officials have warned the four vessels that service the remote outer islands
were overdue for maintenance.
However, attempts in the past two years for the government to allocate funds for the
vessels to be overhauled have been unsuccessful.
This is the third search in the Marshall Islands involving US Coast Guard aircraft in
the past two months.
Articles: Marshall Islands: 20 Missing after Supply Ship Sinks
A supply ship in the the Marshall Islands with twenty aboardThe vessel carrying heavy equipment and supplies for school building construction on the outer island
sank early Saturday. The 90-foot Jeljelet Ae was about eight
hours into its trip to Likiep Atoll, reported the AFP. The crew
radioed for help about 80 miles north of Majuro. The government’s
patrol boats left early this morning to search for survivors. U.S.
Coast Guard responded to the call for help and a C-130 search
plane has been directed to the area.
which is about 200 miles from Majuro.
No cause for the sinking as yet been reported. “Marshall Islands Shipping Corporation officials have
warned the four vessels that service the remote outer islands were overdue for maintenance,” stated
the news out of Majuro on New Year’s Day.
Yokwe Online will be updating this article as information becomes available.
-Yokwe Online, December 31, 2010
20 missing as ship sinks off Marshall Is
Updated: 13:16, Saturday January 1, 2011
Twenty people are missing after a supply ship sank about 130 kilometres from the Marshall Islands capital Majuro
early on Saturday, officials said. The 27 metre Jeljelet Ae was eight hours into a 320km open ocean journey to
outlying Likiep Atoll when the crew radioed 'they were in trouble,' said Marshall Islands Shipping Corporation
chairman Alson Kelen. The vessel, carrying heavy equipment and construction materials to workers building
a school on the atoll, sank about 4am local time on Friday, he added.
Friday, December 31, 2010
at 8:07 PM
Monday, December 20, 2010
This was the year the Earth struck back.
Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 - the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined.
"It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves," said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010.
"The term '100-year event' really lost its meaning this year."
And we have ourselves to blame most of the time, scientists and disaster experts say.
Even though many catastrophes have the ring of random chance, the hand of man made this a particularly deadly, costly, extreme and weird year for everything from wild weather to earthquakes.
Poor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die.
Disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes "are pretty much constant," said Andreas Schraft, vice president of catastrophic perils for the Geneva-based insurance giant Swiss Re. "All the change that's made is man-made."
The January earthquake that killed well more than 220,000 people in Haiti is a perfect example. Port-au-Prince has nearly three times as many people - many of them living in poverty - and more poorly built shanties than it did 25 years ago. So had the same quake hit in 1985 instead of 2010, total deaths would have probably been in the 80,000 range, said Richard Olson, director of disaster risk reduction at Florida International University.
In February, an earthquake that was more than 500 times stronger than the one that struck Haiti hit an area of Chile that was less populated, better constructed, and not as poor. Chile's bigger quake caused fewer than 1,000 deaths.
Climate scientists say Earth's climate also is changing thanks to man-made global warming, bringing extreme weather, such as heat waves and flooding.
In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.
"It's a form of suicide, isn't it? We build houses that kill ourselves (in earthquakes). We build houses in flood zones that drown ourselves," said Roger Bilham, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado. "It's our fault for not anticipating these things. You know, this is the Earth doing its thing."
No one had to tell a mask-wearing Vera Savinova how bad it could get. She is a 52-year-old administrator in a dental clinic who in August took refuge from Moscow's record heat, smog and wildfires.
"I think it is the end of the world," she said. "Our planet warns us against what would happen if we don't care about nature."
The excessive amount of extreme weather that dominated 2010 is a classic sign of man-made global warming that climate scientists have long warned about. They calculate that the killer Russian heat wave - setting a national record of 111 degrees - would happen once every 100,000 years without global warming.
Preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day ever.
"These (weather) events would not have happened without global warming," said Kevin Trenberth, chief of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
That's why the people who study disasters for a living say it would be wrong to chalk 2010 up to just another bad year.
"The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making," said a weary Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization's Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. "It's almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We've created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact."
Here's a quick tour of an anything but normal 2010:
While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers, deadly quakes also struck Chile, Turkey, China and Indonesia in one of the most active seismic years in decades. Through mid-December there have been 20 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher, compared to the normal 16. This year is tied for the most big quakes since 1970, but it is not a record. Nor is it a significantly above average year for the number of strong earthquakes, U.S. earthquake officials say.
Flooding alone this year killed more than 6,300 people in 59 nations through September, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, 30 people died in the Nashville, Tenn., region in flooding. Inundated countries include China, Italy, India, Colombia and Chad. Super Typhoon Megi with winds of more than 200 mph devastated the Philippines and parts of China.
Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared to 15,000 in 2009, according to Swiss Re. The World Health Organization, which hasn't updated its figures past Sept. 30, is just shy of 250,000. By comparison, deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000, according to reports by the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The last year in which natural disasters were this deadly was 1983 because of an Ethiopian drought and famine, according to WHO. Swiss Re calls it the deadliest since 1976.
The charity Oxfam says 21,000 of this year's disaster deaths are weather related.
After strong early year blizzards - nicknamed Snowmageddon - paralyzed the U.S. mid-Atlantic and record snowfalls hit Russia and China, the temperature turned to broil.
The year may go down as the hottest on record worldwide or at the very least in the top three, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The average global temperature through the end of October was 58.53 degrees, a shade over the previous record of 2005, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Los Angeles had its hottest day in recorded history on Sept. 27: 113 degrees. In May, 129 set a record for Pakistan and may have been the hottest temperature recorded in an inhabited location.
In the U.S. Southeast, the year began with freezes in Florida that had cold-blooded iguanas becoming comatose and falling off trees. Then it became the hottest summer on record for the region. As the year ended, unusually cold weather was back in force.
Northern Australia had the wettest May-October on record, while the southwestern part of that country had its driest spell on record. And parts of the Amazon River basin struck by drought hit their lowest water levels in recorded history.
Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 - more than Hong Kong's economy - according to Swiss Re. That's more than usual, but not a record, Schraft said. That's because this year's disasters often struck poor areas without heavy insurance, such as Haiti.
Ghulam Ali's three-bedroom, one-story house in northwestern Pakistan collapsed during the floods. To rebuild, he had to borrow 50,000 rupees ($583) from friends and family. It's what many Pakistanis earn in half a year.
A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado.
A nearly 2-pound hailstone that was 8 inches in diameter fell in South Dakota in July to set a U.S. record. The storm that produced it was one of seven declared disasters for that state this year.
There was not much snow to start the Winter Olympics in a relatively balmy Vancouver, British Columbia, while the U.S. East Coast was snowbound.
In a 24-hour period in October, Indonesia got the trifecta of terra terror: a deadly magnitude 7.7 earthquake, a tsunami that killed more than 500 people and a volcano that caused more than 390,000 people to flee. That's after flooding, landslides and more quakes killed hundreds earlier in the year.
Even the extremes were extreme. This year started with a good sized El Nino weather oscillation that causes all sorts of extremes worldwide. Then later in the year, the world got the mirror image weather system with a strong La Nina, which causes a different set of extremes. Having a year with both a strong El Nino and La Nina is unusual.
And in the United States, FEMA declared a record number of major disasters, 79 as of Dec. 14. The average year has 34.
A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long.
"The extremes are changed in an extreme fashion," said Greg Holland, director of the earth system laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
For example, even though it sounds counterintuitive, global warming likely played a bit of a role in "Snowmageddon" earlier this year, Holland said. That's because with a warmer climate, there's more moisture in the air, which makes storms including blizzards, more intense, he said.
White House science adviser John Holdren said we should get used to climate disasters or do something about global warming: "The science is clear that we can expect more and more of these kinds of damaging events unless and until society's emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles are sharply reduced."
And that's just the "natural disasters." It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes. BP's busted oil well caused 172 million gallons to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Mining disasters - men trapped deep in the Earth - caused dozens of deaths in tragic collapses in West Virginia, China and New Zealand. The fortunate miners in Chile who survived 69 days underground provided the feel good story of the year.
In both technological and natural disasters, there's a common theme of "pushing the envelope," Olson said.
Colorado's Bilham said the world's population is moving into riskier megacities on fault zones and flood-prone areas. He figures that 400 million to 500 million people in the world live in large cities prone to major earthquakes.
A Haitian disaster will happen again, Bilham said: "It could be Algiers. it could be Tehran. It could be any one of a dozen cities."
Borenstein reported from Washington. Reed Bell reported from Charlotte, N.C.
World Health Organization's Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters: http://www.cred.be/
World Meteorological Organization: http://www.wmo.int
Swiss Re report on 2010 natural catastrophes: http://tinyurl.com/28jrpph
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency disasters: http://tinyurl.com/c232yp
at 11:54 AM
Friday, December 17, 2010
WikiLeaks cables: BP suffered blowout on Azerbaijan gas platform
Tim Webb | Guardian (UK) | 12.16.2010
Striking resemblances between BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and a little-reported giant gas leak in Azerbaijan experienced by the UK firm 18 months beforehand have emerged from leaked US embassy cables.
The cables reveal that some of BP's partners in the gas field were upset that the company was so secretive about the incident that it even allegedly withheld information from them. They also say that BP was lucky that it was able to evacuate its 212 workers safely after the incident, which resulted in two fields being shut and output being cut by at least 500,000 barrels a day with production disrupted for months.
Other cables leaked tonight claim that the president of Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing $10bn of oil from his country and using "mild blackmail" to secure the rights to develop vast gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.
WikiLeaks also released cables claiming that:
• Senior figures in Thailand are concerned about the suitability of the crown prince to become king, citing rumours that he has lovers in several European capitals in addition to his wife and son in Thailand.
• American energy firm Chevron was in discussions with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield, despite US sanctions against Iran.
The leaks came as the whistleblower site's founder Julian Assange prepared for another night in jail ahead of tomorrow's high court challenge to the decision to grant him £200,000 bail. Swedish authorities, who want to question Assange on allegations of sexual assault, believe he should remain in custody as he is a flight risk.
On the Azerbaijan gas leak, acable reports for the first time that BP suffered a blowout in September 2008, as it did in the Gulf with devastating consequences in April, as well as the gas leak that the firm acknowledged at the time.
"Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was 'a lot of mud' on the platform, which BP would analyze to help find the cause of the blowout and gas leak," the cable said.
Written a few weeks after the incident, the cable said Bill Schrader, BP's then head of Azerbaijan, admitted it was possible the company "would never know" the cause although it "is continuing to methodically investigate possible theories".
According to another cable, in January 2009 BP thought that a "bad cement job" was to blame for the gas leak in Azerbaijan. More recently, BP's former chief executive Tony Hayward also partly blamed a "bad cement job" by contractor Halliburton for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The blowout in the Gulf led to the deaths of 11 workers and the biggest accidental offshore oil spill in history.
BP was also criticised for not initially sharing all its information with the US authorities about the scale of the Gulf spill. The gas field in the Caspian Sea was in production when the leak and blow out occured, unlike the well in the Gulf which was being drilled to explore for oil.
BP declined to answer questions put by the Guardian about the cause of the Azerbaijan gas leak and who carried out the cement job, pointing to a general statement it had made about the cables.
The cable reveals that the company had a narrow escape. "Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. Schrader said although the story hadn't caught the press's attention, it had the full focus of the [government of Azerbaijan], which was losing '$40-50m each day'."
The leak happened at the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshi (ACG) field, Azerbaijan's largest producing oil field in the Caspian where vast undeveloped gas reserves also lie. BP is the operator and largest shareholder in the consortium, which includes US companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Hess (formerly Amerada Hess), as well as Norwegian firm Statoil and Azerbaijani state owned oil company Socar.
BP comes in for criticism for allegedly limiting the information it made available about the incident. Another cable records shortly after the incident: "ACG operator BP has been exceptionally circumspect in disseminating information about the ACG gas leak, both to the public and to its ACG partners. However, after talking with BP and other sources, the embassy has pieced together the following picture." It goes on to say the incident took place when bubbles appeared in the waters around the Central Azeri platform, signalling a nearby gas leak. "Shortly thereafter, a related gas-reinjection well for Central Azeri had a blowout, expelling water, mud and gas." BP's annual report last year referred to a "comprehensive review of the subsurface gas release" having taken place and remedial work being carried out.
The cable continues: "At least some of BP's ACG partners are similarly upset with BP's performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its ACG partners. Although it is too early to ascertain the cause, if in fact this production shutdown was due to BP technical error, and if it continues for months (as seems possible), BP's reputation in Azerbaijan will take a serious hit."
BP is in charge of Azerbaijan's key energy projects, and has a significant influence across the region. In late 2006 discussions were taking place about when Turkey would be able to link up its own network to a new pipeline operated by BP transporting gas across the Caucasus from BP's giant new Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan. The new pipeline was seen as crucial as reducing the region's dependence on unreliable gas supplies from Russia, particularly amidst rising gas prices.
According to one cable, BP's outgoing Azerbaijan president, David Woodward, said in November 2006 that BP thought it unlikely that Turkey would be able to complete its work before spring 2007. "However, he added that 'it was not inconceivable' that Botas [Turkey's state pipeline company] could 'rush finish' the job so that it would be ready to receive gas shortly, although the pipeline would not meet international standards," the cable said. In the end, BP said Turkey began receiving gas from Shah Deniz in July 2007.
The cables also reveal BP concerns on the lack of security at the time around its oil and gas installations, particularly in the Caspian Sea, which it believed made them vulnerable to terrorist attack. One cable from July 2007 records: "BP Azerbaijan president Bill Schrader has told US officials in private conversations, 'all it would take is one guy with a mortar or six guys in a boat' to wreak havoc in Azerbaijan's critical energy infrastructure."
BP officials also complained about a shortage of Navy and Coast Guard boats – mostly Soviet era and built in the 1960s and 1970s – to patrol the waters around the platforms. It was also not clear which government agency or branch of the military was in charge, meaning a "response to a crisis offshore could be problematic" , one cable in August 2008 recorded.
The oil firm said BP "enjoys the continued support and goodwill of the government and the people of Azerbaijan".
The oil firm said in a statement that: "BP continues to have a successful and mutually beneficial partnership with the government of Azerbaijan. This cooperation has produced and contunues to produce benefits to all parties involved and most importantly to the nation of Azerbaijan. The Government of Azerbaijan has entrusted us with the development of its major oil and gas development projects on the basis of Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that are enacted as laws in Azerbaijan. The operatorship of PSAs of this scale and size require cooperation and alignment between contractors and the Government. BP in Azerbaijan enjoys the continued support and goodwill of the Government and the people of Azerbaijan to meet its obligations. As part of maintaining this successful partnership we meet and discuss business related matters with relevant parties including our partners, SOCAR, and the Government. These discussions are confidential and as such we will maintain that confidentiality and not comment on specifics."
See more at
at 1:27 AM