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EARTH NEWS: WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 24, 2006



Ice-Free Winter
Unusually warm weather
this winter across the
northeastern United
States and eastern
Canada has left the Great Lakes
mostly free of ice for the first time in
living memory. The open waters have
been disastrous for the ice-fishing
industry in the region and have
allowed ferries to operate even during
the coldest month of January.
Some fishing guides tried to use boats
for their customers, but high winds
clouded the waters, preventing fish
from seeing the lures. A cold wave
that spread across the Great Lakes
region in mid-February promoted the
formation of ice near shore, but it is
unlikely that an extensive ice sheet
will form over the bodies of water this
season.

Philippine Slide Disaster
A massive landslide that
swallowed an entire
farming village on the
central Philippine island
of Leyte buried an estimated 1,000
people alive. Most of the St. Bernard
town’s survivors are now widowers
because the majority of women were
at home, tending children while their
husbands worked in fields away from
the disaster site. An international
relief team made a desperate attempt
to find survivors beneath the 100-foot
layer of muck that blanketed the village
after a nearby hillside collapsed.
Some relief officials blamed illegal
logging for weakening the hillside.

Indian Ocean Cyclone
Weak tropical cyclone
12S formed briefly near
the Indian Ocean island of
Mauritius. The disturbance
attained tropical storm force
only briefly before dissipating to the
south of the island.

Earthquakes
A wide area of southern
Africa was soundly
shaken by a magnitude
7.5 temblor centered in
western Mozambique.
• Earth movements were also felt
in southern Bulgaria, central Iran,
central Japan, the southern Philippines,
Guam, Nicaragua and neighboring
Honduras as well as in central
parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Volcanoes
The central Philippines’
Mayon Volcano produced
a swarm of hundreds of
quakes that sprayed ash
across the mountain’s slopes. The
country’s vulcanology and seismology
institute advised residents to stay
outside a 4-mile radius of the mountain
in anticipation of further activity.
• A volcano on the small Japanese
island of Miyake produced its first
eruption since last May, releasing a
small amount of ash. An eruption in
July 2000 forced all of the island’s
4,000 residents to evacuate.

Drought Casualties
The ongoing severe
drought across much of
East Africa has killed
tens of thousands of animals,
and experts warn it will “decimate”
livestock during the next few
months. The British-based Society
for the Protection of Animals Abroad
said further deaths of cattle, camels
and donkeys across Kenya and Somalia
are likely to add to drought-related
human fatalities and suffering.
Parched conditions are also disrupting
the annual migrations of wildebeests
and zebras in Kenya and neighboring
Tanzania. The Kenya Wildlife
Service said the drought has so far
killed at least 60 hippopotamuses in
the country’s wildlife sanctuaries.

Indian Ocean Outbreak
Health officials on the
Indian Ocean island of
Reunion say that four
people have now died
from a mosquito-borne disease that
has infected more than 100,000 people
on the French overseas territory.
Hospital officials said the latest victim
was a small child, who died from
complications related to chikungunya,
a crippling disease that causes
painful swelling of body joints and
leaves victims stooped with limited
mobility. Victims usually recover
from the symptoms over time. While
the disease had not previously been
known to be fatal, chikungunya is
now being directly connected to the
deaths of two adults and two children
on the island. A massive mosquitoeradication
project has been launched
to combat the spread of the disease.

Bounterful Butterflies
Exceptionally wet
weather across South
Africa in recent months
is responsible for the
unprecedented numbers of white butterflies
that have delighted residents
of Johannesburg during February,
according to wildlife experts. Zoologist
Graham Alexander said wet
conditions promoted plant growth,
providing a home for more caterpillars.
They eventually turned into millions
of Belenois aurota, commonly
known as “brown-veined white” butterflies.
While the species is common
across southern Africa, older residents
of the city say they have never
before seen them in such great numbers.
Large migrations of Belenois
aurota take place during the rainy
season, with the winged insects flying
up the east coast of Africa.

Distributed by: Universal Press Syndicate
Earth News: A Journal of the Planet
©2006 Earth Frenzy Radio.Com- All rights reserved.

EARTH NEWS WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 17, 2006

European Bird Flu

The lethal H5N1 strain
of avian influenza
spread dramatically
across Western
Europe, with the virus detected initially
in dead mute swans in Greece,
Italy and Germany. It was found during
the next few days in the same
species in Austria and Denmark, as
well as in Slovenia and Croatia.
Health officials believe the swans
were driven westward from their
usual wintering grounds on the Black
Sea by the recent Siberian chill that
blanketed Russia and Ukraine. Many
of the newly affected countries
ordered poultry moved indoors to
prevent contamination of the flocks.
No domesticated poultry have tested
positive so far for the virus in the
European countries where the dead
swans were found.


Whale Chow
Japan’s whale meat
industry has encountered
such difficulty in
selling the marine
mammal flesh to the country’s human
consumers that it has resorted to using
it in dog food, according to an environmental
charity. “Whaling is a
cruel activity, and the fact that Japan
is killing these amazing animals to
produce dog food is shocking,” said
Mark Simmonds of the British-based
Whale and Dolphin Conservation
Society. In an attempt to clear out a
burgeoning stock from years of whaling,
Japan subsidizied the sale of
whale burgers and whale meat in
schools. Children are enticed to eat it
by colorful pamphlets that declare
whale hunting “a national heritage.”
Despite the slump in demand and
falling prices, Japan’s “research”
whaling program plans to kill about
1,070 minke whales around Antarctica
and in the western North Pacific
in 2006 — 400 more than last year.

Deadly Tropical Chill
Remote villages in
Indonesia’s easternmost
province of Papua have
been enveloped by freak
cold waves in recent weeks, resulting
in cold-related ailments that have
killed nearly 100 people. Temperatures
dipped to as low as 41 degrees
Fahrenheit in mountain communities
where readings are typically above 68
degrees. Health officials say the
stress caused by the cold has created
outbreaks of acute pneumonia, tuberculosis,
dysentery and diarrhea.
Emergency cold-weather shelters
were being rushed to the area, along
with medical supplies.

Eruptions
Increased activity at
Montserrat’s Soufriere
Hills Volcano produced
columns of steam and ash
that soared high into the eastern
Caribbean sky. Ash fallout from the
eruption was reported as far away as
the Virgin Islands and parts of Puerto
Rico. The volcano roared to life in
1997 after remaining dormant for
more than a half a century. It has
remained active since covering the
now-abandoned capital of Plymouth
with a deep layer of ash.
• Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano is
now producing its largest eruptions
for the past five hundred years.
Recent visitors to the island have
been treated to spectacular nighttime
views as the glowing lava lighted up
the sky while entering the ocean.

South Pacific Cyclone
Damaging winds and torrential
rainfall from
Cyclone Vaianu brought
Tonga’s capital to a near
standstill as the storm lashed the
South Pacific kingdom for two days.
Extensive damage was reported to
crops on Tongatapu.

Earthquakes
Two soldiers died in a
landslide triggered by a
magnitude 5.7 earthquake
in the tiny Indian
state of Sikkim. The shaking also sent
people running from their homes in
the neighboring state of West Bengal.
• A broad stretch of central New
Zealand was gently shaken by a magnitude
5.9 tremor centered deep
beneath the northeastern corner of the
South Island. No damage was
reported.
• Earth movements were also felt
in northern Pakistan, northwest
Sumatra, eastern Romania, central
coastal Chile and central Colorado.

Evolving Invaders
The 70-year invasion of
toxic cane toads in northern
Australia is likely to
occupy new territory at a
faster rate due to the unwanted anuran
evolving to grow increasingly
longer legs. Scientists, writing in the
journal Nature, say the toads are now
covering distances about five times
faster than when they were imported
in 1935 to tackle insect pests in cane
fields. They have since multiplied
and migrated to cover an enormous
area in what many consider to be an
ecological disaster. The scientists
tagged the toads with radio transmitters
and discovered those on the
advancing front had much larger legs
than members of established
colonies. The report authors say the
cane toad’s evolution should alert
governments to the need to combat
invasive species quickly, “before the
invader has had time to evolve into a
more dangerous adversary.”

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