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Cyclone-hit farmers battle snails

Farmers report a larger number of snails this year in the wake of Nargis

An unidentified freshwater snail has left scores of paddy farmers in southern Myanmar reeling. In the wake of Cyclone Nargis - which left nearly 140,000 people dead or missing in May - farmers cite an increase in the invasive species. Experts believe the snails were washed up by the sea’s tidal surge when it submerged more than 783,000ha of rice paddy fields or 63 percent of paddy land in the affected areas. The snails devastate rice fields by feeding on the base of paddy seedlings, as well as on plant leaves and stems and are capable of consuming the young plants overnight. Lacking government or international assistance to deal with the menace, many farmers resorted to pesticide, only to have it kill everything else at the same time, including fish. "We don't know the name of it or its active ingredients, but it really kills the crabs though it cannot kill the snails."

'Climate-proof' crop hunt begins

From BBC News
A global search has begun for food crops with traits that are able to withstand changes to the climate.

The project, co-ordinated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, is searching national seed banks for "climate proof" varieties, including maize and rice.

The team will screen seeds for natural resistance to extreme events, such as floods, droughts or temperature swings.

They hope the strains will help protect food production from the impacts of climate change.

Threat of eruption prompts relocation of rare birds from volcanic island

Threat of eruption prompts relocation of rare birds from volcanic island - A special Ministry of the Environment council has decided to move 15 short-tailed albatross chicks from the birds' breeding grounds on Torishima, one of the Izu Islands, to Mukojima in the Ogasawara Islands. The albatrosses' current breeding grounds were improved in 1993, after fears the bird would become extinct, and the population has since risen to around 2,140. However, since the island is an active volcano, new facilities have been prepared on Mukojima, with the first 10 albatross chicks moved there in February this year. Another 15 birds will be moved in February. The chicks successfully left their nests in May, and electronic tagging revealed that they migrated to the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands along with their wild brethren.

Relocation of farmers from vog suggested

Hawaii, USA
The state might need to help some farmers move away from Kilauea volcano so they can escape the effects of vog and stay in business. The state helped Hilo farmers move to safer ground after the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis. Big Islanders have long lived with vog, which is formed when sulfur dioxide from Kilauea mixes with sunlight and dust particles. But the volume of vog in the air above many communities has jumped dramatically since March, when Kilauea started emitting more than double the amount of sulfur dioxide it had been spewing before. Kilauea continues to spew nearly 3 thousands tons of ash and deadly sulfur dioxide gas every day. Protea and other flower crops have been particularly vulnerable to the effects of vog, with some farms losing all their plants. View Video

Officials from the Big Island
reported to state lawmakers that they suggest residents prepare "safe rooms" regarding the ongoing eruption of dangerous gases from Kilauea Volcano. "We have to do something on an emergency basis to provide for the health and safety of the people." The noxious gasses from the volcano can settle on a community too fast and it is not practical for a whole community to evacuate, Civil Defense officials said. "So, what we're advising the community is be prepared for an announcement to come out and stay indoors, minimize your outdoor activity, but basically shelter in place in your own residence." Department of Education officials said they will be able to set up safe rooms in all the schools. "We were able to come up $34,000 or $38,000 to purchase enough air purifiers for every public school on the Big Island and from there we developed what we call safe zones." Officials admit there is no easy answer or fail-safe plan for what to do when the gas from Kilauea threatens people and agriculture on the Big Island.
View Video

Twister Sweeps the British Shore

Great Britain
A waterspout was photographed off the South Devon coast Thursday as a storm swept inland at the same time, bringing high winds and a downpour. “It was a long, thin formation coming out of the sky and when it was near the surface water was sucked up to meet it. It was a bit spooky, and on land in Brixham it suddenly went cold and dark for ten minutes. It was VERY UNUSUAL weather for this part of the world.”

'Thousands ill' due to China milk

Nearly 13,000 children in China have been hospitalised due to tainted Chinese milk powder, officials say.

China's health ministry said 104 out of 12,892 babies showed serious symptoms.

Four infants have died after drinking the milk of the Sanlu Group containing the industrial chemical melamine, which could cause urinary problems.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, a toddler has been diagnosed with a kidney stone after drinking the powder - the first such case outside mainland China.

A number of Asian and African countries have now banned Chinese dairy imports following the scandal.

Chinese police have arrested 18 people in connection with the scandal.

Butterflies at lowest level due to wet summer

The swallowtail (left) and the purple emperor (right) - most butterflies are expected to suffer a decline


Butterfly numbers may be at their LOWEST EVER SUMMER LEVEL. A wet and miserable summer with very little sunshine has dashed hopes of a recovery following a wash-out breeding season last year. Garden species such as small tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral seem to have been among the worst hit. Following a record-breaking wet summer last year which brought widespread flooding - August has again proved to be a massive disappointment with more rain falling in the first 17 days (95.5 mm) than the long-term average (84.6 mm) for the whole month. Rain forces butterflies to find shelter and prevents them foraging for the nectar they need to fuel a good breeding season. To thrive they need a settled period of warm weather with just enough rain to make the flowers grow.

Wildfires sweep southern Africa, kill at least 89

Southern Africa
At least 89 people have died in wildfires sweeping through Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. 49 people have died in central Mozambique and the toll may rise further. The fires claimed more than 40 lives in South Africa and Swaziland. The fires, which started amid high temperatures last week and have been fanned by strong winds, have destroyed four schools and left 3,000 people homeless. Vast swathes of farmland have been destroyed, and livestock killed.

Unusual E coli strain sickens 231 in Oklahoma

Oklahoma, USA

Sep 10, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A restaurant-related illness outbreak in Oklahoma featuring an uncommon strain of Escherichia coli has expanded to involve at least 231 people, 61 of whom have been hospitalized, Oklahoma health officials announced today.

The sick have been infected with E coli O111, a far less common strain than E coli O157:H7, the serotype typically identified in E coli outbreaks. Both strains can cause the form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is potentially fatal.

Service Restored Following 9 Day Power Outage

From The Editor's Desk
Skywatch Media News


Hurricane Gustav has left countless headaches and substantial misery to millions of Louisianans in the aftermath of this most powerful hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana on September 1st. Many have endured the sweltering heat as lights went out across the state, leaving some 1.5 million homes without power. Those lucky enough to afford generators fared better, able to keep their air conditioners running and the refrigerators cold.

I was fortunate to have had a generator for most of the 8+ days that my area went without power, but many still remain in the dark after nearly 10 days since the devastation began. Some 220, 000 meters are still silent across the state, and many are scratching their heads wondering when the lights will return, or when things will return to normal.

This is but a taste of what we can expect as our climate continues to change and our world continues to heat up. Those who have experienced the tremendous force of a major hurricane, know first hand what they can do to disrupt our normal way of life, and the storms we are now experiencing are much larger and stronger than they have ever been.

Hurricane Gustav was one for the books in Louisiana, and especially for the Baton Rouge Metropolitan area. This storm has now been classified as the most destructive and damaging storm to hit this part of Louisiana in its recorded history, even exceeding that of Katrina and Rita which also affected this area in 2005. Gustav is the third major hurricane to hit Louisiana in the past 3 years. Thousands of large trees were completely uprooted or torn in half, and many homes were destroyed or sustained considerable damage by falling trees.

With Ike looming in the Gulf of Mexico, all eyes are pointing towards Texas, but those in Louisiana are keeping a watchful eye, and for good reason. With lives disrupted and people displaced, we are picking up the pieces and starting over. Life goes on as usual, but things just aren't what they used to be for many folks down here. How much more can the average person endure in these troubling times. While governments cope with the insurmountable disaster assistance, insurance companies go bust trying to deal with overwhelming damage claims. Its a vicious merry-go-round that keeps spinning faster with no slow down in sight.

Now that I have been living like a 19th Century Pioneer these past 8 days, I can express to you with sure certainty how wonderful it is to have modern day electricity at our disposal. A luxury that many of us take for granted, myself excluded.

Skywatch-Media News and its affiliate websites will resume normal activities on September 11th, which is also the anniversary of the disaster that befell New York City in 2001. Let's pray that this nation should remain safe and secure from any great calamity in our immediate future. We will continue to hope for the best as a people and nation, but must be prepared for the worst as we venture into uncertain times.

Steve Shaman
Skywatch-Media News

Hurricane Gustav 'the end of the world'

Trees and telephone poles littered the streets and houses were missing doors and roofs, as residents of Los Palacios, western Cuba, despaired today at Hurricane Gustav's path of
destruction. The raging Category 4 cyclone tore over the island nation the previous evening after claiming at least 81 lives in its sweep across the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica. Los Palacios, in the western tobacco-growing Pinar del Rio province, was one of Cuba's first municipalities to be thrashed by Gustav late yesterday. "It's the end of the world. We're going to take 20 years to recover." Some 7000 homes, most made of wood with tile roofs, in Los Palacios - a town of 17,000 - were no match for the raging storm. During the night, roof tiles launched by Gustav's gusts flew around the streets like rockets as wind and rain hammered and damaged churches, schools and poultry plants. There were reports of dozens of injuries but no immediate reports of deaths from the storm, which ploughed across the Isle of Youth and then Pinar del Rio yesterday with sustained top winds of 240km/h. "There's serious damage to all the municipality's infrastructure, the telephone network is down, they've lost rice and yucca (plantain) crops and a lot of state businesses are affected." Meanwhile, the entire western part of Cuba - including the 2.2 million people in the capital Havana - was without power, and authorities said it would be some time before electricity could be restored. Concerns had risen dramatically over the crowded and charming colonial era Old Havana, whose fragile, centuries-old buildings are prone to cave-ins after heavy rains. More than 300,000 people had been evacuated from the storm's path, particularly from coastal towns, as Cuba's communist authorities ordered most of the island's 11 million people to brace for the worst. "The 1944 cyclone was big, but this was bigger." Material damage was overwhelming across the area. The districts of Candelaria, Bahia Honda, San Cristobal and La Palma were also badly affected. In Paso Real de San Diego, WINDS REACHED A RECORD 340km/h (211 miles per hour). "The town is practically destroyed."

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