New Zealand: 7.8-magnitude quake rocks south, triggers tsunami threat

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November 2016CHRISTCHURCH, NZ A powerful 7.8magnitude earthquake rocked New Zealand’s South Island on Sunday, triggering high waves and a tsunami warning as people fled buildings in a panic. The quake struck around 50 kilometers (around 30 miles) northeast of the city of Christchurch, the US Geological Survey recorded, while waves of 2.49 meters above usual tide levels were measured near the epicenter by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC). The country’s entire east coast is at threat of dangerous waves that could arrive immediately, the New Zealand Civil Defense said on Twitter in an advisory. “Move inland or to higher ground immediately,” the warning said.
And at least three aftershocks hit near South Island, the USGS said, some with a magnitude as high as 6.2. “This is the strongest [earthquake] I’ve ever felt,” Tamara Hunt told CNN. She was with her husband at their home in Whanganui when the earthquake struck. “It started off so small, like the cat moving in the bed, but then it started building and I had to run to the door. Stuff in the house was falling over and the doors were swaying really bad,” she said. “Then we decided to get out, and that’s when we saw our pool had lost a lot of water. The earthquake went on for two minutes.”

The city of Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in 2011, which killed 185 people and injured thousands. It reduced swathes of the city’s historic area to rubble. “The land has been very peaceful for many, many months. So this is bringing back all the rare memories,” Chet Wah, owner of Designer Cottage B&B in Christchurch, told CNN. “I just checked with all the guests. They are alright. It is scary. It’s going to be a long night.”
The USGS initially reported the quake’s magnitude at 7.4 at a depth of just 10 kilometers — shallow enough to cause serious destruction to the immediate surrounding area. It later revised the quake strength to 7.8, but changed its depth to 23 (14.2 miles) kilometers, giving more of a buffer between the epicenter and the Earth’s surface. New Zealand is regularly hit by earthquakes as it sits in a “collision zone” between the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. It is part of the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire,” where many earthquakes and volcano eruptions occur.  –CNN

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Planning for the Apocalypse: Elite in Texas plan to build mini city underground

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November 2016TEXAS Some upper-income Texans are headed down below, not Australia, but in an large underground bunker complex. An investor group is planning for a doomsday scenario by building a $300 million luxury community underground replete with the latest leisure amenities like a golf course and shooting range. The development, called Trident Lakes, is in a little town called Ector, which is just northeast of Dallas. Residents will enjoy an equestrian center, 18-hole golf course, polo fields, zip lines and gun ranges. Retail shops, restaurants and a row of helipads are also in the works. For those looking to “get away,” they’ll also be able to enjoy three white sand beaches and a neighborhood spa.
“We’ve evolved it into long-term sustainability instead of a survival community,” Trident Lakes CEO Jim O’Connor told the Houston Chronicle, adding that the 400 planned condos will house about 1,600 people. “The concept is to build a community that will last two centuries or longer. That means we’re looking at designs that include earth structures that won’t be exposed to the elements.” Residents will first be able to move-in possibly as soon as 2018, O’Connor said, with construction slated to potentially begin next year.

“It’s not just a hole in the ground to hide in — it’s going to be one of the most plush resorts in all of Texas, if not America,” Trident Lakes spokesperson Richie Whitt told the Sherman Herald Democrat. “People are getting fearful of this world — there’s ISIS, there are things like Zika virus to race relation and the police brutality they see on TV — people are nervous. People want a place they can have safety for themselves and for the future of their families,” Whitt added. “If need be, it’s going to be one of the safest places on Earth.”

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Volcano on Rome’s doorstep is slowly reawakening

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November 2016 ROME Increased activity below the earth’s surface suggests volcano just 10 km from the Italian capital is getting close to another eruption. A dormant volcano just outside Rome could be slowly reawakening, scientists have said, raising fears of a Pompeii-style ash-and-rock cloud sweeping across the Italian capital. A dormant volcano just outside Rome could be slowly reawakening, scientists have said, raising fears of a Pompeii-style ash-and-rock cloud sweeping across the Italian capital. An eruption in the Colli Albani Volcanic District (CAVD), which is around 10 km from Rome, would have a devastating impact on much of the city.
In a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of researchers reported that the ground in the region is rising by 2-3 mm per year and underground chambers located several kilometers below the towns of Ariccia, Castel Gandolfo and Albano are filling up with magma – signs that the previously dormant volcano is rumbling back to life. Satellite imagery and seismographic charts also record the volcano’s slow awakening. However, while the volcano’s increased activity is a cause for concern, experts believe a possible eruption could still be 1,000 years away. Previous studies have suggested the volcano tends to erupt around every 40,000 years.
But now scientists believe that could be narrowed to 30,000 years – bringing the prospect of an eruption much closer. If the volcano did erupt, it would produce a huge cloud raining down ash and lava on parts of Rome. The cloud would obscure the sun in countries as far away as Latin America, scientists believe. Experts say the long gaps between eruptions are a cause for concern because they allow time for large quantities of magma to build up and pressure to mount below the earth’s surface. This means the eventual eruption is likely to be bigger and more powerful. “When the eruption happens, it has an explosive effect, like opening a champagne bottle after shaking it,” Fabrizio Marra, who led the study, told La Repubblica. “This sort of process has, for example, caused the string of earthquakes that hit this area at the beginning of the 1990s, with minor quakes and a few cases of magnitude four quakes.” Mr. Marra said people living near the volcano should not fear an eruption – at least not yet.

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The more imminent threat is from earthquakes triggered by the increased activity under the earth’s crust. Earthquakes can, in certain circumstances, trigger volcanic eruptions but this is not currently a risk in Rome because the volcano is still too far away from its next eruption. Mr. Marra said: “It has been ascertained that a seismic event could trigger a volcanic eruption, as happened in the US with Mount St Helens. But it can only happen with a volcano on the verge of erupting, at these levels there is no possible disturbance that could reach the magma chambers.”
The team, from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, mapped 600,000 years of the region’s history and assessed the habits of the volcano. They concluded that the cycle of past eruptions suggest another is due within the next 1,000 years – a finding in line with the increased volcanic activity in the region. The warning comes as Italy’s biggest earthquake in 36 years left more than 15,000 people homeless in and around the town of Norcia in central Italy. A number of historic buildings were damaged or destroyed by the 6.6 magnitude quake. In August, 200 people were killed by a slightly smaller earthquake that hit the nearby village of Accumoli.  –Independent   

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Emergency investigation as Italian mountain develops huge crack after massive earthquake

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November 2016 ITALY A researcher has discovered a crack, which is ten kilometers long and is up to half a meter tall in the Italian mountain, which is just 40kms away from where a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck on Sunday in Norcia. The researcher Paolo Marco De Martini said that it was the biggest deformation he had seen since the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, which left 2,483 people dead and 7,700 injured.
Mr. De Martini said that the crack “coincides with the seismic fault that generated the earthquake. He said: “Underground rocks are much more compressed, but on the surface, rupture caused by the earthquake tends to open up a bit like a fan. “That is why along ten kilometers of fracture, we also observe cracks that run parallel to the main one, dozens or sometimes hundreds of meters away.”
Many landmarks in Rome were damaged by the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck on Sunday morning. Cracks have even appeared in the city’s iconic Coliseum. More than 30,000 people have been left homeless following the earthquake on Sunday, which was the most powerful to hit the country since 1980. The geologists say that they must act quickly to investigate the cracks because they could become filled with snow making it impossible to explore them. –Express

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Italy’s earthquakes leave 15,000 homeless, ‘soul of the country’ damaged

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October 2016ITALYItalian authorities said on Monday they were taking care of more than 15,000 people left homeless by the country’s most powerful earthquake in nearly 40 years. Although Sunday’s 6.6-magnitude tremor did not result in any deaths, the third powerful quake in just over two months has left thousands of homes in ruins or structurally unsafe and emptied a string of villages and small towns across the country’s mountainous central regions. The majority of residents of the devastated villages and towns have taken refuge with friends and family as they anxiously await a green light to return to their homes.
But the national civil protection agency said on Monday it was providing assistance to 15,000 people affected by Sunday’s quake, which was so powerful it caused cracks in buildings in Rome, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) away from the epicenter near the Umbrian town of Norcia. Some 4,000 people from the worst-hit area around Norcia have been sent to hotels on the Adriatic coast with another 500 taken by bus to the inland Lake Trasimeno. More than 10,000 are being put up in converted sports halls and other temporary facilities, including tents, across Umbria and the neighboring Marche region, the protection agency said.
A further 1,100 people are still in Adriatic coast hotels as a result of the August 24th Amatrice earthquake, which left nearly 300 dead. Given the strength of Sunday’s new quake, experts said it was remarkable that it had not resulted in any more fatalities. With many roads blocked by landslips or huge boulders dislodged by the quake, civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio and reconstruction supremo Vasco Errani were surveying the damage by helicopter. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has vowed that every damaged house will be rebuilt and that communities he described as part of “the soul of the country” would not be abandoned. But after the trauma of three major quakes in such quick succession, the future of the already sparsely populated affected areas looks bleak.
“At the moment I don’t see any possible future,’ evacuated Norcia resident Antonella Ridolfi told AFP. Everything here will have to be rebuilt. There is nothing really solid left in the center. We have always bounced back after other earthquakes but we’ve never had to deal with one as strong as this.” – The Local

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Italy earthquake: 6.6-magnitude tremor rocks nation’s center

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October 2016ITALY A powerful 6.6-magnitude earthquake rocked central Italy on Sunday morning, injuring at least 20 people, in the strongest tremor to hit the country in more than three decades. The earthquake follows tremors last week and comes on the heels of a devastating quake in August, which killed nearly 300 people and flattened entire villages.
Residents ran onto the streets in a panic as the quake struck at 7:40 a.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET) Sunday, and rescuers were seen soon after, helping evacuate a group of nuns from a church. They worked through aftershocks that hit every 20 minutes or so. Authorities are hopeful there may be no deaths since many residents in the region had already been evacuated to emergency camps and hotel rooms paid for by the government after the August quake and last week’s temblors, and schools had shut down in anticipation of powerful aftershocks.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome thanked rescuers and vowed to rebuild damaged villages. “Italy has many faults, but these situations bring out the best of us,” he said, adding the country would rebuild houses, churches and shops. “We will rebuild everything. We have the resources to do it.” The main road into the worst-affected area has been blocked at various points, said Curcio, the civil protection chief, and helicopters were airlifting the injured to the hospital in Foligno, around 30 kilometers to the northwest. Six aircraft were monitoring the affected regions, he added. Initial images from Sunday’s quake show devastation to some historical buildings. Many of these buildings had not been reinforced since two powerful quakes struck Wednesday.

The town center of Amatrice took another battering Sunday after most of its buildings were seriously damaged in the August quake — a lone bell tower was seen poking up among the rubble. The much-visited Basilica of San Benedetto in Norcia was leveled at its core, only its facade still somewhat intact. Central Italy is a deeply Catholic region. Many people have grown weary of the recent bout of quakes and have permanently abandoned the area. Many others, however, are refusing to leave, some sleeping in their cars that they believe offer better protection than the roofs over their heads.

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The quake was felt as far north as the Alps, Curcio said, and as far south as Rome, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) away. The metro in Rome has been shut down as authorities continue to survey the area, municipal officials said. Schools in Rome will be closed Monday so buildings can be surveyed for any structural damage, according to the Rome municipality website. Several buildings have suffered minor damage from the series of earthquakes. Morgan Kasmarik, an Australian journalist on vacation in the Italian capital with a friend, said “the whole city shook” when the quake struck. “I was in bed, enjoying a Sunday lie-in, when I felt the room start to shake. Within seconds, the ground started to roll, like I was on a boat in choppy water,” she said.
“We were both quite shaken as it was the first time either of us had ever experienced an earthquake. I’m pretty keen not to repeat the experience. (But) it didn’t stop us, or the many other tourists from spilling into the streets to enjoy the beautiful day.” In central Italy, the people are accustomed to seismic events in their region, but not so many in such a short space of time. CNN International meteorologist Derek Van Dam that Sunday’s quake was Italy’s strongest in 36 years and that Wednesday’s temblors were “considered fore-shocks” ahead of Sunday’s “main earthquake.”  –CNN

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NASA’s new ‘Intruder Alert’ system spots an incoming asteroid

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October 2016 SPACEA large space rock is going to come fairly close to Earth later tonight. Fortunately, it’s not going to hit Earth, something astronomers are sure of thanks in part to a new tool NASA is developing for detecting potentially dangerous asteroids. The tool is a computer program called Scout, and it’s being tested at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Think of Scout as a celestial intruder alert system. It’s constantly scanning data from telescopes to see if there are any reports of so-called Near Earth Objects. If it finds one, it makes a quick calculation of whether Earth is at risk, and instructs other telescopes to make follow-up observations to see if any risk is real.
NASA pays for several telescopes around the planet to scan the skies on a nightly basis, looking for these objects. “The NASA surveys are finding something like at least five asteroids every night,” says astronomer Paul Chodas of JPL. But then the trick is to figure out which new objects might hit Earth. “When a telescope first finds a moving object, all you know is it’s just a dot, moving on the sky,” says Chodas. “You have no information about how far away it is. The more telescopes you get pointed at an object, the more data you get, and the more you’re sure you are how big it is and which way it’s headed. But sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to make those observations. Objects can come close to the Earth shortly after discovery, sometimes one day, two days, even hours in some cases,” says JPL’s Davide Farnocchia. “The main goal of Scout is to speed up the confirmation process.”
The rock whizzing past Earth tonight was discovered on the night of Oct. 25-26 by the NASA-funded Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) on Maui, Hawaii. Within a few hours, preliminary details about the object appeared on a web page maintained by the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Scout did a quick analysis of the preliminary details and determined that the object was headed for Earth, but would miss us by about 310,000 miles.

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Additional observations by three telescopes, one operated by the Steward Observatory, another called Spacewatch, and a third at the Tenagra Observatories, confirmed the object would miss Earth by a comfortable margin. Astronomers were also able to estimate the size of the object: somewhere between 5 meters and 25 meters across. In case you’re interested, full details about the object’s trajectory can be found here. Scout is still in the testing phase. It should become fully operational later this year. Now Scout is mainly dealing with smallish, very nearby objects. Complementing Scout is another system which is already operational called Sentry.
Sentry’s job is to identify objects large enough to wipe out a major city that might hit Earth in the next hundred years. “Our goal right now is to find 90 percent of the 140 meter asteroids and larger,” says Chodas, but right now he estimates they’re only able to find 25-30 percent of the estimated population of objects that size. That number should get better when a new telescope being built in Chile called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope comes on line. NASA is also considering a space telescope devoted to searching for asteroids. OK, so let’s say you find one of these monster rocks heading for Earth. What then? Astronomer Ed Lu says there is something you can do. He’s CEO of an organization called B612. It’s devoted to dealing with asteroid threats.
“If you know well in advance, and by well in advance I mean 10 years, 20 years, 30 years in advance which is something we can do, “ says Lu, “then you can divert such an asteroid by just giving it a tiny nudge when it’s many billions of miles from hitting the Earth.” NASA and the European Space Agency are developing a mission to practice doing just that. Lu says in the last decade people who should worry about such things have begun to make concrete plans for dealing with dangerous asteroids. “I believe in the next 10 to 15 years we’ll actually be at the point where we as humans can say, ‘Hey, we’re safe from this danger of large asteroids hitting the Earth,’” he says. In the meantime, we’ll just have to hope that luck is on our side.  –NPR

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