Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet 3.29.05

Angolan Outbreak
Angolan health officials said the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control have identified an Ebola-like virus that has killed
approximately 100 people, mainly children, in the northern province
of Uige.
Angolan Outbreak

Angolan health officials said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have identified an Ebola-like virus that has killed approximately 100 people, mainly children, in the northern province of Uige. Deputy Health Minister Joseph van Dunem said the mysterious illness, initially detected last October, is caused by the Marburg virus. It is a severe form of hemorrhagic fever, and was first detected in 1967 among laboratory workers in Marburg, Germany, who had come in contact with infected monkeys from Uganda. The bodies of the recent Angolan victims are being buried immediately to prevent further transmission.

Bangladesh Tornado

A long stretch of Bangladesh’s agricultural heartland was raked by a powerful tornado that leveled 20 villages and 10 smaller farming towns. The death toll climbed to 55 in the disaster zone as hunger and disease threatened to claim more lives. At least 100,000 people in the two northern districts of Gaibandha and Rangpur were left homeless after the tornado destroyed huts and ripped out thousands of acres of newly planted crops. The army was dispatched to help local officials deal with the emerging humanitarian challenge caused by thousands of survivors camping in the open without food, water or medical supplies.

Cyclone Hennie

Mauritius received high surf and squalls as the eye of Tropical Cyclone Hennie passed about 40 miles to the east of the Indian Ocean island. The intensifying storm was primarily a threat to shipping as it moved southward over open waters.

Eruption

An eruption by Shiveluch Volcano on Far East Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula destroyed a base camp used by vulcanologists and a seismic station located 5 miles from the mountain. The Novosti news service reported that the damage occurred after one-fifth of the volcano’s dome caved in, sending a massive pyroclastic burst of superheated gas rushing down the volcano. Scientists believe the eruption was the second largest since a disastrous eruption of Shiveluch in 1964.

n Guatemala’s Santa Maria Volcano sent plumes of ash soaring almost a mile above the mountain. Fine ash fell over several nearby communities, but the activity was not considered a significant threat.

Snowmelt Disaster

The rapid melting of heavy winter snowfall in northwest China’s Xinjiang region brought flooding and landslides that destroyed 10,000 homes and about 100 bridges. The Xinhua news agency reported at least one person was killed along with 5,000 head of livestock. It added that snow in the Tianshan Mountains was much thicker than usual, and had melted faster than expected as temperatures soared at the beginning of March.

Rain Prayers

Ongoing severe drought across a broad swath of Southeast Asia prompted Muslims in northern Malaysia to hold large prayer gatherings to seek divine help in bringing rain to the parched region. Officials in the northern state of Perlis say that more than 6,000 farmers there have been unable to carry out the usual off-season paddy planting due to water levels behind nearby dams being at their lowest in recent years. Cloud-seeding efforts are being conducted with hopes they will bring precipitation before the normal start of the rainy season in early April.

Earthquakes

The strongest quake to strike southern Japan’s Kyushu Island in more than a century killed at least one person and wrecked hundreds of buildings, mostly in Fukuoka prefecture. The magnitude 7.0 quake was felt as far away as South Korea and was followed by a series of aftershocks.

n Earth movements were also felt in Taiwan, the Indonesian island of Alor, the Sumatra aftershock zone, New Zealand’s North Island, western Nepal, southern Iran, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Alabama.

Afghan Wolf Attacks

The heaviest winter snowfall in a decade across parts of Afghanistan has sent packs of wolfs from their usual habitat into populated areas, where locals say at least four people have been devoured by the animals. Villagers in the remote settlement of Naka in Paktia province say they found little more than remains and bloodied, shredded clothes during a search for two residents who went missing on a trip to another village. Two other Afghans in neighboring Khost province were also killed by wolves, according to villagers. Even the dogs that guard nearly all villages in Afghanistan have come under attack from hungry wolves during the closing weeks of winter.

– By Steve Newman

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