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Tue, 09 Feb 2016
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Giant Royal Caribbean ship damaged in 'extreme' storm will return to port

© Roy Riley /sbw-photo
One of the world's newest and biggest cruise ships headed back to its home port Monday after a powerful storm damaged the vessel and left some passengers shaken.

The fierce weather that struck Royal Caribbean's 168,666-ton Anthem of the Seas on Sunday forced the captain to confine passengers to their cabins until the storm passed early Monday.

The cruise line, in a statement sent to USA TODAY, suggested the "extreme wind and sea conditions" that hit as the ship sailed south from the New York area to Port Canaveral, Fla., were unexpected, noting that the wind speeds were higher than what was forecast.

"The captain told everyone this morning that the day was among his most challenging — if not his most challenging — at sea," said Robert Huschka, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network. Huschka is on board the ship with his family.

Four passengers were injured during the event, though none seriously, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. There are 4,529 passengers and 1,616 crew members on board, she said.


New eruption at Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala

© Twitter
Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala
A new explosion at Santiaguito volcano, Guatemala was recorded on February 7, 2016.

Look at the pictures of the large ash and gas clouds engulfing the sky. Powerful.

Santiaguito volcano

Santiaguito volcano
Here a first video of the volcanic activity of Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala:

Bizarro Earth

Strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake strikes near Papua New Guinea

© Google
A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 has struck off the town of Panguna in Papua New Guinea, seismologists say, but no tsunami warnings have been issued.

The earthquake, at 2:19 a.m. local time on Tuesday, was centered about 94 kilometers (58 miles) southwest of the town of Panguna on Bougainville Island. It struck about 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake.

Shaking was felt on nearby islands but there was no immediate word on damage or casualties from the remote region. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat from Tuesday's earthquake and no tsunami alerts have been issued.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially measured the earthquake at 6.7 before it was downgraded to 6.3 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Earthquakes in the mountainous nation of Papua New Guinea, which is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', do rarely cause damage or casualties as most structures in the region are light and flexible. This allows them to bend, rather than snap, when a major earthquake occurs.


Researchers discover native malaria parasite in American white-tailed deer

© Ellen Martinsen
White-tailed deer in the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park.
Two years ago, Ellen Martinsen, was collecting mosquitoes at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, looking for malaria that might infect birds—when she discovered something strange: a DNA profile, from parasites in the mosquitoes, that she couldn't identify.

By chance, she had discovered a malaria parasite, Plasmodium odocoilei—that infects white-tailed deer. It's the first-ever malaria parasite known to live in a deer species and the only native malaria parasite found in any mammal in North or South America. Though white-tailed deer diseases have been heavily studied—scientist hadn't noticed that many have malaria parasites.

Martinsen and her colleagues estimate that the parasite infects up to twenty-five percent of white-tailed deer along the East Coast of the United States. Their results were published February 5 in Science Advances.


Deep Blue: World's largest shark filmed off coast of Mexico

© Michael Maier
The world's largest great white shark, named Deep Blue, is recorded on video off Guadalupe Island.
She's the world's largest shark, dubbed Deep Blue, and she was captured on video off the coast of Mexico.

New video has surfaced of Deep Blue, which is as big as a metro bus, and it's giving scientist a better perspective at the giant that shocked the world when her existence was first revealed.

Michael Maier was the man behind the camera and he released more video from the aquatic encounter that captivated the world.

Maier and his fellow divers were submerged off Guadalupe Island, which is located about 300 miles southwest of San Diego.

The divers were dangling large chunks of meat when the leviathan slowly emerged from the depths.

Deep Blue appeared and she made a move at one of the divers, but the diver quickly ducked into the safety of the cage.

Comment: See also: Giant 7 metre shark seen off Adelaide's coastline, Australia


Turrialba volcano blows ash and noxious gases 500 meters into the air in Costa Rica

Turrialba Volcano
On Saturday afternoon, geologists at the Observatory on Volcanology and Seismology at the National University of Costa Rica (Spanish acronym: OVSICORI) reported a new eruption at the Turrialba Volcano, the most active colossus in their country.

The volcanic event took place about ten minutes before 2:00 pm during a warm, yet extremely windy, afternoon.

The seismographic sensors of the OVSICORI began stirring after 1:50 pm, at which time the scientists on duty activated their crater cameras to capture the eruption.

In the beginning, the eruption was mostly a slow emanation of volcanic ash and noxious gases.
About ten minutes into the natural event, a more powerful ejection occurred and a solid plume formed about 500 meters into the air.

Thanks to the crisp weather conditions and the clear-blue afternoon skies, the eruption on the western crater was visible from the summit of the nearby Irazu volcano.

Chemistry experts at the OVSICORI combined their observations with data from the Institute of Meteorology to provide a forecast of where the ash clouds were headed yesterday.

Arrow Down

5 killed and 2 missing in landslide in Java, Indonesia

Five killed in Indonesia landslide
Five bodies have been recovered and two other persons are still missing after a landslide hit Purworejo district of Central Java on Friday, rescuers said here Saturday.

Heavy downpours triggered the landslide at Penungkulan village of Gebang sub-district at around 20:00 p.m. Jakarta time, at least 2 houses being hit, said Marsudi, spokesman of the National Search and Rescue Office.

"A rescuer team from Central Java office along with soldiers, police and volunteers are searching for the missing now," he told Xinhua by phone.

The disaster also badly injured one villager and forced 75 others to take shelter at safer places, said Budi Harjono, operational head in disaster management agency in Purworejo district.


Indonesia's Mount Soputan volcano erupts

Mount Soputan has erupted 39 times in the last 600 years
Mount Soputan volcano in North Sulawesi province of Indonesia erupted several times on Sunday, spewing a column of hot ash by up to 2.5 km high, official of disaster management agency said.

Mount Soputan, located some 60 km from Manado, capital of the province, has high potential for further big eruption which is indicated by persistent tremors with amplitude of 41 mm, Spokesman of National Disaster Management Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho disclosed.

Several subdistricts in Minahasa Tenggara district were hit by rains of ash and volcanic materials that the local disaster agency distributes masks to protect local residents from the impact, he told Xinhua via phone.

The authorities have banned villagers or visitors from entering the area of 4 km from the crater, but at the southwest of the crater the evacuation zone is at 6. 5 km, Mr. Sutopo said.

The 1,874- meter high Mount Soputan is one of Indonesia's active volcanoes whose number is about 129, according to the National Volcanology Agency.

Arrow Down

Body found after 15-foot-wide sinkhole suddenly appears in Queen Creek, Arizona

© Scripps Media
Rescue crews are on scene of a possible body recovery at a Queen Creek sinkhole.
A farm worker is feared dead after a sinkhole opened near a field on the outskirts of Phoenix on Friday.

The 15-foot-wide sinkhole formed between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. as the man was working. Queen Creek spokeswoman Constance Halonen-Wilson said witnesses reported seeing him get out of his truck and disappearing a short time later.
A body has been confirmed, and fire and public works crews are continuing recovery efforts.

— Queen Creek official (@TOQC_official) February 6, 2016
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Detective Doug Matteson said the man was walking to the back of the truck and taking off his work belt when he was swallowed. Matteson acknowledged it was incredibly bad luck for the ground to give way just as the man was walking in the area.

"It's kind of like getting stuck by lightning," Matteson said.


Poor distribution of rainfall results in floods and droughts in Southern Africa

Drought and floods in southern Africa, February 2016.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has warned that poor distribution of rainfall in southern Africa is leading to severe drought in some areas and flooding risks in other areas.

In Madagascar, 700,000 people are thought to be affected by the drought in the south, whereas in the north 30,000 people have been affected by heavy rain that has brought a high risk of flooding and landslides.

In Mozambique, over 40% of this season's crops in the south have been lost to drought. In the north, storms and heavy rains have left 45 dead and destroyed over 1,000 homes since the start of the rainy season in October 2015.