Earth ChangesS


Colombia to declare a natural disaster over wildfires

Firefighters were battling a blaze in a wooded, mountainous area east of Bogota.
© EPAFirefighters were battling a blaze in a wooded, mountainous area east of Bogota.
Colombia's President Gustavo Petro said on Wednesday he will declare that wildfires burning in the country are a natural disaster, freeing up funds to fight the blazes amid soaring temperatures and the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Colombia has put out some 204 fires this month - around eight per day - and 25 fires continued to burn, according to a report from the environment ministry and the disaster agency.

Almost half of the 2 trillion peso budget ($508 million) for addressing issues caused by El Nino, like fighting fires, has already been spent, the report said.

Declaring a natural disaster "means some budget items can be moved to other areas to address problems that arise, such as transferring resources so that helicopters can be put into action to put out the fires," Petro told journalists in Colombia's Cauca province.

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China landslide leaves 44 people dead in Yunnan province (UPDATES)

An image from China's state TV shows rescuers working amid the rubble of destroyed homes after a landslide hit Liangshui Village, in the southwest Yunnan province, Jan. 22, 2024.
© CCTVAn image from China's state TV shows rescuers working amid the rubble of destroyed homes after a landslide hit Liangshui Village, in the southwest Yunnan province, Jan. 22, 2024.
A landslide in southwest China's mountainous Yunnan province buried 18 homes early Monday morning, leaving 47 people missing and forcing the evacuation of more than 500 other residents, according to local government officials. At least eight deaths were confirmed after the bodies were recovered from the rubble, as survivors sought shelter and rescuers worked through frigid temperatures.

Electricity and water supplies had not been restored to the area around the hard-hit village of Liangshui by Monday afternoon.

Almost 1,000 emergency and rescue workers were dispatched to the scene as Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all efforts to minimize casualties. He sent one of his government's vice prime ministers to the site to lead search and rescue efforts.

Comment: Update January 23

The Press Trust of India reports:
The death toll from a landslide that struck southwest China's mountainous Yunnan province has climbed to 31, with scores of others still missing, local authorities said on Tuesday.

Thirty-one people were confirmed dead after a landslide struck a village in Zhenxiong County, southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Monday, state-run CGTN reported quoting local authorities.

The landslide occurred in Liangshui village in Zhaotong city on Monday morning, trapping a total of 47 people. Situated in the cold mountainous region of the province, where snow persists for days, the rescue site remains covered in a thick layer of snow.

More than 1,000 rescue workers equipped with 45 rescue dogs and 120 vehicles, including excavators, loaders and transport vehicles, were carrying out search and rescue work at the site.

As many as 33 firefighting vehicles and 10 loading machines were also mobilised to search for the missing.

The government has also deployed the military and militias for the rescue operation. A total of 104 militia members in Zhenxiong County were also mobilised.

The Ministry of Emergency Management upgraded the emergency response level to the second-highest level from the Level-3 emergency response for disaster relief activated by the Provincial Commission for Disaster Reduction immediately after the landslide.

The ministry dispatched teams to the disaster-hit area to guide the rescue and relief work, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The Chinese government has allocated funds totalling 50 million yuan (about USD 7 million) to support disaster relief and emergency rescue work focusing on search and rescue, the relocation of affected people, secondary disaster detection, the repair of damaged homes, and other areas, the report said.

Preliminary investigation by an expert group determined that the landslide was triggered by the collapse of a steep cliff-top area, said Wu Junyao, Director of the Natural Resources and Planning Bureau of Zhaotong.

The collapsed mass was approximately 100 metres wide and 60 metres tall, with an average thickness of around 6 metres, the report quoted him as saying.

Following the disaster, local authorities are also assisting those affected, ensuring proper support and settlement measures are in place.

Over 200 tents, 400 quilts, 600 cotton coats and 14 sets of emergency lighting equipment were provided for those affected. A total of 213 residents have also been evacuated to safer locations.

The rescue officials outlined the primary search area through a comparative analysis of images before and after the disaster, determining the locations of the buried houses, the report said.

"According to the arrangements of shifts by the headquarters, the search and rescue efforts persist through the night," said firefighter Li Shenglong.

Numerous residents from nearby villages also rushed to the scene to provide support, the report said.

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered an all-out search and rescue of the people missing in the landslide.

"(We should) promptly organise rescue teams, make all-out efforts to search for missing individuals, and minimise casualties to the greatest extent possible," Xi said.
Update January 25

Associated Press reports:
The bodies of the remaining victims of a landslide in southwestern China were recovered Thursday, bringing the death toll to 44 after four days of searching through the rubble of dirt and crumbled homes, state media said.

The final body was found in the evening, according to state broadcaster CCTV, which posted photos of excavators and teams of searchers in orange uniforms and helmets, part of a contingent of more than 1,000 rescuers.

The landslide slammed into houses at the foot of a slope early Monday morning in Liangshui, a village in a remote and mountainous part of Yunnan province. It left a barren swath on the slope after hitting the village, which sits between snow-covered, terraced fields.

Two survivors were found on Monday.

A preliminary investigation found that the landslide had been triggered by the collapse of a steep clifftop area, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It did not elaborate on the cause of the initial collapse.

Rescuers struggled with snow, icy roads and freezing temperatures. The area is about 2,250 kilometers (1,400 miles) southwest of Beijing, the Chinese capital, with altitudes ranging up to 2,400 meters (7,900 feet).

Cloud Precipitation

A month's worth of rain in 3 days triggers dangerous flash flooding in Texas and Louisiana

Dangerous flash flooding is continuing across parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi early Thursday as drenching storms deluge the South.

More than a month's worth of rain has fallen in several Texas and Louisiana cities from Monday to Wednesday. But a few Texas cities have picked up nearly double what's typical for January in the same timeframe.

Rainfall totals by Wednesday morning neared 6 inches in the College Station, Texas, area - about 80 miles northwest of Houston - since Monday. The city picks up around 3 inches of rain on average in January.

The week's rainfall eclipsed 10 inches west of Houston, in Industry and Fayetteville, Texas.

The torrential rainfall is part of a multi-day flood threat that began Monday and reached its peak intensity Wednesday.


More boats sink, roofs collapse, avalanche danger remains high as snowfall pummels Juneau, Alaska

A sunken boat in Aurora Harbor on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024
© Mikko Wilson/KTOOA sunken boat in Aurora Harbor on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024
Several boats have sunk and at least one roof has caved in as Alaska's capital city remains under avalanche alerts amidst a record-breaking snowfall.

The City and Borough of Juneau put out a statement Wednesday that said avalanches have come down on Basin Road and above Behrends Avenue, the same spot where a slide occurred last week. A city official said that Basin Road is closed where it intersects with Eighth Street.

Four boats sank in the city harbor early Wednesday morning, according to Juneau Harbormaster Matt Creswell, who said he is concerned more vessels are at risk of sinking due to the heavy snowfall. Creswell urged all boat owners to check on their boats immediately and clear off any snow they can.


Winter storm brings record snowfall to Gifu, Shiga prefectures in Japan - 19 inches of snowfall in 6 hours

Heavy snow is falling in regions mainly along the Sea of Japan coast with record snowfall observed in Gifu and Shiga prefectures.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the season's most powerful cold air mass combined with a winter-type pressure system has brought record snowfall to the Tokai and Kinki regions.

In the 6-hour period through 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 49 centimeters of snow had fallen in the town of Sekigahara in Gifu Prefecture and 40 centimeters in Maibara City, Shiga Prefecture. They represent the heaviest snowfall on record for those areas.


Large waves flood the streets of Orchard Beach, Maine

Powerful waves battered Orchard Beach in Maine. The waves flooded the streets as people climbed on benches to avoid getting wiped out by the water.

Cloud Precipitation

Flooding in northern England after Storm Jocelyn

The River Ouse burst its banks, in central York,
© Paul EllisThe River Ouse burst its banks, in central York, following Storm Jocelyn which brought strong winds and heavy rain across much of the country.
Aerial footage shows flooding across parts of York after Storm Jocelyn battered the UK with strong winds and heavy rain, only two days after the deadly Storm Isha hit the country.

Jocelyn, the 10th named storm of the season, caused major travel disruption in England and Scotland and brought flood warnings amid rising water levels.

Source: PA

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Couple escapes from car after it plunges into sinkhole in Vancouver, Washington: 'Felt like the movies'

A scary moment took place for a couple when their car plunked into a sinkhole last week in Vancouver, Washington.
© Katlynn Ann BicknellA scary moment took place for a couple when their car plunked into a sinkhole last week in Vancouver, Washington.
A Washington couple experienced a scary situation early Saturday morning as their vehicle plunged into a sinkhole in a Vancouver intersection while they were on their way home, according to a city spokesperson.

Authorities responded to the intersection around 1:15 a.m. on Saturday after reports that a car had gone into a sinkhole.

Katlynn Bicknell and her boyfriend Kevin were out grabbing food and were on their way home when the car became stuck in a huge hole with lots of bubbling water surrounding it, the couple told KPTV.

Bicknell tried to open the door as she pushed against the rushing water.


Elderly woman dies after being attacked by her 4 dogs in Limpopo, South Africa

dog attack
Limpopo police have opened an inquest after an elderly woman was attacked by her four dogs while trying to protect a visitor from the animals.

The incident happened on Friday, 19 January, and the woman died on Monday, 22 January.

South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson in Limpopo, Colonel Malesela Ledwaba, on the said day, the elderly woman was at her home with her daughter when they had a visitor and the dogs tried to attack him.

In the process, the woman interjected, trying to protect the man, but her dogs turned to her and bit her. Her daughter then assisted her, and the dogs turned away. However, she sustained injuries on her lower body.

Acting Police Commissioner in Limpopo, Major General Jan Scheepers, has strongly advised community members, especially owners of pets, to be careful with dogs around them and not to relax fully.

In 2023, there was a spate of incidents where people were mauled by their dogs, which caused some to die or left them seriously injured.


Wildlife officer killed in elephant attack in Botswana

A night out with colleagues ended tragically for a Kasane wildlife officer when he was trampled to death by an elephant minutes after arriving at their camp.

None of the colleagues of the 52-year-old native of Thamaga witnessed the incident which happened while they were sleeping on Saturday.

They only discovered his lifeless body in the morning at about 8am.

The incident was confirmed by Superintendent James Maabong who said the man sustained serious injuries in the elephant attack.