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Sep 23, 2017, 03:52 PM
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 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Too few antibiotics in pipeline to tackle global drug-resistance crisis, WHO warns

Nowhere near enough new drugs are currently in development says report, which calls for urgent investment and responsible use of existing antibiotics

Sarah Boseley Health editor

Too few antibiotics are in the pipeline to tackle the global crisis of drug resistance, which is responsible for the rise of almost untreatable infections around the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns.

Among the alarming diseases that are increasing and spreading is multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB), which requires treatment lasting between nine and 20 months. There are 250,000 deaths a year from drug-resistant TB and only 52% of patients globally are successfully treated. But only two new antibiotics for the disease have reached the market in 70 years.

The new WHO report, showing the paucity of new antibiotics being developed, lists 12 other pathogens that are serious dangers to health because we are running out of drugs to treat the infections they cause. Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacteriaceae that have become resistant to the carbapenem class of antibiotic are all on the critical priority list. They are what are known as gram-negative bacteria, capable of causing a range of life-threatening infections such as pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.

Hospital infections such as C. difficile and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are also of major concern. They are a particular danger to patients who are already sick and have fragile immune systems.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardise progress in modern medicine,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. “There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

Ed Whiting, director of policy at the Wellcome Trust agreed and said: “There is no doubt of the urgency – the world is running out of effective antibiotics and drug-resistant infections already kill 700,000 people a year globally. We’ve made good progress in getting this on the political agenda. But now, a year on from a major UN agreement, we must see concerted action – to reinvigorate the antibiotic pipeline, ensure responsible use of existing antibiotics, and address this threat across human, animal and environmental health.”

The report’s authors have found 51 new antibiotics and biologicals currently in development that may be able to treat the diseases caused by these resistant bugs. But that will not be anywhere near enough because of the length of time it takes to get drugs approved and onto the market, and because inevitably some of the drugs will not work.

“Given the average success rates and development times in the past, the current pipeline of antibiotics and biologicals could lead to around 10 new approvals over the next five years,” says the report. “However, these new treatments will add little to the already existing arsenal and will not be sufficient to tackle the impending antimicrobial resistance threat.”

More investment is needed in basic science, drug discovery and clinical development, it says, especially for those pathogens on the WHO’s critical priority list. Gram-negative bacteria are getting less research attention because they are harder to find drugs against.

Among all these candidate medicines, only eight are classed by the WHO as innovative treatments that will add value to the current antibiotic treatment arsenal. The rest are just modifications of drugs that already exist and may already be compromised.

“Pharmaceutical companies and researchers must urgently focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections that can kill patients in a matter of days because we have no line of defence,” says Dr Suzanne Hill, director of the department of essential medicines at the WHO which produced the report.

There is serious concern over the spread of first multi-drug-resistant TB and then extremely drug-resistant TB worldwide. Drug-resistant TB has been found all over the globe.
“Research for tuberculosis is seriously underfunded,” said Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Global TB Programme. “If we are to end TB, more than $800m per year is urgently needed to fund research.”

But new drugs will not be enough, says the WHO. Unless they are sparingly used, resistance will build to the new drugs as well. The WHO says it is working with countries and partners to improve infection prevention and control and to foster appropriate use of existing and future antibiotics. It is also developing guidance for the responsible use of antibiotics in the human, animal and agricultural sectors.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Meet the latest recruit to the UK flood defence team: the beaver

Villagers in the Forest of Dean back plans to release a beaver family to protect their homes by damming waterways

Patrick Barkham
20 September 2017 22.00 BST

Beavers could be put to work building dams to stop a village from flooding in the Forest of Dean, in what would be the first such scheme on government land.

The Forestry Commission has been an enthusiastic advocate for the release of a family of beavers into a large fenced area surrounding Greathough brook above the village of Lydbrook, on land owned by the commission.

Experts predict that the beavers will rapidly create dams, canals and ponds, slowing the stream’s flow and potentially holding back 6,000 cubic metres of water to prevent huge floods inundating Lydbrook, a village that suffered badly from flooding in 2012.

Villagers are mostly supportive, hoping the scheme will not only protect the village but boost local wildlife and tourism. “It’s a brilliant idea,” said Stuart Aken. “There were about 100 people in the village hall when they made the announcement and there wasn’t a single dissenting voice. People are in favour because of the potential to help against flooding and most are interested in the increase in wildlife that it will bring to the area.”

One villager spoke of concerns that the beavers would escape the enclosure and pose similar problems to those caused by the burgeoning wild boar population. But Sid Phelps, a Green councillor who lives close to Lydbrook, said beavers would not stray far from the watercourse. They will also be tagged, so if they escaped they could be recaptured.

“This seems to be an innovative idea to deal with both climate change and the risk of increased flooding,” said Phelps. “There’s a little nervousness in the Forest of Dean because of the boar but the Forestry Commission did an excellent job of assuaging any fears.”

But despite the beaver scheme not costing the taxpayer a penny – it would be funded by landfill taxes – it was abruptly postponed last month.

A source close to the project said it had been blocked by a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – and the Forestry Commission was “hopping mad”.

A spokesperson for Defra denied that the scheme had been blocked by a government minister and said that the Forestry Commission would announce the next steps in the coming weeks.

Derek Gow, a beaver expert who has worked on reintroductions in Scotland and England, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity. The science suggests these animals will hold back 6,000 cubic metres of water.

“This has the potential to prevent a once-in-30-years flood event. These animals will also open the forest canopy to light and create a biodiversity jewel in this forest.”

Landowners, ecologists – and according to some insiders, the environment secretary, Michael Gove – are increasingly interested in the potential of using beavers as a cost-effective form of natural flood defence. The government is overseeing a trial to assess whether the beaver, which was driven to extinction more than 400 years ago, should be allowed back as a native species into England. The Scottish government last year recognised the beavers on its waterways as a native species, giving them legal protection. At an experimental site run by Devon Wildlife Trust on farmland, a pair of beavers have been shown to hold back 1,000 cubic metres of water, with their dams and canals drastically slowing the flow of floodwater.

In Cornwall, a farmer linked up with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust earlier this year to release beavers on to fenced land above the village of Ladock, which has been hit by severe flooding in recent years.

Within two weeks of two beavers being released there, newly created waterways were holding back 1,000 cubic metres of water.

Gow said he was hopeful that Gove would approve the Lydbrook scheme. He said: “Many ecologists were very apprehensive when Michael Gove was appointed [as environment secretary] but his approach has been overwhelmingly positive and really quite visionary.

“He’s obviously very knowledgeable about and sympathetic towards the natural environment. We’re all waiting with bated breath to see what the man is going to do.”

Lydbrook would set a precedent for dozens of similar schemes in western British river systems, Gow says, particularly in upstream areas where beaver dams act as a giant sponge, lessening peak flows of water and slowly releasing more during times of drought.

But Gow said that beavers were unlikely to be allowed back into Britain’s easterly arable landscapes, where their activity can flood valuable agricultural land.


Beavers prefer to live in deep water so if they are released into a small upland stream, they quickly build a series of dams and canals they can use. These dams store water and the land close to the stream in effect becomes a giant sponge.

At a 2.8-hectare test site in Devon, two beavers have created 13 ponds that hold 650 cubic metres of water. Floodwater has been drastically slowed. The dams also remove pollutants and create a rich habitat for rare invertebrates and plants. If the dams are washed away by floods, these busy engineers rapidly rebuild them. Ecologists say the trial in Devon can be replicated at other sites.

This “natural” flood defence works only in small streams in upland areas. In deeper rivers, beavers do not need to rapidly create dams. In lowland areas, beaver activity can also cause flooding.

But those in favour of their reintroduction to England and Wales say beavers can be returned to western river systems and will not spread to low-lying eastern areas, such as the Fens, where their activity could cause valuable agricultural land to flood.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Medieval porpoise 'grave' on Channel island puzzles archaeologists

Animal may have been placed in carefully cut hole to preserve its meat or have had some sort of religious significance

Steven Morris

Archaeologists digging at an island religious retreat have unearthed the remains of a porpoise that, mystifyingly, appears to have been carefully buried in its own medieval grave.

The team believe the marine animal found on the island of Chapelle Dom Hue, off the west coast of Guernsey, was buried in the 14th century.

When they first spotted the carefully cut plot they were convinced it was a grave and would hold human remains, but they were taken aback when they dug further and unearthed the skull and other body parts of a porpoise.

Quite why the porpoise was buried so carefully on the island, which is thought to have been used by monks seeking solitude, is a mystery.

Porpoises were eaten in medieval times but it would have been easier to dispose of the remains in the sea, which is only 10 metres from the site.

Philip de Jersey, a States of Guernsey archaeologist, said: “If they had eaten it or killed it for the blubber, why take the trouble to bury it? Some effort was made to create a neat hole.”

De Jersey said it was possible that a monk hid the body of the porpoise because he was not supposed to have it, or that the body was placed in the hole in salt to preserve it.

“It may have been packed in salt and then for some reason they didn’t come back to it.”

Another intriguing theory is that the animal had some sort of religious significance to the people who used the island. “The dolphin has a strong significance in Christianity but I’ve not come across anything like this before,” said De Jersey. “It’s the slightly wacky kind of thing that you might get in the iron age but not in medieval times.”

He said it was the most unusual find in his 35-year career. “It’s very peculiar, I don’t know what to make of it. Why go to the trouble of burying a porpoise in what looks like a grave. It’s a wonderful surprise.”

As well as the porpoise remains, shards of 14th-century pottery, a prehistoric stone tool and what is believed to be the remains of the walls of the monks’ retreat have been found.

The porpoise remains have been removed and will be studied by a marine expert.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Barn owls don't lose their hearing with age, scientists find

Findings leave researchers hopeful that understanding hearing preservation in birds could lead to new treatment possibilities for deaf humans

Press Association
Wednesday 20 September 2017 06.01 BST

If ageing humans had ears like those of barn owls they would never need hearing aids, scientists have shown.

The birds, whose sensitivity to sound helps them locate prey, suffer no hearing loss as they get older. Like other birds – but unlike mammals, including humans – they are able to regenerate cells in their inner ears.

Aged birds experience minimal hearing loss, but the new research shows that the barn owl suffers no meaningful loss at all. In contrast, a human will have lost more than 30 decibels of sensitivity to high-sound frequencies by the age of 65.

Testing showed no statistical difference between the hearing ability of young and very elderly captive barn owls up to 23 years old.

The team, led by Dr Ulrike Langemann from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: “Overall, our data … indicate that barn owl ears do not deteriorate with age.

“The lack of hearing loss in our old barn owls is remarkable, given that the average life expectancy of barn owls is rather low.”

In the wild, the birds have an average life span of only three or four years.

Understanding the preservation of hearing in birds could lead to new treatment options for deaf humans, the scientists said.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Paws for thought: drivers warned to look out for animal stowaways

Warning comes after koala found clinging to axle of vehicle in Australia and three kittens survive 311-mile trip from Netherlands to UK under car bonnet

Nicola Slawson

Motorists are being urged to be vigilant after two reports of animals becoming trapped under vehicles on opposite sides of the world.

In Australia, a koala survived a 16km (10 mile) trip clinging to the axle of a four-wheel drive vehicle before the driver stopped and heard the cries of the traumatised animal.

The female koala had crawled into the wheel arch while the car was parked in the hills on the outskirts of Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia.

The fire brigade was eventually called to take the wheel off to help a wildlife rescue worker free the animal.

“I could smell her burnt fur,” said Jane Brister, from Fauna Rescue. “It would have been hot in there.”

Although the koala was uninjured, Brister said the animal was a lactating mother, which meant her joey, or infant, was missing.

“I searched that night and the next day, and the next, but I never found it,” she said. After a couple of days of feeding in captivity, Brister released the koala back into the wild.

Koalas, often inaccurately described as bears, are marsupials – an order of mammals whose young are suckled in a pouch.

The koala was listed as a vulnerable species under an Australian conservation law in 2012. There are fewer than 100,000 of the animals in the wild, and perhaps even as few as 43,000, according to Australian Koala Foundation estimates.

Earlier this week, three kittens remarkably survived a 311 mile journey stowed away under the bonnet of a car after hitching a ride from the Netherlands to the UK.

The trio – named Edam, Gouda and Tulip by rescuers – were discovered after Christian Lampkin and his family had driven from a holiday park in Eindhoven to Bracknell, Berkshire.

Two days after arriving home, Lampkin heard meowing and looked under the bonnet, where he found the kittens.

“I had a look under the bonnet, there were two cats there, but they shot back into the engine,” he said. When Lampkin called mechanics to get the cats out of the car, they found a third kitten hidden inside.

The family took them to the Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre in Reading, which has since raised funds through a crowdfunding website to cover the costs of quarantine.

A spokesman for the centre said: “When they brought them to us, we had to inform the authorities, who promptly told us that unless either we or the ‘importers’ agreed to cover the quarantine costs, these sweet kitty babies would have to be put to sleep.

“As we couldn’t allow that to happen, we’ve worked with the authorities and the kittens are now in quarantine for the next few weeks.”

The kittens and the koala are not the only animals to have been caught under cars. In April this year, a puppy made the news after it got stuck in an exhaust pipe in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

The dog had got stuck after crawling into the entrance of the pipe, getting wedged in the resonator section and had to be cut free by rescuers.

In January, a cat got stuck in a car exhaust for 12 hours before being freed by mechanics. The cat’s owner later said: “It is a miracle she is OK. She is acting like nothing happened but is loving all the attention.”

Luke Bosdet, a spokesman for the AA, said while there isn’t much drivers can do to prevent animals becoming trapped under cars, they could be vigilant for unusual sounds.

He said: “No one would expect an animal to be under their car. It is very very rare. Fortunately, there is space under cars but it is a mini-miracle that these animals survived as many animals wouldn’t survive the journey or be noticed.

“The first indication might be the sound of them crying or a scratching sound and be extra vigilant when you go to the countryside,” Bosdet said. “There isn’t much else you can do to prevent it happening.”

It is far more common for pets to become trapped in people’s garages or for wild animals to damage parked vehicles than animals to be trapped in this manner, he added.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 05:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Northampton cat killings add to concern about reach of culprit

Latest discovery of two mutilated cats on their owners’ doorsteps raises suspicions killer may be operating nationwide

Mattha Busby

The discovery of two dismembered cats in bags on their owner’s doorsteps in Northampton has added to concern that an animal killer who has eluded police for almost two years may be operating nationwide.

Northamptonshire police have contact their colleagues in London, where Met officers are investigating a spate of cat killings in recent months.

The latest incident occurred on 7 September, when the owners of 15-year-old Topsy found the mutilated animal outside their front door on Brookfield Road in Kingsley.

A teenage girl had previously found the cat Rusty dumped in plastic bag on her doorstep with its ears, head and limbs cut off. The family’s other cat survived being set on fire a couple of days earlier.

South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty (Snarl), a south London charity, said the two new killings “bore wounds indicative of the UK animal killer”.

The first description of a suspected serial cat killer was released at the end of last month.

Based on witness accounts of three recent cat killings in Caterham in Surrey, Snarl said the suspect was a white male in his 40s with dark brown hair and possible acne scarring.

He was referred to as the Croydon cat killer after a spate of killings in south London, but Snarl has urged people to stop using the term after similar attacks in Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton and the Isle of Wight.

The charity’s concerns led the Met to launch Operation Takehe in 2015 to track down the culprit. He has been seen approaching cats with food and toys and making “kissing noises” at a number of locations.

Northamptonshire police said officers had “been in contact with the Met as part of their on-going investigation into cat deaths, to see if these are in any way linked”.

A Met spokesman said its officers would “assess the latest report to see if it is linked to the cases already established as part of the ongoing investigation led by police in Croydon”.

Tony Jenkins, the head of Snarl, said that about 250 cats had been killed in similar circumstances since October 2015.

The animal charities Peta UK and Outpaced are offering a reward of £10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

Members of the public are asked to contact police and quote Operation Takahe if they encounter the suspect.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 04:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Two-thirds of Americans concerned about climate change

13 Sep 2017 at 12:14 ET  

In the wake of a series of devastating storms, a new poll released Wednesday found most Americans are concerned about climate change. That represents a stark contrast with the public views of many folks who President Donald Trump has selected to lead the country.

Just about exactly two-thirds of registered voters—67 percent—expressed some level of concern about climate change, according to the latest survey from Morning Consult/Politico. Forty-one percent said they were "very concerned" about the taboo subject in the Trump-led White House, while 26 percent said they were "somewhat concerned." Twenty-five percent described lower levels of concern about climate change—15 percent said they were "not too" concerned while 10 percent said not at all (and 10 percent had no opinion).

The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, interviewed 1,976 registered voters online from September 7 through September 11. The U.S. was dealing with the destruction of Hurricane Irma and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as the poll was conducted. Harvey—which produced historic rainfall totals and caused deadly flooding in the Houston area—killed at least 70 people in Texas, while five Americans and more than two dozen in the Caribbean were killed by Irma.

The majority of Americans think climate change has made these massive storms even worse. Asked about the recent "hurricanes that impacted parts of Texas and Louisiana" (the polling began before Irma's landfall), 52 percent of Americans said climate change makes these natural disasters "more frequent," while 25 percent disagreed. Fifty-two percent also said climate change makes these storms "more powerful," while, again, 25 percent disagreed, according to Morning Consult/Politico.

While the vast majority of the scientific community is in agreement that climate change exists and that humans are responsible for it, the Trump administration is chock full of climate change deniers. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, a longtime denier of climate change with deep ties to the oil industry, said it was "very insensitive" to bring up climate change regarding Hurricane Irma. Others in key roles, like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Vice President Mike Pence, have all expressed at least skepticism about climate change.

Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the landmark Paris agreement to fight climate change, has long been a climate denier, calling it a Chinese hoax, bullshit and a form of tax, among other things.  With those leaders in mind, it's not shocking that folks applying for grants from the federal government have been told to remove all references to "climate change."

But even if the Trump administration continues to put its head in the sand concerning global warming, the latest Morning Consult/Politico poll would suggest Americans are paying attention—and they're worried.

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 04:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
How do cities rebuild after hurricanes like Harvey and Irma?

The aftermath of a disaster is often focused on getting back to normal. But do cities need to think harder about how to withstand the next one?

Oliver Milman

Donald Trump visited a hurricane-stricken Houston and promised the “best ever” government response, before pumping his fist from the steps of Air Force One as he departed.

Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, marveled that the state’s “resilient spirit is alive and well”. The phrase “Houston Strong” has been daubed as graffiti on city underpasses and held aloft as placards at home baseball games.

There has been plenty of defiance, heart-rending loss, and uplifting generosity, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but one pressing topic has so far been largely overlooked: how will Houston rebuild in a better way should a storm like this ever again visit?

“When you talk about rebuilding a place like Houston, people’s first thoughts are “I want it back the way it was”, said Sandra Knight, a senior research engineer at the University of Maryland. “And unfortunately that’s not the best thing to do. As a nation we aren’t planning forward enough. We are developing in places that aren’t sustainable. We need to start doing things differently.”

Abbott has said a “Texas-sized storm needs a Texas-sized response”, predicting that reconstruction after the heaviest rainfall event in recorded US history – around 25tn gallons of water were dumped upon a band of southeast Texas in just a few days – will top the $120bn required by New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

It may well cost taxpayers in excess of $180bn. And it’s not yet clear what lessons will be learned.
Donald Trump visits with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

The US places huge emphasis on flood recovery, rather than avoidance, using the heft of Fema to help those in need as well as administer a national insurance scheme that ostensibly places restrictions on what is built where but in practice has repeatedly bailed out houses in flood-prone that are frequently inundated.

This emergency response is entirely appropriate in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, according to Jeff Herbert, chief resiliency officer for New Orleans. But, Herbert added, at some point a difficult conversation about whether a city needs to be refashioned as it recovers also needs to happen.

“Houston had 51in of rain and that would be disastrous for any city in the world, Mexico City, Bangkok, anywhere,” Herbert said. “It was unprecedented. The priority now is rescuing people and helping them.

    We have a completely different landscape and climate now. They are complete game changers
    Sandra Knight, research engineer

“The next phase of recovery is the appropriate time to talk about how to rebuild the city. Houston will have to think about retrofitting to accept more water and think about its development patterns. The city will have to think about how it manages stormwater and its regulations.”

Houston has taken a rather laissez-faire approach to city planning, with a lack of zoning allowing housing to spill out over a large expanse, often in areas next to bayous vulnerable to flooding. The city is lacking in sponge-like parklands and is rich in concrete, which helps push water into unplanned streetscape swimming pools. The flat terrain of Houston, along with its proximity to the hurricane-spawning Gulf of Mexico, are further vulnerabilities.

Climate change is playing a role – the warming atmosphere holds more moisture that falls in the sort of rain that swamped Houston. The seas are rising faster on the eastern seaboard of the US than almost anywhere else in the world, heightening the impact of storm surges from hurricanes. Studies have shown hurricanes are likely to get stronger, if not more frequent, threatening coastal areas that are growing in population size.

This challenge, plus the pummeling experienced during storms such as Katrina and Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, has forced several cities to think about more natural defenses to water, rather than simply rely upon levees and pumps.

“In Houston and elsewhere we’ve encroached upon our floodplains and we aren’t leaving any natural environment to slow the flood waters,” said Knight. “We build dams and levees and people assume they are safe behind them, or downstream from them. But look at New Orleans – the levees failed.”

Knight said her initial training as a hydrological engineer focused on getting flood water off your land as quickly as possible. “But we’ve learned that’s not the best way to deal with floods,” she said. “We have a completely different landscape and climate now. They are complete game-changers.”

In the 1950s, Dutch policymakers headed to New Orleans to learn how the city pumped excess water out into Lake Pontchartrain. A year after Katrina hit, the Netherlands returned the favour by briefing officials from the Louisiana metropolis about the Dutch mantra of “living with the water”.

This principle involves huge fortifications in key areas against flood waters – New Orleans now has the largest flood barrier in the world – but also emphasizes the need for green, or natural, infrastructure such as grass, woodland and wetlands to soak up water. Innovations such as green rooftops, where plants absorb some rainwater before it’s funneled to barrels rather than on to the street, and permeable pavements are also being embraced.

There are now seven “rain gardens” in New Orleans – essentially parks where water pools and is absorbed – and the city is spending a further $220m on new green areas that will draw away water that would otherwise end up in the streets or in people’s homes. Building codes have been tightened up to focus more heavily on flooding.

    Many cities have dams, levees and flood walls which are a fairly narrow and inflexible response to flooding
    Jeff Opperman, freshwater scientist

New Orleans is a different sort of city to Houston – it’s older and has less available land to be eyed by developers – but Herbert said its approach can be replicated.

“After Katrina we realized we had to live with water within the city,” he said. “We have hard infrastructure such as pumps but also nature-based solutions because pumping can’t handle it all. We had to go back to what existed in the city in the 1930s and 1940s, before mass development took place.”

The idea that water must be given space to flow in times of flood isn’t new; the Yolo Bypass was constructed in the 1930s to relieve Sacramento from the severe floods that plagued it. But many US cities are still developing close to low-lying coastal and riverine areas with barely a nod to what floodplains actually do.

Some have leaned heavily on technology – Miami Beach, which could soon be hit by Hurricane Irma, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on raising its streets and developing a network of pumping stations. The low-lying city sits on a barrier island that already regularly floods on sunny days due to hide tides.

“Many cities have dams, levees and flood walls which are a fairly narrow and inflexible response to flooding,” said Jeff Opperman, global freshwater lead scientist at WWF. “There is growing appreciation in the US that we need to diversify, to set the levees back, use natural vegetation and allow the river room. But then there’s political decisions around development and that’s a less rational process.”

A 2015 study of six US cities found huge variations in response to extreme weather events fueled by climate change. While New York City and Los Angeles were deemed as making progress, Tampa in Florida, which may also suffer a brush with Irma, was found to be one of the least prepared cities in the nation, with its main hospital – situated on an isolated low-lying peninsula – demonstrative of the lack of preparedness.

“There’s a big variation in how cities are preparing, some are doing almost nothing,” said Sabrina McCormick, an academic at George Washington University and lead author of the research. “Houston’s approach to similar to other cities in that it hasn’t looked into the future and taken the risks seriously. Unfortunately we are seeing the ramifications of that.”

McCormick said a lack of federal leadership is also a problem. The Trump administration has struck down several Barack Obama-era regulations designed to reduce climate-driven risks. Ten days before Harvey struck Houston, Trump tore up a rule that demands federally-funded projects consider climate change and sea level rise before they are built.

“Ideally we’d have a national plan to help guide cities toward some basic level of planning to address these risks,” McCormick said. “If we don’t see that leadership, cities will have to look to other cities to figure out where to go next. We also need to mitigate our greenhouse gases to reduce the impact in the first place.”

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 04:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
WATCH COVERAGE: Puerto Rico braces for direct hit from Hurricane Maria

Joe Barracato
Raw Story
20 Sep 2017 at 05:54 ET                   

Hurricane Maria has battered the US Virgin Islands as the “monster” storm bears down on Puerto Rico, bringing “catastrophic” 160mph winds and dangerous storm surges.

Watch live coverage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q2CzQclKQc

 on: Sep 20, 2017, 04:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
At least 217 dead after powerful earthquake hits central Mexico

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake is deadliest to hit country in more than 30 years and has brought down buildings in the capital, Mexico City 

David Agren and Nina Lakhani in Mexico City, Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Sam Jones
Wednesday 20 September 2017 09.37 BST

Emergency crews and volunteers are digging through rubble with their bare hands in search of trapped survivors after a powerful earthquake stuck central Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, toppling dozens of buildings and killing at least 217 people

The magnitude 7.1 quake – the deadliest to hit the nation since 1985 – struck shortly after 1pm local time, causing violent, prolonged shaking, which flattened buildings and sent masonry tumbling onto streets, crushing cars and people in the capital, Mexico City, and surrounding areas.

As night fell, rescuers armed with cutting tools and sniffer dogs scrambled to reach survivors pinned inside the ruins of offices, schools and apartment blocks amid plumes of dust and wailing sirens. Power cuts left much of the capital in darkness. Many people remained outdoors, fearful of aftershocks.

It was the second major earthquake to hit Mexico in two weeks and came on the anniversary of the 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City, killing 5,000 people and destroying 10,000 homes.

The earthquake also appeared to have triggered an eruption of Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano. In Atzitzihuacán on the slopes of the volcano, a church collapsed during mass, killing 15 people, Puebla governor José Antonio Gali said.

Authorities said at least 54 people died in the state of Morelos, with 30 perishing in Mexico City, 26 in Puebla state and nine in the state of Mexico, which borders the capital.

Public education undersecretary Javier Treviño said 21 children and four adults had died at the collapsed Enrique Rebsámen school, according to local media. The online news organisation Animal Político reported at least 30 children were still trapped in the school, according to Mexico City authorities.

The Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visited the site earlier in the evening and was besieged by desperate parents, telling him that their children were missing.

Local residents, police and firefighters were using their bare hands to dig through the ruins of the four-storey building, which had pre-school, primary and secondary classes. Appeals went out for torches, batteries and water to help the rescuers with their search.

Pedro Serrano, a 29-year-old doctor, was one of the volunteers who managed to crawl into the rubble of a classroom only to find its occupants dead.

“We dug holes, then crawled in on our bellies,” Serrano told the Associated Press.

“We managed to get into a collapsed classroom. We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults a woman and a man.”

Asked if there was hope of finding anyone alive, Serrano said workers were still trying despite the danger.

“We can hear small noises, but we don’t know if they’re coming from above or below, from the walls above [crumbling], or someone below calling for help.”

Anxious parents outside the gates said they had heard reports that two families had received WhatsApp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.

The rescue effort was punctuated by cries of “Quiet!” to allow searchers to listen for any faint calls for help.

Guillermo Salazar, a construction foreman whose crew was working on a half-finished apartment block, said “the building swayed like a hammock” when the quake struck.

Everyone escaped unscathed thanks in part to an earthquake drill held two hours earlier, added Salazar. “It was helpful. Everyone knew what to do.”

Elsewhere, however, there was chaos. Authorities took so long to respond to a collapsed seven-storey building in La Condesa, a wealthy part of Mexico City, that hundreds of people frantically scrambled through the rubble with their hands using shovels and shopping trolleys to remove debris.

The overall death toll was expected to continue rising as emergency crews and improvised citizen brigades combed through rubble.

“I thought that I had punctured a tyre. Then I saw all the light fixtures and signs swaying,” said Humberto Muñoz, who was driving from Puebla into Mexico City when the quake struck.

Peiby Ballau, a hairdresser, said it felt worse even than the 8.1 magnitude quake which hit further south on 7 September, killing at least 98 people and leaving 2.5 million in need of help. “The building really moved back and forth. Of all the earthquakes I’ve lived through, this was the strongest. You never get used to this. It was such a fright.”

Video posted online showed one building in the Roma neighbourhood collapsing in a cloud of dust as onlookers screamed and ran for safety.

    REFORMACOM (@Reforma)

    Aquí el momento donde un edificio, al parecer en la Colonia Roma colapsa. pic.twitter.com/rAYKX0lJjm
    September 19, 2017

Another video showed slabs of concrete peeling from the facade of the labour ministry and plunging onto the street below amid clouds of dust.

Gala Dluzhynska was on the second floor of a building on Alvaro Obregón street in the capital when the building began to totter. She said she fell over in the stairwell and people began to walk over her, before someone finally pulled her up. “There were no stairs anymore. There were rocks,” she told the Associated Press.

Mariana Morales, a 26-year-old nutritionist, said she was in a taxi when the quake struck and witnessed a building collapse a few yards away. “There was the sound of thunder ... then dust and all this.” She joined the throngs of citizens who spontaneously joined rescue efforts, bolstering emergency crews. “The people are organising quickly,” she said.

Along Avenida de los Insurgentes – one of the city’s main thoroughfares – thousands of people streamed out of buildings in panic as alarms blared.

Some 27 buildings collapsed in Mexico City, according to Peña Nieto. The president cut short a visit to the southern state of Oaxaca, which had been badly hit in the earlier quake.

The US president, Donald Trump, who had been criticised for a perceived tardy response to the earlier disaster, responded on Tuesday within minutes, tweeting: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”

Much of Mexico City is built on former lake bed and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

Improved safety laws and better disaster preparation means that earthquakes since 1985 have caused less damage in the capital. But Tuesday’s quake struck without warning, despite an alert mechanism which normally sounds an alert beforehand.

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