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Friday, May 15, 2015

Nepal Eq - Indian rescue - missing US copter and hydroelectric dam in Tibet

Seismicity in the Himalaya dominantly results from the continental collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth.  The India-Eurasia plate boundary is a diffuse boundary, which in the region near the north of India, lies within the limits of the Indus-Tsangpo Suture to the north and the Main Frontal Thrust to the south. The Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone is located roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin.  To put it simply it is tremors ~i.e., Earthquake !!!

The April 2015 Nepal earthquake killed 9,000 people and injured more than 19,000 according to reports. It occurred at 11:56 NST on 25th  April, with a magnitude of 7.8Mw or 8.1Ms and a maximum Mercalli Intensity of VIII (Severe). Its epicentre was the village of Barpak, Gorkha district. It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest.  Thousands were rendered homeless – some monuments were flattened too.   A second major earthquake occurred on 12 May 2015 at 12:35 NST with a moment magnitude (Mw) of 7.3. Mw. The epicenter was near the Chinese border between the capital of Kathmandu and Mt. Everest.  This too caused deaths !

The Indian Govt responded immediately, sending aircraft to Kathmandu carrying disaster response forces, medical teams, food, medicines and rescue equipment. "For many people of our country, Nepalis are our own people," said Mr Modi in his monthly radio show on Sunday.  "The day disaster struck Nepal, within few hours, our first flight reached Nepal with relief and rescue (material)...  and through Operation Maitri, it discharged its duty as a neighbour. 

Rescue operations are always difficult, more so, here considering the altitude and accessibility.  Helicopters were sent to districts east of Kathmandu that were  worst hit.  China, UK, US, Israel and many other Nations too sent their troops in relief and rescue operations.  Airport at Delhi became too busy in accommodating these aircrafts. 

A U.S. Marine helicopter supporting earthquake relief in Nepal was declared missing Tuesday with eight people on board, a military spokesman said.  The UH-1Y Huey with two Nepalese soldiers and six U.S. Marines on board disappeared over Charikot, Nepal, at about 10 p.m. local time (12:15 p.m. ET), said U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Army Maj. Dave Eastburn. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the U.S. military is hopeful that the missing helicopter landed and is out of communication. A military official told NBC News there is "no indication that there was a crash" but "it is dark," so they could not immediately confirm that. It is stated that  Marines were equipped with a GPS device, a radio and an emergency beacon, but the helicopter was flying over difficult terrain, which might render the equipment ineffective. The official said the Marines also had a satellite phone, strobes, flares and signal mirrors.

The helicopter is part of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, which is part of the 3rd Marine Air Wing based at Camp Pendleton in California, according to NBC San Diego. Charikot was one of the villages hardest hit by a 7.3-magnitude quake on Tuesday.  It is stated that crews are continuing the search for the missing U.S. military chopper and its eight passengers.  According to a retired Army helicopter pilot of US, the emergency beacon not transmitting a frequency to where they might be is baffling.  Even if there was fuel or engine trouble and the helicopter had to make an emergency landing, it's puzzling that no one on board would have radioed, experts say.  According to experts, if the aircraft is on land, it's only a matter of time before it's found. Helicopter missions include tailored flight plans, and the search teams would be focusing on a specific zone, while factoring in how much fuel the aircraft would have had before needing to land.

Major Rajan Dahal, second-in-command of Nepal's Barda Bahadur Battalion, told Reuters that more than 400 ground troops were also involved in the search. However, one Nepal Home Ministry official told the news agency that she feared the search was diverting resources from relief and rescue work.

A Washington post report states that - when a French magazine reported earlier this week that Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo donated $8 million of his own money to the earthquake relief effort in Nepal, the world really, really wanted to believe it. Unfortunately, however, according to the charity Save the Children, that wasn’t actually what happened. “The latest information on the donation of Cristiano Ronaldo to the emergency response of Save the Children in Nepal is false,” read a statement posted to the organization’s Web site on Thursday.

The organization, for which Ronaldo has worked as a global ambassador for since 2013, went on to thank the 30-year-old soccer player for lending his famous visage to the group’s efforts to raise awareness about the strife. “The global ambassador for Save the Children, Cristiano Ronaldo, has used his voice and his global visibility to raise awareness of the problems that the most vulnerable children around the world, including those affected by the earthquake in Nepal face,” the statement says.  In April, Ronaldo, who makes around $80 million according to Forbes, posted a picture of a mother and child in Nepal to his Facebook page and on Twitter petitioning his followers to donate to Save the Children. It should be noted, however, that at no time did Ronaldo himself ever publicly state that he donated any money of his own to the relief effort, let alone nearly $8 million.

According to QZ.com -  The earthquake that rattled Nepal on April 25, killing thousands, also cracked a huge hydroelectric dam and damaged many others. Things could have been much worse, though. The collapse of one of these could have let loose a deluge of water and debris downstream, as Isabel Hilton highlighted in the New Yorker—a disquieting prospect given that more than 400 dams are being built or are slated for construction in the Himalayan valley. This underscores the risks of China’s recent push to dam rivers in Tibet. Threatened by a lack of natural energy sources, the Chinese government has been on a dam-building bender. China now has more installed hydropower capacity than the next three runner-up countries combined.

But the government has only just begun to harness the power created as runoff from Himalayan glaciers flows across Tibet, plunging around 3,000 meters. The biggest of these rivers, the Yarlung River (a.k.a. Yarlung Tsangpo, Yarlung Zangbo), cuts along the bottom third of the autonomous region before hanging a sharp right into India and Bangladesh, where it’s called the Brahmaputra. In November of 2014, the government unveiled Tibet’s first truly huge hydropower project—a 9.6 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) project spanning the Yarlung River’s middle reaches, called the Zangmu dam.

Unfortunately, like much of the rest of the Himalayan valley, the bedrock around the Yarlung River is unusually tectonically active. Worse, the weight of dammed reservoirs has been linked to more than 100 earthquakes (paywall), most notoriously, the 2008 earthquake in nearby Sichuan, which killed around 80,000. This is risky indeed !  The Chinese government says the hydropower projects will solve Tibet’s electricity shortages. But clearly it is not  Tibetans who actually need it.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

15th May 2015.

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