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Updated every Friday.

Friday, June 8, 2018

June 8th

What happened this week?

Guatemala volcano eruption death toll: Why was Fuego eruption so deadly? 

Images from the volcano aftermath Volcan de Fuego (‘volcano of fire’ in Spanish) erupted on Sunday resulting in a devastating pyroclastic flow which obliterated everything in its path. So far, at least 109 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are still missing. A second eruption on Tuesday sent rescue workers scrambling for cover, proving just how dangerous and unpredictable the situation still is. Officials have issued warnings of hazards still presented by falling ash as well as the risk of ash clouds to aviation. Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of extremely hot gas and volcanic matter that pour down volcanic slopes at incredibly high speeds. They contain a mix of hot lava rocks ranging from pebbles to boulders, pumice, ash and volcanic gasses.  Pyroclastic flows can reach speeds of up to 430mph and temperatures of about 1,000 degrees Celsius. While a pyroclastic flow doesn’t leave much chance for survival as it is, there were a few additional factors at work here which put the people of Guatemala at risk. Katharine Cashman, Professor of Volcanology at the University of Bristol said: "We have been seeing over the past few years there were more frequent paroxysmal eruptions - or sudden outbursts. “Because there’d been these smaller paroxysms, the valleys had been filled with material.  So if the valleys are full, when the bigger flows come down they just immediately overflow and that’s what appears to have happened.”... Read more

June 5th: World Environment Day - Latin America and the Caribbean bids good-bye to plastic bags

World Environment Day logo: Beat Plastic PollutionOn May 30th, Chile became the first South American country to approve a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, garnering congratulations from around the world for its efforts to beat plastic pollution ahead of World Environment Day on June 5th. The ban will come into force in one year’s time for major retailers and in two years’ time for smaller businesses. Several other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are using taxes, bans, and technological innovation to restrict the production and consumption of plastic bags and reduce their harmful impact on oceans and marine species. Antigua and Barbuda was the first country in the region to ban plastic bags in 2016. Soon after, Colombia passed a similar ban, and in 2017 applied a tax to large plastic bags, while ordering changes to their design with the aim of achieving greater resistance and reusability. Colombia’s neighbor, Panama, became at the beginning of 2018 the first country in Central America to ban polyethylene bags. The country is also drawing up a national plan to combat marine litter. Costa Rica adopted a national strategy to drastically reduce the use of disposable plastics by 2021, while in the Caribbean, Belize, Bahamas and Bermuda have passed or are drafting laws to eradicate single-use plastics. Ecuador aims to transform the remote Galápagos Islands into a plastics-free archipelago: no more plastic straws, bags or bottles will be sold or used after 21 August of this year. In Peru, several bills on the issue of plastic bags are debated in Congress. The most recent, prepared by the Government, seeks to reduce the consumption of this product by 35 per cent during the first year of implementation...Read more   

June 8th: World Ocean Day - World overwhelmingly commits to protecting the oceans and Clean Seas   

Image result for world ocean day 2018World Oceans Day is celebrated annually on June 8th, to raise global awareness of the state of the oceans and aquatic life, and advocate for individual and policy action for healthy seas. This year, in line with World Environment Day celebrated on June 5, the theme of World Oceans Day is centered around preventing plastic pollution – 8 million tonnes of which ends up in the world’s ocean’s every year. On this World Ocean Day, June 8th, nations are showing an unprecedented commitment to healthy, thriving oceans and seas, free from plastic pollution. With eight new countries having joined UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign in the past week, Clean Seas is now the largest global compact for combating marine litter, with commitments from 51 nations covering 62% of the world’s coastlines. Other countries who pledged this week to step up their protection of the ocean and their coastlines include Argentina, Cote d’Ivoire, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Guyana and Vanuatu...Read more   

June 8th: World Ocean Day - Latin American and Caribbean countries champion marine conservation

Image result for hammerhead sharksSeveral countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are protecting millions of square kilometers of seas in some of the world’s most biodiverse zones. Marine protected areas are one of the best tools to safeguard the health of our oceans and stop overfishing, pollution and acidification. They bring ecological benefits, but also great economic gains. Studies show, for example, how a a single hammerhead shark sighted in the Isla del Coco, in Costa Rica, generates up to $1.6 million during its life thanks through eco-tourism. There are more than 15,300 marine protected areas on the planet, covering an area of ​​26.3 million square kilometers, equivalent to 7.2 per cent of the total ocean surface, according to the Protected Planet report.
The so-called Aichi Target 11, set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, recommends the protection of at least 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020. Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia have already surpassed this target. Brazil was lagging behind, but last March made a major announcement. The country decided to protect almost 1 million square kilometers around the archipelagos of São Pedro and São Paulo, in the central Atlantic, and the submarine volcanic chain that connects the islands Trinidad and Martin Vaz, further south.  The designation increased the Brazilian marine protected areas from the current 1.5 per cent to 24.5 per cent...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Guatemala volcano alert too late to save lives, officials admit 

Emergency personnel retrieve the body of a victim of the volcanic eruption in Guatemala -- so far, at least 99 people are known to have diedA communication breakdown between a disaster agency and volcanologists in Guatemala delayed evacuations as gas and ash clouds cascaded down the Fuego volcano last Sunday in its most violent eruption in four decades, authorities have admitted. Compounding the situation, rain and clouds hid signs of the toxic shower of debris, known as a pyroclastic flow, hurtling down the mountainside, hindering visual observation. While the poor visibility delayed villagers’ own reactions to the impending danger, 27 miles (43 km) away in Guatemala City, disaster authorities failed to understand the magnitude of the eruption, meaning the alert level leading to mandatory evacuations was not raised quickly enough, the heads of the responsible government agencies admitted on Wednesday. That meant people were left in their homes for hours after the dangerous flows began and has led to opposition calls for criminal charges and resignations. Guatemala’s public prosecutor said on Thursday that it would open an investigation into whether protocols were followed to inform proper decision-making in the handling of the disaster. In a tense meeting at Guatemala’s Congress on Wednesday, the head of the country’s volcanology institute accused his counterpart at disaster agency CONRED of failing to heed bulletins warning that Fuego was dangerously erupting. CONRED chief Sergio Cabanas accepted the evacuation order was late, but blamed the volcanologists for not being explicit enough that the situation was dangerous... Read more
International interest in Jamaica's crisis management center 

Development of a Global Resilience and Crisis Management Center in Jamaica to deal with climate-related issues has been attracting attention from international financial and academic interests, says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett. First announced during the UNWTO Global Conference on Sustainable Tourism in St James in November 2017, the center, which is the first of its kind, will be tasked with creating, producing and generating toolkits, guidelines and policies to handle the recovery process following a disaster. Bartlett noted that academic institutions on “every continent” are also showing interest in the center. They include Queensland University in Australia; Hong Kong Polytechnic in Hong Kong; Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom; and universities in the United States such as George Washington and Harvard. “We know already that the tourism leadership — World Travel and Tourism Council, Pacific Area Tourism Authority, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Caribbean Tourism Organization, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association — have all already committed and support this resilience institution,” he pointed out... Read more    

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