EDM Wednesday Briefing: Earthquake in Ecuador, Sri Lankan Mudslides, Oil Spill Charges Filed, Yellow Fever, Fort McMurray Fire Rages On
Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 18, 2016: Another earthquake strikes Ecuador, torrential rains create a major landslide in Sri Lanka, the company responsible for a Santa Barbara oil spill faces criminal charges, a WHO panel will convene on yellow fever outbreak concerns, a fire damages tracks in New York, and the Fort McMurray fire is still raging out of control.
- According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck Ecuador early Wednesday morning, sending residents back out into the streets. The epicenter was near Quito, close to the town of Mompiche. The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa indicated in an early tweet that there were no damages, then updated the information to note that some small damage had occurred. No tsunami warning was issued. This earthquake struck just one month after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit the nation in the same region -- their worst since 1979, killing more than 650 people, injuring more than 16,500, and causing widespread damage and destruction that is estimated at $2 billion.
- Three days of torrential rains have fallen on the island nation of Sri Lanka, triggering massive landslides late Tuesday that inundated the villages of Siripura, Pallebage, and Elagipitya, in the central Kegalle district. Hundreds are feared buried in the mudslides, and authorities said a total of 16 bodies have been recovered so far, with 150 people rescued. More than 300 officers have been deployed for rescue operations following the mudslides. Rescue attempts were being complicated by unstable ground, heavy fog, and electrical outages. The torrential rains also caused widespread flooding that forced nearly 350,000 people from their homes and resulted in 32 deaths according to official numbers.
- The Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline Company has been indicted on criminal charges following a ruptured pipeline that spewed more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil onto the Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara last year, some of which made its way into the Pacific Ocean. The company allegedly has been uncooperative during the investigation into the leak, according to Kamala D. Harris, California's Attorney General, and charges were filed by local and state prosecutors. The spill occurred at 11:30 a.m. but authorities were not notified until around 3 p.m., sparking allegations that the company failed to notify authorities of the leak in a timely fashion. At least 106 marine animals and 204 birds died from the spill, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at UC Davis, which was involved in the cleanup.
- A World Health Organization Panel is set to convene Thursday in Geneva to discuss the rapid spread of yellow fever in Angola and its possible outbreak across Africa, and into Asia. Fears of a dwindling supply of yellow fever vaccinations, coupled with the potential to spread rapidly to other locations, prompted the panel where the possibility of declaring a global emergency will be discussed. Early detection of the disease is difficult, but the vaccinations have proven effective in combating the disease.
- A major fire in a plant nursery storage area under the Metro-North tracks in East Harlem, NY on Tuesday evening shut down service in and out of Grand Central just at the end of rush hour. Officials reported no injuries, but buildings on both sides of the avenue were evacuated and propane tanks removed from the area to avoid explosions. The Metro-Transit Authority (MTA) ran tests on the two outside tracks of the four total tracks impacted by the blaze, restoring service to them for Wednesday's commute. However, the MTA advised that trains on the outside two tracks would be running at reduced speeds while track work on the inside two lines was done to repair the damages from the fire.
- As the Fort McMurray wildfire continues its march eastward, the fire consumed all 665 temporary housing units at the Blacksand Executive Lodge, from where workers were evacuated on Monday and set it sights on the Noralta Lodge. Local area businesses were alerted that the fire was likely to jump Highway 63, near Noralta, and the Northlands Sawmill was prepared, according to its director, Dave Harman.
- The Fort McMurray fire started May 1st and has already burned more than 930 square miles of land with portions still burning out of control. According to a recent update on the fire by officials, there are a total of 17 fires burning that cover more than 877,220 acres, with 1,754 firefighters, 208 helicopters, 29 air tankers, and 412 pieces of equipment currently battling the wildfire. Authorities note that fire conditions in the province are still considered extreme, with multiple mandatory evacuation orders still in place.
— Sean Gilmartin (@SeanGilmartin61) May 18, 2016