October 2013 Current Events: Disasters & Science News
Here are the key events in Science and Disasters news for the month of October 2013.
Boat Sinks in the Mediterranean, Killing Dozens (Oct. 3): At least 94 people are dead and another 250 are missing after a boat capsizes in the Mediterranean near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. The boat, carrying African migrants to Europe, sinks after passengers light a blanket on fire to signal their position. The fire spreads from the blanket to gasoline, creating a panic that sinks the boat. It is the worst boating accident of its kind in the region.
7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes the Philippines (Oct. 15): A powerful earthquake hits the Philippines and kills at least 144 people. Nearly 300 more are injured. The quake also destroys one of the country's oldest churches and causes widespread damage. According to Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the center of the earthquake hits near Carmen, a small town on Bohol Island. Solidum also explains the intensity of the earthquake in a statement, "A magnitude 7 earthquake has an energy equivalent to around 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs. This one had a magnitude of 7.2." Tremors from the earthquake reach all of the islands in the central Philippines, destroying several buildings, roads and bridges.
Airpocalypse Forces People Indoors in China (Oct. 21): Schools are closed in Harbin, a northeast city in China, because of extreme air pollution. Visibility is so bad, less than 10 meters, that traffic stalls and the airport also closes. The local weather bureau refers to the air pollution as "heavy fog", but international media calls it the Airpocalypse. The smoke intensifies after the Chinese government starts operating Harbin's coal-powered heating system. Harbin's official news website releases information about the situation, including the description, "You can't see your own fingers in front of you." The city reports that its air quality index score is 500, the highest possible reading. The Chinese government asks people to avoid exercising outdoors and encourages the sick and elderly to not go outside at all.
Worst Fire Emergency in almost 50 Years (Oct. 22): Australia's New South Wales is facing its worst fire emergency in almost 50 years. Dozens of fires have broken out across the state. As of October 22, 2013, 60 fires still burn, and 14 of those are described as out of control. Just west of Sydney, two fires merge into one mega fire. Thick smoke reaches as far as Sydney's famous opera house. At least 200 homes are destroyed. Many more are damaged. According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, 2013 will most likely become the hottest year on record in the country. September 2013 is Australia's hottest September ever. Little rain and high winds add to the extreme situation. While the fires rage in New South Wales, United Nations Climate Chief Christiana Figueres says, "The World Meteorological Organization has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change yet, but what is absolutely clear is that the science is telling us there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe and Australia."