News of rescue efforts after Hurricane Maria, is coming mostly from Puerto Rico, it being an island with a huge population of over 3 million.
The ARRL Newsline reports that the Amateur Radio volunteers on the ground in Puerto Rico continue to provide assistance in a number of areas. Amateur Radio resources have been reallocated around the island better to meet communications needs.
Volunteer Valerie Hotzfeld, NV9L, a HamNation presenter, and a FEMA team member were tasked with calling 68 hospitals and medical facilities. They asked a series of 12 questions geared towards obtaining a better understanding of each facility’s communication capabilities, and to see if urgent care supplies and needs were being met.
Gary Sessums, KC5QCN, the Amateur Radio liaison to the ESF-2 Communications Task Force, coordinated the installation of a VHF Amateur Radio repeater on a mountain peak in El Yunque National Forest. The repeater now gives radio coverage to approximately 60% of Puerto Rico, and also extends radio coverage into the US Virgin Islands.
Andy Anderson, KEØAYJ, is stationed at the Guajataca Dam, providing communications support to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority between their control facility and the dam as the water levels are lowered to prevent the dam from collapsing.
Safe and Well data collection continues at Red Cross shelters, and in reunification work that involves going out into areas that have no communications. Hams are engaged in setting up equipment and entering data into the Red Cross Safe and Well website. Hams also facilitate survivors’ access to cell or satellite phones so they can call a loved one to let them know they are safe.
Reunification team officials have expressed that hams have become invaluable to the teams, not only performing communications duties, but also having become proficient in multiple skill sets for the Red Cross. Ham radio volunteers are acting as navigators, reunification workers, and anything else that is needed. To date, they have completed 60 reunifications.
Donations to the response effort continue, with EPCOM (El Paso Communications Systems) donating 40 Icom IC-F3001 handheld radios, and the Yasme Foundation providing an Amateur Radio repeater that will be installed at the Arecibo Observatory to provide Search And Rescue communications.
Dobbins Air Reserve Base reported this week that a C-5M Super Galaxy from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, landed there to provide airlift for AT&T communications equipment and technicians.
The airlift mission provided critical infrastructure restoration in support of life-saving activities underway in Puerto Rico. Many of the island’s three million residents have been without communications since the island took the full brunt of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.
To restore communication capabilities on the island, AT&T provided mobile communications assets in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This equipment included three vehicles: two satellite cell on light trucks (COLT) and one emergency communication vehicle (EMV). Members of AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team use these vehicles to restore Wi-Fi, LAN lines and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) capabilities, explained Lou Fiorenza, an AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team member.
Meanwhile, six years on, consequences of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to be uncovered. Scientists say they’ve found new and “unexpected” sources of radioactive material dozens of kilometres away from the site.
New radioactivity has been discovered in salty groundwater and sands beneath beaches up to 100km away from the disaster site, according to the findings published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ journal on Monday.
Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US and Japan’s Kanazawa University revealed high levels of persistent caesium-137 in eight beaches, sampled for the study between 2013 and 2016.
These levels turned out to be up to 10 times higher than levels in seawater of the power plant harbour, according to the press release on the WHOI website.
“No one expected that the highest levels of caesium in ocean water today would be found not in the harbour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but in the groundwater many miles away below the beach sands,” one of the researchers, Virginie Sanial, said. The radioactive element the scientists suggest travelled from the crippled plant with ocean currents days and weeks after the reactor meltdowns. The sand grains have been storing it for years, slowly emitting caesium into ocean.
“Only time will slowly remove the caesium from the sands as it naturally decays away and is washed out by seawater,” Sanial said.
Despite the study showing that caesium doesn’t pose a risk to public health, the research still warns of such unsuspected pathways and storage of contamination, which should be considered in nuclear power plant monitoring.
“There are 440 operational nuclear reactors in the world, with approximately one-half situated along the coastline,” the study reads.
And in Cape Town, details of the three-phased approach to the water disaster have been released. Phase one is operating already, with the current restrictive regulations applied, and will involve throttling water, with rationing, resulting in short-period supply disruptions, zoned outages likely to occur during peak water usage times, but no disruption to critical services like hospitals and clinics. Phase two will involve collection of predefined quantities of drinking water per person per day from collection points, but carefully controlled maintenance of sewage systems, and availability of water in areas prone to fires or risk of disease, like informal settlements.
Phase three, or extreme disaster conditions, will place emphasis on minimising the impact on human life, dignity and property, but water will not be available in homes or workplaces, drinking water from aquifers and springs will be distributed, and close attention to safety and security will be paid by the authorities. It can be expected that tariffs for any water delivered to households will go up. Serious business indeed!
The dams supplying water to the Cape Town area stand at 37.2% full at present, down from 61.9% this time last year. At least 10% of this will be too muddy to use!
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.