HAMNET Report 19th March 2023

I’m starting to sound a bit like a stuck record, but I’m afraid the effects of Cyclone FREDDY are still with us.

This week, FREDDY moved across Mozambique, and entered the South East corner of Malawi, bringing with it torrential rain and strong winds, and resulting in at least 326 deaths, with 201 still missing, 796 injured and the displacement of more than 183000 people..

Finally, on Thursday, GDACS started forecasting light to moderate rain only over Malawi. Since 21st February, FREDDY has hit Madagascar and Mozambique twice, as well as Malawi as mentioned, affecting nearly 800,000 people overall, and displacing over 250,000. It has also broken the record for the longest lasting named Tropical Cyclone in history, one of only four that has formed on the coast of Australia, and made it right across the Indian Ocean to reach Africa, but definitely the longest lasting. As I said once before, FREDDY was not just a minor storm.

At the Western Cape Government’s (WCG) weekly Energy Digicon on Thursday Colin Deiner, the Chief Director: Disaster Management and Fire/Rescue Services, detailed the province’s blackout contingency plan.

At the outset, Mr Deiner stressed the plan is put together in the event of a worse-case scenario. “Our job is to protect the province. We look at what is the worst thing that could happen and then we plan around that,” said Mr Deiner. He emphasised, however, for the time being, that there is a low probability of a total blackout.

He pointed out that the main priorities of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) and its partners are to save lives and protect the safety of citizens.

Premier Alan Winde, [who chaired the meeting] added, “It is better to be over-prepared for any eventuality than to be caught off guard.”

Deiner outlined the possible risks that could lead to blackouts which include:

Primary energy constraints, Generation plant performance, Infrastructure damage; or Industrial social unrest

He went on to explain the process which authorities, among them Eskom and disaster and emergency management officials, will follow in the event of a total blackout to stabilise and return the power grid to operation:

Should there be a complete black-out, the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) has a number of priority areas, such as Water, Sewerage, Transport and mobility, Health, and Emergency services amongst others.

Mr Deiner offered advice to the public as to how to prepare themselves for a scenario where the power grid collapses or there are extended levels of load-shedding, such as knowing their load-shedding schedules, ensuring they have a stock of chronic medication, ensuring security systems will work during load-shedding; and ensuring access to emergency lighting.

Thank you to the westerncape.gov.za website for this brief summary of their meeting report.

New technology from Israel provides tethered balloons that can locate people trapped under meters of rubble from their cell phones.

They process and transmit the signal to a ground unit, which calculates and displays a 3D geo-location of the cell phones in natural disasters, terrorist incidents and combat zones. 

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), together with video surveillance company RT, has developed the helium-filled balloon – or aerostat – which floats at 1,500 meters above the ground.

The new Skystar ResQCell can be carried by a team of two in backpacks, or by any vehicle. It can operate in both heavily-damaged urban sites, as well as in open areas affected by hurricanes and floods.

Adi Dulberg, VP & General Manager of IAI, said: “This life-saving solution can track and locate the exact location of a missing person, during any disaster.

“The comprehensive solution revolutionizes disaster response and delivers a detailed picture of missing or trapped people and rescue teams, by accurately geo-locating their cellular phones. 

“Because time is a significant component when a disaster occurs, the system can be deployed in minutes and provides rescue forces with a long-endurance, highly-effective and easy-to-use, lifesaving solution.”

CEO of RT Aerostat Systems, Rami Shmueli, said: “Partnering with IAI ELTA has helped us bring a precision lifesaving system to the emergency services sector, especially after the recent earthquakes in Turkey.

“We are happy and proud to be partnering with IAI ELTA, which has led to the development of this important system. 

“The integration of our systems has created an advanced solution that enables situational awareness, rapid response, and access to any disaster area. We believe this solution will be able greatly to assist rescue teams around the world.”

Thank you to the website nocamels.com for this report.

How many of you remembered the 12th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 11th March 2011 that struck Fukushima in Japan, effectively melting down three nuclear reactors at the power station, and creating the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl in 1986? The local inhabitants have still not returned to the radioactive environment there, though the wild boar population doesn’t seem to have turned a hair.

Another anniversary this week was the death in the Forum of Julius Caesar, 2067 years ago, on the 15th March 44BCE, due to multiple stab wounds by opposition members of Parliament. The 15th March has always had an unlucky connotation to it. Beware the Ides of March, they all said, but Julius didn’t listen.

However, all is not lost, because the world helped Ireland celebrate their National Day, St Patrick’s Day on Friday the 17th. I’m sure many a pint of Guiness met its match that day. I hope you wore green on Friday…

Finally, a funny one for you. Fraser Cain, writing in Universetoday.com, says that, like many of us, he is his family’s default technical support person. For decades his children have brought him malfunctioning video games and computers to fix. He told them he wouldn’t help them until they tried turning it off and back on again. This apparently works for spacecraft too. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) went into contingency mode last month. On March 4th, NASA sent a command to “power cycle” the spacecraft, asking it to turn itself off and on again. The command worked, and IBEX is fully operational!

So, it seems the first plan of attack for any failed item that runs on electricity, is to switch it off (or disconnect it from the electricity actually), wait a while, and then turn it on again, and it will probably be fixed. Now if that would only work for my memory!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.