HAMNET Report 27th August 2023

There has been an orange alert out all week for Tropical Cyclone Franklin, with maximum wind speeds of 175Km/h, active in the Atlantic, and threatening Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. By Friday it was not yet near enough to any of these islands to threaten the local populations. GDACS reports daily on its progress.

Media and WHO report, as of 25 August, one confirmed fatality, two persons still missing, two injured people, approximately 600 evacuated people (of which around 300 are in 15 evacuation centres) and nearly 550 damaged houses across the Dominican Republic.

A new tropical storm named SAOLA (also called “Goring” in the Philippines) formed over the northern Philippine Sea on 22 August and started moving west toward the northern Luzon Island and the Luzon Strait, as a tropical depression. On 25 August at 3.00 UTC, its centre was located over the sea, approximately 230 km north-east of the far north-east coast of Luzon Island, with maximum sustained winds of 105 km/h (as a tropical storm).

On the forecast track, SAOLA is expected to turn and to continue moving southward off the coast of Luzon on 25-27 August, strengthening, with maximum sustained winds up to 195 km/h (reaching typhoon status). The storm may affect areas that are still recovering from Typhoon Doksuri.

Over the next 72 hours, heavy rainfall and strong winds are forecast over northern and eastern Luzon Island. PAGASA issued a tropical cyclone alert for this area. China is also in its distant sights, where upwards of 3.8 million people are in its path.

Japan was to start releasing treated radioactive water from the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, despite opposition from its neighbours.

The decision comes weeks after the UN’s nuclear watchdog approved the plan.

Some 1.34 million tonnes of water – enough to fill 500 Olympic-size pools – have accumulated since the 2011 tsunami destroyed the plant.

The water will be released over 30 years after being filtered and diluted.

Authorities will request for the plant’s operator to “promptly prepare” for the disposal to start on 24th August if weather and sea conditions are appropriate, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting.

Mr Kishida had visited the plant on Sunday, prompting speculation the release was imminent.

The government has said that releasing the water is a necessary step in the lengthy and costly process of decommissioning the plant, which sits on the country’s east coast, about 220km north-east of the capital Tokyo.

Japan has been collecting and storing the contaminated water in tanks for more than a decade, but space is running out.

In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake flooded three reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The event is regarded as the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Shortly after, authorities set up an exclusion zone which continued to be expanded as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area.

I received a report for Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, he of the busy HAMNET KZN division.

He writes: “Sunday 20th August, HAMNET KZN had 12 stations assisting the 193 runners in the 15/22Km event and 71 runners in the 6Km fun run of the Krantzkloof Trail Run.  55 entrants failed to start although they had registered for the event. 

“It was indeed a pleasure once again to team up to support the Honorary Officers of Ezemvelo Wildlife, S.T.A.R.T Rescue and Netcare 911.  Race Control was situated at Forest Hills Sports Club with all supporting agencies represented in a Joint Operations Centre (JOC).  Communications was with operators stationed at strategic points within the scenic but very challenging course through the Kloof Gorge and Nature Reserve.  The Reserve is still not open to the public because of storm damage that occurred last year.

“Communications were via the Highway Amateur Radio Club’s 145.7625 repeater situated at the Telkom Kloof Tower and 145.550 simplex.  We also had access to Ezemvelo’s VHF repeater which had just recently had the antenna replaced.

“I am pleased to report that we had very good radio coverage of the whole route

“The only medical incidents resulted from a couple of runners suffering head lacerations after hitting a low hanging branch and who promptly received medical attention from START and Netcare 911 officials.

“This is now an annual event on the HAMNET KZN calendar and we look forward to the next one.  My sincere thanks to all of the operators who contributed to the successful outcome that was achieved, especially those members who had to hike a couple of kilometres to their position whilst I was able to remain within walking distance of the bacon and egg rolls and coffee.  Sometimes one have to work under difficult conditions whilst ‘Getting the message through’.”

Well done Keith and your team. It sounds like you are running like a well-oiled machine!

Under the heading of “robotics”, comes a report from newatlas.com, written by Ben Coxworth, who talks about a technology which is being developed by German startup FORMIC Transportsysteme, which is affiliated with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

While forklifts do work well for lifting and moving heavy loads indoors, they’re bulky (in close quarters), expensive, and can’t lift loads over a certain footprint size. That’s where the FORMIC modular robotic transportation system is designed to come in. It incorporates multiple six-wheeled robotic transport modules, each one of which is equipped with cameras, a radio communications chip, and a jack that is capable of lifting up to 2.5 tons.

As many as 15 of the modules can be placed under a single load, as long as there’s a sufficient vertical gap beneath it for them to squeeze in. If all 15 are used, they can manage a total load weight of 37.5 tons.

A human operator steers the swarm of robotic modules in real time via an included joystick remote. Because the modules’ cameras and radios allow them to track one another’s positions at all times, they autonomously coordinate their movements – so in other words, the user just controls them as a group, not as individual units.

Thanks to newatlas.com for the write-up.

The word “FORMIC” (from Latin FORMICA, meaning “ant”) refers to the ant-like activities of these robots scurrying around a task, and ganging up to get the job done, as ants are often seen to do.

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

HAMNET Report 20th August 2023

Hawaii’s Maui Island continues to be in the news. The death toll due to the fires had reached at least 110 by Thursday, and people are still unaccounted for so the numbers may rise.

The ARRL Letter for the 17th says that ARRL members, in the Hawaii Amateur Radio Emergency Service®, (Hawaii ARES®), continue to respond following on the deadly wildfires on the island.

The radio amateurs are coordinating with state and local officials during the response and recovery effort. On August 15, an HF SHARES gateway, and an amateur VHF VARA FM gateway were brought back online, after having been damaged. Local hams continue to update lists of frequencies and repeaters that can be used in the response.

ARRL Headquarters staff has been in daily contact with member-volunteers on the island. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Hawaii and especially the island of Maui,” said ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV. “ARRL was in initial contact with Section Manager [of the ARRL Pacific Section] Joe Speroni, AH0A, on Wednesday, August 9, and we have had daily briefs with him. This is an exceedingly challenging time for Hawaii, and we will be available as needed.” ARRL has offered equipment through ARRL Ham Aid, a program established in 2005 and funded by donations, Ham Aid makes emergency communications equipment available to amateur radio organizations during disasters.

Johnston emphasized that most amateur radio communications, including relayed messages are being handled on the existing repeater system in the state. On shortwave, HF stations across Hawaii are operating nets on 7.088 MHz.

On August 8, wildfires fuelled by strong winds began burning in Maui, and by the next day, much of Lahaina had been destroyed. As of press time, 110 people had been killed in the blaze and 2,200 structures had been destroyed; 86% of those structures were residential, according to Hawaii Governor Josh Green.

Meanwhile, Japan is suffering a second Tropical Cyclone, this one called LAN, not very strong, but nevertheless affecting 9 prefectures in central Honshu Island, where 64 people have been injured, and up to 305000 properties affected by power outages. The storm was forecast to move north-westward over the northern Sea of Japan, and to dissipate by Friday, leaving a trail of further rainfall over the whole of Honshu Island, and most of Hokkaido Island.

And Tropical Cyclone HILARY is in the eastern Pacific, and threatening the Pacific coast of Mexico, with winds of up to 240km/h. A population of about 2 million people in Mexico is threatened by winds of at least 120km/h. Let’s hope the damage done remains relatively mild.

GDACS also reported two strong earthquakes in Colombia on Thursday, the first a magnitude 6.3 shock at a depth of about 10km, subjecting 320000 people to severe shaking at 17h04 UTC, and a second, of magnitude 5.7, at a depth of about 8km, at 17h17 UTC, and affecting about 450000 people within a dangerous circumference.

HAMNET in the Western Cape held an impromptu foxhunt exercise on Sunday the 6th of August. With one hour’s forewarning, we were asked to mobilize and find a beacon carried by a “secret agent” who had been injured by the bad guys, and was hiding and out of communication. We were not allowed to use repeaters to find the beacon, or any social media, because the so-called bad guys were monitoring all of those, and also trying to find our secret agent. So we had 2m simplex and that was all.

His beacon started transmitting in short bursts on 144.900MHz at 13h30 CAT, and we had about 90 minutes to find him before his batteries caved in. Four HAMNET operators rose to the challenge, and allowed bearings on which they heard the beacon, to be used intelligently to find its location.

We had bearings from Gordon’s Bay, Stellenbosch, Tokai and Monte Vista, which seemed to suggest a location somewhere on the face of Table Mountain, and within 60 minutes, we had pinpointed the signal to be coming from Rhodes Memorial, where our agent was found and rescued.

Thanks to ZS1JFK, ZS1BR, ZS1L and yours truly for assisting in the search, and to Michael ZS1MJT for organizing the beacon.

Incidentally, may I remind those of you who use SARTrack to manage your APRS station, to update your software to the very necessary latest version, as advertised by SARTrack’s developer, Bart Kindt. You should have received his email on Monday the 15th.

Here’s an alarming and distressing story about an aircraft en route to Santiago from Florida, which had to divert to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport, because the pilot collapsed in the bathroom of the plane 3 hours after take-off, and was declared dead on arrival at Panama City.

The Flight took thirty minutes to divert to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport where the first responders declared Captain Ivan Andaur dead when the plane landed, as per an Independent report. 

“LATAM Airlines Group reports that flight LA505 yesterday, which was on the Miami-Santiago route, had to land at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City due to a medical emergency for one of the three members of the command crew. When the plane landed, emergency services provided life-saving help, but the pilot sadly passed away,” the airline said in a statement, as per the Independent report. 

“We are deeply moved by what has happened, and we extend our sincere condolences to the family of our employee. We are deeply grateful for his 25-year career and his valuable contribution, which was always distinguished by his dedication, and professionalism. During the flight, all the necessary safety protocols were carried out to safeguard the life of the affected pilot,” it added. 

After the incident, the flight resumed its journey from Panama City on Tuesday to Chile. 

In March this year, one of the pilots on board a Southwest Airlines flight fell ill and the plane had to return to Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas after departing for Columbus in Ohio. 

An off-duty pilot from another airline was on board the flight as a passenger and helped with radio communications as the flight returned to Nevada City, the report added. 

Thank goodness airlines have the good sense to have 2 competent fliers aboard all aircraft.

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

HAMNET Report 13th August 2023

As recently as Friday, the Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) was still reporting the threatening nature of Tropical Cyclone KHANUN, which, having done its dirty work over the islands of Japan, was making landfall over the central-southern coast of South Korea. Thankfully, it had dissipated to a certain extent, but was threatening the world Scout Jamboree happening there.

However, 65061 people in several prefectures of southern Japan were still under evacuation orders, and 16000 households had experienced power cuts.

One of our Western Cape HAMNET members is Ann Stanbridge, ZS1AMS, and she is very involved in the Girl Scouting movement. She told me that it was decided to evacuate all 30000 scouts and guides from the Jamboree, in more than 1000 buses, to safety, as a result of the threatening rains and flooding. A further 10000 non scouts were also evacuated from the coastal areas of South Korea. That evacuation must have involved some organizing!

As of Friday, the whole of South Korea was still under Typhoon warning. There has apparently been one fatality, and 15900 people evacuated. 14500 Korean families are without power and 361 facilities have been damaged.

Slovenia in central Europe has also been battered by rain. Euronews says that Intense flooding there has been described as the country’s ‘worst-ever natural disaster’.

At least four people have died and the resulting damage is estimated to be over €500 million. The catastrophic weather saw almost a month’s worth of rainfall in 24 hours and has cut off roads and bridges, and swamped many buildings. Tens of thousands of homes have been left without electricity in an event damaging two-thirds of the country.

According to the Slovenian Prime Minister, Robert Golob, “The damage is unimaginable, as practically two-thirds of Slovenia is affected in one way or another, and the efforts to enable normal life again will be very great.”

Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, with many rescued by helicopters or firefighters in boats.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised help from the EU saying that the damage in Slovenia was “heart-breaking”. The Slovenian government has also asked NATO for assistance in the form of military helicopters and prefabricated bridges.

At the same time, flash floods caused the deaths of 11 people in a landslide in Shovi, a mountain resort in Georgia. Around 200 people were also evacuated. Further flooding is reported by GDACS in India, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, China and Norway.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the same news report cites rising temperatures as having led to a slew of forest fires, including in Central-Western Portugal and the Spanish-French border, where residents have been evacuated. Fires have also broken out on Greek islands as well as on the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

Even Ukraine is feeling the heat. More than 18.5 per cent of the country is covered in forests making it particularly partial to wildfires. It has seen the most land burned between 2020 and 2022 of all EU countries. While this is partly due to climate change, a significant amount is down to the war with Russia.

And fire has almost burnt out the complete Hawain island of Maui, leaving 80 people dead by Friday, and hundreds unaccounted for. About 28000 visitors to the island were flown out on Wednesday and Thursday, and large numbers of the population evacuated to safety.

One does not have to look far for examples of extreme weather these days!

A local disaster has been reported by the NSRI which says that at 01h50 CAT, Tuesday, 8 August, NSRI Mossel Bay was alerted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services of a mayday distress call received on VHF marine radio, but very little information could be determined from the distress call other than it was suspected to have been broadcast from the Gouritz area, on the South Cape coastline.

The vessels name and position was not known, and neither were the number of persons on the vessel determined. All efforts to reach the vessel that had transmitted the mayday, had failed. A fishing vessel in the Gouritz area had also received part of the mayday distress call.                                                                                    

An NSRI Mossel Bay rescue vehicle and Mossel Bay Fire and Rescue Services responded to Gouritz River Mouth and initiated a search in West and East directions, along the shore line. Local Gouritz (CPF) Community Policing Forum members joined NSRI and Fire officers in that search.

During the search the NSRI rescue crew, 5km West of Gouritz River Mouth, happened upon a local fishing trawler washed up on rocks at about 03h00 CAT where the skipper of the casualty vessel was rescued from rocks in shallow surf. He claimed he had been conducting CPR on one of his 6 crew men, but that area of the rocks was by now covered by the high tide.

The skipper confirmed that there were a total of 7 people on board, including himself. One crewman could be heard shouting for help from the casualty fishing vessel that was badly damaged and was being battered by heavy waves.

An NSRI rescue swimmer was able to recover the man from the fishing vessel in rough seas. The skipper and the crewman were treated for hypothermia. The next morning four bodies were recovered from the sea, but a fifth crew member is still unaccounted for.

I have received a report from Ian Bradley ZS1BR, who has become enthusiastically involved in assisting at motor rallies in the Western Cape. He writes:

”On Saturday the 5th of August we had a blazing start to the All Tar Rally at Killarney race track. With 38 competitors starting at one-minute intervals the radio marshals had their hands full keeping track of everyone, especially on stages that had multiple laps of the circuit. This is an unusual arrangement as we’d normally have fewer cars at larger intervals, but thankfully the radio team brought their A-game, and comms worked like a well-oiled machine. The term “organised chaos” certainly comes to mind.

“The entire rally was confined to the tracks at Killarney, so simplex was our go-to communications method. Davy and Daniel were both situated with the commentators in the tower and operated as relay as needed.

“Several accidents delayed the event, and one stage had to be scrubbed halfway through due to a particularly bad crash. As always, medics and recovery crews were close at hand. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries to the participants; however, some of the cars didn’t fare quite as well.

“Special thanks to Davy ZR1FR, Daniel ZS1SCH, Roger ZR1AKK and Jannie ZS1JFK for making it a pleasant outing.”

And thanks to Ian too, for his part in the rally comms, and for writing the report.

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

HAMNET Report 6th August 2023

By last Sunday the milder warnings for Tropical Cyclone KHANUN, threatening to affect the southern tip of Japan, and the Japanese Islands, had been upgraded to a level RED warning. The uncertainty cone of danger seemed to be leaving most of mainland Japan unscathed, but GDACS reported that it was moving north-west over the Okinawa Islands. On Tuesday, its centre was located over the sea approximately 630 km south-east of the south-eastern coast of Okinawa Island, southern Japan, with maximum sustained winds of 194 km/h.

KHANUN was forecast to continue north-west strengthening and possibly crossing the southern Ryukyu Islands on 1-2 August bringing heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges as well as heavy rainfall with thunderstorms, strong winds and high gusts, and storm surge forecast, particularly over Okinawa Island which continues to be under a level RED warning.

On Friday, the Okinawa Island Fire and Disaster Management Agency reported 41 injured people in Okinawa and Kagoshima Prefectures. 198,000 people were still under evacuation orders in Okinawa prefecture. Power disruptions affected 200,000 homes, and only emergency cases were being treated at hospitals that had lost power.

KHANUN was forecast to change its direction turning north-east at the weekend. It would then cross the Tokunoshima and the Amami Islands on 6-7 August with maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h. Uncertainty about the trajectory and intensity projections persist, but heavy rain is expected to continue until 6 August in Okinawa and Amami, and the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau has issued yellow heavy rain and high wind advisories. 

Meanwhile, Beijing and nearby cities in China stepped up rescue and recovery work on Tuesday after rains and widespread flooding brought by remnants of Typhoon DOKSURI disrupted utility services and food supplies and claimed at least 20 lives.

Beijing’s Fangshan district said it would deploy helicopters to drop off food, drinking water and emergency supplies to villages in mountainous areas that have been cut off. In nearby Tianjin, where rain has become intermittent, 35,000 people have been evacuated from homes and the local government fortified river banks and stepped up the inspection and repairs of power, water and communications lines.

The death toll in Beijing rose to 11 on Tuesday with 13 people still missing, while in neighbouring Hebei province, nine people died and six were missing.

President Xi Jinping demanded thorough search and rescue efforts for those missing or trapped, instructing authorities to minimize casualties and restore living conditions to normal as soon as possible, state media reported. The finance ministry also announced it would allocate 110 million yuan ($15 million) for rescue work in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

DOKSURI, one of the strongest storms to hit China in years, weakened as it rolled inland and dumped non-stop precipitation in northern cities over a few days. Authorities have warned that risks of further floods and other geological disasters remained.

In a press release from the Government of Virgin islands, we read that eighty-three public officers and others have completed training in very high frequency (VHF) radiotelephone usage as part of the Department of Disaster Management’s ongoing training series.

Participants learned about radio communications technology; safety equipment; land mobile radio operation; practices for use during emergencies; as well as day-to-day operations. Once participants passed an exam, they also received a certificate to document their successful completion of the course.

DDM Training Manager Carishma Hicks said that interest in the use of VHF radio has risen in recent years for a variety of purposes.

“We saw a spike in interest after the impacts that took place in 2017 and it has not diminished since,” she said, adding that she was pleased to be able to bring a course to residents on Virgin Gorda as part of the most recent series.

“It can be challenging for sister islands residents to take advantage of these courses, so we were very happy to collaborate with the Sister Islands Programme to bring the course to Virgin Gorda,” Ms. Hicks added.

VHF radios are a key component of the Territory’s emergency communications system, as they can be used in the event that landline or mobile communications fail. The Virgin Islands VHF network is supported by four repeater sites located in Chalwell on Tortola, North Sound on Virgin Gorda, Peter Island and Jost Van Dyke.

The VHF radio course is offered at no charge and includes instruction on: radio theory; line of sight communications; common radio terms; regulations/licensing requirements; types of VHF radio equipment; radio procedures; transmitting and receiving; the phonetic alphabet and emergency radio communications.

Energyportal.eu reported on Thursday that a significant solar eruption recently struck Earth, the moon, and Mars simultaneously, marking an unprecedented event in history. The eruption occurred on August 2, 2023, and had far-reaching effects across the celestial bodies.

The eruption unleashed a powerful burst of solar particles, known as a solar flare. These particles travel at high speeds and are capable of causing disruptions in various electronic systems, such as satellites and power grids.

The impact on Earth was particularly notable, resulting in disruptions to radio communications and causing stunning auroras to appear in the sky. Auroras occur when the charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth’s magnetic field.

Interestingly, the solar eruption also affected the moon and Mars. While the moon does not have a substantial atmosphere or magnetosphere, the particles from the flare still had an impact. On Mars, which has a thin atmosphere and a weak magnetosphere, the effects were likely more pronounced.

The simultaneous impact of the solar eruption on these three celestial bodies provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the effects of such events in different environments. By analysing the data gathered from Earth, the moon, and Mars, researchers can gain valuable insights into the behaviour of solar flares and their impact on various planetary bodies.

There is just enough space left at the end of this bulletin of news to remind you that I welcome any news of useful communications in your area that might have aided persons in distress, or facilitated sporting events. Forthcoming attractions can also be mentioned, and any activity that used radio comms, such as animal tracking or direction finding, will also be welcome. Please send them to zs1dfr@gmail.com          Thank you.

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