HAMNET Report 19th May 2024

A final report coming from the George building collapse disaster says that the rescuers have come to the conclusion that there were not 81 people on site when it collapsed, but in fact 62. The removal of rubble down to the basement has revealed no more casualties, and so the statistics stand at 33 deaths, and 29 people rescued alive. Some of those 29 are still in hospital, but all present when the building collapsed have now been accounted for.

Our thoughts rest with the families of the victims who died, but we must be thankful that the death toll was not higher. The plot will now start to thicken as the investigation into the defects behind the collapse properly starts.

In other areas we learn that floods from heavy rainfall in southern Brazil over the last month have resulted in 144 deaths, 130 people missing, 806 injured, 540000 displaced and more the 2.1 million folks affected across 445 municipalities.

River levels are rising in neighbouring Argentina, resulting in evacuations in north-eastern Argentina. No casualties have been reported.

And in Indonesia, the cold Lahar, which is a cold mixture of water and volcanic deposits that flows down the slopes of a volcano and typically enters a river valley, triggered by very heavy rainfall that occurred in the upstream area of Mount Marapi, West Sumatra province on 11 May, has caused flash floods and mudslides to hit several regencies and cities in the province. 

According to the National Agency for Disaster Countermeasure (BNPB), 58 people have died, 35 people have been reported missing, 33 others have been injured and more than 1,500 families have been affected. In addition, several roads and bridges have been damaged and flooded. Search, rescue and relief activities are being conducted by the authorities.

Eric Ralls, writing in Earth.com says that, on Tuesday, May 14th, 2024, at approximately 16:51 UTC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported widespread radio blackouts across North America due to a powerful solar flare.

This particular solar flare, classified as an X8.8, is the strongest recorded in the current solar cycle, which began in December of 2019.

The solar flare originated from the same sunspot AR 3664, which has been actively bombarding Earth with energized particles over the past week.

This sunspot has grown immensely and is now bigger than the diameter of 17 Earths — a size comparable to the one responsible for the historic 1859 Carrington event, which caused telegraph stations to catch fire and disrupted global communications.

Dr. Tamitha Skov, a space weather physicist, told DailyMail.com, “As for the big X-flare, it’s the biggest of the cycle thus far. It would have been our first R4-level radio blackout, but it was partially blocked by the sun.”

That is because AR 3664 has rotated off to the right hand side (or western limb) of the sun, and this solar flare would not have been directly aimed at Earth. Just as well, because another Carrington Event would have had far greater electronic consequences than the 1859 version.

The sunspot number as of yesterday afternoon was 169, which is high and so we are very close to the peak of solar cycle 25. As the old saying goes, the fat lady has not sung yet, so there may be plenty more geomagnetic surprises awaiting us.

Unfortunately last weekend’s very high Planetary K index and geomagnetic storming prevented the operators at the various Mills activated on International Mill Day from making any international contacts. The shortwave bands were buried in high electromagnetic noise levels, which was disappointing, but to be expected.

Defenceweb.co.za reports that it has taken 22 years to finalise an upgrade of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) combat net radio (CNR) systems, with SA Army brigade, division and formation commanding officers hearing upgraded radio communications being tested by South African Army elements in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The taking into service of improved and technologically updated combat net radios – as per Project Radiate – was imparted during a project outcome briefing with a view to force-wide implementation and utilisation in KwaZulu-Natal’s New Germany, where contractor Reutech Communications is headquartered.

The project started in 2002 with Reutech Communications and the SANDF Command and Management Information Systems (CMIS) Division jointly at the helm.

The first CNR units to be sent to the DRC formed part of extensive Operational Testing and Evaluation with reports from the central African country indicating the radios performed well under “wet and nasty conditions”.

The new tactical radios allow for inter-service and division operability as specified in project documentation. The CNRs operate on HF, VHF and UHF frequencies with secure voice and data network links for ground to air, ground-based and naval applications. The new radios are reverse compatible with older still-in-service units.

Reutech’s landward radios are Link-ZA compatible and feature encryption, frequency hopping and fitted GPS receivers for situational awareness. The radios Reutech is supplying to the SANDF under Project Radiate were designed as a family from the outset for ease of use across all systems for logistics and human-machine interface functionality. Around 4 000 vehicle radios were ordered, with similar numbers of man portable radios.

It is good to know that the SANDF is keeping up with modern encrypted communication systems.

To end, a quick good-news story about a 74 year old paddler called Terrence from Schoenmakerskop, who was tipped out of his paddle-ski by a cresting wave, before he had time to lash himself to his boat, and then caught in a riptide as he attempted to swim back to shore, because his ski had been washed away from him. His friend Norrie, also in a paddle-ski saw what happened, paddled back to him, and kept him afloat for over two hours as Noordhoek Ski Boat Club’s NSRI satellite station launched their rescue boat which is docked 10 km away by road.

Norrie kept his friend awake in the icy water by engaging him in constant conversation, but Terrence was too hypothermic to swim unaided to the rescue boat when it arrived, so a rescue swimmer was deployed to pull him out of the water.

Terrence was too cold to speak, and was “huddled” by two NSRI crew members while they raced back to shore. There a Gardmed Ambulance rushed him to hospital where he was admitted to critical care with stage 4 hypothermia, requiring intubation and rewarming medical treatment. Terrence woke up within 24 hours and has made a complete recovery. He says he has not been put off paddling at all, but will be following all the safety rules far more carefully in future.

I’m sure you would join me in commending his friend Norrie for his assistance, and the NSRI for effecting a successful rescue.

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