REPORT 1 January 2017

Greg Mossop G0DUB has sent us a summary of the Super Typhoon situation in the Philippines, provided by Jim Linton VK3PC, and I quote:

‘Six people have been killed and more than 380,000 evacuated as Super Typhoon Nock-Ten (locally called Nina) cut a path through the Philippines, with the Ham Radio Emergency (HERO) net activated in advance. The Christmas Day disaster cut power to five provinces, downed trees, caused widespread damage, and dimmed the festive occasion in Asia’s largest Catholic nation.

‘The slow moving typhoon made landfall seven times from Sunday evening until noon on Monday. Jojo Vicencio DU1VHY says: “A truly commendable job was done by many radio amateurs who not only gave up their traditional Christmas activities, but had on occasion to stop transmissions because they were in the storm path.”

‘In the Catanduanes were Sider DU4SLT of ARCC, Dexter DU4DXT and Joseph DV4PGS, Joseph of ISLACOM, with other groups in Bicol and Samar-Leyte. All were on HF, and VHF communications were also active.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says that, as the typhoon first made landfall some network stations were off air, with weather reports for Catanduanes of sustained winds in excess of the 200kph mark. Then gradually stations came back giving reports of the terrible damage that had occurred in their areas. As the typhoon swept along the Southern Tagalong areas it made landfall several times. Mannduque was badly hit too, as reported by HERO.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says: “It created a large swath of destruction and debris – uprooted and fallen trees and posts, landslides, impassable roads and other damage. Even our own HERO’s were not spared.”

‘The reports were quickly gathered by the network and relayed to authorities, some tuned in to the HERO net themselves.

‘ “The HEROs persistence in getting back on air, primarily to update the network of hams is truly admirable,” he said.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says: “It has now become a reality that our emergency calling frequency is the most listened to during disasters. Government operators listened in, and some even revealed their presence.

‘ “Armed Forces station Peacemaker in Catarman, for example, broke into the frequency looking for a counterpart station also in Northern Samar.

‘ “A National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) volunteer operator made his presence known saying they were also monitoring.”

‘The Office of Civil Defence (OCD) has two stations that constantly visited the HERO net. From Leyte to Quezon the HERO communications on 7.095 MHz never faltered.

‘Jojo DU1VHY says: “Thank you to all those who willingly gave up their Christmas time to be of service to others. We all must continue to hone our communications skills to meet and be prepared for the future.”

‘About 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, with emergency communications to the community and other agencies provided by the HERO network.’ End quote.

Good news issued by the World Health Organisation this week reveals that an experimental Ebola vaccine was highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial, according to results published in The Lancet last week. The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published last year. The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, was studied in a trial involving 11841 people in Guinea during 2015.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author. Good news indeed. We await with eager anticipation the announcement of a similar vaccine for the AIDS virus!

As usual, the Dam report for South Africa for the week just finished makes depressing reading. The Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Lesotho, North West and Northern Cape dams all show no change on last week’s levels, but are on average between 10 and 12% lower than the same week last year. Limpopo province has shown a 3% increase over last week, now at 49%, compared to 66 last year, Mpumulanga has gained 2% on last week to 56%, but still less than last year’s 63%, and only North West shows a 10% higher figure than last year, now at 57% full.

Apparently, there have been some quite good rains here and there, but not enough to make appreciable differences to the province’s averages. The Western Cape is in its dry season, and there will have to be a significant wet winter season to get their dams into a state capable of supplying water for the next summer at the end of 2017. To a greater extent, the other provinces rely on Summer rainfall to provide their potable water, and we watch with concern the patchy nature of the rainfall so far.

On a more optimistic note, may I take the opportunity to wish all my listeners and readers a happy healthy and prosperous New Year, full of useful amateur radio activities, showing a keen spirit of volunteerism, and getting involved in helping our fellow citizens when called to help. That’s what we do so well!

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