HAMNET Report 20th February 2022

The New York Times is reporting on a devastating flood and mudslide in the region of the city of Petropolis in Brazil, after a month’s worth of rainfall fell overnight on Tuesday night, killing at least 104 people.

The mayor of Petropolis, a historic city nestled in mountains some 70 miles from Rio de Janeiro’s beaches, said the death toll could still rise. A similar disaster killed more than 900 people in the area in 2011. Many experts say such extreme weather events are becoming more common with global warming.

Intense rainfall starting on Tuesday evening caused mudslides that tore down dozens of homes on the hillsides above Petropolis and caused flooding that did more damage in the streets below. Images and videos on social media showed rivers of mud rushing through the city’s streets, sweeping everything away: cars, trees, and sometimes people.

The rains that caused the devastation were the heaviest the city had seen since 1952, Brazil’s National Meteorological Institute said.

“What we saw was a really extreme event,” said Cássia de Castro Martins Ferreira, a researcher at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, who studies extreme weather events in the region. “It didn’t rain — it was an extraordinary amount of water that poured down.”

For many of Petropolis’s residents, the disaster was a painful reminder of 2011, when similar mudslides killed more than 900 people in the region — the worst natural disaster in Brazil’s history.

Petropolis’ unique geography makes it vulnerable to extreme rainfall, Ms. Castro said. The region is often where hot-air masses coming from the coast clash with the colder temperatures common at higher altitudes, which can cause storms.

“We have an enormous number of extreme weather events in Petropolis, related exactly to its location,” she said. But another risk, she said, “is the way that the city has grown.”

As Petropolis has expanded, residents have moved into the hills, clearing forests that once acted as a buffer against mudslides and building homes on terrain that is often too steep and unsuitable for development.

Search and rescue efforts are still continuing in the ever-diminishing hope of finding more survivors.

Southgate Amateur Radio News tells us that an item which has been picked up already by hams in both IARU Region 1 and 2 and also passed to Oscar Reyes VK’s IARU 3 representative came from Geoff VK4ZPP

It’s to do with listening, and responding to emergency traffic. Geoff says:

“Now the regional list of emergency traffic frequencies is regularly published, but we don’t appear to have any pattern or system for monitoring them.

“Certainly the authorities can say we have international response networks and the amateur radio service isn’t necessary. However, there are many people in various places on the globe that do have amateur radio and HF CB as local communications or for recreational use. Many people have complained of the tedium of having to isolate during the pandemic and I have seen that several skeds have appeared on an ad hoc basis just to allow people to call in and interact with others.

“The international net for sailors goes on, particularly on 20 metres, and on the land mobile services in this country, listening watches are maintained. With time on our hands and equipment on the bench, just what would it take to tune into one of these emergency frequencies and spend some time just monitoring whilst going on with the days routine? What would it take to have clubs organise a roster of willing members to fill the spots on a roster and how much more would it take to have a national contact point to action matters such as reports?

“To me this doesn’t seem like a radical proposal or an onerous task for any one person. Even operators by themselves could do this. We think of ourselves as person to person communicators and the bulk of the time there will just be the usual noise we expect with no signals to monitor. I know there are people who spent many hours monitoring on the CB band emergency channels and there are still CB operators doing this.

“With the band conditions providing interesting DX we can no longer say that listening out on emergency frequencies will simply be local. Region 3 is a very much populated and at the same time a very remote cluster of radio operators in our part of the world. I believe we have an opportunity to make a small but perhaps profoundly important contribution in times of need.”

Thanks to Geoff Emery VK4ZPP for this opinion.

In fact, Greg Mossop G0DUB has already published the 3 page long list of HF emergency Comms frequencies used around region 1 of the IARU, and it is available from me at my email address if you haven’t already got it.

Southgate also reports that the RSGB sponsored TV show called TX Factor, is back, after a year’s break.

Bob and Mike get to grips with constructing a digital voice modem using an MMDVM module kit and Raspberry Pi Zero, and Bob reviews the long-awaited ID-52 5W hand-held transceiver from ICOM.

There’s a chance to win a bundle of books from the RSGB in the free-to-enter draw, and you’ll find a quick overview of EMF requirements during the show.

I’m looking forward to watching this relaxed style of amateur radio presentation.

Alister van Tonder, ZS1OK, has recently retired from his senior position in the City of Cape Town’s communications department, and has decided to relinquish his role in the radio room at the Disaster Management Centre in Goodwood.

Single-handedly, he supervised the acquisition and installation of a first-class radio station there, with sufficient HF, VHF, UHF, and digital capability to relay across bands a variety of Western Cape news bulletins, to manage Echolink, APRS and packet networks, and to run JS8Call, all directly or remotely.

Yesterday, at a meeting of a small group of computer-savvy HAMNET members, he started the process of teaching newcomers how to continue to run the various aspects of ZS1DCC which he established, in the course of the last 10 years or so.

HAMNET Western Cape is hugely grateful to him for the effort he has put in to create the emergency comms station for the City of Cape Town, and we are seriously sorry to see him retire from the position he so competently held. Enjoy your retirement, Alister!

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