HAMNET Report 12th June 2022

From the Pacific Ring of Fire, GDACS reports that, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the activity of Mount Bulusan continues. Over the past 24 hours, five volcanic earthquakes have been recorded, and the ash plume reached 250 m above the crater drifting north-northwest.

Following the huge phreatic eruption of 5 June, 418 people were evacuated into two temporary shelters located in Juban Town, while the number of affected people stands at 16,400 across 11 barangays, located  in Sorsogon Province (Bicol Region, southern Luzon, central Philippines).

The alert level is placed at 1 (Low Level of Volcanic Unrest), but an entry ban to a radius of 4 km is still in effect.

From AJU Business Daily comes an interesting report that South Korea’s science ministry will develop a technology to monitor underwater disasters such as submarine earthquakes and tsunamis in real-time and overcome the limitations of seismological observatories on land that cannot accurately identify the exact location, epicentre and scale of underwater earthquakes.

The Ministry of Science and ICT launched a pilot project to establish a surveillance network that can monitor underwater earthquakes, tsunamis and slope collapse in real-time and quickly spread related information using wireless networks. Some 24 billion won ($19.1 million) will be invested for five years starting in 2022.

The project would help the ministry analyse geological environments in the sea off the east coast and select candidate sites for submarine disasters. A prototype for an underwater wireless observation network will be created to transmit data observed on the seabed to build a real-time platform for data collection, storage, analysis and management.

“We will cooperate with the Korea Meteorological Administration successfully to carry out the project so that the research outcomes can contribute to early warnings,” an unnamed maritime ministry official said in a statement on June 9. The ministry said the new technology can be used in other sectors.

Being on the Pacific Ring of Fire, as the circular earthquake-prone ring around the Pacific is called, South Korea needs all the advance warning of earthquakes or tsunamis it can get, and the same is true of all other countries on the ring.

On 12 May 2022, a Zambian-registered truck hauling a tanker of hydrochloric acid left the northbound carriageway of the N3 near Howick and plunged down an embankment onto the south-bound freeway.

Miraculously, the south-bound fast lane of the country’s busiest highway was free of traffic at that moment. A collision setting off a hydrochloric acid explosion would have spewed clouds of highly flammable hydrogen gas and toxic chlorine gas into the air.

The municipality dodged an even deadlier bullet on 11 February when hundreds of travellers on the N3 approaching Pietermaritzburg from Durban diced with disaster when a fully laden LPG tanker overturned near Ashburton.

Motorists and their passengers, many en route to the Midmar Mile, were oblivious to the potential catastrophe. All it needed was a spark to ignite the highly flammable load of 8,500 litres of compressed gas.

Preventing almost certain death on the highway and, in Ashburton, straddling the N3 that Friday afternoon were two emergency response trucks summoned from the Pietermaritzburg and Durban fire services. For hours that afternoon, through the night and well into the next morning, the trucks hosed down the tanker to prevent an inferno.

The vehicles were called out because the Umgungundlovu District Municipality was incapable of rendering an adequate emergency service. The UMDM’s fire truck dispatched from its station at Ashburton was not equipped to deal with the emergency.

Of deep concern to professionals in the industry was that emergency protocols designed to mitigate catastrophic disasters were being ignored. In the case of the hydrochloric acid spill, traffic, including heavy trucks, sped past the accident seemingly oblivious to the danger.

The LPG spill in February should have resulted in traffic being stopped on both carriageways, and the evacuation of people from their cars, and officials moving  them at least 800m away. Even that wouldn’t have been enough if the tanker had caught alight, according to Joe Nassar of Starstruck Fire Services.

He explained that LPG expands to 270 times the volume of gas it occupies as a liquid, and that the force of the blast would have hurled the tanker 100m into the air.

It would also have unleashed a giant fireball and a fiery gas cloud would have blanketed an area of 3km2. Because LPG is heavier than air, the flames would latch on to any combustible material to keep burning.

Cars and their fuel tanks would have been fodder for the perfect firestorm.

We can all be very thankful that both of these disasters were avoided. Thanks to the Daily Maverick for this excerpt from their article.

Here’s a worrying if funny report from TMZ.com.

The good folks at M&M Mars had a genuine chocolate disaster on their hands … 2 people got trapped in a chocolate factory vat — not on purpose, we think — and they required a “jaws of life” type rescue.

What sounds like a scene straight outta “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” went down ten days ago at an M&M Mars plant in Lancaster County … not too far from Hershey, PA.

It’s unclear right now how the 2 people fell into the vat, but authorities reportedly had to cut a hole in the side of the tank to get them out.

The first victim was reportedly rescued around 3:10 PM, and the second was extricated about 15 minutes later. No word yet on if the vat was filled to the brim or empty when the victims went down.

And, yes … they’re still victims, even if they were possibly swimming in chocolate.

No word on either person’s condition right now, but according to reports they were alive when cops pulled them out.

Hmm, I think if that had happened to me, I’d have evaded rescue for as long as possible!

Finally, a warning to all listeners in the Western half of the country: A massive frontal system will arrive today (Sunday), bringing icy conditions, and about 3 inches of rain, to the Western Cape. Please avoid low ground, and keep your radios on emergency frequencies to be ready to respond if needed.

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