Last Saturday night, tens of thousands of boisterous young South Koreans, freed at last of pandemic restrictions, surged into a Seoul nightlife neighbourhood to celebrate Halloween.
More than 150 of them died in a narrow alleyway in Itaewon, the popular entertainment district in central Seoul where they had crammed in to enjoy an October evening out.
While government officials have been mostly tight-lipped about what went wrong in Itaewon on Saturday evening, saying only that they were caught off guard, many are already placing blame for one of the worst peacetime disasters in South Korea’s history on the failure to police the crowd, even as it became evident that things were getting out of control.
Even on an ordinary weekend, the neighbourhood attracts a crowd. But this promised to be no ordinary weekend, and while the investigation was still continuing, on Monday questions were being raised about why no police officers were in Itaewon to provide crowd control at a well-known choke point near a busy subway station exit and a tight alleyway known for its high foot traffic.
As South Korea grappled to understand how a tragedy of this scale could have happened, no government agency seemed prepared to take full responsibility for the scores of people who were killed.
Last Sunday evening, India time, at least 141 people fell to their deaths in a river below when a 140 year old suspension bridge gave way. The bridge is a major tourist attraction in the town of Morbi, Gujarat state. It had recently been repaired, and only re-opened a week before the tragedy. A spokesman of the company which manages the bridge said there were too many people in the mid-section, and they were trying to sway it from one side to the other. This doesn’t seem a good thing to do with a 140 year old suspension bridge!
Nevertheless, police arrested nine people from the firm contracted to maintain and operate the bridge on charges that amount to culpable homicide. I’m sure it will be difficult to apportion blame, when the pedestrians were actively testing the vulnerability of the structure.
At midweek, GDACS was reporting that Tropical Cyclone NALGAE (known as PAENG in the Philippines) had crossed the central-northern Philippines on 28-30 October, bringing heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges that caused floods, landslides and severe weather-related incidents across most parts of the country.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), 98 people died, 63 were still missing and 69 had been injured. In addition, almost one million people were displaced, more than 100,000 pre-emptively evacuated, and almost two million affected across 17 Regions. The most affected Regions are BARMM in the southern Philippines (with 53 fatalities and almost 400,000 affected people), and Western Visayas in the central-western Philippines (with 19 fatalities and more than 800,000 affected people).
Three ghastly tragedies, over a weekend when Halloween fun and pleasure should have been the important memories.
Michael ZS1MJT and Danie ZS1OSS both sent me reports on the IARU Region 1 QO-100 satellite communications exercise held last Saturday morning, the 29th October.
Between them, they say that the idea was to register a capable microwave station with the organizer Greg Mossup, G0DUB and a message would then, at some stage through the exercise be sent to that participant via a net control system station (G4NRC), thereby giving each station the opportunity to be involved, send, and receive messages and test and play with the setup. Where would the fun in our hobby be if we were not playing?
It took our fellows no longer than 10 minutes to set up James, ZS1RBT’s station, and align the dish towards the satellite. The station operated without any Internet or grid power. Altogether it is a very neat and compact installation.
James explained to them what all the parts in the box were and their use. To avoid major signal loss at microwave frequencies, all components of the entire QO-100 unit should be as close as possible to each other.
A particular advantage of a QO-100 station is that, as long as it is in the satellite’s footprint (Southern Africa up to Europe and from the Eastern edge of South America to Indonesia), it has a strong and clear signal from anywhere, and is not dependent upon times of the day which typically affect HF propagation.
The exercise started at 11h00 SAST and went on until 13h00. They operated under the call sign ZS1DZ and 2 messages were received and, in turn, 2 replies were sent. Although all tests on the day were voice tests, the satellite can also handle data such as Winlink e-mail, FT8 and so on.
Michael thanks James for bringing his equipment to Tygerberg Provincial Emergency Management Centre where it was set up and operated.
He also thanked Allan, ZS1AL and Danie, ZS1OSS for joining and taking part in the exercise. Thank you for the reports, Gentlemen.
For his part, Greg Mossop G0DUB reports that he had 14 stations taking part from 9 countries, and that David M0TGC did a good job running the control station G4NRC. QO-100 provides good wide area communication when HF is not consistent, and sunspot maximum has not yet arrived.
Danie ZS1OSS has also reported on the Koeberg Nuclear Exercise held on Friday morning, in a virtual form. All the agencies that might have been involved in a radiation risk accident assembled their controllers at Goodwood Disaster Risk Management Centre, and a busy morning of role playing it was too.
In Danie’s inimitable style, his report is very thorough, and comprehensive, but too long to include here. Suffice it to say that the greater Cape Peninsula was saved from a radiation disaster of a virtual kind, and lots of lessons were learnt. Thank you Danie!
I’d like to end by paying tribute to the life of Richard Brunton G4TUT. He singlehandedly produced Southgate Amateur Radio News, from which you have heard me quote excerpts so many times in the last 8 years. The behind-the-scenes work he put in to scanning the communications world for items to enhance our amateur radio experience was unending. We have lost a huge asset to amateur radio. Our condolences are expressed to his family and friends.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.