HAMNET Report 17th September 2023

Morocco’s magnitude 6.8 earthquake of the 8th of September, at a depth of 18.5km turned out to have devastating consequences for the local population, with the United Nations saying that, as of 12th September, at least 2900 people had died (most of them are recorded in the Al Haouz and Taroudant Provinces) while more than 5500 others had been injured. In addition, extensive damage to buildings was reported, families were still trapped under the rubble, and others were displaced.

UNICEF reported at least 100,000 impacted children, and thousands of destroyed houses that resulted in a huge number of displaced families. In addition schools, hospitals and other medical and educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed across the affected area.

It has also been reported that the Civil Protection service in Morocco is ‘militarised’ and from media reports it looks like all resources in the country are being mobilised to respond to this disaster.

Offers of help from various IARU Region One countries offering to send rescue teams with radio comms to Morocco have apparently been politely declined. The number of amateurs in Morocco interested in Emcomms is small, and as a result, the Moroccan government is apparently not aware of the important role such IARU teams might be able to play.

It has therefore been suggested that It is probably too early for great links to have been made between Amateur Radio and the local authorities before the disaster, and during a disaster it is of course too late.

But Morocco’s earthquake was overshadowed by the flooding in the region of the town of Derna, Libya, after Storm Daniel crossed the Mediterranean from Greece, Turkiye and Bulgaria, where it caused the loss of 26 lives in flooding there, and struck the eastern part of Libya, and particularly this town of Derna. Libya’s National Centre of Meteorology reported that more than 400mm of rain fell in the nearby city of Al Bayda within a 24-hour period up to Sunday.

Time’s website reported on Friday that at least 11,300 people had died, and more than 10,000 were believedmissing after the storm broke through two dams that protected Libya’s eastern coastal city of Derna from flooding. Experts estimate that the floods unleashed approximately 30 million cubic metres of water onto the city—the hardest hit part of Libya—washing away entire neighbourhoods

Other eastern cities, including Libya’s second biggest city Benghazi, were also hit by the storm, which displaced at least 63000 people. Tamer Ramadan, head of a delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the death toll would be “huge”.

Now the ARRL Newsletter for Thursday the 14th says that Tropical Cyclone LEE is expected to impact portions of New England in the north eastern United States and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada.

The storm has had the full attention of forecasters and the volunteer organizations that coordinate Amateur Radio response to hurricanes.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) groups are in an elevated state of readiness and alert ahead of the storm.

ARRL Sections in the areas forecast to be impacted are preparing for activation. Section Manager of the ARRL Maine Section Phil Duggan, N1EP, sent an email to members in the section on Thursday encouraging them to ready their stations and homes. “Because of all the rain we have been getting, the likelihood of trees toppling is increased and most likely power outages [also],” he wrote. Duggan said the Washington County ARES group would be on the air starting Friday.

The ARRL’s letter also notes that, on September 9, 2023, the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club (BARC) in northern Utah provided amateur radio communications support during LoToJa, the longest 1-day USA Cycling (USAC)-sanctioned bicycle race in America. The LoToJa course consists of 320 km of rough, mountainous terrain. BARC was prepared for the challenge and had been training and working on their communications plans for more than 3 decades.

The club’s involvement with LoToJa began in 1991, when the race had 200 riders and 14 amateur radio operators. This year’s event had 1,700 riders and 120 amateur radio operators, including 35 cars with amateur radio operators along for the ride. Amateur radio was engaged in every aspect of the race from start to finish thanks to assistance from operators from Ogden, Davis County, and Salt Lake City, as well as Idaho, Wyoming, and Maryland.

Section Manager of the ARRL Utah Section Pat Malan, N7PAT, said that BARC members evaluate their operating skills and equipment, which is the best form of preparation for emergency communications. “It’s a tremendous effort and dedication from everyone,” Malan said.

Here’s one for the dog-lovers amongst you. Conservationists have found that a terrier named Dory is better at finding sea turtle eggs in nests than humans. For their study, reported in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, Rebekah Lindborg, Pepe Peruyero and Blair Witherington used the dog to monitor sea turtle nests along a five-mile stretch of Vero Beach in Florida.

Prior research has shown that many species of sea turtles’ survival are at risk due to a variety of causes, one of which is loss of land for nest-building. Sea turtles dig holes in the sand by the seashore to build nests into which they lay their eggs. The turtles that hatch in the nests must then make their way to the sea and overcome a myriad of hurdles to survive.

Over the past several years, conservationists around the globe have been working to protect sea-turtle nests, hoping to improve their odds of survival. Conservationists must first find the eggs in their nests, which can be difficult. The usual method is to follow the tracks of the turtle that made the nest as it crawled out of the sea and then back to the ocean.

The dog, a stray, had been found along a highway in Florida. It was believed to be a mix of terrier breeds, which are known for tracking creatures that make nests in holes in the ground. After several months of training at a test site, Dory was deemed ready to help find real turtle eggs in real nests. She was pitted against human nest seekers, with the humans searching some days and the dog other days, along the same stretch of beach.

At the conclusion of the competition, Dory was found to have discovered 560 nests while the humans found only 256, though the researchers acknowledge that Dory worked more days. Still, they suggest, she was a better finder. She was much better, they note, at choosing where to dig to look for a nest, which reduced the workload.

And I ask myself, why am I not surprised?

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