News briefs:May 18, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : Two bombings in the middle east leaves dozens killed and injured; President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai meets with UK's new Prime Minister, a 24 year old teacher is returned to France and in history, today is the thirtieth anniversary of Mount Saint Helens eruption in Washington State.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (3:24 - 3:37)
Today is Tuesday, May 18th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
A bomb explosion in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan has killed at least twelve people. The Deputy Superintendent of Police was said to be the target and the bomb, which was planted on a bicycle, killed the superintendent along with the driver and guard of his convoy. Officials stated the bomb, which was remote controlled, was detonated when he had been leaving his house as he was entering his car.
The death toll was confirmed at 12 dead and 10 wounded who are being treated at a local hospital. According to the head of the hospital's casualty department, "The dead included three policemen, including one officer, and nine civilians," and that there were women and children among the dead. A state of emergency has been declared by the hospital.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Across the border in Afghanistan,
a car bomb attack which targeted a NATO convoy in the capital of Kabul, has killed or wounded dozens of people. The death toll was not confirmed, and estimates range from ten to twenty deaths. 47 people were injured in the attack.
The incident occurred at the Darulaman crossroads, near a US-Afghan military base and the parliament. According to Iain Baxter, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, the target of the attack was an ISAF convoy. Six NATO troops died in the attack alongside several civilians. The bomber had been driving a car filled with explosives, which was detonated at around 0815 local time.
The Taliban claimed have responsibility for the attack, saying a resident of Kabul had been sent to "destroy five foreign vehicles and damage one more ... Today's attack was part of the Al Fatah operation and we will continue attacking foreigners and government security forces and their associates,".
Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, said on national television that it was a "heartbreaking" attack and that "We are condemning the attack in the strongest terms."
Karzai visited the UK for talks with newly-elected Prime Minister David Cameron. The meeting took place at Chequers, the prime minister's official country residence and is Cameron's first since last week's general election. Karzai was en route back to Afghanistan from a visit to the United States where he held talks with President Barack Obama.
Downing Street called the meeting "an opportunity for early discussions" between the Afghan president and the new prime minister, pointing out that Karzai himself had requested the meeting to follow up on conversations the two leaders had had while Cameron was leader of the opposition.
According to a spokesman, the discussions had centered around Karzai's visit to the US, which he called "very successful", and "[b]oth the president and prime minister agreed that the relationship between Afghanistan and Britain should be further strengthened [...] The president and the prime minister expressed their admiration for the courage and skill of the British military in Afghanistan, and the sacrifices that British forces have made".
After the meeting with Karzai, Cameron held further discussions with his Defense Secretary Liam Fox along with senior civil servants and service chiefs. The UK's contingent of the NATO force in Afghanistan currently numbers around 9,500— the second largest contingent after the United States.
24-year-old Clotilde Reiss, a French teaching assistant who had been detained in Iran for ten months, returned to France Sunday.
Iranian officials arrested Reiss as she was about to leave the country on July 1, 2009. The arrest came after she had attended a protest regarding the country's elections, with the officials calling her a foreign spy. Reiss was in Iran for a five-month teaching position in Isfahan, and was later sent from Tehran's Evin Prison to the French Embassy on bail.
During the trial, which included over 100 others who were thought to be trying to start a coup, she pleaded not guilty and said that she only went to the protest because she was curious. Reiss was originally given two five-year sentences of jail time for spying and provoking unrest, but the sentence was reduced to a fine equal to about about USD300,000. Reiss' lawyer said that the money was given on Saturday, freeing the young academic.
Reiss landed at Vélizy – Villacoublay Air Base Sunday afternoon. She met French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Élysée Palace in Paris shortly after. Sarkozy later released a statement thanking the presidents of Brazil, Senegal, and Syria for aiding in Reiss' return, but did not elaborate on the role each played.
The governments of both France and Iran have denied rumors that Reiss' freedom was part of a deal involving two Iranians in France. One of the two, Majid Kakavand, was released a couple of weeks ago after France refused on May 5 to extradite him to the U.S.
The other, Ali Vakili Rad, will likely receive parole and return to Iran later today. Kakavand had supposedly tried to give U.S. goods to the Iranian military, while Rad was responsible for the assassination of former Iranian Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar in 1991.
Australian rules football: Interview with Andy Thissling, statistician for the Traralgon Football Club senior side (5:38)
For those of you who have been keeping up with the Gippsland Football League, Wikinews contributor Patrick Gillett interviewed Andy Thissling of the Traralgon Football Club. Andy is the statistician for the Gippsland Football League clubs senior side.
The Gippsland Football League is the only major Australian rules football competition in the Gippsland region according to the Victorian Country Football League.
Please visit wikinews.org to read Gillett's interview as well as other, exclusive wikinews interviews from around the world.
On this day in history (6:09)
It was 30 years ago today that Mount Saint Helens in Washington State erupted causing massive damage to the landscape and killing 57 people, as well thousands of animals and damaging or destroying more than 4 billion board feet of timber, mainly by the lateral blast.
The eruption was classified on the 9 point Volcanic Explosivity Index as a VEI 5 event, meaning an event that releases a volume of at least 1 cubic kilometer with immediate exceptional effects on the surrounding area. Such events average about once per 50 years around the globe and Mt. St. Helens was the only significant eruption to occur in the lower 48 U.S. states since the 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak in California which was actually slightly more powerful.
The event began back on March 15, 1980 with the detection of several small earthquakes which indicated that magma may have begun moving below the volcano. Prior to this, Mount. St. Helens had remained dormant from its last period of activity in the 1840s and 1850s. Then on March 18 at 3:45 p.m. local time, a shallow 4.2 magnitude earthquake, centered below the volcano's north flank, signaled the volcano's violent return after 123 years of hibernation.
A gradually building earthquake swarm saturated area seismographs and started to climax at about noon on March 25, reaching peak levels in the next two days, including an earthquake registering 4.5 on the Richter scale. A total of 174 shocks of magnitude 2.6 or greater were recorded during those two days.
Then, on March 27th,
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (03:49 - 04:15)
Two days later, on March 29th, a second, new crater and a blue flame, probably created by burning gases, was observed on the mountain. Static electricity generated from ash clouds rolling down the volcano sent out lightning bolts that were up to two miles long. Ninety-three separate outbursts were reported on March 30th, and increasingly strong harmonic tremors were first detected on April 1, alarming geologists and prompting Governor Dixy Lee Ray to declare a state of emergency on April 3.
With scientists now in place all around the mountain, predictions of what may happen became more accurate, especially those of David A. Johnston, a vulcanologist from the United States Geological Survey.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (4:28 - 4:52)
However, not everyone was heading the warnings,
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (5:46 - 6:00)
For the rest of April and early May a bulge on the mountain was growing 5 to 6 ft per day, and by mid-May it had extended more than 400 feet north. This bulge presumably corresponded to the volume of magma below that was pushing into the volcano, deforming its surface. Geologists announced that sliding of the bulge area was the greatest immediate danger.
Again, David Johnston,
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (4:53 - 5:12)
Yet, despite the warnings and visible signs of the mountain preparing to erupt, some people who lived in the area had no intention of leaving. Most famously was Harry R. Truman, the owner of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake, right at the base of the mountain.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (6:11 - 6:20)
At 7 a.m. on May 18, USGS vulcanologist David A. Johnston, who had Saturday night duty at an observation post about 6 miles north of the volcano, radioed in the results of some laser-beam measurements he had made moments earlier. Mount St. Helens' activity that day did not show any change from the pattern of the preceding month. The rate of bulge movement, sulfur dioxide emission, and ground temperature readings did not reveal any unusual changes that might have indicated a catastrophic eruption.
Suddenly, at 8:32 a.m., a magnitude 5.1 earthquake centered directly below the north slope triggered that part of the volcano to slide, approximately 10 seconds after the shock. One of the largest landslides in recorded history, the slide traveled at 110 to 155 miles per hour and moved across Spirit Lake's west arm.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (6:52-7:30 / background audio used for following 2 clips)
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (11:25 - 12:01)
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (9:26 - 9:30)
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (7:47 - 8:17)
Most of St. Helens' former north side became a rubble deposit 17 miles long, averaging 150 feet thick. Thousands of trees were torn from the surrounding hillside after the lake was sloshed 800 feet up the hillside. All the water in Spirit Lake was temporarily displaced by the landslide, sending 600-foot high waves crashing into a ridge north of the lake. As the water moved back into its basin, it pulled with it thousands of trees felled by a super-heated wall of volcanic gas and searing ash and rock that overtook the landslide seconds before.
Gary Rosenquist, who was camping 11 miles away from the blast, managed to take a series of photographs of the initial blast which allowed scientists to be able to reconstruct the landslide.
Rosenquist, and his photographs survived because the blast was deflected by local topography 1 mile short of his location, however, Harry R. Truman and David A. Johnston were not so fortunate; both men were killed in the blast.
The event was the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed and 200 homes, 27 bridges, 15 miles of railways and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. In all, the cost of the eruption was $1.1 billion dollars in damage.
Then U.S. President Jimmy Carter surveyed the damage and said it looked more desolate than a moonscape. A film crew was dropped by helicopter on St. Helens on May 23 to document the destruction. Their compasses, however, spun in circles and they quickly became lost.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (10:27 - 10:43)
In all, Mount St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 megatons of which was a direct result of the blast. This is equivalent to 1,600 times the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
The ash fall created some temporary but major problems with transportation, sewage disposal, and water treatment systems. Visibility was greatly decreased during the ash fall, closing many highways and roads. Interstate 90 from Seattle to Spokane was closed for a week and a half. Air travel was disrupted up to 2 weeks as several airports in eastern Washington shut down because of ash accumulation and poor visibility.
Fine-grained, gritty ash caused substantial problems for internal-combustion engines and other mechanical and electrical equipment. The ash contaminated oil systems and clogged air filters, and scratched moving surfaces. Fine ash caused short circuits in electrical transformers, which in turn caused power blackouts.
Though the area around the eruption was devastated, some life had survived.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (15:28 - 15:59)
- Music clip Orange Horizon
In the months and years that followed the blast, scientists were given a unique opportunity to study the biology of the landscape and in 1982, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a 110,000 acre area around the mountain which would allow the region to gradually return to its natural state. In 1987, the U.S. Forest Service reopened the mountain to climbing, though in 2004 it was closed for 2 years during a period of renewed geological activity.
Mount Saint Helens is still considered an active volcano and though it is unknown when it will erupt again, scientists know it is just a matter of time before the next major eruption.
- Audio clip The Mount St. Helens story (:45 - 1:00)
And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
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