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17 August 2006

  • Volcano wipes out 3 villages in Ecuador

  • Main Uruguayan Parties Reject US FTA

  • Global Warming Affects Hurricane Intensity
Volcano wipes out 3 villages in Ecuador
QUITO, Ecuador - A volcanic eruption in Ecuador's Andes mountains destroyed three villages, killed at least one man and left more than 60 others missing, the mayor of a village on the volcano's slope said Thursday.

One body was recovered after the overnight eruption of lava from Tungurahua, in the country's high Andes, and four others were believed to be under the rubble, Penipe Mayor Juan Salazar said.

Salazar told Channel 4 television that the villages of Chilibu, Choglontuz and Palitagua "no longer exist. Everything is wiped out."

"This is an indescribable catastrophe," Salazar said. "The houses have collapsed. The rocks that fell caused injuries and burns in the city of Riobamba and in Penipe."

Salazar said there were 60 other people on the high flanks of the volcano whom officials could not get to Thursday morning.

Choglontuz, Penipe and another village were ordered evacuated on Wednesday hours before the 16,575-foot volcano unleashed gas and ash some 5 miles into the sky, according to a report by Ecuador's Geophysics Institute.

Salazar said 3,200 people were evacuated Wednesday from the three communities. He did not say how many remained in the villages.

Dr. Hernan Ayala told Channel 4 TV that about 50 people from Penipe were treated at a medical center in Riobamba for burns caused by "lava flows and incandescent rocks that burned them as they tried to flee."

"They were also burned by vapor and the elevated heat in the zone. It was a scene of chaos, a Dantesque situation," he said. "There are six whom we consider the most grave, one of them with burns over 85 percent of the body."

The death reported Thursday was the first reported from a Tungurahua eruption since the volcano rumbled back to life in 1999 after staying dormant for eight decades.{6E6350F3-A66B-43A6-BC20-70910FAA97B6}&language=EN
Main Uruguayan Parties Reject US FTA

Montevideo, Aug 17 (Prensa Latina) The principal political parties and movements of Uruguay rejected possible signing of a free trade agreement with the US on Thursday.

Governing Frente Amplio s leadership ratified their rejection Wednesday of such a Washington-imposed commitment within the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

On Thursday, the national leadership of Participacion Popular Movement (MPP, mainly made up of former National Liberation Movement, MLN-Tupamaros) publicly announced its rejection of any such accord.

According to local analysts, the current processes of bilateral agreements with the US signify the loss of basic concepts, such as the development of freedom of knowledge and national sovereignty.

The document released today stated that, for the sake of the country s productive reconstruction and consolidation of the national government, nothing should compromise the union of political force and national interests.

Echoing this view, Uruguay s Communist Party decried such accords with the US, as they affect national economy and relations with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).

The Socialist Party (PS) also urged a thorough analysis of all issues presented by government.

The PS supports Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez in his effort to find, as far as possible, increased insertion of Uruguay internationally, whether with China, India or other countries.

They also support PS president, current Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano, who is under strong criticism by the opposition.

Gargano has expressed his opposition to any FTA with the US, as they interfere with sensitive matters, including national sovereignty, patents and pharmaceuticals. Global Warming Affects Hurricane Intensity, U.S. Study Shows

Global Warming Affects Hurricane Intensity

Jim Loney

Global warming is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, according to a new study by a university professor in Florida who says his research provides the first direct link between climate change and storm strength.

James Elsner of Florida State University said he set out to perform a statistical analysis of the two theories in a raging debate within the scientific community: Whether recent intense hurricanes are the result of climate change or natural ocean warming and cooling cycles.

"Is the atmosphere forcing the ocean or the ocean forcing the atmosphere?" Elsner asked.

The issue has a wide-ranging impact on insurance companies, municipal planners, some 50 million residents of hurricane-prone U.S. coastal communities and millions of others in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

The 2005 hurricane season produced 28 tropical storms and hurricanes, shattering the old record of 21 set in 1933.

Four of the hurricanes were Category 5, the strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. One of those, Wilma, was the most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

The season also produced Katrina, which killed more than 1,300 people and caused about $80 billion in damage when it swamped New Orleans and other parts of the U.S. Gulf coast.

Elsner looked at 135 years of records to examine the statistical connection between Atlantic sea surface temperatures and air temperatures near the sea surface, and then compared them to records of hurricane intensities.

Atlantic hurricanes draw their energy from the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

He found that average air temperatures during hurricane season between June and November were useful in predicting sea surface temperatures, but not the other way around.

"It appears that atmospheric warming comes before sea warming," he said, indicating that hurricane damage will be likely to continue increasing because of greenhouse warming.

The study was scheduled to be published Aug. 23 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Many hurricane researchers say the Atlantic basin moved into a period of increased hurricane activity about a decade ago and predicted it could last 25 to 40 years.

Some say it is due to a natural fluctuation in sea surface temperatures called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

But a growing body of research indicates human-induced global warming -- driven by heat-trapping gases in air pollution from cars and factories -- could be heating sea water, which in turn fuels stronger hurricanes.

Elsner described himself as "sympathetic" to the idea of human-induced global warming but said his research merely tried to determine whether there was a link between climate change and intense hurricanes.

"I think there are ocean currents that warm and cool the oceans," he said. "But it's not clear that kind of change is a multidecadal change and I'm not clear that there is a strong natural variability in the Atlantic."


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