Death toll climbs to 273 in central Mexico quake

MEXICO CITY – The death toll from Tuesday’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake in central Mexico has climbed to 273, the government said on Thursday.

Half of those deaths occurred in the capital Mexico City, where nearly 40 buildings collapsed.

According to a release from the national civil protection agency, 137 people were killed in the capital, 73 in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla state, 13 in the State of Mexico, six in Guerrero state and one person in Oaxaca state.


Death toll climbs to 273 in central Mexico quake
Affected people rest in a shelter after an earthquake in Mexico City, on Sept 20, 2017. Elements from the civil protection corps, Red Cross, army, police and voluntary civilians worked through the day on Wednesday to remove rubble from collapsed buildings in Mexico City, after the magnitude-7.1 earthquake shook the center of the country on Tuesday. [Photo/Xinhua]



Tackling rising natural disasters

The past few weeks have been a grim reminder that natural disasters know no borders. They can strike countries at opposite ends of the globe simultaneously and whether in Asia or North America, the images of people and livelihoods being swept away are disturbing.


Tackling rising natural disasters
A local resident walks across a flooded street in downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, US, September 10, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Intense monsoon floods, Typhoon Hato, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma all raise questions about what more can be done to both mitigate the risks of extreme weather conditions and improve relief operations.

Disasters are becoming more frequent and intense. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, in its recent report,” Disaster Resilience for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Leaving No One Behind”, shows natural disasters were responsible for the loss of 2 million lives and cost the region’s economy $1.3 trillion between 1970 and 2016. Over 90 percent of the deaths were due to earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and floods. The poor and vulnerable bore the brunt of these disasters, suffering a death toll five times higher than the rest of the population.

By 2030, 50 percent of the Asian population will be living in urban areas. The combination of unplanned urban sprawl and new cities means increasing numbers of people and economic stock will be exposed to future disasters we cannot predict. In megacities, more than 50 percent of the population already lives in disaster-prone areas where inequality is high.

Our focus must be on identifying potential scenarios, determining risk tolerance levels and building response capacity where it is inadequate. Policymakers need to strengthen the science and policy interfaces to allow countries to deal effectively with these risks. The report offers a clear set of recommendations on how to build resilience and reinforce sustainable development in the region.

The importance of early warning cannot be overemphasized. In 2004, the world experienced the Indian Ocean tsunami. It killed more than 250,000 people and was one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. Unlike the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean had no early warning system in place for coastal communities. Thanks to a founding contribution of $10 million from Thailand, the ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness, has helped to plug this gap.

But for a tsunami warning system to be sustainable, it needs to address multiple coastal hazards. Regional cooperation can help share vital innovations in science and technology to strengthen tsunami early warning systems. ESCAP’s Trust Fund has helped to empower people through improved early warning of disasters and supported knowledge transfer from countries with strong disaster risk management capabilities to other Asia-Pacific countries. To take just one example, technical support, modern equipment and online technologies helped upgrade the Myanmar National Earthquake Data Center, to meet international standards for tsunami warning centers.

ESCAP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, organized an event at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, entitled “Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia Pacific: Achievements in Regional Cooperation for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness”, to explore these issues further. The session was held on Sept 21, further presenting ESCAP’s research and showcasing the ESCAP Trust Fund’s contribution to building people’s resilience to disasters, so that no one is left behind in the pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The author is an under-secretary-general of the United Nations and the executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.


Flooding: Niger Republic warns Nigeria

The Niger Basin Authority, with headquarters in Niamey, Niger Republic, on Tuesday, warned of imminent flooding in Nigeria.


Photo credit: Daily Post

The NBA is a regional body of nine-member countries in the West and Central Africa, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad.

The agency said any progressive increase of water levels could have significant impacts on people and property in flood prone areas in the country.

The NBA said in a statement that it would continue to monitor the situation and provide information as it developed.

It said, “The Niger Basin Authority is following the situation and will provide information as it develops. Consultation can be done for the follow-up of flood forecasts.”

The Director General, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Moses Beckley, had said Nigeria should expect more floods of the magnitude comparable to that of 2012.

He said the flood alert level issued by the NBA was above normal which Nigeria should be wary of.

Beckley said, “It is above normal. The consequence of that is that there will be more flow into the Nigeria area through the River Niger.

“Since Nigeria is low land, the effect is that as that water comes, expect the water to have arrived in Nigeria from three days after the alert.

“The Jebba and Kainji dams, which were constructed for this same purpose to control the flow of water from upstream, especially water coming from outside, have been so properly managed.

“I want to believe that they will be able to contain that water, they will be able to release this water that it will not cause devastation downstream.”

Scholarship: University of Southern Queensland in Australia for Ph.D. , 2018

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Scholarship Description: The University of Southern Queensland is inviting applications for International PhD. Fees Scholarship for the year 2018. Subject to satisfactory progress International PhD. Fees Scholarship recipients will have their tuition fees for a period of 6 semesters, full-time equivalent, paid by the USQ.

About University: The University of Southern Queensland is a medium-sized, regional university based in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, with three university campuses at Toowoomba, Springfield, and Ipswich.

Applicants must provide evidence of English language proficiency by supplying one of the approved language tests, (IELTS or TOEFL) or evidence you have studied for a minimum of 2 years full-time equivalent, within the last five years at a recognized institution in a country on the English Speaking Country List.

Degree Level: Scholarship is available to pursue PhD programme.

Available Subject: Scholarship is awarded to applicants studying, or commencing the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in 2018. Applications in all areas of research are welcome. Find your research topic or find and connect with your supervisor helps you match your areas of interest with world-class research opportunities at USQ.

Scholarship Benefits: Subject to satisfactory progress International PPh.D.Fees Scholarship recipients will have their tuition fees for a period of 6 semesters, full-time equivalent, paid by the USQ. Periods of study already undertaken towards the degree will be deducted from the scholarship.

Eligibility: To be eligible applicants must:

  • Hold a qualification regarded by USQ to be equivalent, or at the higher level to a Bachelor Degree with First Class Honours;
  • Be eligible to be enrolled full-time, or part-time in the PhD program at USQ. There is no requirement for the recipients of this scholarship to study on-campus;
  • Must have applied for enrollment or currently be enrolled in a PhD at USQ;
  • Be an international student, not an Australian or New Zealand citizen or Australian permanent resident;
  • Not be in receipt of similar funding from the Australian Government;
  • Not be a sponsored student receiving similar funding from their Government, or other organizations;
  • Commence the program in 2018.

Eligible Nationalities: International applicants are eligible to apply for this scholarship.

Application Procedure: Scholarship applications are separate from the Admission application process, the Office of Research Graduate Studies (ORGS) recommend applicants commence the admission process.

To apply for this scholarship, applicants must scan and forward as one PDF attachment the following documentation by email to

(Note no other email address is to be used for the submission of an International PhD Stipend Scholarship).

  • an International PhD Scholarship Application form;
  • curriculum vitae;
  • Preliminary Research Thesis Topic Proposal. If applying for a thesis topic identified via the USQ website, please provide evidence of preliminary discussions with the thesis supervisory team;
  • education qualifications (testamur and all academic transcripts including undergraduate and postgraduate);
  • a list of any research presentations and/or publications;
  • documentation confirming citizenship;
  • provide evidence of English language proficiency by supplying one of the approved language tests, (IELTS or TOEFL) or evidence you have studied for a minimum of 2 years full-time equivalent, within the last five years at a recognised institution in a country on the English Speaking Country List.

Deadline: Application close 5 pm (AEST) Friday, September 29, 2017.

Scholarship Link

Global Warming and Floods

If it seems like the United States is getting more heavy storms and major floods these days, it’s because we are. Global warming is partly to blame for these heavy rainfall events. Because warmer air can hold more moisture, heavier precipitation is expected in the years to come.

In the Midwest and Northeast, big storms that historically would only be seen once every 20 years are projected to happen as much as every 4 to 6 years by the end of the 21st century. At the same time, shifts in snowfall patterns, the onset of spring, and river-ice melting may all exacerbate flooding risks.

Now is the time to confront the realities of global warming, including the increasing frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events across the country. We need to reduce the risks to riverfront communities. Important steps include discouraging development in flood-prone areas and protecting the natural systems, such as wetlands, that help to buffer against floods.

Recent decades have brought more heavy summer rainfall events along with increased likelihood of devastating floods. While no single storm or flood can be attributed directly to global warming, changing climate conditions are at least partly responsible for past trends. Because warmer air can hold more moisture, global warming is expected to bring more and heavier precipitation in the years to come.

Credit: National Wildlife Federation

International Coastal Cleanup: JET Invites Nation’s Leaders to Participate in this weekend clean up

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is expecting over 10,000 Jamaicans to participate in 150 cleanups across the island on International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day 2017, this Saturday, September 16. JET hopes that Members of Parliament (MPs) will be amongst the thousands of volunteers expected at ICC this weekend, sending a clear message that all Jamaicans need to take more responsibility for our garbage.

To this end, JET has sent letters to Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Andrew Holness, as well as the Leader of Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, inviting them and all MPs to take part in an ICC event in their constituencies.

Kingston Harbour

Volunteers taking part in the cleanup


Sirganey Beach, East Kingston
Coastal Cleanup in Jamaica 


“With solid waste being one of Jamaica’s main environmental issue, JET encourages the nation’s leaders including our Members of Parliament to lead by example and take part in a cleanup this weekend,” said Suzanne Stanley, Deputy CEO of JET. “We are encouraged by the number of groups and volunteers that have registered for this year’s ICC and hope to see our nation’s leaders amongst those cleaning up Jamaica’s coastline.”

Beach cleanups raise awareness about poor disposal of solid waste and encourage a sense of personal responsibility for our garbage. Garbage thrown away carelessly in the street and open lots makes its way to our coastline via rivers, gullies and drains. Beach cleanups are the last chance to remove this garbage from our coast before it washes out to sea, where it becomes much more difficult to retrieve. Last year over 109,000 pounds of garbage were collected from Jamaican beaches and river banks during ICC 2016.

Project Coordinator Felicia Wong, said, “A full list of beach cleanup sites can be found on the JET website ( We are encouraging all Jamaicans to check the site list and find a beach cleanup in your area where you can volunteer.”

This year marks JET’s 24th annual beach clean-up on the Palisadoes Strip in Kingston and its 10th year as the national coordinator of ICC in Jamaica, which it has been delivering in partnership with the Tourism Enhancement Fund since 2008. Championed by Ocean Conservancy, ICC involves volunteers from over 100 countries picking up garbage and recording data on what they collect from coastlines every year.

credit: Petchary’s Blog


Havana Times reports on the recent call by Cuban President Raul Castro for Cubans to keep the faith in another victory after the powerful Hurricane Irma swept over a large portion of the country from east to west. He stated his confidence that the government would rebuild the heavily damaged tourism infrastructure in places such as Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Santa Lucia, and Varadero by the start of the high season (December-April).  See below the Havana Times’ translation of the complete statement issued on late Sunday by Raul Castro:

“A Call to Our Combative People” by Raul Castro

Hurricane Irma, with its destructive forces, attacked our Island for over 72 hours, since the morning of September 8th until Sunday afternoon. With gale winds which exceeded 250 km/hour at some times, it traveled along the northern parts of country from Baracoa, Guantanamo, which also suffered at the hands of hurricane Mathew about a year ago, to near Cardenas, Matanzas. However, due to just how great in size it was, no region in the country has escaped its effects.


Experts classified it as the largest hurricane to have formed in the Atlantic and this metereological phenomenon caused severe damage across the country, which is still unknown precisely because of its magnitude. An initial study shows us that housing, the electric energy system and agriculture have all been affected.

Furthermore, it hit our main tourist destinations; however, these damages will be repaired before the peak season begins. We have the human and material resources we need, as this is one of the national economy’s main sources of revenue.

These have been tough days for our people, who have seen what has been built with so much effort get knocked down by a devastating hurricane in just a few hours. The latest photos speak for themselves, as well as our people’s spirits of resistance and victory, a people reborn in the wake of every adversity.

In these difficult times, unity has prevailed among Cubans, solidarity among neighbors and discipline in the face of guidelines issued by the National Civil Defense at every level. Also evident were the professionalism of our experts at the Metereological Institute, the fast reporting of our media and journalists, support from mass organizations as well as the cohesiveness between the National Defense Council’s managing bodies. A special mention goes out to all of our women, including Party and Government leaders who have led and faced this difficult situation with composure and maturity.

The following days will involve a lot of work, where the Cuban people’s strength will be proved yet again and their indestructible faith in the Revolution. This is no time to feel sorry for ourselves, but to rebuild what Hurricane Irma’s winds tried to make disappear.

With organization, discipline and by integrating all of our structures, we will rise above this like we have on previous occasions. Don’t let anyone be fooled, the task we have at hand is immense, but with a people like ours, we will win the most important battle: recovery.

At this critical point in time, the Cuba Workers’ Federation (CTC) and the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) will need to redouble their efforts, alongside other mass organizations, in order to counteract the effects of this destructive event as soon as possible.

One principle remains fixed: the Revolution won’t leave anyone helpless and is already taking measures so that no Cuban family is left to their own fate.

As is custom here, every time a meteorological phenomenon strikes us, we receive many actions of support from all over the world. Heads of State and of Government leaders, political organizations and friends from solidarity movements have all expressed their willingness to help us, which we thank in the name of the over 11 million Cuban people here on the island.

Let’s face this task of recovery with the example of the Cuban Revolution’s Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro’s, he who taught us with his unwavering faith in victory and his firm will that impossibilities don’t exist. At this difficult time, his legacy makes us stronger and we stand united.

Scholarship: Nelson Mandela’s African Leaders of Tomorrow Fully-funded Scholarship 2018/2019 – Canada

The African Leaders of Tomorrow (ALT) Scholarship Program commemorates the late Nelson Mandela’s commitment to social justice and equity. It supports young African professionals to become leaders in public policy and administration.

Application Timeline: 

  • Deadline to complete the Preliminary Questionnaire: 13th October, 2017
  • Selection process: 16th October to 31st December, 2018
  • Pre-selected candidates notified by email: January-February 9 2018
  • Admission to universities: January to March 2018
  • Pre-departure process (visa, accommodation, pre-departure orientation): February to July 2018
  • All other candidates notified of results: May 2018
  • Orientation session in Canada: Mid- August 2018
  • Start of study programs: End of August/beginning of September 2018

Offered annually? Yes

Eligible Countries: Countries in sub-Saharan Africa

To be taken at (country): Canada

Fields of Study: Public Administration, Public Policy or Public Finances

About the Award: The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) administers the International Scholarships Program (ISP) of Global Affairs Canada. The ALT Scholarship Program by the CBIE grants full scholarships based on merit to women and men from sub-Saharan Africa to pursue a Master’s degree in public administration, public policy or public finances in Canada

The African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship Programme has two components:

  • An academic component
  • A professional component

Offered Since: 2015

Type: Masters

Eligibility: You must meet ALL the requirements to be eligible:

  • Be a citizen AND resident of sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Be between 22 and 35 years old (at the beginning of the study program);
  • Have completed a university degree meeting the minimum academic requirements for admission into a Master’s degree in Canada;
  • Have a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years of full-time work experience in the public sector, civil society sector or a research institute in Africa;
  • Be fluent in  French or English;
  • Meet all the academic requirements of the study program of choice.

You are not eligible if:

  • You are a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or you have applied for permanent residency in Canada.
  • You are already enrolled in a degree or any program of study at a Canadian university.
  • You are currently employed by the Government of Canada.

Selection Criteria: Eligible candidates with complete files will be assessed against the following criteria by a national selection committee:

  • Academic merit;
  • Professional experience;
  • Relevance and merit of the case study;
  • Recommendation letters;
  • Demonstrated leadership capacity; and
  • Potential contribution to public administration and public policy upon the candidate’s return to his/her home country.

In awarding the scholarships, considerations will be given to gender equity and equitable representation from across sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Awardees: Not specified

Value of Scholarship: Fully-funded

Duration of Scholarship: The African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship Programme funds studies in a Master’s degree programme in public administration, public policy or public finance for a maximum period of two years (24 months). There are no other eligible programs.

How to Apply: 

  • Eligible candidates must click here to complete the Preliminary Inquiry Questionnaire.
  • You will need to provide information about your GPA from your undergraduate degree and any post-graduate programs (if applicable).

It is important to go through the Application requirements on the Scholarship Webpage (see link below) before applying.

Award Provider: The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) manages the ALT Scholarship Program in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) and in collaboration with the African Association of Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) and the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA).

Important Notes: During the application process you select three choices of universities and programs. You should consult the admission requirements and the program description to ensure that it meets your interest and qualifications.  At this time, you do not need to apply to the university separately.

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Mass movement is the movement of surface material caused by gravity. Landslides and rockfalls are examples of very sudden movements of this type. Of course geological agents such as water, wind and ice all work with gravity to cause a leveling of land.
Water aids in the downslope movement of surface material in several ways. Water adds weight to the soil; it fills pore spaces of slope material and it exerts pressure which tends to push apart individual grains. This decreases the resistance of the material to movement. Landslide is a general term that is commonly broken down into the more specialized terms such as slump, rockslide, debris slide, mudflow and earthflow.


Rotational slide: This is a slide in which the surface of rupture is curved concavely upward and the slide movement is roughly rotational about an axis that is parallel to the ground surface and transverse across the slide

Translational slide: In this type of slide, the landslide mass moves along a roughly planar surface with little rotation or backward tilting

A block slide is a translational slide in which the moving mass consists of a single unit or a few closely related units that move downslope as a relatively coherent mass

Falls: Falls are abrupt movements of masses of geologic materials, such as rocks and boulders, that become detached from steep slopes or cliffs (fig. 3D). Separation occurs along discontinuities such as fractures, joints, and bedding planes, and movement occurs by free-fall, bouncing, and rolling. Falls are strongly influenced by gravity, mechanical weathering, and the presence of interstitial water.

Topples: Toppling failures are distinguished by the forward rotation of a unit or units about some pivotal point, below or low in the unit, under the actions of gravity and forces exerted by adjacent units or by fluids in cracks .

Flows: There are five basic categories of flows that differ from one another in fundamental ways.
Debris flow: A debris flow is a form of rapid mass movement in which a combination of loose soil, rock, organic matter, air, and water mobilize as a slurry that flows downslope. Debris flows include <50% fines. Debris flows are commonly caused by intense surface-water flow, due to heavy precipitation or rapid snowmelt, that erodes and mobilizes loose soil or rock on steep slopes. Debris flows also commonly mobilize from other types of landslides that occur on steep slopes, are nearly saturated, and consist of a large proportion of silt- and sand-sized material. Debris-flow source areas are often associated with steep gullies, and debris-flow deposits are usually indicated by the presence of debris fans at the mouths of gullies. Fires that denude slopes of vegetation intensify the susceptibility of slopes to debris flows.
Debris avalanche: This is a variety of very rapid to extremely rapid debris flow .
Earthflow: Earthflows have a characteristic “hourglass” shape .
The slope material liquefies and runs out, forming a bowl or depression at the head. The flow itself is elongate and usually occurs in fine-grained materials or clay-bearing rocks on moderate slopes and under saturated conditions. However, dry flows of granular material are also possible.
Mudflow: A mudflow is an earthflow consisting of material that is wet enough to flow rapidly and that contains at least 50 percent sand-, silt-, and clay-sized particles. In some instances, for example in many newspaper reports, mudflows and debris flows are commonly referred to as “mudslides.”
Creep: Creep is the imperceptibly slow, steady, downward movement of slope-forming soil or rock. Movement is caused by shear stress sufficient to produce permanent deformation, but too small to produce shear failure. There are generally three types of creep: (1) seasonal, where movement is within the depth of soil affected by seasonal changes in soil moisture and soil temperature; (2) continuous, where shear stress continuously exceeds the strength of the material; and (3) progressive, where slopes are reaching the point of failure as other types of mass movements. Creep is indicated by curved tree trunks, bent fences or retaining walls, tilted poles or fences, and small soil ripples or ridges.

Lateral Spreads: Lateral spreads are distinctive because they usually occur on very gentle slopes or flat terrain.

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In general, the factors which influence whether a landslide will occur typically include slope angle, climate, weathering, water content, vegetation, overloading, geology, and slope stability.
How these factors interrelate is important in understanding what causes landslides along with an understanding of the impact humans have on these factors by altering natural processes.
Typically, a number of elements will contribute to a landslide, but often there is one which triggers the movement of material.

1. Geological causes
a. Weak or sensitive materials
b. Weathered materials
c. Sheared, jointed, or fissured materials
d. Adversely oriented discontinuity (bedding, schistosity, fault, unconformity, contact, and so forth)
e. Contrast in permeability and/or stiffness of materials

2. Morphological causes
a. Tectonic or volcanic uplift
b. Glacial rebound
c. Fluvial, wave, or glacial erosion of slope toe or lateral margins
d. Subterranean erosion (solution, piping)
e. Deposition loading slope or its crest
f. Vegetation removal (by fire, drought)
g. Thawing
h. Freeze-and-thaw weathering
i. Shrink-and-swell weathering

3. Human causes
a. Excavation of slope or its toe
b. Loading of slope or its crest
c. Drawdown (of reservoirs)
d. Deforestation
e. Irrigation
f. Mining
g. Artificial vibration
h. Water leakage from utilities

Floording: Niger warns of flooding in Benin, Nigeria

Flooding in Port Harcourt after Heavy Rainfall: Source Vanguard News paper

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The Niger Basin Authority issued a warning Saturday of possible flooding in Benin and Nigeria, two countries downstream on the river, which is currently flooding in Niger. Flooding in Port Harcourt after Heavy Rainfall “We appeal to all residents downstream (of the Niger River)… because the water keeps rising,” the NBA’s Soungalo Kone said late Saturday, speaking on Niger television.

The NBA has issued its second-highest alert level of orange, warning that further flooding is highly likely following months of heavy rain in Niger and Mali. “It’s a question of hours to get to a red alert — the waters can rise very suddenly,” said Lawan Magadji, Niger’s minister of disaster management, speaking on local television. Floods are threatening villages and some sections of the capital Niamey, the minister said. The ministry has already announced plans to evacuate residents in affected areas and reinforce dykes.

The government has set up sites for people displaced by the flooding, the minister said. Almost all Niamey’s some million and a half residents live along the river banks. Some of the homes at risk are located in the former bed of the Gountou-Yena river, which is now once again filling with water. Flooding has killed 44 people across Niger since June, according to the civil protection agency, after more than 50 deaths from flooding last year.