Cyclone Fani Kills at Least 38, Leaves Hundreds of Thousands Homeless in India and Bangladesh
Dozens are dead and hundreds of thousands homeless after the strongest cyclone to hit the Indian state of Odisha in 43 years, Reuters reported Sunday.
The powerful cyclone made landfall Friday morning near the Eastern Indian town of Puri with the strength of a category 3 hurricane, according to AccuWeather. The storm did major damage to the town, felling trees, blowing off roofs and destroying power lines, Reuters said. At least 38 people have died in Odisha, 25 of them in the Puri district, The Times of India reported Sunday. Another dozen people died when the storm moved on to Bangladesh as a tropical depression Saturday, AFP reported.
"Six people died after they were hit by falling trees or collapsed walls, and six have died from lightning," Bangladeshi disaster official Benazir Ahmed told AFP.
This video shared on social media captures the intensity of the #CycloneFani fury on Odisha coast. There is severe damage across the affected districts. Appeal all to contribute towards the Odisha CMRF to enable the State to take up the restoration works. pic.twitter.com/lklpmTU0UT— Vineel Krishna (@rvineel_krishna) May 5, 2019
However, the death toll could have been much higher if officials had not evacuated 1.2 million people in Odisha and more than 1.6 million people in Bangladesh ahead of the storm. Authorities had been preparing an evacuation plan since a cyclone in 1999 killed thousands in the region, The New York Times reported.
"In the event of such a major calamity like this — where Odisha was hit by close to a super-cyclone — instead of being a tragedy of humongous proportion, we are in the process of restoring critical infrastructure. That is the transformation that Odisha has had," the state's top government official Naveen Patnaik said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.
Disaster preparedness was the difference between #CycloneFani and a 1999 “super” cyclone that killed 10,000 in Indi… https://t.co/ZQQjzQSFDS— IFRC Asia Pacific (@IFRC Asia Pacific)1557018896.0
In India, the evacuation plan included sending out warnings via text messages and public address systems, and transporting people by bus to shelters stocked with food and water. Most everyone was out of harm's way when the cyclone struck Friday, The New York Times reported. In Bangladesh, vulnerable people were similarly moved to shelters, and the plan also seems to have been effective at reducing the death toll.
"I have a feeling that Allah favored us this time," Bangladeshi disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told The New York Times.
However, in both countries survivors face a daunting recovery process. Flooding inundated entire villages in both Odisha and Bangladesh and destroyed livelihoods, including damaging thousands of acres of crops in the latter country.
"See, our house is destroyed, our boat is destroyed — what can we do?" 21-year-old Puri fisherman Pikki Gopi told The New York Times. "We don't have any place to work, eat or sleep. We have nothing to do.''
Survivors were also concerned about food, AccuWeather reported, since the storm destroyed many grocery stores and food supplies. It also destroyed power lines and communications networks in parts of Odisha, including Puri, where officials said it would take at least a week to restore power.
Patnaik told the Hindustan Times that relief efforts were made more difficult by the rarity of the storm.
"Fani is one of the rarest of rare cyclones – the first to hit in 43 years and one of three to hit in 150 years. Because of the rarity, the prediction and tracking of the cyclone was challenging. In 24 hours, one was not sure of the trajectory it was going to take. Fani after landfall, tore apart the infrastructure, especially power, telecom and water supply, " Patnaik said.
Fani was so powerful partly because of climate change, The Times of India reported. The water temperatures in the Bay of Bengal were more than one degree Celsius warmer than the long-term average as the storm was forming, giving the storm more energy. This is the same effect that super-charged Hurricane Michael in Florida last year.
Warm sea surface temperatures (between 30-31 degrees Celsius) along with warm, humid air provided fuel for #Fani as… https://t.co/H0Kh4vSqw6— NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)1556971816.0
"Fani is just the latest reminder of the heightened threat that millions of people around the world face from the combination of rising seas and more intense hurricanes and typhoons," Penn State University Atmospheric Science Professor Dr. Michael Mann told The Times of India. "That threat will only rise if we continue to warm the planet by burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon into the atmosphere."
Mozambique Hit by Second Historic Cyclone in Little Over a Month https://t.co/HpgzugtDPB— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) April 26, 2019
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.