Powerful Earthquake in Puerto Rico Kills One, Leads to Blackout
A powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico just before dawn on Tuesday after a week of heavy seismic activity. The early morning quake caused power plants to shut down to protect themselves, leaving the island in a blackout until power is restored later in the day. It also killed at least one person, injured at least eight and collapsed buildings, as the AP reported.
The quake struck at 4:24 a.m. (3:24 a.m. ET), with its epicenter just off Puerto Rico's southern coast, about 6 miles south of Indios town, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, as CNN reported. The quake triggered three strong aftershocks with preliminary estimates of 5.6, 5.2 and 4.5 magnitude. A bit later a 5.8-magnitude temblor hit closer to Indios at 7:18 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The quake follows a 10-day series of temblors spawned by the grinding of tectonic plates along three faults beneath southern Puerto Rico. Seismologists are unable to predict when the quakes will stop or if they will continue and get stronger, according to the AP.
Tuesday's quake was the strongest to hit the island since the temblors began on Dec. 28. It killed Nelson Martínez Guillén, 73, who died after a wall fell on him in the city of Ponce, Mayor Mayita Meléndez said. Another woman had a broken leg after she was pinned under a wall, as The New York Times reported.
"The people are scared," Ms. Meléndez said, according to The New York Times. "There are homes that are totally destroyed."
She added that the tremors moving through the area have people near the beach living in fear of tsunamis and desperate to flee their homes. However, the United States National Tsunami Warning Center wrote on Twitter that there was no related tsunami threat.
"It's not safe," Ms. Melendez said, as The New York Times reported. "The earth is moving constantly."
Govenor Wanda Vázquez ordered government offices to remain closed Tuesday except for employees working in an emergency capacity, as the Miami Herald reported.
"It's important for the people of Puerto Rico to remain calm and to secure their lives and property," she said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald. "Citizen security is a priority for me, so we are inspecting vulnerable areas and we're taking all the measures necessary to guarantee the safety of Puerto Ricans."
Local news on Puerto Rico's southern coast reported that several houses collapsed on the coastline and a local highway was shutdown due to rock fall. A nearby elementary school saw its roof cave in and much of the island remained without power on Tuesday morning, according to the Miami Herald.
In Guayanilla municipality, the city's colonial-era church from the 1840s, Immaculate Conception, was destroyed.
"All that's left is one wall and half of another wall," said Glidden Lopez, the spokesman for Guayanilla municipality, of the beige and pink building that had dominated the main plaza, as the Miami Herald reported. "The hospital was damaged and there were several houses that have collapsed but we don't know how many yet."
Reverend Melvin Díaz Aponte told The New York Times that both bell towers collapsed, but the nave still stands, though it is fragile.
"For those who have lived here their whole lives, this is their history," said Father Díaz, as The New York Times reported. "Their sacraments, their wedding."
Guayanilla also saw a coastal rock formation that had looked like a rounded window collapse. The rock formation, called Punta Ventana, was a popular tourist draw, as the AP reported.
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By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
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