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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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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