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highway

Los Angeles’ I-10 Will Likely Reopen In 3 To 5 Weeks After Major Fire

Los Angeles’ Interstate 10 was recently partially closed due to a major fire that was likely caused by arson. California Governor’s Gavin Newsom stated this week that the closed portion will be repaired and reopened within the next three to five weeks.

fire

More Than 29,000 People Evacuate Alberta Region Of Canada Due To Wildfires 

Officials are stating the Alberta region of Canada is enduring an “unprecedented situation” as more than 29,000 individuals were forced to flee their homes due to the spreading of more than 100 wildfires. 

Within the past 24 hours, 16 new fires have started in Alberta, according to Wildfire Information Unit Lead Christie Tucker. 

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Firefighters around the province are currently battling 108 active wildfires, according to Tucker, 31 of those wildfires were burning “out of control.”

This wildfire activity is quite uncommon for this early summer season, and firefighters aren’t used to seeing such a large mass of land burned. Bone-dry environmental conditions and abnormally hot weather, combined with high winds are said to be the biggest contributor to the “really extreme wildfire activity.” 

This year, so far, wildfires in Alberta have burned a total of 375,000 hectares of land, about 926,000 acres; a majority of which has occurred within the last few days.

Tucker also stated that additional firefighters and resources are currently heading to Alberta from across the country to assist the battle against the wildfires. Scattered showers on Sunday helped calm some of the blazes and tame some of the fires that were in difficult to reach places. 

Firefighters are now hoping that the cooler temperature and higher humidity brought on by the rain will help them as they fight the fires.

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“Up north, it’s still very dry. We’re still seeing winds and we are expecting a continuation of those kinds of conditions that can lead to extreme wildfire behavior,” Tucker said at a news conference. 

“Communities in Alberta have seen some extremely hot temperatures in the past week, with the capital city of Edmonton hitting 31 degrees Celsius, about 88 degrees Fahrenheit, on Wednesday and Thursday – more than 10 degrees above average,” according to the Canada Centre for Climate Services.

“The region has also seen a lack of precipitation which may have contributed to the extreme fire conditions in Alberta, drying out land and making fires more difficult to contain,” CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

“So far, about 5,000 people have sought refuge at evacuation centers, “Alberta Emergency Management chief Colin Blair said.

Multiple hospitals have been fully evacuated and many roads in north and central Alberta, where a hefty amount of the fires are currently, have been closed.

“We have so many fires, so spread out and it’s because we’ve seen unprecedented conditions this spring. … It’s been an unusual year,” Tucker said.

grenfell

Director Steve McQueen Discusses His New Film On Grenfell

Oscar-winning film director Steve McQueen is gearing up to release his film on the Grenfell Tower disaster nearly six years after the tragedy occurred. McQueen is hoping the film’s release will help push for justice. 

According to McQueen, who recently spoke with The Guardian in an exclusive interview, the 24-minute film was shot from a helicopter in December 2017 before the burned tower in west London was wrapped in white plastic. 

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McQueen discussed that the film was made with heavy involvement and consultation from the survivors of the tragedy, along with neighbors and families/friends of the victims. The community, like McQueen, is hoping the film will lead to further answers, prosecutions, and potential jail time to those involved in the Grenfell Tower tragedy; more than 5 years after it occurred. 

“You must understand that the violence that was inflicted on that community was no joke, I didn’t want to let people off the hook. There are going to be people who are going to be a little bit disturbed. When you make art, anything half decent … there are certain people you will possibly offend. But that is how it is.”

No individuals or companies have been punished for their role in the tragedy, which led to the deaths of 72 people. 

“I wanted to put the building in perspective of our everyday [life]. It’s not isolated. That is important because you [the viewer] put it in the perspective of yourself,” McQueen said

McQueen also discussed how he “sat on the film after it was shot because it couldn’t have been shown within three or four years [of the disaster].” 

Ed Daffarn, who escaped from his 16th-floor flat, said: “Sitting there looking at [the tower] captured the pure violence of what was meted out to us by the perpetrators. It has come at a good time. We need Grenfell in the public consciousness.”

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McQueen also explained how he became more motivated to create the film once he heard that city officials were planning to wrap up the tower in plastic.

“It was almost like a race against time. Once things are covered up, they are forgotten about, or it can be more convenient for people who want it to be forgotten about,” he explained. 

The film itself, according to reports, is silent besides the sounds of wind, cars, airplanes, and birds in the distance as footage shows the tower and zooms into spaces where individuals died during the tragedy. 

“It is like poring over a map – a satisfying survey of an impressive civilisation. Then the charcoal black lattice of Grenfell appears and the soundtrack cuts to silence and the camera circles the tower for minute after minute. It is haunting and upsetting,” writer Robert Booth stated. 

“It’s about the building and suspending it in time, and looking. Holding, holding, holding. [The tragedy] was deliberate neglect. It was no accident. There were so many people, so many companies, so many factors … It was all a deliberate act of neglect and, to a certain extent, greed,” McQueen said. 

The film is currently set to be exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery in London from April 7th to May 10th.

General Motors Issues Second Recall Of Chevy Bolt EVs After Vehicle Fires

General Motors (GM) has issued a second recall of its 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs after at least two of the electric vehicles erupted into flames.

According to GM, the company has “identified a second rare manufacturing defect in the EVs that increases the risk of fire.” The recall covers about 69,000 of the cars globally; 51,000 of which are located in the US.

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GM claims that in order to fix the problem the company needs to replace all the defective battery modules in the vehicles. This will be free for the owners, but in general is a costly fix for all companies involved. GM previously recalled the same vehicles for the same reason but claims that this time the repair is different because it’s not a software-based problem.

“We’re working with our supplier and manufacturing teams to determine how to best expedite battery capacity for module replacement under the recall. These teams are working around the clock on this issue.”

GM spokesman Dan Flores said that the company would “notify customers when replacement parts are ready for them.”

In the meantime, GM has asked all affected Bolt EV owners to set up their vehicles to a 90% state of charge limitation using the Hilltop Reserve mode or Target Charge level depending on the specific model of vehicle.

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GM is also asking that all owners avoid depleting their battery below 70 miles of remaining range, and continue to not park their vehicles inside or charge them unattended overnight out of “an abundance of caution.”

One of the recent fires occurred at the home of a Vermont state lawmaker who claims the vehicle was charging at home when it lit on fire. GM has confirmed nine battery-related fires in the vehicles within the US.

Experts claim the battery cell packs in the vehicles have the potential to smoke or ignite internally which could then spread to the rest of the vehicle as a result. If the car is parked inside of a parking garage or any other indoor structure, this could lead to a much more serious issue.

GM says owners with questions should visit www.chevy.com/boltevrecall or contact its Chevrolet EV help line at 1-833-EVCHEVY or contact their preferred Chevrolet EV dealer.

Wildfires

‘Out Of Control’ Fire Burning Through Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park 

According to South African officials an “out of control” fire is currently burning through Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park, and has already damaged a multitude of buildings. An evacuation of hikers has already been enforced for the park overall; which is also known as Cape Town’s most famous landmark. 

A spokesperson for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services spoke with the media late Sunday night to discuss how two firefighters had been injured and admitted to the hospital so far, and nine building structures were completely destroyed in the initial blaze. As of right now no further injuries or damages have been reported, but rescue workers are worried about containment efforts. 

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Jermaine Carelse, the spokesperson for Cape Town’s fire and rescue services, explained how 200 firefighters were dispatched to battle the fire, and they have been continuously working all night to combat the blaze. Four rescue helicopters have also been deployed to help with rescue operations. 

“The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread. The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread.”

According to a tweet from the South African National Parks Table Mountain National Park account, “the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant had burnt down and the fire had also spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town upper campus. Six buildings near Woolsack Drive, including the Mostert’s Mill and three structures at the University of Cape Town, were destroyed.”

Carelse also told the media that Mostert’s Mill, a historic windmill near the University of Cape Town which was built in 1796, was also badly damaged by the fire. 

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One woman in the park was interviewed after showing a video that depicted her trying to outrun the fire as plumes of smoke took up the background sky. Lisette Lombard, the individuals who took the video, said she was safe but her car had been “destroyed. Never have I experienced a fire that spread so unpredictably fast. I have so much respect for our firefighters.”

According to a statement from South Africa’s National Parks, a “vacated vagrant fire may have been responsible for the blaze. After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire. Due to the extreme Fire Danger Index for today, which is Red with temperatures of 36 degrees noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10%, the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial.”

Carelse explained that the fire has been greatly “fanned by wind, so it spread from the vicinity of Philip Kgosana Drive, which borders Table Mountain National Park, to Rhodes Memorial where it continued further towards University of Cape Town buildings.” 

Sources claim that the fire could take days to fully put out, and earlier on Sunday, the National Park’s Twitter account had requested that “onlookers refrain from entering the area and that all hikers within the Newlands and Rhodes Memorial area evacuate immediately.”

Surfer at Beach

How Climate Change is Affecting the Australian Summer

The Australian summer is something that many around the world long to experience. Who would not want to spend the long warm days on the beach, surfing some of the world’s greatest waves while soaking up some sun? Or maybe staying at home and lounging around the pool in the backyard, inviting friends and family over for a barbecue. Such thoughts bring feelings of happiness and relaxation.

But the summer of the last few years has brought another feeling to the mix: fear. Due to the increasing number of bushfires – many close to homes, businesses, retailers and schools – residents, and therefore vacationers and tourists, are increasingly worrying about the threat of damage to their properties and lives.

2019 has seen higher numbers of bush fires than in previous years, with much of the country now living with a haze of smoke even if they are not directly affected by the fires. This last week has seen the town of Batemans Bay in New South Wales having to evacuate to the beach while the fires rip through their homes while many campgrounds around the continent have closed for the summer due to the “code red” conditions.

Australia – as well as many other countries across the world – has seen its summers increase in temperatures over the years, however the link between the current conditions as well as anthropogenic climate change is immense.

So far over 5 million hectares of land have been lost. Compare this to the estimated 906,000 hectares that were lost in the Amazon Rainforest earlier in the year. It is staggering that there has not been more coverage – or more help provided from the rest of the world.

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And it is not just land that has been devastated. So far there have been eighteen deaths, including firefighters, as well as the enormous amount of wildlife that has been lost. Figures currently estimate there have been around 500 million animals that have died with 30 percent of the koala population wiped out.

Australia sees higher temperatures in January and February, so these statistics are only going to get worse causing many to call on the government for more support.

However, while Australia sees bushfires every year making it the continent most likely to burn, what has made this year so bad? As with all fires, bushfires need specific resources to grow – dry fuel, weather conditions and ignition. And thanks to the effects climate change is having on the weather and fuel, the fires are becoming bigger and occur more often and for longer.

Scientists have been warning us that the world is getting warmer each year, with Australia increasing in temperature by one degree Celsius throughout the last 100 years, and this has caused a change in the intensity, as well as the frequency, of their heat waves.

The increase in the temperatures has caused an increase in evaporation, drying the fuel and soil load. Over ten years ago the IPCC – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – came to the conclusion that the continuing anthropogenic climate change would increase how often Australia would experience fires. They also predicted that these fires would increase in intensity.

With the rising temperatures continuing to dry out the environment, they can be reduced by precipitation or by increasing the vegetation, which can improve humidity.

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However Australia’s southern states have seen a considerable decrease in rainfall, with the southwest seeing a decrease of nearly twenty per cent in the last forty years. The southeast has also seen a decrease of eleven percent of rainfall since the 1990s.

While there are many factors contributing to the drop in rainfall the positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) is one of the biggest. The change has seen the westerly winds across the Southern Ocean to move south towards Antarctica, meaning the rain-bearing cold fronts are bypassing southern Australia.

Scientists have also blamed the trend of anthropogenic climate change for increasing the trend in the SAM.

These changes have played a significant role in why the 2019-2020 summer has been so intense, however southeast Australia has been suffering from a drought for the last three years having not seen any winter rain since 2017, which has not happened in Australia’s history before – not even when they experienced their ten year droughts including the Millennium Drought.

And with large areas of vegetation unable to survive the wet rain forests are drying out, meaning areas that would not normally see fires are starting to burn.

This year also saw one of the most severe positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) events which saw the cold sea-surface temperatures putting a halt to one of the biggest resources of moisture for Australia. When these events happen Australia usually experiences a longer fire season and the positive IOD events are another aspect of global warming as they are occurring more often.

With many Australians accusing their government of not doing enough to stop climate change – and many not even acknowledging that it is an issue – it is hard to see that these fires will start to reduce. And that is not good for anyone anywhere.

Orangutans

Dozens Of Animals Killed In New Year’s Eve Fire At Krefeld Zoo

Germany is mourning the loss of dozens of wildlife animals who were peacefully sleeping in their enclosures at the Krefeld Zoo when a fire began early New Year’s Day. The fire initially hit the monkey enclosure at the zoo located in northeast Germany, but other animals in surrounding exhibits were also affected. 

“Our Monkey House fell victim to a fire that started more or less around midnight. We don’t know exactly when it started, but it burned down the house completely. At least 30 animals died, it was the hardest day that Krefeld Zoo has ever had. For us it is especially tragic that the tenants of this house, birds and mammals, were victims of the fire last night. Among them were highly endangered monkeys like orangutans from Borneo, lowland gorillas from Central Africa and chimpanzees from West Africa,” Zoo director Wolfgang Dressen told reporters. 

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Two chimpanzees, which have grown to become mascots for the zoo, named Bally and Limbo did survive and only suffered slight injuries. They, and every other animal who survived and suffered from injuries, are being treated by veterinarians. 

According to the Krefeld Zoo’s official statement on Facebook, the zoo’s famous Gorilla Garden was also spared from the flames. The zoo intends on being closed through the weekend at least, but isn’t giving up in terms of rehabilitation and rebuilding the zoo that so many cherish. 

The investigation behind how the fire began is still underway, but with a solid indication as to what they think the cause was, and a new confession from a mother and her daughters, the investigation may be short lived. 

Krefeld Police investigator Gerd Hoppmann was initially assigned to the case, and told the media earlier this week that “witnesses had spotted sky lanterns flying close to the zoo and very low, so we can assume they fell on the ground in this area.”

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North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the German state that the zoo is located in. In NRW lanterns have been banned for the past decade, as they pose an obvious fire hazard; the punishment is a fine up to $1,121 (1,000 Euros).

Luckily, individuals were devastated when they heard about all of the innocent wild animal life that was lost to an otherwise preventable accident, so much so that several individuals actually turned themselves in, stating that they set off paper lanterns on New Years Eve and could’ve been responsible for the tragedy. 

The lead suspects right now are a 60-year-old mother and her two adult daughters, whose names and information have been kept confidential until an official conclusion to the case is met. The mother and her daughters were amongst the several individuals who turned themselves in for illegally using lanterns on New Years Eve, and claimed that they heard about the fire on the local radio, according to Hoppmann.

Hoppmann also said in a recent statement that the suspects “seemed like sensible and responsible people who had shown courage in coming forward. Local prosecutors are now investigating the women for negligent arson, a crime that can be punished by up to five years in prison.”

Following this preventable tragedy, the German animal protection association has officially called for a legal ban of all types of fireworks and fire displays near any zoos, farms, and kennels. Throughout the week citizens have been supporting the animal protection association and honoring the innocent lives that were lost. Visitors have brought flowers, plush toys, pictures, and candles that they left at a memorial at the entrance of the zoo. 

Rising Sea Level

Rising Sea Levels Pose Greater Threat to Cities Than Previously Thought

Scientists have known for some time that global warming will lead to the melting of the ice caps, and in turn the rising of sea levels, threatening coastal cities. But scientists have disagreed over the timing and the extent of the impact of rising sea levels. New research, however, suggests that three times more people than previously thought could be affected by rising sea levels by 2050. The research was conducted by Climate Central, which is based in New Jersey, and was published in Nature Communications.

The new research, which uses advanced techniques based on satellite readings of land elevation, shows that previous predictions about the scope of rising sea levels were too optimistic. According to the new research, 150 million people currently live in areas that by 2050 will be below the high-tide line. Southern Vietnam, for instance, is at risk of disappearing almost entirely. Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s economic center, could collapse.

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Another country predicted to be strongly impacted by rising sea levels is Thailand, where the city of Bangkok is expected to be all but underwater in 2050. More than 10 percent of Thai residents live on land that will experience inundation in 2050, as do a quarter of Vietnamese residents, totaling more than 20 million people in those two countries alone.

Rising sea levels are expected to affect even those people who do not live in areas prone to flooding, as inundation of economic centers will have a drastic impact on the places that people work and live. Many of the world’s cities developed on coasts, putting them at particular risk for the effects of rising sea levels. Shanghai, for instance, is under direct threat of being consumed by water, as is much of the surrounding area. Mumbai, India’s financial capital and one of the world’s largest cities, is at high risk, as is the ancient city of Alexandria.

Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago.

While the reality of rising sea levels is all but confirmed, there are measures that cities can take to combat the effects of climate change. Already, 110 million people live in places below the high tide line, as seawalls and other barriers prevent flooding. In order to combat this particular threat of climate change, many of the world’s cities previously unaffected by flooding will have to invest in technologies like seawalls in order to survive the end of the 21st century. As these massive infrastructure projects can be costly and take a long time to complete, particularly vulnerable cities would be wise to make such investments as soon as possible.

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That being said, protective measures can only go so far and are prone to human error, as infamously occurred in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago. Unfortunately, these places are the least likely to be shielded by the effects of rising sea levels over the rest of this century, as the cost of doing so is great and offers little economic return.

Rising sea levels, of course, are not the only effects of climate change. Another major environmental consideration for cities as time progresses is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which pose a threat to both infrastructure and human life. Already, these effects are felt in the form of unprecedented, raging wildfires in California, which many experts believe to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Additionally, climate change has increased the intensity of hurricanes and other storms, as in the case of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas. While the reality of anthropogenic climate change is not in dispute among reputable scientists, ongoing research continues to reveal the various ways in which climate change affects and will continue to affect human life, oftentimes revealing that the impact will be more severe than previously thought.