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Indonesia on alert as death toll from devastating tsunami rises | Indonesia News

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Rescue workers are stepping up efforts to reach many areas devastated by a deadly tsunami that hit an Indonesian strait almost without warning in the darkness, smashing into houses, hotels and other buildings.

As doctors worked to help survivors and hundreds of people searched on debris-strewn beaches along the Sunda Strait for more victims, Indonesian officials said on Monday morning that the death toll had risen to at least 281, with more than 1,016 injured.

Dozens are missing from the disaster areas along the coastlines of western Java and southern Sumatra islands.

The numbers could increase once authorities hear from all stricken areas.

The waves that swept terrified people into the sea on Saturday night followed an eruption and possible landslide on Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island that emerged from the sea in the 1920s.





 

Government and non-government aid trickled in to Pandeglang, the worst-affected area on Java’s west coast. In Lampung, in southern Sumatra, dozens of people have been reported dead.

Authorities have warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches, with a high-tide warning in place until Tuesday.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Pantai Tumaritis, on the western coast of Java, said officials were wary about a possible reoccurrence.

“All Monday morning, there has been a low rumbling noise that occasionally peaks from the volcano some 47km out to sea directly from where we are,” he said, reporting from a hotel where two young children were found dead.

“With audio evidence that the volcano is continuing to erupt – it has been erupting on and off for months now, and Saturday’s wasn’t a particularly big one – there is a very real concern that there could be further tsunamis.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.

“My deep condolences to the victims in Banten and Lampung provinces,” he said. “Hopefully, those who are left have patience.”





An injured boy is carried by a police officer after evacuating from a hotel that collapsed due to the tsunami at Carita in Pandeglang, Banten province  [ Courtesy of Banten Police Headquarters/Handout via Reuters]

‘Completely obliterated’

Search and rescue officials used their bare hands and some heavy machinery to clear the remains of buildings on Monday, while the Indonesian Medical Association said it is sending more doctors and medical equipment to treat those injured, with many being in need of orthopedic and neurosurgery expertise.

Most patients are domestic tourists who were visiting the beach during the long holiday weekend, but foreigners were visiting the area ahead of Christmas as well.

Many coastal residents reported not seeing or feeling any warning signs, such as an earthquake, on Saturday night before a first, small wave washed ashore.

“What people here told us is that there was an initial wave that covered their feet, that kind of splashed over the sea walls, and about four-five minutes later the big one came,” said Thomas.

“Along this coastline, it’s so flat, there really is nowhere for people to run inland – and that was the trouble on Saturday night,” he added.

“There are wooden shacks up and down this coast that have been completely obliterated.”

Yuni, a resident of Lampung in Sumatra, was watching television at home when she heard the water coming.

“I heard a rumbling sound and I thought it was the wind. After I opened the door, water came in quickly and dragged me out. When I saw outside, the sea was receding. I decided to run and go as the water came again for the second time,” she said.





A resident affected by the tsunami stands next to debris in Carita beach [Jorge Silva/Reuters]

The widespread damage became apparent after daybreak on Sunday. Nine hotels and hundreds of homes were heavily damaged by the waves.

Broken chunks of concrete and splintered sticks of wood littered hard-hit coastal areas, turning beach getaways popular with Jakarta residents into near ghost towns. Debris from thatch-bamboo shacks was strewn along beaches.

Yellow, orange and black body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead.

Dramatic TV footage showed how the tsunami washed away an outdoor stage where Indonesian rock band Seventeen was performing for hundreds of guests at an end-of-year party for state utility company PLN.

At least four band members and support crew were killed, the group’s lead singer told followers in a tearful Instagram account. The band’s drummer was among the missing. Another 29 PLN employees and relatives were also killed.





A plume of ash rises as Anak Krakatau erupts in Indonesia [Susi Air/via Reuters]

‘Ring of fire’ 

Scientists, including those from Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics agency, said the tsunami could have been caused by landslides – either above ground or under water – on the steep slope of the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano. The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.

The 305-metre-high Anak Krakatau, whose name means “Child of Krakatoa”, lies on an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, linking the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. It has been erupting since June and did so again about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.

The volcanic island formed over years after the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, one of the largest, most devastating in recorded history. That disaster killed more than 30,000 people, launched far-reaching tsunamis and created so much ash that day was turned to night in the area and a global temperature drop was recorded.

Most of the island sank into a volcanic crater under the sea, and the area remained calm until the 1920s, when Anak Krakatau began to rise from the site. It continues to grow each year and erupts periodically.

Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said Saturday’s tsunami was likely caused by a flank collapse – when a big section of a volcano’s slope gives way. It’s possible for an eruption to trigger a landslide above ground or beneath the ocean, both capable of producing waves, he said.

“Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only one metre,” said Prasetya, who has studied Krakatoa. “The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline.”





Tsunami survivors gather at temporary shelter in Tanjung Lesung [Achmad Ibrahim/The Associated Press]

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and home to 260 million people, lies along the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August. And the tsunami and earthquake that hit the islands of Sulawesi in September killed more than 2,100 people, and thousands more are believed buried in neighbourhoods swallowed by a quake phenomenon known as liquefaction.

It was the second deadly tsunami to hit Indonesia this year, but the one that struck the island of Sulawesi on September 28 was accompanied by a powerful earthquake that gave residents a brief warning before the waves struck.

Saturday’s tsunami also rekindled memories of the massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake that hit Indonesia on December 26, 2004. It spawned a giant tsunami off Sumatra island, killing more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries – the majority in Indonesia.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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