Another Slow Motion Disaster for Haiti?

This one is scientifically weird. Unlike most of the Islands in the Caribbean, the Island of Hispaniola was formed by the Tectonic Plats pushing it up from the bottom of the ocean. As such, the Island is principally made up of Basalt and Granite. That is very very good from an agricultural standpoint, as the soil is very rich. As the collapse of thousands of buildings in Haiti during the earthquake demonstrates – that is not so good in terms of making concrete as it winds up weak and falls apart easily. The Northern and Southern “arms” of Haiti are mountain ridges. The center of their part of the Island is a valley, not much above sea level. The city of Port au Prince sits in this valley where it meets the sea and forms a deep water port. At one time this valley was some of the richest agricultural land in the world, and it still produces an excess of fruits and vegetables for the country’s people. At the western edge of this valley, on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, are two conjoined lakes, with, in days past – good fisheries. The lakes are filled with brackish water, and were formed by being cut off from the ocean millions of years ago when the Island rose from the bottom of the sea. To my knowledge, these lakes are no longer connected to the sea, and historically have been maintained by the plentiful tropical rains.

If these lakes are indeed rising, or the Island is sinking – then the City of Port au Prince could conceivably wind up underwater.

 

Fishermen in Lake Enriquillo among a sea of dead trees where farmers formerly reaped bountiful harvests.

 

Rising Tide Is a Mystery That Sinks Island Hopes

LAGO ENRIQUILLO, Dominican Republic — Steadily, mysteriously, like in an especially slow science fiction movie, the largest lake in the Caribbean has been rising and rising, devouring tens of thousands of acres of farmland, ranches and whatever else stands in its way.

Lago Enriquillo swallowed Juan Malmolejos’s banana grove. It swamped Teodoro Peña’s yucas and mango trees. In the low-lying city of Boca de Cachon, the lake so threatens to subsume the entire town that the government has sent the army to rebuild it from scratch on a dusty plain several miles away.

Harvesting the Banana crop, a common site in Haiti and the DR

Jose Joaquin Diaz believes that the lake took the life of his brother, Victor. Victor committed suicide, he said, shortly after returning from a life abroad to see the family cattle farm, the one begun by his grandfather, underwater.

“He could not believe it was all gone, and the sadness was too much,” Mr. Diaz said, as a couple of men rowed a fishing boat over what had been a pasture.

Theories abound, but a conclusive answer remains elusive as to why the lake — as well as its nearby sibling in Haiti, Lac Azuei, which now spills over the border between the two on the island of Hispaniola — has risen so much. Researchers say the surge may have few if any precedents worldwide.

“There are no records, to the best of our knowledge, of such sudden growth of lakes of similar size,” said Jorge E. Gonzalez, a City College of New York engineering professor who is helping to lead a consortium of scientists from the United States and the Dominican Republic studying the phenomenon.

Other lakes have grown, from melting glaciers and other factors, Mr. Gonzalez said, but “the growth rates of these two lakes in Hispaniola has no precedent.”

The lakes, salty vestiges of an ancient oceanic channel known for their crocodiles and iguanas, have always had high and low periods, but researchers believe they have never before gotten this large. The waters began rising a decade ago, and now Enriquillo has nearly doubled in size to about 135 square miles, Mr. Gonzalez said, roughly the size of Atlanta, though relatively light rains in the past year have slowed its expansion. Azuei has grown nearly 40 percent in that time, to about 52 square miles, according to the consortium.

The scientists, partly financed by the National Science Foundation, are focusing on changing climate patterns as the main culprit, with a noted rise in rainfall in the area attributed to warming in the Caribbean Sea.

In reports, they have noted a series of particularly heavy storms in 2007 and 2008 that swamped the lakes and the watersheds that feed them, though other possible contributing factors are also being studied, including whether new underground springs have emerged.

“People talk about climate change adaptation, well, this is what’s coming, if it’s coming,” said Yolanda Leon, a Dominican scientist working on the lake research.

A Satellite Topographic view of  Lake Azuei (bottommost), Largo Enriquillo, and the location of Port au Prince. The arrow points to the major fault line which caused the recent earthquake.

The rise has taken a toll, particularly around Enriquillo, an area more populated than that around Azuei.

The government estimates that 40,000 acres of agricultural land have been lost, affecting several thousand families who have lost all or part of their only livelihood of yuca, banana and cattle farming. The town of Boca de Cachon at the lake’s edge is in particular peril, with some houses already lost, and the government is bulldozing acres of land for new farms.

A main highway to the Haitian border was flooded and had to be diverted, while another road around the perimeter of the lake now ends abruptly in the water.

Local residents are skeptical that the government will follow through, and they question whether the soil will be as good as the parcels near the lake that drew generations of farmers in the first place.

Some of the Island’s rich produce at a Veggie stand in Haiti

Olgo Fernandez, the director of the country’s hydraulic resources institute, waved off the criticism and said the government had carefully planned the new community and plots to ensure the area remains an agriculture hotbed. It will be completed this year, officials said, though on a recent afternoon there was much work left to be done.

“These will be lands that will produce as well as, if not better than, the lands they previously had,” Mr. Fernandez said.

Row upon row of cookie-cutter, three-bedroom, cinder-block houses — 537 in all — are being built in the new town, which will include a baseball field, church, schools, community center, parks, even a helicopter landing pad (“for visiting dignitaries,” an official explained). Environmental controls will make it “the greenest town in the Dominican Republic,” said Maj. Gen. Rafael Emilio de Luna, who is overseeing the work.

For now, though, at the ever-creeping edge of the lake, the ghostly trunks of dead palm trees mark submerged farms.

Junior Moral Medina, 27, who lives in Boca, plans to move to the new community. He looked out on a recent day on an area where his 10-acre farm had been, now a pool of lake water studded with dead palms.

“We have been worried the whole town would disappear,” said Mr. Medina, who now works on the construction site for the new town. “Some people at first did not want to leave this area, but the water kept rising and made everybody scared.”

Residents in other communities are growing impatient and worry they will not be compensated for their losses.

Enrique Diaz Mendez has run a small grocery stand in Jaragua since losing half of his six acres of yuca and plantain crops to Enriquillo. “We are down to almost nothing,” he said.

Jose Joaquin Diaz and his brother, Victor, grew up tending to the sheep, goats and cows of the family farm, but both left the Dominican Republic for the United States for better opportunity. Jose returned first, and three years ago Victor arrived, looking forward to the slower pace of life after working an array of jobs over 18 years in Brooklyn.

“We told him about the lake, but he was shocked when he saw it,” Jose recalled, tears welling with the memory.

Later that night, Victor called his mother to express his dismay. The next morning he was found hanging in a relative’s apartment in Santo Domingo where he was staying. “It is strange to see people fishing where we had the cows,” Mr. Diaz said. “Victor could not bear it.”

 

47th Floor Walk-Up, 2 Bedroom Spectacular View…For Sale/Rent cheap!

A 47th floor …Walk up?

And you thought the economy was bad in Greece!

Spanish Skyscraper, InTempo, Has One Tragic Flaw – No Elevator! How Did Architects Forget A Lift For The 47-Story Benidorm, Spain High-Rise? 

A 47-story Spanish skyscraper has been built, it seems, without an elevator. Yep, you read it right folks. InTempo high-rise in Benidorm, Spain, whose construction began with high hopes of being “an unquestionable banner of the future,” has been constructed without a proper elevator to travel all the floors of the 47-story skyscraper. Sadly, this tragic oversight may soon make the structure, and Benidorm itself, the laughingstock of the modern world. Though the project has been riddled with problems since day one, the recent discovery that such a vital usability feature as an elevator was overlooked may just put the kibosh on the whole thing, certifying it as a fail of epic proportions.

So let’s just take a step back and figure out how the architects managed to build a 47-story skyscraper without an elevator. I mean surely that should be a standard component of any set of high-rise building plans right? It appears, when InTempo’s construction first began, the Benidorm, Spain skyscraper did include an elevator — at least for the first 20 stories anyway. However, multiple problems arose in the construction process, putting the building completion four years behind schedule. In 2009, just before the skyscraper was to be completed, the construction firm building the 47-storystructure, Olga Urbana, went bankrupt.

With much work still undone, some of the workers who were part of the now bankrupt Olga Urbana firm decided to open a new firm and try to get the InTempo completed. The new firm was called Kono and picked up the work in 2010.

Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of the troubles and complications ahead for the skyscraper, culminating in the discovery that it lacked a proper elevator. In fact, elevators had been an issue all along with this failed construction attempt. It seems that whoever was managing this project really didn’t have their head in the game because oddly enough, there wasn’t any kind of lift at all for workers until 23 stories of the skyscraper had already been built! Without even a freight elevator in place, imagine the difficulties these 41 workers must have had, trekking up and down 23 floors each day to complete their work!

The poor InTempo workers did finally get the freight elevator they needed, but unfortunately, more trouble was ahead. In July 2011, as workers prepared to build the 47th and final floor of the Spain skyscraper, a tragedy occurred. The freight elevator collapsed with 13 of the 41 workers inside. Even more frightening, however, is the fact that ambulances were unable to get to the workers due to the building having no vehicle entrance. Again, this was another brilliant attempt to save money at the expense of those working on the project.

Though workers continued to build the 47-story high rise, in 2012 an error was discovered that was the straw to break the camel’s back.

It was discovered that the design of the structure was quite shortsighted as it didn’t plan for the additional 27 stories later added to the building. Initially the InTempo was meant to be 20 stories high. However, when the building firm bankruptcy fiasco took place, plans were altered to take theskyscraper to 47 stories. The twin towers would connect in the center with a bowl construction containing communal gardens and pools.

In revamping their plans for InTempo, however, the builders forgot to properly rescale them. As a result, the 47-story Spanish skyscraper would have an elevator far to small to accommodate lifting past the 20th floor. The motor in the original elevator lacked the power needed to lift to the additional floors and there was no space to put in a larger one. This final disaster led the construction workers in charge of the project to resign citing “a loss of confidence in the developers” — um, yeah.

Even with this latest embarrassment, which leaves the building at 94 percent completion, it seems those in charge of the project are fairly oblivious to the disasters that have ensured around them. Though the skyscraper has only 35 percent of its 269 housing units sold, the completely unfazed designers continue to offer their one-bedroom apartments at an exorbitant 358,000 euros, with increments every 10 floors…

You KNOW it’s bad when…

Who Made the Debt, Again?

At last – a clear answer to “Who made this mess.”

It was Bush, and the Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans trashed America’s economy, and conservative policies have been a disaster since Raygun.

24editorial_graph2-popup.gif

 

How the Deficit Got This Big

With President Obama and Republican leaders calling for cutting the budget by trillions over the next 10 years, it is worth asking how we got here — from healthy surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and the promise of future surpluses, to nine straight years of deficits, including the $1.3 trillion shortfall in 2010. The answer is largely the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.

Despite what antigovernment conservatives say, non-defense discretionary spending on areas like foreign aid, education and food safety was not a driving factor in creating the deficits. In fact, such spending, accounting for only 15 percent of the budget, has been basically flat as a share of the economy for decades. Cutting it simply will not fill the deficit hole….

First, the Bush tax cuts have had a huge damaging effect. If all of them expired as scheduled at the end of 2012, future deficits would be cut by about half, to sustainable levels. Second, a healthy budget requires a healthy economy; recessions wreak havoc by reducing tax revenue. Government has to spur demand and create jobs in a deep downturn, even though doing so worsens the deficit in the short run. Third, spending cuts alone will not close the gap. The chronic revenue shortfalls from serial tax cuts are simply too deep to fill with spending cuts alone. Taxes have to go up.

Third Reactor at Fukuchima Dai-ichi Goes Into Meltdown

There has been another explosion at the stricken Japanese Nuclear Power Plant in the last hour or two. This is the third explosion in the reactor complex since the earthquake. The complex is made up of 8 reactors. By some reports, this one is by far the most serious explosion – with the fuel rods exposed, releasing highly radioactive material.

This video is from the second explosion -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dytttMoivoQ&feature=player_embedded#at=155

New Explosion Rocks Japanese Nuclear Plant

An explosion that released radioactive material occurred in reactor No. 2 at the nuclear center at Fukushima, in northeastern Japan, on Monday.

The blast damaged part of the primary container surrounding the reactor’s core and caused an escape of an undetermined quantity of radioactive material, the Nuclear Security Agency said.

The Kyodo news agency reported that radiation levels in the vicinity “exceeded the legal limit” after the explosion, which occurred at 6:10 a.m. on Tuesday local time (2110 GMT on Monday), shortly after the Japanese government admitted that the reactor continued to be unstable after it suffered damage in Friday’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake.

The operating crew at the plant worked all night to inject seawater into the secondary containment structure in an attempt to cool down the core and prevent a meltdown that could emit radioactive material, but that did not have the desired effect and the reactor was not able to be stabilized.

If the nuclear fuel in the core begins to melt down, that would constitute an emergency situation of the highest order because of the potential for a severe radioactive leak that could contaminate the area.

Reactor No. 2 at Fukushima on Monday suffered a failure of one of the 10 valves associated with its cooling system, something similar to what occurred before reactors 1 and 3 at the same center exploded after the quake.

 

Japanese Reactor Goes Into Meltdown in Japan After Quake

This one is going to meltdown. The big question is whether they can cool the core off fast enough to prevent any (additional) major release of radiation… Hopefully, they can prevent another Chernobyl. Apparently, they have already lost some workers, either badly injured or killed courageously trying to get this back under control.

This is despite the best building codes and system in the world to prevent just the sort of damage we are seeing from an earthquake or natural disaster. Because earthquakes are so common in Japan, major structures and buildings are designed to extremely high standards – higher than the US California Standards, which are the best in the US and generally accepted in much of the world. The fact that (possibly) only a few thousand people have been killed in an earthquake an order of magnitude stronger than that which hit Haiti is due to that. Most of the victims are likely from the Tsunami, despite the fact that a number of the towns and villages in the area have 10-30′ seawalls designed to protect them from just such an occurance.

To understand how violent this earthquake was, geographic sources are now reporting that the coastline of Japan was actually moved 8 feet! And shifted the entire planet on it’s axis by 4 inhces!

25 Years ago, a reactor outside of Detroit, Michigan had an “incident”…

 

Huge Earthquake, Tsunami Strike Japan

Our prayers go out to the Japanese people.  The scenes of devastation are incredible… The 10 Meter waves sweeping inland they are talking about are as high as 3 story building…

 

 

Haiti on the Edge

Been to Haiti several times now, working on various projects. Never seen anything like this, short of walking through a war zone. The Haitian people are an amazingly resilient group. Unfortunately, after 300 years of failure, much of it induced by larger, more powerful countries – there just aren’t any easy fixes.

The Cholera issue has been a disaster waiting to happen – sans any human malefactor, the tent cities are unsustainable. The earthquake which destroyed so many buildings didn’t do the creaky, antiquated, already overwhelmed infrastructure any favors. If you know what to look for driving down the street (not recommended for the faint of heart!) you will notice huge chunks of the core infrastructure are just…

Gone.

Whether storm drains, septic line, water mains, telecom facilities, or electric lines there are just huge missing chunks – some of which have been patched over with makeshift fixes which would make McGuyver proud by ever-inventive Haitians. The good news is that work crews are steadily removing the rubble. The bad news is that there isn’t anywhere to put it, and the roads system, designed for light commuter traffic now have potholes the size of Grand Canyon everywhere you go from the heavy trucks. Getting from place A to B is an adventure in spinal readjustment.

The even worse news is that sans the myriad of other problems – to fix these core infrastructure components takes years. Building a new septic plant, water treatment facility, underground distributions system, power plant(s), etc. aren’t things that, even if all the other problems went away and you could start tomorrow…

Could be done in a few months. Projects on that scale tend to take YEARS.

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