Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Water - Fire - Metal - Earth


A month’s worth of rain fell on Toronto in just a few hours on Monday, leaving cars and commuters stranded, crippling the subway system and leaving some 300,000 customers without power across the city. The rain started arriving ahead of the supper hour, which caused severe flooding, major public transit delays and power outages across the city. Pedestrians sought shelter where they could as they waited out the weather. For drivers and commuters, the voyage home was just as problematic. The rain made it hard to see, while the pools of water made it hard to drive and in some cases drivers were unable to move. Environment Canada has put Toronto under a severe thunderstorm warning due to a "cluster" of storms that are making their way towards the city from the Brampton and Mississauga areas. "Total rainfall amounts over 90 mm have been reported in some locations thus far, and will likely exceed 100 mm before the rainfall tapers off later this evening," said a weather warning from Environment Canada.


More than a dozen forest fires are raging in northern Quebec, including one just four kilometres northeast of the Cree community of Eastmain. Quebec's forest fire protection agency, la Societe de protection des forets contre le feu (SOPFEU), said the fire had spread over 257,000 hectares when last surveyed, although today it is likely closer to 300,000 hectares - 3000 square kilometers. "The winds at the moment are in the community's favour," said Melanie Morin, a spokeswoman for SOPFEU. "The winds are blowing away from the community and heading eastward." Late last week, some 275 elderly and infirm people, as well as those with respiratory problems, were evacuated from Eastmain and are already in Val d'Or. Viger said between 400 and 500 people remain in the Cree community, with no passable road out due to smoke from the fire. "If the wind changes direction we may have to evacuate Cree villages in the territory," Viger said. "We are starting to put in place a Plan B, to transport people by plane, as we can still get into all the communities by plane." For a second straight day, damage to major transmission lines from the fires caused widespread blackouts elsewhere in Quebec. Half a million Hydro-Quebec customers were without power at the peak of Thursday's outages, which began at around 5 p.m. Hydro-Quebec said most had their power restored by 7 p.m., and the utility had the three transmission lines affected up and running again by 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, damage to the hydro line caused a major power failure that affected metro service in Montreal and cut off power at LaRonde, the amusement park on Ile Ste-Helene.

"A major line, a major transmission line far up north basically went off line," Hydro-Quebec's chief executive officer, Thierry Vandal, explained early Thursday. "That has a cascading affect on a number of lines." La Societe de developpement de la Baie-James, the agency in charge of roads in that part of the province, yesterday closed a large portion of the James Bay highway because of the fire, as well as side roads. A second major fire is burning 40 kilometres east of Nemiscau, another Cree community southeast of Eastmain. Morin said that fire, covering some 25,000 hectares when last surveyed, is so far not affecting the community because the prevailing winds are away from the village. SOPFEU has posted an extreme danger alert for several regions of the province - essentially everything north of the 49th parallel. "Contrary to the southern portion of the province, where we have lots of humidity and rain on and off throughout most of the summer, the nordic portion of the province has had very little rain and is very dry," Morin said. "The fire index is at 'extreme,' which means the tiniest spark could set off a major forest fire." There is a ban on all open-air fires in the affected regions.


At least 13 people have been confirmed dead in the devastating oil train accident that happened in Quebec, Canada, and the death is expected to rise, officials said today. The number of missing people was now "around 50." Earlier, they said the number of missing was around 40 individuals. Investigators said they are still working to locate the missing people. The bodies that have been found were burned to "just bones," police said today. The town of Lac-Megantic, east of Montreal, was consumed by fire on Saturday when a cargo train parked uphill from the town broke free, barrelled towards it and derailed. The 73-car train carried up to 1 million gallons of crude oil that ignited when the train derailed, causing a fireball that engulfed the town. Rescue workers are still hoping to make their way through the smoldering rubble to locate the missing individuals, many of whom are believed to have been at a local bar, Le Musi-Cafe, when the crash happened. Benoit said he expects the death toll to rise once they get to the site of the bar. Investigators could not reach the bar site because of still-smoldering hot spots, he said. The derailment caused fires throughout the town that devastated more than 30 buildings and sent up to 2,000 residents fleeing. Investigators have recovered two black boxes from the train since the crash and are working to determine how the crash occurred, they said Monday. The railway company responsible for the train, Rail World Inc., said that the train's engineer had put the proper brakes on the train when parking it uphill of Lac-Megantic. The company said that a locomotive shutdown might have released the train's airbrakes that were supposed to hold it in place overnight, setting it free on the tracks.


An oil and gas platform well in the Gulf of Mexico has lost containment and is leaking natural gas, the Coast Guard said. Early Tuesday, the Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement received a report from the owners of the natural gas and crude oil platform that workers had lost control of a well, Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally told NBC News. "It is actively leaking natural gas," Lally said, adding that all workers had been safely evacuated and none were injured. The well, about 74 miles off Port Fourchon, La., is owned by Energy Resources Technology Gulf of Mexico, a subsidiary of Talos Energy. According to the company's site assessment, "there is a rainbow sheen visible on the surface estimated to be more than four miles wide by three quarters of a mile long." Talos Energy President Timothy Duncan issued a statement late Tuesday saying workers were trying to plug and abandon the nonproducing well when "salt water containing a small amount of gas and light condensate began to flow to the surface and around the wellhead." He said the platform was evacuated and authorities were notified in "an abundance of caution."

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