Friday, March 11, 2011

Ring of Fire Update- Pacific Island Chain of Tonga Rocked by Magnitude 6.1 Quake; Explosion Reported at Japanese Nuclear Plant

The 'Ring of Fire'- the seismic and volcanically active reigon encirling the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand's South Island to Russia's Kamchatka peninsula to Chile's Tierra de Fuego- has been unusually active this month.

TONGA: Not even a day after the massive earthquake in Japan that triggered deadly tsunamis, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck the Pacific archipelego nation of Tonga early Saturday morning.
A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit south east of Tonga at 1:19pm local time (2:19 NZT), the US Geological Survey has reported.

The quake was at a depth of 10.9 kilometres, 106 kilometres south east of Hihifo, Tonga, 2528km west of Auckland.

An aftershock of 5.7 magnitude followed two minutes later.

A meteorological officer on Niuatoputapu, one of the northern most islands of Tonga, said he had not felt the earthquake.

No shaking was felt further south by residents in the islands of Vava'u or on Tongatapu, the Matangi Tonga website reported.
The low-lying Tongan island island of Niuatoputapu was hit hard by a tsunami spawned by an undersea magnitude 8.1 earthquake in the Samoan islands back in 2009. That tsunami killed 10 people and destroyed 90% of the structures on the island, although no tsunami warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

JAPAN: As I was updating the news out of Tonga, this story just broke out of Northeastern Japan.

An explosion was reported at the site of the Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Saturday.
An explosion at a nuclear power station tore down the walls of one building Saturday as smoke poured out and Japanese officials said they feared the reactor could melt down following the failure of its cooling system in a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

It was not clear if the damaged building housed the reactor. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that runs the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said four workers were injured but details were not immediately available.
Earlier, Japanese government officials said that radiation levels at that facility were at 1000 times the normal level.

Japan has issued a state of emergency for four other nuclear facilities as well. Shortly after it was learned of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power co warned that it had lost cooling ability for another reactor at their nearby Fukushima Daini site, prompting the evacuation of nearly 14,000 nearby residents.

3/12 UPDATE: Although the official death toll from Friday's quake tsunami has been tallied at 574, officials expect that number to rise. More 9,500 residents in the remote fishing village of Minamisanriku- to the north of Sendau- are unaccounted for in the aftermath of the disaster according to the Japanese Kyodo news agency. As of 2004, the town's population was an estimated 19,000.

3/12 INDONESIA: The Jakarta Post is reporting that Indonesia's Mount Karengateng on the island of Sulawsei has erupted, spewing lava and sending searing gas clouds down the mountainside. There have been no immediate reports of casualties or property damage there, although four people were killed when the volcano erupted last August. Closer to Indonesia's capital, the Mt. Merapi volcano on the densely populated island of Java unleashed a series of eruptions in October 2010, reportedly killing 122 people. Around the same time, the western coast of the earthquake prone island of Sumatra was rocked by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake, triggering a tsunami. It was estimated that 430 people were killed in between the tsunami and actual quake, with a number of people still missing.

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