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SCIENCE FILE

Earthwatch: A Diary of the Planet

March 09, 2000

Eruptions

At least seven people were reported missing in snowdrifts near Iceland's erupting Hekla Volcano after thousands of motorists ignored the warnings of authorities and drove to the area to view the explosions. Officials warned that volcanic ash could clog car engine air intakes and that the gases being emitted from the earth near the foot of the volcano were poisonous. Hekla erupted after more than nine years of dormancy.

Guatemala's Pacaya Volcano exploded violently, prompting officials to declare a red alert in Guatemala City, 24 miles to the south. The volcanic explosion spewed ash 6,560 feet into the sky and over surrounding communities.

Philippine officials warned residents of the communities of Anoling and Bonga near Mayon Volcano to prepare for immediate evacuation if ongoing rain loosens volcanic debris and triggers slides. Mayon erupted for a second week, throwing out incandescent boulders as large as houses and keeping 83,000 residents from their homes.

Nicaragua's San Cristobal Volcano exploded with flows of lava and a rain of ash that fell over the cities of Corinto, El Viejo and Chinandega.

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Flood Catastrophe

International relief efforts to help Mozambique cope with its widespread catastrophic flooding mounted as further heavy rain was predicted for the region. Hundreds of remote villagers have perished in the disaster, some clinging for days in tree-tops that barely stuck above flood waters that stretch 60 miles wide in some areas. Many have been rescued in dramatic helicopter airlifts, but the number of available aircraft was said to be far too small to deal with the scope of the inundations. The flood waters have created a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and waterborne diseases. The city of Chokwe has reported nearly 1,000 cases of malaria since the flooding began.

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Earthquakes

The stronger of two earthquakes that rocked Panama caused buildings to crack in the southeast of the country.

Quakes were also felt in Guam, near Fiji, central and southern Japan, Taiwan, southern Russia, central Turkey, northwestern Iran and the Sierra foothills of Southern California.

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Ethopian Blazes

Fires raging across southeast-ern Ethiopia for three weeks

approached the Bale Mountains National Park, threatening endangered plants and animals. The blazes were believed to be caused by slash-and-burn farming techniques or by fire used by farmers to drive away bees in order to gather honey. At least 74,000 acres of virgin forest in the Boren and Bale regions were blackened.

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Flamingo Deaths

Tens of thousands of flamingos on central Kenya's LakeBogoria have died since July of a unidentified illness; pollution is the suspected cause. Gideon Motelin, who specializes in flamingo studies at Kenya's Egerton University, said, "In every single bird which we collected and analyzed tissues, we found up to nine or 10 heavy metals." Ecologists surmised that the pollution is from farms in the region of Lake Nakuru, 62 miles south of Bogoria.

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