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SCIENCE FILE / An exploration of issues and trends
affecting science, medicine and the environment

Earthwatch: A Diary of the Planet

November 09, 2000

Airborne Attacks

Unusually aggressive gulls off Argentina's Patagonia coast are attacking migrating whales, seriously threatening the breeding sea mammals. The Dominican gulls appear to have developed an opportunistic feeding pattern of dive-bombing the whales and ripping chunks of flesh from their backs. The birds are said to attack from high in the air when the whales surface to breathe. Pregnant whales have been observed undergoing considerable stress during the assaults and trying to escape the attacks. The Whale Protection Institute believes that the gull attacks could drive the estimated 2,500 whales that make their way annually to the peninsula from the region. Whale experts believe that the gull population around the Valdez Peninsula could be controlled by making it illegal to store garbage and fish refuse outdoors.

Vietnam Flood Aftermath

Tens of thousands of rats and golden snails have descended on Vietnam's flood-ravaged Mekong Delta, laying waste to vast areas of rice paddies. The invasion of the pests follows the worst flooding to hit the region in 40 years. The floods lasted for more than three months and killed at least 400 people.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 5.3 temblor along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border wrecked more than 100 houses and two schools in the Farhor region of Tajikistan.

At least five people in Japan's Mie and Aichi prefectures were injured by falling objects when a magnitude 5.5 earthquake hit the area.

Earth movements were also felt in New Zealand, Indonesia's Sumba Island, Tibet, the Aleutian Islands, Panama and the eastern Caribbean.

Eruptions

Officials in the archipelagic islands of Comoros, located off the northeastern coast of Madagascar, issued a warning that Khartala Volcano could erupt within the next several weeks. The mountain last erupted in 1991 and produced scores of tremors during the week before the latest warning was issued.

Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano erupted with a vigorous explosion that sent a huge cloud of ash and smoke soaring two miles into the sky southeast of Mexico City. Volcanologists reported that the eruption followed several days of increased seismic activity, which they believe indicates that the volcano may be forming a new dome.

Tropical Cyclones

At least 60 people in Bangladesh were killed by an unnamed cyclone that lashed the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Many of the victims were fishermen who drowned when their boats capsized off Cox's Bazar on the southern tip of Bangladesh.

Scores of people across the northern Philippines and Taiwan were killed by high winds and floods from powerful Typhoon Xangsane. The storm may have contributed to the crash of a Singapore Airlines jet during takeoff in Taipei.

Tropical Storm Bebinca passed over the same area of the Philippines struck earlier by Xangsane, then headed for the Chinese mainland late in the week.

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