Mayon volcano : Thousands flee ‘quiet eruption’ in Philippines

Philippines orders the forced evacuation of residents after the Mayon volcano spews ash. Nearly 15,000 people have fled their homes near the Philippines‘ most active volcano, which is undergoing a “quiet eruption” authorities warned could turn into a hazardous explosion “within weeks or even days.” Mount Mayon was spewing lava that has been quietly flowing in some places but at others erupting like a fountain, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. It has also been emitting ash which has fallen on nearby towns. “Technically, the volcano is erupting but the eruption is fairly quiet. It may escalate into a hazardous eruption,” Paul Alanis, science research specialist at the institution, told the AFP news agency. He said an explosive eruption would mean a lava fountain or spray of hot rocks and gases, which could move as fast as 60kmph.





Turkey deploys armored vehicles to Syrian border

Turkey has reportedly dispatched a convoy of over 40 military vehicles and tanks to the southern regions along the Syrian frontier amid growing Ankara-Washington tensions over a US plan to create a “border force” at Turkey’s doorstep. Military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on Monday that two dozen armored vehicles had entered the Reyhanli district of Turkey’s Hatay Province with military jammer vehicles “for reinforcement reasons.”
Another 20-vehicle military convoy, including tanks, had also arrived in the Viransehir district of Turkey’s Sanliurfa Province to provide assistance to the military units already deployed to the Syrian border, the sources added. The US infuriated its NATO partner Turkey on Sunday by announcing that Washington and a coalition of its allies purportedly fighting Daesh will work with US-backed militants of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to set up a new 30,000-strong “border security” force. The force would operate along the Turkish border with Iraq and within Syria along the Euphrates River.
Washington also said it is supplying weapons and training to anti-Damascus militants of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the SDF’s main backbone. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and the Syrian arm of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for independence over the past decades. The US had promised to take back the weapons from Kurdish militants once Daesh falls. Reacting to the US military’s announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Washington is “building an army of terror” on the border with Syria,” and that “it is our responsibility to suffocate this effort before it is born.”





Puerto Rico in the dark

Almost four months ago, Hurricane Maria decimated the U.S. territory’s outdated electric grid so forcefully that 40 percent of its 3.4 million residents remain without power.









Police have clashed with protesters in central Athens

Police have clashed with protesters hurling petrol bombs and bottles in central Athens after an anti-government rally called as part of a general strike in Greece turned violent.









Trekking With the Gorillas of Rwanda

Mountain gorillas are under threat from poaching, war and habitat loss in Rwanda. The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla. There are two populations. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks: Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. The other is found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Some primatologists speculate the Bwindi population in Uganda is a separate subspecies,[3] though no description has been finalized. As of September 2016, only an estimated 880 mountain gorillas remain.
Mountain gorillas are descendants of ancestral monkeys and apes found in Africa and Arabia during the start of the Oligocene epoch (34-24 million years ago). The fossil record provides evidence of the hominoid primates (apes) found in east Africa about 22–32 million years ago. The fossil record of the area where mountain gorillas live is particularly poor and so its evolutionary history is not clear. It was about 9 million years ago that the group of primates that were to evolve into gorillas split from their common ancestor with humans and chimps; this is when the genus Gorilla emerged. It is not certain what this early relative of the gorilla was, but it is traced back to the early ape Proconsul africanus.
Mountain gorillas have been isolated from eastern lowland gorillas for about 400,000 years and these two taxa separated from their western counterparts approximately 2 million years ago.  There has been considerable and as yet unresolved debate over the classification of mountain gorillas. The genus was first referenced as Troglodytes in 1847, but renamed to Gorilla in 1852. It was not until 1967 that the taxonomist Colin Groves proposed that all gorillas be regarded as one species (Gorilla gorilla) with three sub-species Gorilla gorilla gorilla (western lowland gorilla), Gorilla gorilla graueri (lowland gorillas found west of the Virungas) and Gorilla gorilla beringei (mountain gorillas including, Gorilla beringei found in the Virungas and Bwindi). In 2003 after a review they were divided into two species (Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei) by The World Conservation Union (IUCN).








Hundreds protest against pardon for jailed ex-president Fujimori

Demonstrators march during a protest against the pardon granted by Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to former President Alberto Fujimori, in Lima, Peru. Thousands of Peruvians marched in Lima on Monday to protest the pardon of ailing ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses. Current President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ordered the pardon of Fujimori and seven other prisoners on Sunday on humanitarian grounds, once again placing himself in the middle of a political crisis just days after he avoided impeachment.
On Monday, protesters called for Kuczynski’s departure from office. “Out, out PPK! Out, out PPK!” angry demonstrators chanted in reference to the president, who had promised during his electoral campaign the previous year that he would not free Fujimori. “Fujimori, murderer and thief. No to the pardon!” read one of the signs held by the protesters, some of whom also carried a giant Peruvian flag. Relatives of victims of Fujimori’s brutal rule took part in the march. “We are here as relatives to reject this illegal pardon, because it does not correspond to the gravity of the crimes,” Gisella Ortiz, representative of a group of relatives of victims, told reporters.





Iranian oil tanker ablaze in East China Sea

Rescue boats resume their search in choppy waters for any survivors from the stricken Iranian oil tanker that collided with a freight ship and burst into flames. Rescue ships work to extinguish the fire on the Panama-registered Sanchi tanker carrying Iranian oil, which went ablaze after a collision with a Chinese freight ship in the East China Sea. Rescue boats resumed their search in choppy waters for any survivors from the stricken Iranian oil tanker that collided with a freight ship and burst into flames on the weekend.







Search for Southern California mudslide victims

Search and rescue crews scour parts of California’s Santa Barbara County for people still missing following mudslides that killed at least 18.  Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. Seventeen people were confirmed dead and eight were missing. Earlier, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department incorrectly reported 48 people were missing, citing a clerical error.
Family members anxiously awaited word on loved ones who hadn’t been heard from since the onslaught early Tuesday. “It’s just waiting and not knowing, and the more I haven’t heard from them – we have to find them,” said Kelly Weimer, whose elderly parents’ home was wrecked. The couple, Jim and Alice Mitchell, did not heed a voluntary evacuation warning and stayed home to celebrate Jim Mitchell’s 89th birthday. CBS News confirmed on Thursday that the Mitchells were among the fatalities.








Mudslides hit Southern California

Rescue personnel continued searching for victims where mudslides slammed into homes, covered highways and swept away vehicles. At least 15 people were killed and homes were swept from their foundations as heavy rain sent mud and boulders sliding down hills stripped of vegetation by southern California’s recent wildfires. Rescue crews used helicopters to lift people to safety because of blocked roads, and firefighters slogged through waist-high mud to pull a muck-covered 14-year-old girl out of the ruins of a home in Montecito, north-west of Los Angeles, where she had been trapped for hours. She was taken away on a stretcher. Most deaths were believed to have occurred in Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people north-west of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres, said Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos. Winfrey’s home survived the storm and slides. At least 25 people were injured.











Dakar Rally : The greatest racing contest on earth

The 40th Dakar Rally kicked off on 6 January. Formerly known as the Paris Dakar after its historic start and finish locations, the endurance race is divided into 14 stages and will take entrants 5500 miles through South America, starting in Lima, Peru before crossing into Bolivia and finishing up in Cordoba, Argentina. Consistent with the rally raid competition format, the Dakar is a multi-day race event made up of long off-road stages. The vehicles participating include cars, trucks, bikes and quad bikes that can be run by manufacturer works teams, private individuals or standalone motorsport outfits. Of course, we’ll be focusing on the car-side of things. Keep an eye on this page for live Dakar updates and results from each day of the Dakar race.