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December 2, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee yesterday declared pilot error to be behind the crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501. All 162 passengers and crew died when the plane crashed into the Java Sea a year ago.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April 2014.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

The Airbus A320-200 was around 40 minutes from Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport to Singapore’s Changi International Airport when it vanished on December 28. Wreckage and bodies were found floating two days later; National Search and Rescue Agency divers led an international recovery effort but over 50 bodies remain lost.

The pilots were facing a fault with the rudder travel limiter, a part involved in rudder control. They repeatedly received warnings on their Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system. The first three times Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto and French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel followed correct procedure only for the fault to recur. The fourth time, they tried something else — based on Flight Data Recorder readouts, investigators believe they reset power to their Flight Augmentation Computers.

The computers are principally responsible for rudder control and aircraft stability. With both computers switched off, the entire fly-by-wire system of semi-automation disconnected, as did the autopilot and autothrust systems. The pilots were now left to fly entirely manually, without automation that protects the aircraft from entering unusual and dangerous positions.

A miscommunication followed. Iriyanto asked Plesel, who was flying, to “pull down”. Plesel pulled the controls down, which pitched the nose up; Iriyanto had wanted to descend. The flight ascended without permission through 36,000ft with a ground speed of 353knts. The aircraft would normally be travelling faster, with a nearby Emirates jet at a ground speed of 503knts at 36,000ft. The aircraft also banked as the disengagement of automation left the rudder off-centre.

A ship carries the aircraft’s recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The AirAsia flight reached 38,000ft and entered a stall. The crew did not manage to regain control. The 155 passengers and seven crew died when the plane hit the sea. Most were Indonesians, but for three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit, and French national Plesel.

The fault was traced to cracked solder on a circuit board. It had repeatedly occurred in the weeks before the crash. The investigation concluded maintenance failings contributed to the disaster, but Muhammad Alwi of the Indonesian Transportation Ministry said “Repeated trouble in maintenance is a normal thing[…] If the trouble is fixed in accordance with the manual maintenance procedures, then it’s alright”.

Investigators believe the solder crack is attributable to extreme temperature changes in the unprotected compartment near the tail that houses the component.

The investigation further found the flight crew were untrained in recovering from extreme events. AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes said yesterday “there is much to be learned here for AirAsia, the manufacturer and the aviation industry… We will not leave any stone unturned to make sure the industry learns from this tragic incident”.

The report also dismisses weather as a contributory factor. The flight was diverting around storms in the area.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto had a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. They spent three minutes struggling to regain control as the pane fell to the sea. Some bodies were recovered around 1,000km away near Sulawesi.

AFP spoke to Terence Fan, an air industry expert from Singapore Management University, who said “It’s a scenario that has played out in air accidents in the past[…] Pilots are either distracted by a faulty equipment or cannot properly solve the issue and something else is brewing in the background.”

One such accident was the loss of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 into the Atlantic. It was investigated by the BEA of France, which also assisted the AirAsia probe. The BEA issued recommendations on how to train pilots after the Air France crash. Ex-BEA boss Jean-Paul Troadec said to AFP “Several recommendations of the (BEA) on the subject of pilot training were clearly not implemented by [AirAsia].”

Indonesia saw such an accident on New Years’ Day 2007 when Adam Air Flight 574 crashed into the Makasser Strait near Sulawesi. The plane suffered a failure on a navigational instrument. While pilots were troubleshooting for this navigational system they first unintentionally disconnected the autopilot, then lost control and crashed into the sea.



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October 19, 2015

Typhoon Koppu makes landfall in the Philippines, displacing at least 16,000

Typhoon Koppu makes landfall in the Philippines, displacing at least 16,000

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Monday, October 19, 2015

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Typhoon Koppu, known additionally as Lando, made landfall in the northern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least two and displacing at least 16,000 people.

A satellite image of Typhoon Koppu, as of October 17.
Image: United States Naval Research Laboratory.

The deadly storm caused a concrete wall in a home in Subic, Zambales to topple over, killing a 62-year-old woman and injuring her husband. A 14-year-old teenager was killed after being fatally pinned down in Manila by a tree which got knocked over. The same fallen tree injured four others, including a three-year-old. The tree additionally damaged three nearby houses.

The injured people were sent to the East Avenue Medical Centre for treatment.

A map showing the typhoon’s path.
Image: User:Meow, data from NOAA.

The typhoon made landfall in the town of Casiguran, a town with a population of 25,000 in the province of Aurora. Subsequently it ripped roofs off of houses, uprooted trees, and knocked down power lines. Nine provinces were left without electricity. Flash floods and landslides heavily damaged roads, and as a result 25 roads were made impassable.

The army attempted to clear routes leading to Casiguran, according to the state-owned Philippines News Agency. Nigel Lontoc, an employee of the Office of Civil Defense said that some residents were trapped on rooftops in the province of Nueva Ecija. Troops were sent to that location as a part of a rescue operation.

The typhoon weakened as it moved over land, and weather improved in some regions. Officials urged residents to be cautious since Koppu may still cause landslides and flash floods.

Alexander Pama, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said that they were asking their countrymen “not to become complacent.”

The typhoon is expected to move slowly over the Philippines, causing large amounts of rainfall.

This year, Koppu is the twelfth typhoon to hit the Philippines, where around 20 typhoons make landfall per year.

Bob Henson, weather blogger from Weather Underground, said that the Philippines is considered to be “the most vulnerable large nation on earth for tropical cyclones.”



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October 8, 2015

UN drops proposal to assist climate refugees

UN drops proposal to assist climate refugees

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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The creation of a body designed to assist with the relocation of people who’s homes are threatened by climate change has been removed from Monday’s update of a UN draft agreement in the lead up to the December climate conference negotiations.

A previous draft crafted by the UN included a “climate change displacement coordination facility” that would provide “organised migration and planned relocation”, with further provisions to provide compensation and emergency relief for people who’s homelands have been left uninhabitable as a result of climate change. However a reference to such a body has ben removed from a revised text released in the lead up to the Paris conference. Australia opposed the measure. Indeed a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said,

“Australia does not see the creation of the climate change displacement coordination facility as the most effective or efficient way to progress meaningful international action to address the impacts of climate change, Australia is already working closely with our Pacific partners on these important issues.”

the UN estimates that climate change will displace 250 million people worldwide by 2050. Many of Australia’s low lying pacific island neighbours are at significant risk. Nations such as Kiribati, The Solomon Islands and Tuvala, face dangers to their food security, water supply and eroding coast lines. Kiribati has already bought land in Fiji, primarily to be used for agricultural purposes to help assure the nations food security. President Anote Tong has also raised the idea of having to relocate the entire nations population if sea levels continue to rise.

In light of this advocates have argued that a new international framework needs to be created to safeguard the interests of climate refugees or alternatively propose sufficient amendments to the current refugee convention, which as it currently stands does not cover them because they are not fleeing persecution.

Indeed last month Loane Teitiota, a Kiribati man who has been living in New Zealand was deported back to his native country after a failed attempt to be seek refugee status on the grounds of climate change. Mr Teitota argued that returning to Kiribati constituted a serious risk to both his and his family’s health due to contaminated water supplies and rising sea levels. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key stated that he did not find Mr Teitiotas’ plea to be a “credible argument.”



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September 11, 2015

Typhoon Etau causes more leakage at Fukushima

Typhoon Etau causes more leakage at Fukushima

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Fukushima in 2011.
Image: Digital Globe.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Radioactive water has been leaking from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant following damage caused by Typhoon Etau. The plant’s drainage system has been inundated by a surge of sea water brought in by the typhoon, which reached Japan on Wednesday. A spokesperson for TEPCO, the company that runs the plant, yesterday said they were investigating the leaked water but it did not present a significant danger.

This comes after authorities in eastern Japan ordered over 100,000 people to leave the area as a precautionary measure as the typhoon proceeded to flood the town of Joso. Up to 25 people are still missing and at least three are dead as a consequence of the flooding. Hundreds of thousands more people in the region have been encouraged to evacuate as well. Rescue efforts are being hampered by the floods, with some people being plucked from roofs and cars by teams in helicopters.

The Fukushima nuclear plant was damaged after a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. As recently as April this year there were concerns about leakages as a result of electrical problems with water pumps that caused contaminated water to escape into the Pacific Ocean. A large volume of water used as part of the cooling mechanism before the reactors were damaged has since been stored in numerous steel drums.



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September 8, 2015

Lightning strikes kill 22 in Andhra Padesh, India

Lightning strikes kill 22 in Andhra Padesh, India

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

File photo of lightning striking the ground.
Image: Kószó József.

22 people have been killed in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and a women’s cricket match has been interrupted due to lightning strikes during thunderstorms on Sunday. Most of the casualties were farmers, who worked in their fields despite the thunderstorms.

Officials blamed a low pressure system over the Bay of Bengal for causing the heavy thunderstorms, which affected eight districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Lightning during the storm killed a woman and her daughter-in-law while they were working on their farm, according to newspaper The Hindu. At another farm, a man was killed while drilling a well during the storms.

Lightning interrupted a women’s cricket team match by striking a nearby tree. The match was stopped mid-game, and both players and spectators fled the scene. The escape was “miraculous”, according to a cricket official in the area where the match occurred.

Even though the storms occurred during the monsoon season, when lightning strikes occur more frequently due to an increased amount of precipitation, the number of lightning-related casualties from Sunday’s storms was considered by local authorities to be unexpectedly high.



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May 12, 2015

Fatalities, multiple injuries in Texas tornado

Fatalities, multiple injuries in Texas tornado

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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A tornado tore through much of the town of Van, Texas late Sunday evening. Officials said over 40 people were transported to local hospitals for treatment and reportedly two people died during the storm — David Tapley, a retired Garland, Texas police officer, and his wife.

The National Weather Service estimated winds over 130 miles per hour (210 kilometres per hour) during the tornado. Late Monday afternoon, debris was still scattered over much of the central portion of the town. An historic building which served as the town’s first school suffered significant damage. Other school buildings were also damaged. All classes for students were cancelled for Monday.

Work crews and numerous utility trucks were on site Monday and the city’s main street remained closed to thru traffic. A residential area on the town’s eastern side was littered with debris and downed trees could be seen along the streets. Fifteen fire departments across five Texas counties responded following the storm, according to the county fire marshal.

Debris hangs on a fence skirting an athletic field in the central part of the town.
Image: Paul Budd.

A trailer stacked with debris from the storm. An historic building (seen in background), located in the central part of the town, shows damage.
Image: Paul Budd.

Workers clean up debris from a large field located near the central part of the town. Utility trucks are seen in the background.
Image: Paul Budd.

Utility trucks seen leaving the town on Monday afternoon.
Image: Paul Budd.

A police roadblock seen along the town’s eastern edge on Monday afternoon.
Image: Paul Budd.



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April 22, 2015

Three people die in New South Wales storms

Three people die in New South Wales storms

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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In New South Wales (NSW), Australia, two men and a woman died yesterday after search-and-rescue operations failed to rescue them from floods in Dungog, roughly 200 km (125 miles) north of the state’s capital, Sydney.

Storms hit communites along the east coast of Australia including Newcastle, the Hunter Region, the Central Coast, the Illawarra region, and Sydney. The Bureau of Meteorology reported a deep low-pressure system has caused heavy rainfall and strong winds which reached 130kph (80mph). Winds were predicted to ease today.

There have been blackouts throughout the region and severe flooding which has caused roads, bridges and houses to be washed away. More than 500 volunteers were working with the State Emergency Service to assist with operations and protect individuals, with firefighters from the Rural Fire Service and Fire Rescue according to State Emergency Service deputy commissioner Steven Pearce. They issued a warning that residents in Newcastle and surrounding areas might experience flash flooding.

The Insurance Council of Australia reported already during the day yesterday more than 5500 policyholder claims due to the storms. New South Wales premier Mike Baird said people should leave work early and arrive home before dark, as storms were predicted to intensify.

NSW transport authorities said 300 sets of traffic lights in Syndey were out and motorists should be cautious or preferably not drive. Authorities advised residents to stay away from flood-waters and from areas exposed to surf, where heavy surf can lead to coastal damage and erosion.

The New South Wales Emergency Services Minister David Elliot said it was a “once-in-a-decade storm”.


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February 8, 2015

Divers retrieve 100th corpse from Java Sea jet crash

Divers retrieve 100th corpse from Java Sea jet crash

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

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Divers yesterday recovered three bodies from December’s air disaster in the Java Sea. Added to four retrieved on Friday, they bring the total to 100. An additional 62 victims remain to be recovered.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

There were no survivors when Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed on December 28. The six-year-old Airbus A320-200 was 40 minutes from Juanda International Airport with 155 passengers and seven crew, bound for Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Most were Indonesians, with three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit and one French person on board.

One of the latest bodies was a uniformed man strapped into a cockpit seat, and presumed to be either Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto or French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel. Underwater currents have complicated recovery of the other body from the cockpit. Efforts to retrieve the entire aircraft last month were abandoned. Some bodies have been found roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the crash site, floating near Sulawesi.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto has a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. Their actions have come under scrutiny as the National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) investigates.

A ship carries the aircraft’s recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The aircraft entered an excessively steep climb before stalling, the NTSC said last month. It took three minutes for the plane to reach the water, during which time the flight crew tried to regain control. Bloomberg claims the flight crew switched off computers designed to aid them after they issued alerts. AirAsia has declined to comment pending the NTSC investigation, which is expected to continue for several months.

The Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics suggests weather caused the disaster, suggesting ice led to engine failure. NTSC head investigator Marjono Siswosuwarno last month reported satellite data showed storms as high as 44,000ft. The plane was attempting to avoid storms in the minutes before contact was lost.

The National Search and Rescue Agency has over 60 divers working to retrieve the bodies.



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October 16, 2014

Hurricane warning goes into effect in Bermuda as Gonzalo nears

Hurricane warning goes into effect in Bermuda as Gonzalo nears

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

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Gonzalo today.
Image: NRL Marine Meterology Division/ NOAA.

Bermuda, in the North Atlantic Ocean, is under a hurricane warning after Hurricane Gonzalo was upgraded to Category 4 on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale earlier today.

The hurricane is moving up the North Atlantic Ocean with 140 mph winds (about 225 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. The storm is supposed to come near Bermuda on Friday, and could actually hit Bermuda, according to officials. As a precaution, Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport plans to close until the storm has passed.

The hurricane has already hit the Caribbean earlier this week. One person was killed and a dozen others were injured in that region.

Last weekend, another storm hit Bermuda, causing a power outage and residents were recovering from the damage. Winds from that storm reached 70 miles per hour on Sunday morning and it reached hurricane status on Sunday evening, only to be downgraded again later that night.

Meanwhile, tropical storm Ana in the Pacific Ocean is being monitored and officials predict will become a hurricane this weekend. Winds from this storm reached 60 mile per hour. It could hit Hawaii if it stays on its predicted path.



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September 23, 2014

Tropical storm Fung-wong makes landfall in Eastern China

Tropical storm Fung-wong makes landfall in Eastern China

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fung-wong on September 20th approaching Taiwan.
Image: NASA.

Tropical Storm Fung-wong made landfall in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China, at about 7:35 p.m local time (1135 UTC) yesterday, bringing with it reportedly 100kph (60mph) winds and heavy rains.

China prepared for the storms by recalling nearly 33,000 ships and boats to port, and the preemptive evacuation of over 250,000 people from vulnerable areas. Fung-Wong was moving inland, northwards and eastwards, and as it did so wind speeds and the possibility of wind damage should diminish however it should continue to present a flooding risk. The storm was expected to hit Shanghai today, and around 100,000 people were placed on standby to deal with possible flooding. Fung-wong should also lead to heavy rain in Japan and South Korea bringing with it the threat of flash floods.

Prior to hitting China, Fung-wong had previously landed in Taiwan and the Philippines, leading directly to one death in Taiwan. Philippine officials said flooding and strong winds caused a minimum of ten deaths in the Philippines, with about 200,000 people displaced from their homes.



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