Central Coast beaches closed due to dangerous surf


Several beaches along the NSW coast have been closed today due to dangerous surf conditions.

Strong currents, large swell and flash rips have prompted more than 10 beaches on the Central Coast to be shut today.

Soldiers Beach, North Entrance Beach, The Entrance Beach, Toowoon Bay, Shelly Beach, Wamberal Beach, Terrigal Beach, North Avoca Beach, Copacabana Beach, Macmasters Beach and Killcare Beach have all been closed to the public.

The closures come after the Bureau of Meteorology issued a warning earlier today for hazardous surf conditions along the Hunter Coast, Sydney Coast, Illawarra Coast, Batemans Coast and Eden Coast.

Surfers, swimmers and rock fishers have been warned to avoid the rough waters today and follow the advice of lifeguards.

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Bushfire prediction tool can simulate dangerous ember showers and fire-generated thunderstorms


On January 6 and 7, 2016, a dark, dense and rotating plume of smoke grew over the West Australian towns of Waroona and Yarloop.

Known as a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, it brought thunderstorms, lightning and strong winds.

What followed were intense ember attacks, which went on to destroy the town of Yarloop and kill two people.

The extreme behaviours of pyrocumulonimbus clouds and ember attacks have made some of Australia’s biggest bushfires significantly worse — not only due to the volatility of these phenomena, but because they are difficult to predict.

But after years of struggling to predict bushfire conditions, researchers believe they have built a helpful tool which may curb the impact of these events.

Spark Operational, developed by the CSIRO and the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services (AFAC), is a simulator that produces predictions, statistics and visualisations of bushfire spread.

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Similar to other simulators, it combines specific and localised weather information with topography, fuel loads, vegetation type and on-the-ground fire behaviour information to simulate and predict the path of a fire over six to 12 hours.

But Spark has the ability to easily incorporate new developments in science as they occur.

And with the increasing scale of bushfires in Australia, researchers and firefighters know they need every tool at their disposal to help protect lives and property from some of the more extreme fire behaviours of ember attacks and fire-generated thunderstorms.

Ember showers a major threat

Fire-generated thunderstorms form by intense updrafts from the heat rising from the fire — similar to the way a thunderstorm develops.

The danger is these thunderstorms can produce sudden and very powerful downbursts of wind that can quickly whip up fire behaviour, including spot fires and lightning.

A diagram of a firestorm: Fire causes an updraft, which creates strong gusty winds. A pyrocumulonimbus cloud forms, which can extinguish the fire but may cause more lightning.(

Drake/Wikipedia

)

Ember attacks are often linked to the powerful downbursts from the pyrocumulonimbus clouds, but have also been known to develop when there are gusty, erratic winds conditions in certain topography.

DFES WA rural fire division executive Mark Bowen said ember showers had caused fires to expand significantly, so predicting their likelihood and spread was important.

“In the past, we’ve had examples of fires in Sawyers Valley heading south-west and then jumping the Mundaring Weir — a whole dam — to start a fire on the other side,” he said.

The platform has been under development for six years, with Phase 1 of the rollout having just begun.

A log smoulders after a bushfire rushed through Yarloop
A log smoulders after a bushfire rushed through Yarloop and the surrounding area, January 9 2016.(

Supplied: DFES

)

CSIRO Spark project lead Mahesh Prakash said while current fire simulators were helpful, there were limitations to their utility.

Dr Prakash said scientists often struggled to incorporate new prediction research into existing simulators, and had been stymied by the lack of a consistent national platform.

“The main thing is the consistency across all states,” he said.

“There is [also] a lot of scientists in CSIRO and universities and BoM who are working on new fuel models and ember transport models.

“Spark will be able to bring those into operational practice much sooner that the normal process it takes to get it onto operational systems.”

Accuracy of weather forecasts boosted

There are currently ember transport models used in simulators, but Dr Prakash said they relied on empirical data.

A “more robust”, physics-based ember transport model is being trialled on the Spark platform, through collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology.

Two men from DFES stand in building between desks
Jackson Parker, from DFES in WA, and Mark Bowen say fire simulators have provided huge benefits in battling fires(

ABC: Tyne Logan

)

DFES WA director of bushfire technical services Jackson Parker said WA’s simulation tool, Aurora, had been a “game-changer” in fire prediction since its introduction a decade ago.

But he said Spark’s additional functionalities — particularly its ember transport model and potential to incorporate atmospheric effects, like fire-generated thunderstorms — would bring benefits.

Mr Parker said having a second modelling option would also strengthen the accuracy of forecasters’ predictions.

Fire storms a research challenge

Reliable models for predicting fire-generated thunderstorms are still in development, with several research organisations trying to better understand the physics behind their occurrence.

Bureau of Meteorology fire, heatwave & air quality team leader Bradley Santos said there were a few factors that made the storms so difficult to predict.

“The first one is that it requires an interaction of the weather and the fire and there’s also the complicating factor of the local variations of the weather due to topography and fuel,” he said.

A huge smoke cloud over a large landscape of hills and trees.
Spark is aimed at helping predict fire clouds like this one in Queensland’s Darling Downs region in the midst of the Ravensbourne bushfire.(

Supplied: 17 Mile Cottage

)

While research has helped shed light on fire-generated thunderstorms in the past, there continues to be a significant gap around creating a prediction model that can tell if and when they will occur.

Spark will not be able to predict firestorms until there is sufficient research to support it, but Dr Prakash said the simulator would eventually be able to incorporate it — something other models could not do as quickly and easily.

“You’ve got research projects that take three to five years to reach a point where it can be operationalised, or in some cases, that research just stays there,” he said.

“Whereas now what we’ve got is a system that self translates that research into something that can be operationalised.”

The technology’s development has received funding from the Minderoo Foundation and is expected to become fully operational, with its additional functionalities, in the next two-to-three years.

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Man arrested after alleged stabbing and ‘dangerous’ chase in stolen police car through Melbourne


A man has been arrested after he allegedly stabbed a man then ran him over with his car, threatened a woman, stole a police car and led officers on a “very dangerous” high-speed chase through Melbourne’s north.

Police said the “outrageous” crime spree began about 10:15pm on Saturday, when the 27-year-old went to a house in Kalkallo and began slashing the tyres on a car outside.

A physical altercation began when the owner of the car, who police said knew the offender, came outside. His female partner was close behind.

“The offender has inflicted four stab wounds to the abdomen of our victim, resulting in him falling to the roadway,” Superintendent Nigel Howard said.

“The offender then chased the female back inside the house, and she shut the front door, and he tried to gain access but unsuccessfully.”

It is understood the victim’s young daughter was inside the house at the time.

The alleged offender left the Bells Avenue home, “only to return a short time later and run over our victim, who was lying in the middle of the road”, Superintendent Howard said.

The 26-year-old victim was taken to hospital in a critical condition, and underwent surgery on Sunday.

Police say the man then fled the scene. He was next seen by police hours later, when he returned to his Mickleham home to find officers waiting.

“He left the scene very quickly with police in pursuit,” Superintendent Howard said.

He lost control of his car while travelling in a southerly direction along Mickleham Road and crashed into the wire barriers.

It was there police allege he took out a knife and took off in the highway patrol car that had been chasing him. The officers drew their guns but did not fire any shots, Superintendent Howard said.

A passing motorist who had seen the incident unfold offered up their car to the officers.

The stolen police car was declared a “hostile vehicle” and was being followed by an Air Wing helicopter as well as other police cars.

“Speeds that were being attained by the police vehicle at this time averaged between 170 and 200 kilometres an hour, with the police car crashing [through] red lights,” Superintendent Howard said.

The car headed south-east before crashing into three other vehicles near traffic lights on Barry Road in Campbellfield. 

The crash caused “major damage” to the cars, Superintendent Howard said, but the drivers were not seriously injured and it caused the stolen police car to slow down.

Police say the offender then started waving a knife at members of the public before being pursued by officers on foot, the canine unit and officers in a marked car.

Superintendent Howard said the officers in the police car “nudged” the offender and he fell to the ground.

“The offender wasn’t detained straight away so we had to go hands-on,” he said.

Two police officers were bitten by police dogs during the arrest.

The man was assessed by a doctor and was determined fit to be interviewed by police.

“We’ve got a victim in hospital with critical injuries, he’s been operated on … we now have a 27-year-old in custody,” Superintendent Howard said.

“We have some significant damage to a police car, we have significant damage to civilians’ cars, the offender’s car’s obviously been damaged … but it could have been a lot worse than it was.”

Emergency services were at multiple crime scenes into Sunday as the investigation continued.

Police are urging anyone with any information to contact Crime Stoppers.

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Huge Rise In Child Migrants Crossing Dangerous Panama Jungle: UN


The number of US-bound migrant children crossing the dangerous Darien jungle in Panama on foot has increased more than 15-fold in recent years and is likely to rise further during the pandemic, the UN children’s agency warned on Monday.

Children accounted for just two percent of these migrants in 2017 but that had risen to more than 25 percent in 2020, UNICEF said in a statement.

The Darien Gap jungle, the only land corridor between Colombia and Panama, is “one of the most dangerous routes in the world due to the mountainous terrain, wildlife and insects, as well as the presence of criminal organizations,” the agency added.

Crossing the vast, roadless Darien Gap rainforest is the only option for US-bound migrants traveling overland from South America. Most of those making the crossing are Haitians and Cubans, but there are also some Asians and Africans.

“I’ve seen women step out of the jungle carrying their babies in their arms after walking for more than seven days without water, food or any kind of protection,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.





A migrant carrying a baby crosses the Chucunaque river after walking for five days in the Darien Gap
 AFP / Luis ACOSTA

Over the past four years, more than 46,500 migrants, including 6,240 children and adolescents, have crossed the inhospitable jungle. The number of minors increased from 109 to 1,653 between 2017 and 2020, UNICEF said.

In 2019, a peak of nearly 4,000 children made the crossing. Half of them were under five years old and many arrive injured and with serious physical and psychological problems.

Experts believe more and more migrants are choosing to travel with their families, including young children and pregnant women, to avoid being deported to the different countries they pass through.

“These families are pushing their own limits and putting their lives in danger, often without realizing how much of a risk they are taking. Those who manage to eventually cross this perilous border are physically and mentally devastated,” Gough added.

Migration across the dangerous jungle is likely to increase in the next months due to the economic crisis and unemployment generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with violence and climate change, UNICEF said.



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Tasmanian woman Melissa Oates pleads guilty to dangerous driving after accident in which former partner Jari Wise died



Huonville woman Melissa Oates has pleaded guilty to a dangerous driving charge after an accident in which her former partner Jari Wise died.

The Supreme Court in Hobart heard Ms Oates was three times over the legal blood alcohol level and was driving double the speed limit when she hit Mr Wise on Wilmot Road on February 29, 2020.

Director of Public Prosecutions Darryl Coates said Ms Oates, who was visually impaired, did not have her glasses on when driving.

The court also heard it was dark when the accident happened and Mr Wise was wearing dark clothing.

Darryl Coates SC said Mr Wise had either walked or jumped out in front of Ms Oates’s vehicle and Ms Oates did not stop to check whether he was injured.

When she returned to the scene, police body cameras recorded her saying “why did you jump out in front of me”.

Ms Oates’s defence lawyer Garth Stevens said his client was “remorseful” about the incident and that she fully accepts responsibility for driving dangerously.

Ms Oates has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on April 22.

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Australia news live: federal clinics open vaccine bookings to ease pressure on GPs; ‘dangerous’ rainfall continues along NSW coast | Australia news












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Police warning over dangerous driving with Queensland on track to hit 300 fatalities


Police fear Queensland could be headed for one of its worst road tolls in more than a decade, with drivers put on notice for making “absolutely stupid decisions” behind the wheel.

Fifty people have died in traffic crashes so far this year — 18 more than the same time in 2020.

Acting Chief Superintendent Ray Rohweder said 19 of the fatalities were motorcyclists.

“Three hundred lives lost is quite possible this year unless we really start turning things around … and it’s been well over a decade since we’ve had 300 people killed on Queensland roads,” he said.

It comes as police release vision of an incident just over a week ago, where police pulled over a speeding ute on the Ipswich Motorway at Wacol.

While questioning the driver, the officer discovered a seven-year-old girl wedged behind the passenger seat.

The incident was captured on the officer’s body-worn camera.

“What the hell … what’s behind the seat here?” the officer can be heard asking.

Acting Chief Superintendent Rohweder said it was an example of “people making absolutely stupid decisions”.

“The two adults in the vehicle had seatbelts on and they elected to have the small child not wear a seatbelt and in fact stuck in behind the seat of the car, all for convenience,” he said.

“If that vehicle had have been involved in a traffic crash, the consequences would just be absolutely horrific.”

The girl’s father was issued an infringement notice for speeding, driving with an unrestrained child, and exceeding the vehicle’s passenger capacity.

Meanwhile, police have launched Operation Anaconda to target drug and drink-driving over the next three months.

Acting Chief Superintendent Rohweder said officers had conducted almost 2,000 roadside tests since the start of March.

“We’re finding about one in six drivers are affected by drugs, that we are detecting,” he said.

“[They are] obviously not caring about their own safety, but not caring about the safety of other road users, it’s just terrible.”

Last weekend, 100 drivers were found drink driving and 84 drivers were detected with drugs in their system.

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Homeless people stuck in ‘unsuitable, sometimes dangerous’ accommodation


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“For Victoria to reach the national social housing average [4.5 per cent of total housing stock], it would need to build up to 3400 new social housing dwellings per year until 2036,” the report said.

According to the report, the median period someone remains homeless in Australia is 4½ months, but it lasts more than a year in about 20 per cent of cases.

People under 35 are the largest age group of people experiencing homelessness in Victoria, although older women were a fast-growing cohort, the report noted.

Family violence was the main reason individuals accessing homelessness services sought assistance in Victoria.

“Because the homelessness system is so overwhelmed, it only has the resources to provide short-term accommodation for the very needy,” said inquiry chair Fiona Patten.

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The inquiry made 51 recommendations, including increasing the provision of affordable, stable long-term housing and prioritising early intervention measures, such as assistance for those fleeing violence.

It recommended the government set up innovative housing models, such as pop-up housing in underutilised buildings, transportable housing and the use of surplus government land (through leases or sale), to create social housing.

It also suggested the government look at implementing mandatory inclusionary zoning, which would compel developers to include social or affordable housing in all new major developments across the state.

“A mandatory model of inclusionary zoning would ensure that the private market takes partial responsibility, alongside government, for the provision of housing that meets the needs of all Victorians,” the report said.

It says there are concerns this could constrain the financial returns of property developers, but incentives could be provided to guarantee the cost of other dwellings in a development would not be driven up because of the inclusion of affordable housing.

The inquiry said measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic saw many people previously sleeping rough placed in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, with plans for this to transition into long-term housing.

“This event showed that with sufficient will on the part of the Victorian government, it is possible to end homelessness for many people experiencing it. Whether that will remain the case is yet to be seen.”

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Joseph Suaalii playing before he is 18 years old would set a dangerous precedent


The Roosters and the NRL need to calm their farm, cool their jets and by the by … bide their time. To view the issue with clarity, you need to know something of the background of why the rule was first brought in.

Rare for the NRL, the rule was proposed and accepted purely and simply for the welfare of young players. While it is one thing to have teenagers star at schoolboy level, there had been too many instances of clubs throwing young players into the cauldron of top-grade rugby league – likely the most gruelling football competition on the planet – before they were ready, and damaging them. For every Brad Fittler, Israel Folau and Mitchell Pearce who coped at 17 and even prospered, there were players like Adam Ritson, Paul Mellor and Jordan Rankin whose careers suffered after being thrown in too young.

Joseph Suaalii says he is ready for the NRL.Credit:Getty

Beyond the physical rigours though were the mental ones, and what prompted the rule change in 2015, was the tragic early deaths of five young men from the National Youth Competition, who had seemingly not coped with all the pressure that early stardom had placed upon them.

“We did a detailed study of those kids and what happened to them,” the NRL’s head of game strategy and development Shane Richardson explained as they brought the new rule in. “We had a long look at it, and worked internally with the … people that work for us here, about what it’s done to families or otherwise so it had a real effect on it. It didn’t have as big an impact on me in the beginning than it did in the end.”

But by the end of the study he and his fellow administrators were convinced.

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“The information we’ve gathered about player welfare is that decisions should be made about their future when they turn 18, [and not before]. People will give you anecdotal evidence of Brad Fittler playing etc, but it’s a small minority compared to the welfare issues of the greater majority.”

And after all, it merely brought the NRL into line with other fierce football codes where it had long been recognised that such an age welfare rule was needed. You cannot play in the NFL until three years after you have graduated from high school. In professional rugby you must be at least 18 to play, and 19 if you play in the front row. In ice hockey and the fierce NHL, you have to be 18.

To those who still oppose this vital and well-researched approach to mitigating damage to young men, tell me: what is the actual downside of Suaalii waiting? The most obvious downside is that the Roosters will have to do without a maestro on the wing for most of the season, and leave him in the wings. It is a tough one but I think, given how star-studded their entire side is, they can learn to live with it, yes?

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The second downside is that those of us who like watching rugby league, will be denied the pleasure of watching him for another five months. Another extremely tough one, and yet I think we will cope, yes?

But look to the upsides! The key one – beyond likely ensuring a higher mark in his HSC! – is this: you keep Suaalii safer to shine at a later point. Just by being patient you give his body precious time to get stronger and be better able to withstand the devastating hits that are coming his way, as huge men from opposing teams line up the young genius to give him their own version of “Welcome to first grade, son!” You will also give him more time as a young man to cope with the aforementioned enormous mental pressures that are coming his way, with more expectations on his debut than any other player in living memory, with the possible exception of Fittler.

And yet, the risks of waiving the rule are not just the possible physical and mental impacts on Suaalii himself. The most obvious one is that if you waive a welfare rule just for the one player and that player gets seriously hurt, the NRL will certainly be morally culpable, and perhaps even legally culpable.

The rule was brought in because the NRL realised its duty of care to young players. If you waive that rule for an outstanding young player, and that player gets badly hurt, are you in breach of your duty of care? In my view, quite possibly.

In sum? In sum, the NRL brought in a very good rule, just six years ago. It is madness on every level to waive it.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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Iran’s Mini-Submarine Force Is Dangerous (Thank North Korea)


Tensions continue to mount between Washington and Iran, with every week bringing forth a new round of diplomatic threats and accusations.

Most recently, Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami gave a blistering speech in which he assured the Iranian parliament that the “vulnerability” of American aircraft carriers will prevent the U.S. military from challenging Iranian power in the Persian Gulf. Such rhetoric is par for the course for Iranian officials and state media, who project unwavering confidence in Iranian military capabilities.

But just how capable is Iran’s conventional military, and do they really have the means to effectively resist a U.S. offensive?

The National Interest previously looked at this nuanced question with overviews of Iran’s air force and surface navy. We now turn to what is arguably the core of Iran’s conventional military strength, and the reason why it boasts the fourth-strongest navy in the world: its submarine force.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Iran’s submarine roster is its sheer size, especially in relation to the rest of its navy. Whereas Iran’s combined output of operational corvettes, frigates, and destroyers hardly exceeds 10, it currently fields a whopping 34 submarines. The vast majority of these are midget-class–or “littoral”–diesel-electric vessels, with roughly two dozen from Iran’s homemade Ghadir class and several more from the North Korean Yugo class. Impressively, the Ghadir is much smaller but still has strong offensive capabilities; Ghadir vessels boast the same 533 mm torpedo tubes as the handful of Iran’s much larger Kilo vessels, only fewer at two versus six.

To be sure, Iran’s heavy concentration of mini-submarines makes for unflattering comparisons with the much more robust submarine fleets of its American and Russian counterparts. However, their roster makes a great deal of military sense within the context of Iran’s strategic objectives. Iran has no need to project power sea power around the world, or even across the Middle East. Instead, the Iranian navy is constituted and organized around the specific goal of securing the Persian Gulf and specifically the Hormuz Strait. The limited range of Iran’s diesel-electric submarines is irrelevant in the restrictive and shallow confines of the Gulf, while their near-undetectability mine-laying capability makes them ideal candidates for patrol and ambush operations against hostile surface vessels. 

More recently, Iran has begun to diversify its indigenous submarine industry beyond the smallest vessels. The new Fateh class is intended to round out Iran’s lopsided roster, coming in between the Ghadir and Kilo classes at a displacement of 600 tons. In addition to the 533 mm torpedo tubes that are standard across Iran’s submarine force, Iranian state media reports that the Fateh vessels–of which there are two at the time of writing–can fire anti-ship cruise missiles from a submerged position.

Iran’s submarine force is by far the most numerous and technically capable arm of its navy and slated to remain so for the foreseeable future given Tehran’s geopolitical investment in the Gulf region. While it is still highly unlikely to match the U.S. Navy in any sort of pitched conflict, submarines would inevitably be the spearhead of a prospective Iranian anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) campaign to seal the Hormuz Strait, or to stage a one-off surprise saturation attack against US defenses in the Persian Gulf.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.

Image: Reuters. 

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