Strong quake hits Japan’s northeast coast; no tsunami alert

A strong earthquake has hit off the coast of northeastern Japan, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said there were no irregularities at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which experienced meltdowns following a massive quake and tsunami 10 years ago.

There were no immediate reports of irregularities from other nuclear plants in the area, such as Onagawa or Fukushima Dai-ni, government spokesperson Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that some 860,000 homes were without power as a result of the quake, but electricity was gradually being restored, according to Kato.

Kato said there was no danger of a tsunami from the quake. He said that some trains in northeastern Japan had stopped running, and that other damage was still being checked.

Video from public broadcaster NHK TV showed some pieces of a building wall had broken off and fallen to the ground, and pieces of glass were scattered at a store. Items fell off shelves because of the shaking, NHK said. NHK aerial footage showed a portion of a highway blocked by a landslide in Soma, a city in Fukushima prefecture.

The extent of damage from the landslide was not immediately clear, Kato said.

He said there were several reports of minor injuries from the quake, such as a man getting hit by a falling object.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake was centered about 60 kilometers (37 miles) beneath the ocean.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga headed into his office immediately after reports of the quake, and a crisis center was set up there.

The shaking was felt in Tokyo, to the southwest.

The same northeastern area was slammed by a quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011. Experts warned of aftershocks over the next several days, including possibly larger quakes.

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Winter storm targets California Sierra Nevada to Northeast

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Car Bomb Hits Near Russia Base in Northeast Syria

A car bomb detonated near a Russian military base in northeastern Syria Friday in the first such jihadist attack in the area against the ally of Damascus, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported several wounded in the attack after midnight in the Tal Saman area in Raqa province, but did not give an exact figure.

There was no immediate Russian report of the incident, which occurred in a broader area controlled by Kurdish-led forces but where the Syrian regime and its ally Russia are also present.

A statement circulated on social media and attributed to the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen jihadist group claimed the attack.

The Observatory said two men parked an explosives-laden pickup truck outside the base and fled, in what was a rare such assault by Hurras al-Deen in the area.

“It’s the first such direct attack against a Russian base in northeastern Syria,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Hurras al-Deen has fighters in the country’s last major rebel bastion in the northwestern region of Idlib, but very rarely operates outside that area.

Russia entered Syria’s war in 2015, and its air force has backed Damascus regime forces in several deadly military campaigns against Idlib.

Russia has repeatedly accused rebels in Idlib of attacking its Hmeimim airbase west of the opposition stronghold with drones, but car bomb attacks are much rarer.

Russian troops are stationed in northern Syria, including as part of several deals brokered with rebel backer Turkey.

Syria’s war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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Winter fishing season has come once again to Chagan Lake in northeast China

Winter fishing season has come once again to Chagan Lake in northeast China’s Jilin Province, the first-ever since measures on coronavirus prevention and control became the new norm.

Each year, local fishermen use a centuries-old fishing technique to catch fish and are joined by visitors from across China coming to witness the carnival as temperatures fall from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius below zero.

Before the pandemic, local authorities warmly welcomed all to gather during the peak season either for fish or just to appreciate the ancient and splendid tradition, but they have to be more cautious this year due to a resurgence of the coronavirus in other parts of northeastern China.

The fish market is buzzing with business as usual and if not for the masks, you would not be able to tell that it’s been a year of uphill battles against a global outbreak.

Visitors from downtown and neighbouring cities drive all the way to the lake to pick their favourite fish, fresh out of water.

“I bought a fish as a gift, and another for me. I enjoy the taste of the bighead carp, so I come to Chagan Lake to buy some each year,” said Songyuan resident Ma Lina.

For Chinese people, having fish is a must during important holiday dinners such as the Chinese Lunar New Year.

The word fish, or “Yu” in the Chinese language, sounds the same as the character for abundance and good fortune, so having fish at a family dinner has become more meaningful after a tough year like 2020.

Although residents from cities that have clusters of infections may not be able to come and purchase the fish in person, there are always other channels such as e-commerce, as the fish farm is on schedule to meet demand.

Shan Junguo said that their plan was to yield 1.5 million kg of fish this season and so far they are seeing an even more optimistic market expectation.

The fishermen beside Shan said that the COVID-19 outbreak does not affect their enthusiasm for the annual carnival.

So far, Songyuan city had two confirmed cases reported this year both cured and discharged. It has been infection-free for more than 300 days and the city intends to keep the record.

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Two-year-old boy killed in quad bike crash in north-east Victoria

A two-year-old boy has died after being thrown from quad bike in Victoria’s north-east, police have been told.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said the vehicle was being driven on a private property on Moss Road, Barnawartha North, when the crash happened about 11:50am.

Investigators were told the two-year-old, a passenger on the vehicle, was thrown off in the crash.

“The boy was trapped underneath the ATV [all-terrain vehicle] before witnesses freed him and performed CPR,” the spokesperson said.

“Sadly, the boy died at the scene.”

The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.

Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives were en route to the scene of the crash by the afternoon.

Police said the driver was assisting investigators with their inquiries.

All-terrain vehicles are also known as quad bikes or light utility vehicles and are designed to be driven off road.

By October this year, Farmsafe Australia had noted a record 16 deaths linked to the vehicle, and a further 50 injuries.

Mandatory standards for the bikes have come into effect following the Government’s acceptance of a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to introduce the standards in two stages.

Road tragedies strike Christmas period

The Christmas Day tragedy comes after a horror day on regional Victorian roads left three people dead.

Police at the scene of the crash in Mount Richmond.(ABC News)

Investigations are continuing into a head-on crash that claimed the lives of two people near Portland in Victoria’s south-west yesterday.

Two vehicles collided on the Portland-Nelson Road in Mount Richmond yesterday morning.

The 16-year-old driver of one of the cars and her passenger, a 43-year-old woman, died at the scene.

A 15-year-old girl in the rear passenger seat suffered life-threatening injuries and was flown to hospital.

The driver of the other car, a 50-year-old man, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Meanwhile, the driver of a car in a triple-vehicle crash in Gippsland died and a woman was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Police have been told three vehicles collided on the Princes Highway at Flynn, west of Traralgon, about 1:20pm on Thursday.

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In north-east Arnhem Land, surfers brave the savage swell for a shot at magical waves

A hammerhead shark breaches the ocean’s surface, as if to sniff at the splashing presence paddling hard towards the outgoing tidal foam.

Cyclone swell — a churning, spitting ocean phenomenon unique to Australia’s north — is starting to roll in.

And the human out among it is Gove District Hospital doctor Tim Blake.

“I’m sure the majority of surfers have no idea there’s so much surf up here in this small pocket of northern Australia,” Dr Blake said.

On the Gove Peninsula, jutting out from the western edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Dr Blake is part of a tight, intrepid community of surfers with a common interest.

Like their peers the world over, they’re chasing the wildest, most exhilarating wave, then riding it to shore on a far-flung frontier.

Tyren Smith and Tim Blake are part of a tight-knit surfing community.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

“There’s a core community that have been here for 10-plus years — you’ve got a real mix of old salty dogs and young grommets just frothing on everything, charging in,” Dr Blake said.

One of those wide-eyed students of the sea is 10-year-old Tyren Smith, who hails from the remote community of Ramingining, hundred of kilometres away.

“This is my third time surfing, and I just like it,” he said, after paddling in through a glassy bay near Yirrkala, a beachside Indigenous community.

“I’m learning how to stand up on the board, doing tricks.”

Crocs, sharks … and surfers

The Gove surfers are far from alone in the waters of north-east Arnhem Land.

Saltwater crocodiles, sharks and stingers all inhabit this isolated marine wonderland, as do less deadly residents like dugongs and sea turtles.

“I don’t think about the crocs and the sharks, that’s why I don’t get scared,” Tyren said.

A young boy lies in an above-ground backyard pool and smiles at the camera.
Budding surfer Tyren Smith washes off sand in a backyard pool in Yirrkala.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Dr Blake captures many of these animals on his drone, which he fires up during most of his surfing sessions.

“I’ve never seen a croc while I’ve been out there surfing, but I’ve seen a number of crocs with the drone,” he said.

“I’ve droned over the surf spots and seen quite a few — maybe five — one of them three-and-a-half metres. It’s enough to really make you think.”

While many health officials will warn you not to set foot in the Arafura Sea, Dr Blake believes the lure of the wild waters could help the region thrive.

An aerial view of Yirrkala Beach in north-east Arnhem Land.
Saltwater crocodiles, sharks and stingers inhabit the waters off Yirrkala Beach in north-east Arnhem Land.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

East Arnhem Land is a magnet for young professionals with a penchant for adventure.

Each year, dozens of health workers, teachers and charity staff find their way to this culturally rich corner of the remote Northern Territory to learn more about the north.

But keeping them in the region can be challenging.

“You’ve got a very transient workforce, with six months, 12 months turnover for most areas in a lot of remote Australia,” Dr Blake said.

“That absolutely kills the service [delivery], because you’re relying on trust with Indigenous communities.”

Despite the obvious dangers involved, Dr Blake believes he’s found one way to boost population retention in the region.

Surfboards stand next to the beach on the north-east Arnhem Land coastline, as the sun sets in the background.
Dr Blake believes surf culture could help the region thrive.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

“There are a lot of people that go back down south because they don’t realise there’s surfing here.

“Once they discover it, then they have that additional interest, and it keeps them here.”

As cyclones loom, so too does magic surf

With the monsoon now settling in across the Top End, it’s not long until the return of what Dr Blake calls the most “magic” surf of the year — the cyclone swell.

“When a cyclone comes, depending on where it is in the Gulf, you’ll get huge waves with winds that are very favourable,” he said.

“It makes for beautiful conditions … with large wrapping waves, and what they do is hug the reef, and just run down.

“It’s just magic.”

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Blast of cold air grips Northeast with fresh snow as Christmas storm approaches

Wind chills are the coldest they have been so far this season.

A blast of cold air, exacerbated by a fresh snowpack, is impacting parts of the Northeast Saturday morning.

Wind chills are the coldest they have been so far this season.

The actual air temperatures are running about 10 degrees below average for the Northeast Saturday morning — which is normal for late December.
On Sunday morning, temperatures will moderate, but wind chills will still be quite cold — in the teens and 20s — for much of New England. There will also be a wind chill of 19 degrees in Boston and one of 16 degrees in Burlington, Vermont.

Overall, however, the weather this weekend will be on the quieter side following a very active weather week.

Another storm system will bring some heavy and rain and mountain snow to the Pacific Northwest beginning late Saturday into Sunday. The heavy rain could cause some localized landslides.

Then, on Monday, another storm will move into the Northwest. It is expected to travel across the U.S. over Christmas week.

Once the storm makes it into the middle of the country, it will bring snow and strong thunderstorms.

By Wednesday, parts of the Midwest will see snow, and a very long line of gusty storms will extend through the Mississippi River Valley. It is too early to determine how much snow will accumulate in the upper Midwest, but the early guidance suggests it won’t be a blockbuster snowfall.

On Christmas Eve, the storm will arrive on the eastern U.S. This will likely cause a round of mild air and thunderstorms for cities such as Philadelphia and New York City. Eventually, the cold air surging in behind the storm will cause some of that rain to turn into snow, and several areas — especially the Appalachian Mountains — will likely see another round of heavy snow.

Snowfall caused by the storm could be a little more robust than in the Midwest, but it’s still too early to determine how much will fall.

By Christmas Day, the entire storm will begin moving around southern Canada.

Behind the storm system, a big blast of cold air will surge into the U.S., and wind chills as low as -20 degrees will hit the upper Midwest on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We may also see wind chills in the teens and 20s in parts of the Deep South.

There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the exact placement of the snow and thunderstorms, as we are a few days away; however, it does appear that Christmas week will be an active one, and that a good chunk of the country will see some snow.

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Snow continues to fall on the Northeast U.S., with Covid vaccines in tow

A snowman is seen on a wall in Times Square in New York City, December 16, 2020 as Storm Gail hits the East coast.

Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Snow continued to fall Thursday during a key period in the coronavirus pandemic, days after the start of the U.S. vaccination campaign and in the thick of a virus surge that has throngs of people seeking tests daily.

Snow fell from northern Virginia to parts of New England on Wednesday. It carried on north into the evening, sustaining a storm that was poised to drop as much as 2 feet (0.6 metres) of snow in some places by Thursday.

Officials said they didn’t expect the winter blast to disrupt vaccine distribution, which began Monday for frontline health-care workers.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday that the government is tracking the vaccine shipments precisely, has staffers already in place to receive them and believes the companies transporting them can navigate the storm.

“This is FedEx, this is UPS express shipping. They know how to deal with snow and bad weather. But we are on it and following it,” he told Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

The need for vaccines prompted New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to exempt vaccine delivery trucks from a storm-related prohibition on commercial traffic on some highways. The state was anticipating more than two dozen vaccine deliveries in the next day or two.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday that the storm was “set to bring an overabundance of hazards from the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast,” including freezing rain and ice in the mid-Atlantic, heavy snow in the New York City area and southern New England, strong winds and coastal flooding, and possibly even severe thunderstorms and some tornadoes in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The heaviest snowfall was expected in central Pennsylvania, where forecasters in the state capital of Harrisburg said a six-decade-old record for a December snowfall could potentially be broken. The National Weather Service reported that parts of Centre County were hit with as much as 13 inches (33 centimeters) of snow by Wednesday night.

A crash in the state killed two people and involved dozens of vehicles on a major highway Wednesday afternoon, police said, while issuing a reminder to only travel if “absolutely necessary.”

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Winter storm trackers show snow path through Northeast, NYC

Remember snow? It’s back. Although it’s not officially winter yet, the East Coast of the United States is bracing for a powerful winter storm that could dump close to two feet of snow in parts of the area. According to CNN, more than 45 million people are already under a winter weather watch. New York City could see up to a foot of the white stuff, while parts of Pennsylvania could see up to 20 inches.

The storm is expected to hit Wednesday and continue into Thursday. For many in the region, it’s the first time they’ve had to worry about a snowy forecast in a while—not that anyone is going out much these days.

If you’re looking for ways to track the storm and wintery weather as it makes its way across the Northeast, I’ve rounded up some resources that offer real-time tracking. Good luck!

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