At least 8 confirmed dead, 26 missing from California boat fire

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019   •   345

Eight people were confirmed dead from a predawn fire that sank a boat off a Southern California island while 26 others who were on the scuba diving vessel are missing, a local sheriff said on Monday (September 2).

The fire broke out aboard the Conception, a 75-foot (23-metre) boat, at about 3:15 a.m. while it was moored just off the shore of Santa Cruz Island, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.

“This isn’t a day that we wanted to wake to for Labor Day and it is a very tragic event and we will search all the way through the night into the morning but I think we all should be prepared to move into the worst outcome. But those are our efforts right now and they will continue through the night and into the morning,” Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester told reporters

Passengers slept in the ship’s lower quarters, officials said, while five crew members who were above deck on the bridge escaped.

The Coast Guard searched the coastline of Santa Cruz Island for any other possible survivors but had not found anyone, officials said.

Four bodies were recovered from the area and rescue divers found another four bodies on the ocean floor near the sunken vessel, which lies upside down under more than 60 feet (18 meters) of water, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters.

“The four victims that we have recovered as of now will need to be identified through DNA and that may take some time. The condition of the remains that are recovered subsequently will determine the speed at which we are able to identify any of the victims,” Brown said.

The Conception, which launched in 1981, embarked for California’s Channel Islands on Saturday (August 31) morning with 39 people on board. Excluding the five survivors and the eight people confirmed dead, search teams are looking for 26 people who were on the Conception, he said.

Authorities are trying to determine the best way to recover the sunken vessel, including the possibility of towing it to shore, he added.

The surviving crew members sought refuge on a fishing boat moored a few hundred feet away, banging on the side to wake up Bob Hansen and his wife who were sleeping onboard.

The diving boat was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, a Santa Barbara, California, excursion firm. It said on its website that the Conception was on a three-day excursion to the Channel Islands, and was due back in Santa Barbara at 5 p.m. on Monday.

The boat’s owner, Truth Aquatics, referred queries about the accident to a joint media center. “This is still an ongoing search and rescue,” it said. (Reuters)

(Production: Mana Rabiee)

“Call me Harry,” says informal UK prince as he starts last round of royal duties

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020

Prince Harry

Britain’s Prince Harry started the last round of his royal duties on an informal note on Wednesday (February 26), making it clear the audience listening to his speech on sustainable travel in Edinburgh should simply call him Harry.

Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and his American wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have announced they will step down from their duties as senior royals next month to spend more time in North America.

Although Harry will no longer be known as His Royal Highness, he will still be a Prince.

But before his speech on Wednesday, event host Ayesha Hazarika told delegates: “He’s made it clear that we are all just to call him Harry.”

Harry and Meghan have been in Canada with their son Archie for several weeks but Harry came back to Britain on Tuesday, according to local media.

On Friday, he is due to visit the studios at Abbey Road in north London, where the Beatles recorded 11 of their 13 albums, to meet the singer Jon Bon Jovi and the Invictus Games Choir, who are recording a single for charity.

His trip to Britain comes after news last week that he and Meghan would not use the word “royal” in their branding, following weeks of talks between the couple and the royal family about how they will present themselves to the world in the future.

Harry has spoken of his sadness at being forced to give up his royal duties, saying there was no other option if he and Meghan, an American actress, were to seek an independent future away from stifling media intrusion. (Reuters)

(Production: Ben Dangerfield)

China’s lunar rover unveils underground secrets on far side of moon

UNTV News   •   February 27, 2020

China’s lunar rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, has helped scientists unveil the secrets buried deep under the surface on the far side of the Moon, enriching human’s understanding about the history of celestial collision and volcanic activities and shedding new light on the geological evolution on the Moon.

China’s Chang’e-4 probe made the first-ever soft landing on the eastern floor of the Von Karman Crater within the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon on Jan 3, 2019. After its landing, the spacecraft immediately deployed its Yutu-2 rover, which uses Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) to investigate the underground it roams.

A study conducted by a research team led by Li Chunlai and Su Yan at the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) reveals what lurks below the lunar surface.

As a result of the tidal locking effect, the Moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, and the same side always faces Earth.

The research team used the LPR on Yutu-2 to send radio signals deep into the surface of the Moon, reaching a depth of 40 meters by the high-frequency channel of 500 MHz – more than three times the depth previously reached by the Chang’e-3 lunar probe, which was sent to the near side of the Moon at the end of 2013.

The results of the radar data collected by the LPR during the first two lunar days (a lunar day equals 14 days on Earth) of operation provide the first electromagnetic image of the subsurface structure of the far side of the Moon and the first “ground truth” of the stratigraphic architecture of an ejecta deposit, said Li Chunlai, deputy director of the NAOC.

“The first layer is a fine 12-meter soil layer below the surface. The second layer between 12 and 24 meters under the ground has a lot of stones and the strongest radar echo. It even forms a stone layer and stacks of loose stones. There are three gravel stacks. The third layer is 24-40 meters under the surface. Radar echo shows its dark and bright parts, so there are granules and scattered stones,” said Su Yan, a researcher from the NAOC.

The scientists analyzed the radar image with tomographic technique, and the result shows that the subsurface is essentially made by highly porous granular materials embedding boulders of different sizes.

The content is likely the result of a turbulent early solar system, when meteors and other space debris frequently struck the Moon. The impact site would eject material to other areas, creating a cratered surface atop a subsurface with varying layers, said Li.

“We find the ejecta have many layers and each layer is different from each other. It may mean the place has lots of ejecta from impact sites, so history of meteorite impacts here is very complicated. It also shows the Moon was frequently struck by small celestial bodies, and debris will be ejected to bottom of the Von Karman Crater. The ejecta have recorded history of meteorite impact on the Moon,” said Li.

As the Yutu-2 rover has walked about 300 meters, Li said his team expects new discovery in the future.

“We hope it can walk out of the ejecta-covered area. If it can enter a basalt zone, maybe we can better understand distribution and structure of ejecta from meteorite impacts. The distance may be 1.8 kilometers. I think it may take another one year for the rover to walk out of the ejecta-covered area,” Li said.

The study was published Wednesday in the latest issue of Science Advances. (Reuters)

Milan braces economic slowdown after spike in coronavirus cases

UNTV News   •   February 27, 2020

Milan, capital city of northern Italy’s Lombardy region is seeing a drastic economic slowdown, after a spike of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the region, raising anxiety about a broader slowdown.

A total of 400 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Italy, up by 26 from the official tally released at noon, Civil Protection chief and Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Angelo Borrelli told a televised press conference on Wednesday.

The number includes the deaths, which remained unchanged at 12, and the three recovered, Borrelli said.

Among the confirmed cases, 258 are in Lombardy, and another 71 are in the Veneto region with Venice as its regional capital, 47 in Emilia Romagna, and 11 in Liguria.

While the government has ordered a lockdown of 11 communities and the cancellation of all schools and public events in five northern regions, many big businesses have chosen to implement a “work smart” policy, telling employees to work from home.

Milan is no ghost town, but it has clearly slowed down, as the usually bustling main train station is quiet, public transit is empty, and taxis sit idle. Even Milan’s Fashion industry, has been hit.

Carlo Capasa, Chairman of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, said the virus affected sales in China and now is threatening Italy.

“Well, the effect is quite strong because in China, as you know, for many days, most of the department stores they were deserted, so the business has been dropping dramatically. Now we are afraid that the retail in Italy could suffer a little bit. Between what Chinese buy in China and what Chinese customers shop here, it goes around 30 percent, it’s a big market,” said Capasa.

Italy’s tourism industry has also felt the pinch.

Milan is clearly not void of tourists, but the number saw a decrease. In 2019, tourism brought a profit of 40 billion euros to Italy, 13 percent of its gross domestic product.

Italy’s northern regions and in particular the regions of Lombardy and Veneto where the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases have been discovered are among the richest, the most dynamic and the most export-intensive in a country with a public debt three times its GDP.

The Bank of Italy has estimated a 0.2-percent loss of GDP growth due to COVID-19.

However, Marco Bettin, Chief Operating Officer at the Italy China Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting the annual 40-billion-euro bilateral cooperation, said it’s too early to quantify the economic impact.

“Up to now we don’t have heavy consequences on the supply chain because most of the supply has been made before the Chinese New Year. So now we are experienced–. It is very hard to say, because the situation is still ongoing,” said Bettin.

While masks have been sold out for days and hand sanitizer has doubled in price, pictures circulating of panic buying and empty shelves across the city have been exaggerated, at least for now.

Residents appear far from panicked, but there is growing anxiety as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the country.

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