Dangerous dust storms in Asia have intensified fivefold over the past half-century, posing health and economic hazards as part of global trend toward bigger natural disasters, the UN warned yesterday. \nThe dust storms originate in the desert regions of Mongolia and increasingly China, where 30 percent of the land is parched by over-farming, overgrazing, deforestation and changing weather patterns, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) said. \nThe sands whip up as far away as the Korean Peninsula, Japan and the Pacific basin, for a combined economic loss of US$6.5 billion a year, UNEP said. \nCities like Seoul become shrouded in a haze of "yellow dust" that sometimes leaves a film of grit. In severe cases, it forces school closures and airline cancelations, can disrupt communications and damage crops and livestock. \nUnlike similar storms from Africa's remote Sahara Desert, the Asian storms pose serious health risks because the dust particles pick up toxic pollutants from Chinese industry. \nDuring a South Korean dust storm in April 2002, dust levels reached 2,070 micrograms per cubic meter, twice the level deemed hazardous to health, UNEP said. \nSince the 1950s, the frequency of Asian sand storms has increased five times, UNEP said. The Gobi Desert in China alone expanded by 52,400km2 from 1994-1999, according to UNEP's GEO Global Year Book. \nThe new findings were released as environment ministers from around the world gathered at a UN environment summit aimed at sustainable development. \nIronically, the news comes a day after the Korea Meteorological Administration issued a dust alert for much of South Korea, urging care for those with respiratory problems. \n"We are worried about the creep of environmental problems -- their disrespect of political boundaries -- and the way they threaten to compound and disrupt the functioning of major natural systems," UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer said. \nThe dust storms are part of a larger trend of increasing natural disasters, UNEP said. \nIt cited the record heatwave in Europe that killed thousands last summer, widespread flooding in China that left millions homeless last July, the recent appearance of a hurricane in the South Atlantic for the first time and a record season of tornadoes in North America. \nThe cost of damage from dust storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather-related catastrophes topped US$60 billion for the first time last year, according to UNEP. \nAbout 80 percent of such disasters worldwide occur in Asia, affecting 1.7 million people and inflicting US$369 billion in damage from 1991-2001. \nUNEP is working with governments and the Asian Development Bank on a US$1 million early warning system for dust and sand storms in the region. The system will use a network of monitoring stations to standardize data. \nRecent research shows that dust storms originating from the Sahara Desert trigger algae infestations of coral reefs as far away as the Caribbean Sea. \nThose sands pose less of a risk to human health because they are relatively cleaner than the Asian variety, UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttall said.
Pins hidden in her shoes, head forced down a toilet, kicked in the stomach: South Korean hairdresser Pyo Ye-rim suffered a litany of abuse from school bullies, but now she is speaking out. The 26-year-old is part of a phenomenon sweeping South Korea known as “Hakpok #MeToo,” where people who were bullied publicly name and shame the perpetrators of school violence — “hakpok” in Korean — decades after the alleged crimes. Made famous globally by Netflix’s gory revenge series The Glory, the movement has ensnared everyone from K-pop stars to baseball players and accusations — often anonymous — can be career-ending, with
One of Australia’s two active volcanoes on an island near Antarctica — known as Big Ben — has been spotted by satellite spewing lava. The lava flow on the uninhabited Heard Island, about 4,100km southwest of Perth and 1,500km north of Antarctica, is part of an ongoing eruption that was first noted more than a decade ago. The image was caught by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite on Thursday, and is a composite of an optical picture and an infrared image. The lava is seen flowing down the side of Big Ben from near the summit, known as Mawson Peak.
SYMBOLIC: The bill sponsored by a cross-party group of lawmakers was hailed as a ‘historic moment’ in the fight for marriage equality, but is unlikely to pass Lawmakers in South Korea have proposed the country’s first same-sex marriage bill, in a move hailed by civic groups as a defining moment in the fight for equality. The marriage equality bill, proposed by South Korean lawmaker Jang Hye-yeong of the minor opposition Justice Party and co-sponsored by 12 lawmakers across all the main parties, seeks to amend the country’s civil code to allow same-sex marriage. The bill is unlikely to pass, but forms part of a trio of bills expected to increase pressure on the government to expand the idea of family beyond traditional criteria. The two other bills relate to
READY FOR ACTION: Military, police, firefighters and volunteers were standing by for search-and-rescue operations, with an official saying they ‘cannot afford not to prepare’ Philippine officials yesterday began evacuating thousands of people, shut down schools and offices and imposed a no-sail ban as Typhoon Mawar approached the country’s northern provinces a week after battering the US territory of Guam. The typhoon was packing maximum sustained winds of 155kpm and gusts of up to 190kph, but was forecast to spare the mountainous region a direct hit. Current projections show the typhoon veering northeast toward Taiwan or southern Japan. Although it is expected to slow down considerably, authorities warned of dangerous tidal surges, flash floods and landslides as it blows past the northernmost province of Batanes from today