Thursday, May 17, 2012

Disaster News: May 17, 2012

4.3 earthquake strikes east Texas. May have been caused by injection wells. Some property damage and slight injuries. Additional details from USGS.   DYFI provides additional information on various quakes.  Information on injection wells here.

Two unrelated women suffering from necrotizing fasciitis. More about this infection. Additional information here.

Mid-air collision of two Pakistani fighter jets kills four and injures eleven.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chicago Disasters: Little Girl Lost

A missing person report for a six-year old girl, Janet Wilkinson, was issued to the Chicago police on July 22nd.  Searches for the little girl took place through the work of citizens and of the police. Evidence pointed at a neighbor of the family, Thomas Fitzgerald. He had been arrested before about annoying young girls (but not convicted), and the six-year old's friends thought they saw him with Janet around the time of the abduction. Fitzgerald adamantly denied having any involvement with the abduction when he was questioned, but when Fitzgerald's wife came in to speak in his defense, she spoke to him privately not knowing that a detective was listening in the next room and taking notes. He heard her whisper to her husband, "You did it. I know you did it." When confronted with the notes taken of the conversation she admitted that she hadn't lived with her husband for years due to his interest in little girls.

Other Chicago families felt moved at this time to admit that their children had also been molested, but that had been to ashamed at the time to go to the police.

Over the next few days, Fitzgerald was continually questioned by the police and denied sleep, but stubbornly stated time and time again that he was innocent. Police eventually resorted to bizarre tactics. To name just two of those, they brought in a man who claimed to be a priest, urging Fitzgerald to confess to the crime, and later arranged a table of baby dolls posed in pleading positions then forced Fitzgerald to look at it. None of the tactics worked though so Fitzgerald was ultimately locked in his cell in hopes that on reflection he would finally decide to confess. It worked. Fitzgerald asked to see the only police detective he felt had treated him decently and admitted to him tearfully that he had killed Janet Wilkinson.

He had tried to lure her into his house with candy on the day she disappeared, but when she seemed reluctant to come in, he picked her up and carried her in. She began to scream, and in desperation Fitzgerald strangled her. He then carried her body to the basement of his building where he buried her in a pile of coal.

Investigators took him to the location, where they were searching piles of coal trying to find her body. He directed them to the pile of coal where she was found, and her body was taken away in an ambulance.

Newspapers had been notified almost immediately of the news and a large and angry crowd had gathered outside the building, yelling, "Lynch him!" Thanks to the fortuitous arrival of reinforcements the police were able to hold the crowd at bay. If they had been allowed to, the mob certainly would have killed him as he exited the building. A policeman commandeered a taxi and Fitzgerald was quickly put inside with a policeman lying on top of him to protect him from the crowd who were reaching through the windows of the car in a last effort to get to him.

Another angry mob waited at the Chicago Avenue station when the taxi carrying Fitzgerald arrived, but Fitzgerald was quickly whisked into the station and from there to the Criminal Courts Building where he was question at length by the State's Attorney. The only new comment of note that Fitzgerald made there was to ask that he not be hanged but sent to a mental asylum. Instead he was scheduled to be tried by a judge well known for using capital punishment in murder cases. The angry masses of people wanted an immediate hanging, but the prosecution of the case took a month while proper legal procedures were practiced.

At the end of the trial, Fitzgerald was convicted and hanged.

Chicago was becoming a city wrapped in fear and anger, and as events of the next few days became interwoven with that fear, anger, and mob mentality, Chicago erupted like a power keg. None of the coming events would have been seen as related to each other if not for the timing. It just seemed that all hell broke loose at once in the Windy City.

A memorial stands for Janet Wilkinson today in Calvary Cemetery
Evanston, Cook County, Illinois:

                                                      Birth: 1913
                                                     Death: Jul. 22, 1919
                                         Beloved daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Wilkinson.
                                            Loving sister of Berenice and Jean.

Books used for this post:

City of Scoundrels: 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago by Gary Krist

Websites used for this post:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Disaster News - April 27, 2012

Popocatepetl Volcano, Mexico

The potential disaster that is being most heavily featured in the news right now is the ongoing eruption of Mexico's volcano Popocatepetl. 

Popo has a long history of active eruptions.

Even in the time of the Aztecs, Popocatepetl was active enough to attain legendary status. Their legend tells the story of Mixtli, a princess, and her true love for a peasant named Popoca. In a tale worthy of Shakespeare, Mixtli believed Popoca had been killed in battle while hoping to attain the a title of nobility which would allow him to fight the evil Axooxco who wanted to marry her. On his triumphant return from battle, Popoca found that Mixtli had committed suicide in her grief of having heard of his death. He carried her body into the mountains in hopes that the cold there would awake her. As he bent over her body looking for signs of life Popoca died from grief and the cold. They were transformed into two volcanoes: Ixtaccihuatl (the sleeping woman) and Popocatepetl (the smoking mountain). Today, these volcanoes loom over the metropolis of Mexico City.

Popocatapetl had erupted many times in both recent times and since ancient memory:  Eruptions have been seen in 2007-2009, 2005, 1996-2003, 1994-95, 1947, 1942-43, 1933, 1923-24, 1920-22, 1852, 1827-34, 1802-04, 1720, 1697, 1663-67, 1642, 1592-94, 1590, 1580, 1571, 1548, 1542, 1539-40, 1530, 1528, 1519-23, 1518, 1512, 1509?, 1504, 1488, 1363, 1354, and 1345-47. Many of these eruptions have only reached the current state of the volcano, shooting gas and rocks into the air, but it has not been unknown for the volcano to explode into deadly full strength eruptions. Three eruptions in relatively recent history have released lava flows into the area south of the mountain, and there have been other lava spewing eruptions in the history of the volcano.

Some areas near the volcano have already been evacuated during this eruption and emergency plans are in place to evacuate other areas including Mexico City if necessary. The major effects of the current eruption so far are its impact on air travel in the area.


Mexico's Volcano 'Popo' Shoots Glowing Rocks
The Legend of the Volcanoes Ixtaccihuatl and Popocat├ępetl 
Popocatepetl, Mexico Eruptive History

Chernobyl 26th Anniversary

April 27 is the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia. The anniversary is being remembered both in ceremony and protests.

Due to a birth defect caused by the Chernobyl disaster, Veronica cannot close her eyes.
If you can stomach much more horrible images of mutations than the one I have included here do a Google Image search for Cherynobyl mutations.


Detroit Free Press
Amazing Notes