Connect with us

Latest News

South Africa’s ecological ‘nightmare’ after plastic pellets spill



South Africa is grappling with an ecological disaster after billions of tiny plastic pellets spilled into the sea when a container fell from a ship in the port of Durban.

The pellets, called nurdles, have now been washed up along 1,200km of coastline and are causing a huge threat to areas rich in wildlife. Here is John Sparks’ report from South Africa:

Some people call them “high density plastic'” or “pre-production micro-plastic” but individuals in the industry refer to them as nurdles – a silly sounding name for a lentil-sized pellet that is the building block of all-known plastic products.

Your plastic bag from the supermarket? It’s made from nurdles. Your daughter’s dolly with the clip-on earrings and shoes? They are all moulded from nurdles.

The clean-up has been ongoing for over four months ran by NGOs

Coastline scarred by plastic pollution

Every single day, nurdles are shipped around the world in their billions and billions – just like any other cargo.

But nurdles are not “any other cargo” – a fact the people of South Africa are now learning to their detriment.

A major spill of these translucent pellets in the city of Durban has spread along 2,000 kilometres of coastline, proving virtually impossible to clean up – and the threat posed to marine and birdlife is incalculable, say leading environmentalists.

They may be small in size but their synthetic legacy that could last forever.

The clean-up has been ongoing for over four months ran by NGOs
The clean-up has been ongoing for over four months

Back in October, a freak hurricane bore down on Durban, ripping ships from their moorings and causing chaos in the port.

Propelled by wind power, two vessels belonging to the logistics-giant Mediterranean Shipping Company collided within the port’s confines and containers holding 49 tonnes of nurdles went over the side.

Five days after the storm, local residents noticed that millions of plastic nurdles were washing up on beaches.

Ecological ‘nightmare’ after nurdles spill

People started to call the regional environmental agency to complain but it was already too late – billions of these plastic pieces had already flowed out of the channel which leads to the sea.

Sobantu Tilayi, who is the chief operating officer of South Africa’s Maritime Safety Authority, told us that the consequences of the spill came as a shock.

“We all work under standard operating procedures and we know what do when there is oil or explosives (but) nobody could tell what to do with nurdles. We didn’t even know these things behave like this.”

By behaviour, he means speed of movement. According to figures provided by NGO Wild Oceans, nurdles packed into two containers which fell off the MSC Susanna have now moved as far north as the border with Mozambique and all the way south to Cape Town.

Durban Harbour with the MSC Susanna in the background which was carrying the containers
The MSC Susanna, seen in the background, was carrying the containers of nurdles

For hundreds of clean-up crews now charged with scrapping them off the coastline, it is the ultimate environmental nightmare.

We watched several hundred people tackle a stretch of coast line north of Durban near a place called Mtunzini and we soon noticed that the sand, pools and marsh lands were saturated with them.

As soon as one person tried to scoop half-a-dozen or so up, they were replaced by another gaggle of slippery, silvery pellets.


Oodles of nurdles: What are they and why so bad?

The clean-up operation benefits from a highly-capable leader. Captain Nicolas Sloane, who helps run an organisation called Resolve Marine, is the man who righted the Costa Concordia back in 2013 but this nurdle crisis is a real test.

“We clean up one beach. It looks perfect (then) we have a spring tide, the sand migrates and blow me down, there they are again. It is not easy, and you cannot get despondent. We are recovering product.”

But there is a long, long way to go. Of the 49 tonnes which spilt in the water, only 11 tonnes have been recovered – 23% of the total – and realistically, much of it will never be retrieved.

For environmentalists like Dr Andrew Venter, it is an unmitigated disaster. “We could be cleaning up in two or three years’ time and we still won’t recover all 49 tonnes of that particular load. It’s not going to happen.”

Only 23% of the spilled pellets have been found
Only 23% of the spilled pellets have been recovered

The repercussions for marine and bird life could be disastrous he says with multiple species misjudging toxin absorbing nurdles for food.

“From an environmental perspective, it is worse than an oil spill because (nurdles) won’t break down. They last forever.”

Dr Venter admits he had never heard of nurdles until last October but they pose a problem that he – as well as government officials, shipping executives, their insurers and the South African public at large – will be grappling with for many years to come.

A spokesperson for Mediterranean Shipping Company said: “MSC has proactively led the clean-up of South Africa’s beaches and we remain committed to the operation as long as required.”

Source link

Latest News

Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls: ‘Repentant bandits’ key to release of the 279 students it has emerged | World News



“Repentant bandits” helped secure the release of 279 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian boarding school, it has emerged – as the students open up about the horrors of their ordeal.

A group of about 100 gunmen burst into the Girls Science Secondary School in the northwestern state of Zamfara on Friday and abducted the students.

Before ransacking the school in Jangebe town, they also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from stepping in.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘They were pointing guns at our heads’

The girls said they were forced to march through stones and thorns and were repeatedly hit with guns if they could not keep up.

Umma Abubakar said: “Most of us got injured on our feet and we could not continue trekking, so they said they will shoot anybody who did not continue to walk.”

Farida Lawali, 15, added: “While they were beating the girls with guns, some of them were crying and moving at the same time.”

At least a dozen of the schoolgirls have been taken to hospital for treatment.

In spite of their horrific ordeal, the father of seven of the girls, vowed the abduction would not stop him from schooling his children.

A group of girls who were abducted from a boarding school in Nigeria have been released and are "safe", reports say. Gunmen abducted 317 students from the Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, on Friday 26 Feb 21
The girls have been given food, water and reunited with their families

Lawal Abdullahi said: “It’s a ploy to deny our girls from getting the western education in which we are far behind.

“We should not succumb to blackmail.

“My advice to the government is that they should take immediate precautions to stop further abductions.”

And UN children’s agency UNICEF has joined his call, urging the Nigerian government to provide added protection to schools.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said news of the girls’ release had brought “overwhelming joy”.

And Zamfara state governor Dr Bello Matawalle revealed it had been “repentant bandits” working with the government under an amnesty programme who had helped secure the Jangebe girls’ release.

“Those repentant ones are working for us, and they are working for the government and they are working for security,”
he said.

Several large groups of armed men operate in Zamfara state, described by the government as bandits, and are known to kidnap for money or for the release of their members from jail.

The government has repeatedly denied paying ransoms.

But on Friday president Buhari had issued a statement in which he urged state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously”.

Sky News’ Africa correspondent John Sparks said the latest abduction prompted more questions on the ransom debate.

“Was money paid? This is becoming a growth industry in Nigeria,” he said.

“It’s happening frequently: Criminal gangs or bandits taking advantage of the precarious security situation in the north and central areas.”

Such kidnappings in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, and later its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province, but the tactic has now been adopted by other criminal gangs.

The raid in Zamfara state was the second kidnapping in little over a week in the north west, a region increasingly targeted by criminal gangs.

On Saturday, gunmen released 27 teenage boys who were kidnapped from their school on 17 February in the north-central state of Niger.

Source link

Continue Reading

Latest News

Carlos Ghosn: Special forces veteran and son extradited over ex-Nissan chief’s ‘music box’ escape from Japan | World News



A US special forces veteran and his son accused of helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan have been extradited to the country.

They are accused of aiding a plot to smuggle Ghosn out of the country, where he was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges in December 2019.

Michael Taylor and son Peter Taylor allegedly helped him escape in a music box and on a private jet to his home country of Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Prosecutors say they received at least $1.3m (£936,000) for their services.

Instrument cases claimed to be used during Ghosn's escape
Prosecutors say Ghosn escaped in a music case loaded on to a private jet

The pair landed in Tokyo on Monday after a high-profile battle to avoid being handed over, with lawyers claiming they faced the prospect of relentless interrogation and “mental and physical torture”.

They had been in a Boston jail since May, but last month the US Supreme Court cleared the way for their extradition.

“This is a sad day for the family, and for all who believe that veterans deserve better treatment from their own country,” said their lawyer Paul Kelly.

Michael Taylor was shielded from view as he arrived in Japan on Monday
Michael Taylor was shielded from view as he arrived in Japan on Monday

Under Japanese law, suspects cannot have a lawyer present during questioning by prosecutors and can be held for 20 days before being charged or released.

Michael Taylor, 60, is a special forces army veteran and private security specialist who in the past had been hired to rescue abducted children. He has never denied the allegations.

He described the escape plan in detail in an interview with Vanity Fair last year and said he did it “to liberate the oppressed”.

Michael Taylor, in a police photo from 2012, has never denied helping the escape
Michael Taylor, in a police photo from 2012, is a former special forces Green Beret

Prosecutors have called it one of the most “brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history”.

Michael Taylor and another man, George-Antoine Zayek, allegedly chartered a jet to Japan with two large boxes in a ruse that they were musicians with audio equipment.

Ghosn, who was out on bail, is said to have met up with Peter Taylor at a Tokyo hotel before the others joined them.

As the younger Mr Taylor flew to China, the other three are said to have taken a bullet train to another hotel near Osaka airport.

They all went into a room but only two came out.

Prosecutors say Ghosn was inside one of the boxes – which passed through security without being checked.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

January 2020: ‘I was facing conviction rate of 99%’ – Ghosn

The private jet landed in Istanbul in Turkey, before Ghosn was transferred to another flight to Lebanon.

He had initially been arrested in November 2018 on claims he diverted money from Nissan for his own gain and underreported his future income.

He denies the charges against him and says he escaped to avoid “political persecution” and an unfair trial.

Source link

Continue Reading

Latest News

Michael Gudinski: Kylie Minogue, Bruce Springsteen and Russell Crowe lead tributes to Australian music industry ‘legend’ | Ents & Arts News



Kylie Minogue, Bruce Springsteen and Russell Crowe are among the stars paying tribute following the death of an Australian music industry “legend”.

Promoter Michael Gudinski founded the Mushroom label when he was just 20 in 1972, and it went on to become the country’s largest independent entertainment group.

He helped launch the careers of both Kylie and Dannii Minogue and also played a key role in bringing some of the world’s biggest stars, including Springsteen, to perform Down Under.

He died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Melbourne, Australia, aged 68, Mushroom said.

Paying tribute on social media, Kylie Minogue described Mr Gudinski as a “legend” and a “titan” of the music industry.

“One of a kind and forever family to me,” she wrote. “My heart is broken and I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Springsteen described Mr Gudinski as a friend who was “first, last and always a music man”, and a promoter who would be “remembered by artists, including this one, from all over the world every time they step foot on Australian soil”.

Crowe said he was a “towering figure on the Australian cultural landscape”.

The pair had been friends for 30 years, he said.

Ed Sheeran, the Foo Fighters and Dannii Minogue have also shared tributes.

Sheeran, who Mr Gudinski helped while touring in Australia, shared a picture on Instagram of the pair together on a beach, saying: “I’ll miss you mate.”

Dannii Minogue said: “I will forever be grateful for the opportunity he gave me to release my first single and album, and the journey that it took me on for so many years.”

Posting a picture on social media, the Foo Fighters said in a statement. “Thank You Michael Gudinski for giving us and countless others the best night of our lives.

“Over and over again. A true f****** legend. We will miss you dearly. Rock & Roll will miss you deeply.”

Mushroom Group said Mr Gudinski had spent time in 2020 trying to help artists affected by the shutdown of live music caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

:: Subscribe to the Backstage podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

“A larger-than-life figure, Michael was widely respected for his unwavering passion for all music – in particular Australian music,” the label said in a statement.

“Most recently, with the music industry severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael conceptualised and developed Music From The Home Front, The Sound and The State Of Music, platforms designed to showcase and support contemporary Australian music in an incredibly difficult time.

“It speaks to the man he was that of his countless illustrious career achievements these projects, that supported the industry he loved, were ones he was particularly proud of.”

Mr Gudinski is survived by his wife Sue, son Matt and daughter Kate, the group said.

Source link

Continue Reading