Science File / An exploration of issues and trends affecting science, medicine and the environment


A powerful temblor killed at least 44 people and injured hundreds of others as it wrecked parts of rural China’s Yunnan Province. Officials say the magnitude 6.5 quake left at least 20,000 people homeless in heavy rains that began to fall after shaking stopped. Several houses were damaged in southern Mexico when a strong earthquake rocked areas from Mexico City to central Guatemala. Earth movements were also felt in central Venezuela, the Ecuador-Peru border and southern Alaska.


Four loud explosions shook Mt. Pinatubo in the northern Philippines, sending ash clouds as high as 14,000 feet. Vulcanologists said the blasts were caused by water falling on hot rocks on the flanks of the mountain. Mt. Parker on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao has been added to the list of the now 22 active volcanoes in the country. Its renewed rumblings could prelude a large eruption, scientists say. Mexico’s Mt. Popocatepetl, which has threatened to erupt since last December, belched clouds of steam, but scientists say there is no immediate danger of an eruption.



Heavy spring rains that flooded hundreds of acres of California’s prime wine- growing regions has resulted in grape harvest 15% to 40% lower than last year’s. The Napa Valley Grape Growers Assn. said that despite the losses the grapes harvested are of high quality and should produce an excellent vintage. Prolonged flooding in Vietnam since September has left at least 142 people dead. The Mekong Delta remains on maximum flood alert.

Mystery Virus

Nicaraguan health officials have sought international help in dealing with an unexplained virus blamed for the deaths of at least 12 people. The outbreak occurred in western Nicaragua. Symptoms are similar to those produced by a strain of dengue fever that is spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 800 people have been stricken by the high fevers and internal bleeding characteristic of the disease.

Sources: U.S. Climate Analysis Center, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Japan Meteorological Agency, Meteo France, U.S. Earthquake Information Center and the World Meteorological Organization.

Copyright 1995 Chronicle Features