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Los Angeles to host Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

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Washington: The Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is set to host its latest edition over the weekend at famed global hub for entertainment and films, Los Angeles. Hundreds of Indian-Americans from across the US are slated to attend the event.

Indian Ambassador to the US, Arun K Singh told PTI, “There is great deal of excitement related to the holding of the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Los Angeles on the 14th and 15th. There has been a great response not only at the local level, but also from all over the US.”

“We are expecting a participation of almost a 1000 people there,” he added.

‘The Indian Diaspora: Defining a New Paradigm in India-US Relationship’ is the theme of the two-day event to be inaugurated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tomorrow. The Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (RPBD) aims to capture the ethos of the India-US relationship.

After holding events at Singapore, Durban, Mauritius, London, Sydney, Toronto, and The Hague, RPBD has turned towards Los Angeles, which is only the second US city after New York to host the RPBD.

The convention’s objective was defined by an eminent Indian-American community leader from Los Angeles and key member associated with the planning of the event, as a means to connect the Indian diaspora with India, to provide a platform to the Indian community and to contribute to the Indo-US ties.

“The members of the Indian community will have the opportunity to convey their concerns and aspirations to the Government of India and will explore ways to give back to the mother country,” he said.

Arun K Singh further elaborate as to what might be expected at the convention: “There would be very focused discussions related to the policies in India, economic opportunities in India, the plans of the government, measures taken on ease of doing business, make in India, digital India, startup India and various other initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Mission… and to see how we can also involve the Indian diaspora in these schemes,” he said.

“The External Affairs Minister will also be there at the event. We hope, based on the discussions, we will also work out various follow-up measures,” Singh added.

An Indian Diaspora Business Meet is also being organized by the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC) of the Confederation of Indian Industry. Senior government officials from Haryana, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala comprise the 11-member delegation participating in the meet.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the meet will offer a platform for business leaders from top Indian companies to meet their peers and interact with them, and explore investment & business opportunities in India.

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Los Angeles Showcases Earthquake Warning Application ‘ShakeAlertLA’

The long-delayed system, called ShakeAlertLA, is the first of its kind in the United States.

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The long-delayed system, called ShakeAlertLA, is the first of its kind in the United States. VOA

California is earthquake country, and residents of Los Angeles can now get some critical warning, when conditions are right, after a quake has started and seismic waves are heading their way.

The long-delayed system, called ShakeAlertLA, is the first of its kind in the United States.

Earthquake alert systems like this save lives, said Jeff Gorell, deputy Los Angeles mayor for public safety, as he demonstrated the application on his smartphone.

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A mobile phone customer looks at an earthquake warning application on their phone in Los Angeles, Jan. 3, 2019. The app, called ShakeAlertLA, is available for download on Android and Apple phones. VOA

“When an earthquake starts, the first waves that go out are called P-waves,” he said. They serve as a warning and “are not the damaging, destructive waves” that will follow.

The alert system, which relies on data from seismic sensors throughout the region, could offer up to 90 seconds of warning for quakes of magnitude 5 or larger.

Even a few seconds can make a difference, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as he rolled out the ShakeAlertLA smartphone app in January. Alerts let people know to drop, cover and hold on, as they are instructed to do in earthquakes.

Mexico City system

An alert system is in place in Mexico City that let residents brace for a mild shaker in early February after an earthquake struck Chiapas to the south. The quake was barely felt in the capital, but residents were ready.

The system doesn’t always help, however, and it did not with the magnitude 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 19, 2017, that killed hundreds in and around the Mexican capital. The quake’s epicenter was too close to offer warning.

Distance to epicenter crucial

Alert systems work when there’s enough distance between the earthquake’s epicenter and a center of population, said Thomas Heaton, professor of engineering seismology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

“So, if you can recognize that an earthquake has started … you can give some area that’s about to be shaken strongly a heads up that says, ‘There’s an ongoing earthquake, and oh, by the way, it’s headed in your direction.’”

California is riddled with geological fault lines that periodically rupture. The largest, the San Andreas Fault, can give rise to massive temblors, including the San Francisco quake in 1906, which may have killed 3,000, according to later estimates.

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FILE – California State University, Northridge students walk past a parking structure at the Los Angeles campus that collapsed 25 years ago in the Jan. 17, 1994, earthquake. VOA

A section of the same fault shifted in 1989, causing a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that killed more than 60 in Oakland and nearby communities. Smaller fault lines can also cause large temblors, including a previously unknown fault beneath the Northridge section of Los Angeles, where a magnitude 6.7 quake killed more than 60 people in 1994.

The ShakeAlertLA app offers users critical information after a temblor has started, said Deputy Mayor Gorell, “just enough so that they can digest it and then react to it, without overwhelming them with information or frightening them,” he said.

Advanced alert systems are also in place in Japan, and while the systems have limitations, authorities there say they have saved lives.

Los Angeles officials say preparing for earthquakes requires work on many fronts, including encouraging residents to prepare disaster plans and stock emergency supplies.

Preparations also require upgrades to old buildings. Los Angeles now has nearly 13,000 so-called soft-story buildings, with wide windows or doors on lower floors that need bracing. These buildings are vulnerable to damage or collapse if struck by seismic waves of a certain type or intensity.

Nearly 1,700 buildings have been upgraded to modern earthquake standards, and another 3,500 have been issued permits for retrofitting. It’s a race against time, officials say, because massive shakers rock the region periodically. The last big quake in Southern California, in 1857, reached magnitude 7.9, and could have killed thousands in a modern city.

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A mobile phone customer looks at an earthquake warning application on their phone in Los Angeles, Jan. 3, 2019. Los Angeles has released the app that could give county residents precious seconds to drop, cover and hold on in the event of a quake. VOA

The alert app can help, said Heaton, who noted that when the ground “starts to shake, you have no idea whether it’s going to get bigger, or whether it will stay small. Usually it stays small,” he said, “but you don’t know.”

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Heaton said the system will give you an indication of what to expect, and also let emergency workers know where to send help after a quake has struck.

ShakeAlertLA is being rolled out in phases in the U.S. West coast states of California, Oregon and Washington, which are all vulnerable to earthquakes. (VOA)