Tourist dies on Great Barrier Reef

SYDNEY (AFP): A man died Friday while diving on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, just days after two French tourists perished snorkelling in the same area, police said. The Cairns Post said the latest victim was a 60-year-old from England who was travelling with his wife and who died diving on Agincourt Reef off the popular tourist resort of Port Douglas. “We were called to Agincourt Reef after a man in his 60s suffered a medical condition. He is now deceased,” a Queensland police spokesman told AFP, adding that he was believed to be British, but this was not confirmed. The newspaper said he was a passenger on a tourist boat and was found without a regulator during a certified scuba dive with another person at the reef, 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Cairns. Crew on the vessel tried to revive him with a defibrillator and contacted emergency services who flew a doctor to the reef, but attempts to resuscitate him failed. His death followed the death of two elderly French tourists, who had pre-existing medical conditions, at Michaelmas Cay nearby earlier this week.  Officials said they had heart attacks with a cardiologist cited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation suggesting they were stung by jellyfish which caused their cardiac arrest.




Seismologists warn of more

quakes in New Zealand

christchurch (AFP): Seismologists in New Zealand said Friday that this week’s 7.8 earthquake was one of the most complex ever recorded and warned there was a high likelihood of further powerful aftershocks. As a massive clean-up continued following the tremor that claimed two lives early Monday, scientists were coming to grips with the “astonishing” scale of the seismic seizure. The official GeoNet science agency said the land moved up to 11 metres (36 feet) along the many faultlines in the South Island disaster zone, permanently changing the region’s geography. The quake also pushed up the seabed by as much as two metres along a 110 kilometre (70 mile) stretch of coastline that includes the tourist town of Kaikoura.

 GeoNet said the quake ruptured at least four faults and was “clearly... one of the most complex earthquakes that has ever been observed”. New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which form part of the so-called “Ring of Fire”, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year. There have been well over 2,000 aftershocks since Monday and the agency said statistical analysis showed residents should prepare for more major shakes in the coming weeks.

The current probability of quakes of magnitude 6.0 and above hitting in the next month was “about 100 times larger than what we would normally expect”, it said.

The warning came as warships from the United States, Canada and Australia began delivering emergency supplies to Kaikoura, which bore the brunt of the tremor.

A convoy of New Zealand military vehicles also reached the town by land for the first time, travelling via a back road after huge landslides cut the main highway and rail lines.

About 1,000 tourists were evacuated from Kaikoura by air and sea in the days after the quake but some 2,000 locals still face difficult conditions.

The occupants of eight houses were ordered to flee their homes early Wednesday amid fears a cliff could fall on them following heavy rains.

Authorities also warned that some rain-swollen rivers had been blocked by quake debris, creating dangerous temporary dams.

“Landslide dams can break quickly, and release large volumes of water and sediment as a flood wave,” Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black said.

The tremor was felt across the country, causing violent shaking in Wellington about 250 kilometres (155 miles) away.

Many buildings in the capital have been sealed off amid fears they have sustained structural damage, including an office block housing the defence department’s headquarters.




New lung transplant technique

could save lives: study

PARIS (AFP): A new technique could help nearly double the precious few hours surgeons have to carry out lung transplants, raising hopes for saving more lives, said a study released Friday. Doctors typically rush to complete a transplant within about six hours of the lungs being taken from a donor, with time being of the essence because the tissue starts to break down. But the new method, which uses a process called ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP), could help keep lungs outside the human body for over 12 hours without significantly harming their eventual recipient’s chances of survival. The extra time means more transplants could be performed because organs which were previously too far away could now reach recipients in time, said the study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal. Getting the organs to recipients is the difference between life and death for people on wait lists, and who number about 1,700 in the US and Canada alone.

The process starts with the lungs being taken from a donor and then put on ice immediately. After being moved to the hospital where they are needed, the organs undergo EVLP.

This consists of warming the lungs and continuously pumping a liquid full of oxygen, nutrients and proteins through them, at which point the “paradigm shifts from slowing death to preserving life,” the study says.

If the lungs are simply cooled, standard practice calls for the transplant to happen within six to eight hours of being outside the donor’s body. But with EVLP, which takes at least four hours, the deadline can be pushed out to over 12 hours.

“At a time when there is a critical shortage of lungs available... combining cold preservation and EVLP will hopefully make a lot more donor lungs available for successful transplantation,” wrote lead author Marcelo Cypel, a surgeon at Toronto General Hospital.

The study focused on 906 adults who got lung transplants at Toronto General from 2006-2015, comparing those whose organs did and did not undergo EVLP.

The authors found people who got organs given EVLP and kept outside the human body for more than 12 hours spent a similar amount of time in the hospital as those who did not.

Also, both groups of patients had similar levels of life-threatening complications and survival rates one year after surgery.

While the researchers said the results suggest EVLP provides “additional benefit” over just icing down the organs, the “maximum safe preservation time for human lung transplantation remains unknown.”