Wednesday, August 15, 2018

NIO Challenges TESLA for CHINESE Market by Planning NYSE IPO

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Perhaps, to someone with a casual knowledge of consumer-use electronic cars, the first brand name to come to mind is Tesla, one of the many company brainchildren of Elon Musk. Not only is it trying its hard best to break into true mass-production with their latest Model 3 sedan, Tesla is also well established globally with their cars selling in countries like China. But they may soon have a strong local competitor over there. A Chinese e-car startup is getting ready to clash with the big boys, and it is doing it by going public over at Wall Street itself.
As CNN tells it, the Chinese-American startup NIO has filed documents this Monday, August 13, stating their intention to list their shares on the New York stock exchange. The fledgling electronic car manufacturer, which is known by the name Weilai in China, hopes to be able to raise funds up to $1.8 billion out of their shares. And they are sure to be worth the price, considering the heavyweight names that are already invested in NIO, including Chinese tech giants such as Baidu and Tencent, plus the American venture firm Sequoia Capital. The company was founded in 2014 and only began rolling out their first electric vehicles back in 2017.
One factor that gives NIO a leg up against Tesla in the potential for customers in China is the fact that they have more affordable prices. Their ES8 e-SUV for example, only costs $65,000 per unit to Chinese consumers; the Tesla equivalent, the Model X, runs around twice that much. And that is quite the deal considering that for half the Tesla price NIO asserts that they could include the same Tesla features like a car AI and a public charging system boasting a lightning-fast charge speed of three minutes.
The fact that NIO announced its going public at Wall Street was a well-calculated move to show that it has ambitions to take their brand from just the Chinese market to the international scene. Already NIO offices are up and running in one city each of the US, the UK and Germany. The company’s president Lihong Qin has plotted NIO’s general direction to target the Chinese middle class who cannot quite afford other imported electric car brands like, naturally, Tesla. While their intent to make an initial public offering is set, they have yet to specify a timeframe for it.
NIO’s ES8 electric SUV began to be delivered to Chinese customers in June last year, but at present some 17,000 more units remain on order to be fulfilled. According to its NYSE filing they only just began generating revenue from their automobile sales this year.
Image courtesy of DriveMag

FIRST LOOK at Filming for LIVE-ACTION Disney’s “MULAN” for 2020

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We know of at least four upcoming movies from Disney that are live-action adaptations of installments from their long-running Animated Canon. Next year alone there will be three films: “Dumbo”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”. On 2020 a live-action “Mulan” is scheduled to premiere. That film has already gotten plenty of discussion buzz from Disney fans due to it not being produced as a musical like the original, as well as the decision to change the main character’s love interest. But there has been no word on the pace of filming; at least until director Niki Caro shared a peek.
Entertainment Weekly has it that the director of the live-action “Mulan” has posted a photo from the movie set, a mere day after filming officially started on Monday, August 13. It is apparently a shot from a recreation of the scene from the 1998 animated film where Fa Mulan walks next to a pond while singing “Reflection” (vocals by Lea Salonga). In fact, that is pretty much confirmed by Niki Caro’s caption for the picture. The set looks like an artificial pond and garden with a green screen background, with Liu Yifei as Mulan standing alone, staring at the distance.

Comments about the set photo on Instagram cover a wide range of reactions. There was praise from solid Disney fans, and some surprise at this near-accurate rendition of the animated scene (as it implies that there might be a song number when the first info was that this “Mulan” movie is not a musical like last year’s “Beauty and the Beast”). There were also some complaints on the green screen, wondering if the production crew was not determined enough to find a natural spot to film at. Shooting locations for the movie have been set in China and New Zealand.
Disney looks set to create a new live-action franchise comprising adaptations of their classic animated films. The first for 2019, “Dumbo”, releases in March. “Aladdin” follows in May and “The Lion King in July”, in the same premiere fashion as the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies that came out this year.
Aside from the Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei, “Mulan” also stars Yoson An as her love interest Chen Honghui (replacing Li Shang from the animation), Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jason Scott Lee and Gong Li as the antagonists Bori Khan and his witch ally, Jimmy Wong and Doua Moua as Ling and Po (characters from the animation), Ron Yuan as Sergeant Qiang, and Jet Li as the Emperor of China. The movie is set to premiere on March 27, 2020.
Image courtesy of Variety

Fans Hyped, Disappointed with IDRIS ELBA Tweets on Playing “BOND”

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It is well known among followers of the long-running “James Bond” film franchise that the current actor, Daniel Craig, is considering perhaps only one more film project before he finally retires from the role of the suave world-saving British super-spy. It is also a prominent topic of discussion with the fandom that, among the UK-based actors being considered to take up the reins for Bond, is Golden Globe winner Idris Elba, from HBO’s “The Wire”, BBC’s “Luther”, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Thor” movies (as Heimdall). But are the rumors of Elba being courted to be the first “Black” Bond real?
According to CNN, Idris Elba has not been helpful in answering fan speculation about confirming or debunking the possibility that he might be cast as “James Bond” after Daniel Craig. The confusion started back in Sunday, when the actor posted a Twitter photo of himself, captioned with a paraphrase of Agent 007’s iconic greeting.
Before the day was out however, Elba sent a follow-up tweet to disabuse fans of the notion that he was the next James Bond. Still, for the actor to chime in on the discussion, especially soon after Bond producer Barbara Broccoli mentioned the concept of “diversifying” the main character in the franchise her father developed, only led to more rumor-mongering.
Broccoli’s comments were recorded in an article on UK newspaper The Daily Star, which stated that they were heard second-hand from American filmmaker Antoine Fuqua, who directed the Oscar-winning 2001 film “Training Day” as well as other action-packed movies like “The Replacement Killers” (1998) and “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013). Fuqua was also quoted in the Daily Star article to have voiced the possibility of Idris Elba playing James Bond. When pressed for comments by CNN however, a spokesperson for Fuqua said the comments were inaccurate.
Still, regardless of whether he has been officially approached or not, Elba did express openness to playing a black James Bond back in a 2014 CNN interview. “It would be such an honor,” he said. “I mean what do we have to do here? We have to wear beautiful suits, drive nice cars, chase bad guys and date beautiful women? I dunno, sounds good to me.” That he would be teasing the possibility lately on social media has done nothing to put the question to rest. Elba and Barbara Broccoli have yet to give an official word to the press.
Image from Daily Express UK

NBA Changes Mind: CLARKSON with PH for ASIAD, After All

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The 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang will be having its opening ceremony this coming Saturday, and from the early part of this week basketball enthusiasts around the country were feeling the frustration of yet another pipe dream. Just how difficult could it be to have NBA player Jordan Clarkson, a Philippine passport-holder, to play for the national men’s basketball team? An earlier ruling had it that Clarkson cannot play in the Asiad because it was not part of the FIBA-sanctioned basketball tournaments where NBA players were allowed in. But as it turns out, exceptions can always be made.
ESPN 5 reports that Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers will indeed be suiting up for Gilas Pilipinas as they dive into the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. This happy news was shared by Al Panlilio, President of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP). According to him, the governing body of Philippine basketball received a message from NBA Commissioner and COO Mark Tatum, relaying that the US pro-basketball league has granted a one-time exception to allow Clarkson to play in the Asiad. Or rather, this exception was extended to three NBA players in total to play for their home countries.
For the journey of Gilas Pilipinas in the Asiad, they have the unenviable position of being grouped in with countries that field formidable basketball teams like Kazakhstan and China. Normally the inclusion of Jordan Clarkson to the national team roster will be a boon to its competitive strength. However the other two NBA players that were granted the Asian Games exception are all Chinese players: Houston Rocket Zhou Qi and Dallas Maverick Ding Yanyuhang. Apparently the Chinese Basketball Association was also in communication with the NBA regarding its own players. The American league relented due to not having made the FIBA competition exceptions clear to both the SBP and CBA.
Of course, just having Jordan Clarkson be approved to play for Gilas is only part of the larger struggle. He will soon be making his way to Jakarta to join his new teammates and is expected to arrive on Thursday. However, as the Asiad sporting events will already start this week ahead of the formal opening ceremony, this means that Gilas Pilipinas will not have Clarkson around on their very first game in their bracket, which will be against Kazakhstan.
Still, the long sought-after NBA star will be very busy indeed with the Philippine delegation in the Asiad. In fact, the Philippine Olympic Committee is tapping Clarkson to be the RP flag-bearer this coming Saturday.
Image courtesy of PhilStar Global

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

FIRST IMAGES Out from “CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA” on NETFLIX

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Anybody who hears the title “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” will most likely, if not cite the original character from Archie Comics, recall the hit ABC sitcom that aired in the nineties starring Melissa Joan Hart. The character would probably be remembered as the kind-hearted if occasionally mischievous spell-caster saddled with mundane teenage problems from that show and the comics. Still, with the Archie brand reboot in recent years that led to a more dramatic retelling that gave rise to “Riverdale” on The CW, a similar remake of “Sabrina” seemed inevitable. And now we have a preview on how that looks.
The Hollywood Reporter tells us that the first promotional images of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” have been made available for viewing online. This darker adaptation of the “Sabrina” story was initially developed by The CW as a sister show to “Riverdale”, probably laying the foundation for an Archie TV universe similar to the DC-based “Arrow” verse. Plans have changed and now, “Chilling Adventures” will instead be a Netflix streaming original, with 10 episodes planned for its inaugural season. The creators have promised a grimmer direction to Sabrina from what is already seen in “Riverdale”, and these previews prove it.
Initial images of the show depicts lead star Kiernan Shipka, an alumna from AMC drama series “Mad Men”, as the titular teenage witch Sabrina Spellman. Series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was also the mind behind “Riverdale”, has reimagined Sabrina’s original coming-of-age theme of a witch growing into her own, as a horror story that plays up the supernatural element of the character and her world. This is after all based on the similar dark reboot of the “Sabrina” title on Archie Comics that has run since 2014, also written by Sacasa. One teaser photo even shows Sabrina’s “witch baptism” ritual.
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Other cast members for “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” are Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto as Sabrina’s witch aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman, Ross Lynch as Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey Kinkle, Jaz Sinclair as Sabrina’s human best friend Rosalind Walker, Chance Perdomo as Sabrina’s British warlock cousin Ambrose Spellman, Richard Coyle as witch coven head Father Blackwood, and Michelle Gomez in the dual role of Sabrina’s high-school teacher Mary Wardell, who is possessed by the “Devil’s handmaiden” and becomes Madam Satan. Netflix will premiere “Chilling Adventures” on October 26, with a second season already ordered from WB Television and Berlanti Productions.
Images courtesy of Netflix

“RIVERDALE” Cleans House, and Other 2018 TEEN’S CHOICE AWARDS Highlights

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The grownups (mostly) have fired their salvos for what they think to be the most deserving movies and TV series for this year in the many awards ceremonies that that already taken place earlier this year. This time it is the turn of a much younger demographic to vote for their favorites to give awards to. This Sunday was the 20th iteration of Fox TV’s Teen Choice Awards, the twentieth time that one of the largest award trophies ever given – the Teen’s Choice surfboards – were passed to this year’s worthies. And there were many big Teen’s Choice winners that evening.
The Washington Post kept tabs on the happenings of the 2018 Teen’s Choice Awards, held at The Forum in Inglewood this August 12, with Nick Cannon and Lele Pons as hosts. Major franchises dominated in the sheer amount of nominations; “Star Wars” garnered 13 total between “The Last Jedi” and “Solo”, while “Avengers: Infinity War” were named in 10 categories.
As for television, The CW’s subversive Archie Comics drama retelling “Riverdale” got 12 nominations, nine of which were won making the show the biggest victor of the night. These include Choices in “TV Drama”, “TV Drama Actor” and “Actress”, “TV Villain”, “Breakout TV Star”, “TV Ship” and the joint Film/TV Teen’s Choice awards for “Scene Stealer”, “Liplock” and “Hissy Fit”.
The Movie awards were almost a steal for franchises under the immense Disney media umbrella. “Avengers: Infinity War” was Choice Action Movie, “Black Panther” was Choice Sci-Fi Movie, “Coco” got Choice Fantasy Movie and “Incredibles 2” was Choice Summer Movie. Late actress Carrie Fisher was honored posthumously as Choice Fantasy Movie Actress for “The Last Jedi”. The most significant non-Disney multiple awardee was Fox musical “The Greatest Showman”, winning four out of seven categories with Zac Efron and Zendaya being awarded Choice Drama Movie Actor and Actress respectively, and Choice Movie Ship as a tandem.
When it comes to music, overseas acts were ably represented by Korean boy band BTS, which took home the Choice International Artist and Choice Fandom for its rabid fan community. The Teen’s Choice Digital categories was also a source of some fandom humor, when Choice “Twit” (-ter celebrity) Anna Kendrick tried to ignite a rivalry between her and fellow nominee, actor Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds. Also enjoyed by the audience was a speech tribute by presenter Troye Sivan in honor of closet-gay rom-com film “Love Simon”, which won Choice Comedy Movie.
Image from The Hollywood Reporter

HUAWEI, ZTE Tech Devices BANNED from US GOVERNMENT, Business CONTRACTORS

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Chinese electronics have been all the rage around the world nowadays, and among the brands that rose to global prominence from the People’s Republic are telecom providers Huawei and ZTE. Their mobile devices have been touted as very effective for reasonable price ranges, and are often fallback options for buyers who feel they cannot afford an Apple iPhone or even a Samsung smartphone. Detractors of ZTE and Huawei however, warn that their phones and electronics covertly contain spying software utilized by the Chinese government. Acting on that presumption, the US government is banning their use by order of the President.
The Verge reports that President Donald Trump has signed on Monday, August 13, a new Defense Authorization Act to facilitate the appropriations needed for activities by the Departments of Defense and Energy for the year 2019. Part of the components for the act authored by Senator John McCain is the outright banning of the use of Huawei and ZTE mobile devices by the government and its various contractors. This is considered to be a more compromise measure compared to a June Senate amendment that would have strangled ZTE with a trade ban; it failed with the House of Representatives, however.
In specifics, no ZTE and Huawei tech may now be used by government personnel if they happen to be “essential” or “critical” to whatever communications systems they are in. Still, certain Huawei/ZTE components, so long as they do not route or view data, are still approved for government use. Of course, as a result of the ban certain agencies that would need to switch over from either or both of the Chinese brands. To help them in the changeover, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other branches will be tasked to provide funding for replacement tech when they are needed.
Of the two telecoms, Huawei was the first to respond to this development. An emailed statement had the company decrying their ban and the Defense Authorization Act that it was part of to be “ineffective, misguided, and unconstitutional”. Huawei warns that they plan to challenge their ban in US government use, insisting that there has been a failure on the latter’s part to “identify real security risks or improve supply chain security”. Both Huawei and ZTE devices have been saddled with the stigma of being “information-gathering” tools by China’s Communist government since the year 2012.
Image courtesy of Android Authority

JORDAN CLARKSON Rooting for PH at ASIAN GAMES, Despite Not Being Allowed to Join Team

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For as long as the Philippines has been aware of the half-Filipino NBA player (currently with the Cleveland Cavaliers) Jordan Clarkson, the country,  particularly its sports committees, has dreamed of incorporating the superstar on some iteration of the national men’s basketball team, aka Gilas Pilipinas. Whenever a major international basketball comes up, Clarkson’s name tends to be included in the roster of 12 names for the national team that will be sent to participate, although his presence has never materialized. The story remains the same for the upcoming 2018 Asian Games, but Jordan Clarkson at least is cheering for Gilas.
CNN Philippines has it that Jordan Clarkson seems rather disappointed that yet another possibility for him to play for his mother’s home country has been foiled yet again. The NBA star went on his Facebook page and posted this heartfelt apology and well-wishes to Gilas Pilipinas: “To my Filipino Brothers and Sisters, I am terribly disappointed to say that I have not received the required consent to participate in the upcoming Asian Games with our National Team…Although I will not be there in person, I will be with my Gilas teammates in heart and spirit.”
The latest reason for why Clarkson cannot represent the Philippines in a basketball team was given in a statement last Sunday, August 12, from NBA spokesperson Tim Frank. It is rooted in a prior agreement between the NBA and FIBA, the international governing body for basketball. Normally, pro ballplayers are barred from international tournaments that should only involve amateur athletes, but this agreement allows NBA players to be included in any country’s national teams for events such as the FIBA World Cup, Continental Cup and the Olympics, plus their associated qualifying tournaments. The Asian Games are not included in those events, therefore Clarkson cannot play.
Team PH mission chief to Asian Games Richard Gomez voiced the disappointment of Filipino basketball enthusiasts. “It is painful for a basketball-loving country to see Jordan not playing. He is capable and able {because} he has a Filipino visa that has been cleared by the Indonesian organizing committee, even in the Olympic Council of Asia… All we were waiting for was the clearance from the NBA… but the sad news came out. It’s really heartbreaking.”
Clarkson may not have suited up for Gilas yet again, but he remains hopeful that he will get a chance at another basketball competition in the future, saying, “Despite this, my desire and ambition to play with my countrymen in the future remains resolute and I am adamant that this dream will come true! PUSO!”
The 2018 Asian Games will run from August 18 to September 2 at Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia. Gilas Pilipinas will play in Group D of the basketball tourney, with powerhouse teams Kazakhstan and China.
Image courtesy of Philstar.com

Monday, August 13, 2018

“WRECK-IT RALPH 2” Trailer with Casual-Dress DISNEY PRINCESSES “Breaks” Internet

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One of the major selling points put out by Disney for their “Wreck-It Ralph” sequel “Ralph Breaks the Internet”, was the appearance of the Disney Princesses while the main characters were exploring the Internet as laid out in the movie’s plot blurb. Movie audiences were already given a nice taste of how that scene will go about from a trailer released months ago. Now Disney has done that preview better with another teaser, this time of the beloved Princesses trading their signature gowns for modern loungewear. The internet went wild earlier last week when images of the scene were tweeted. With the new trailer out, the fans are in orbit.
SYFY Wire has it that the new trailer for “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2”, released by Disney last week on Friday, August 10, has now racked up over a million and a half views on YouTube and 33,000 likes. It is not that difficult so see why, considering it finally showed what the still images of the Disney Princess in casual dress that were uploaded earlier in the week would look like in motion. And it features one of the most hilarious lines taken from the film yet.
The trailer scene involved has the dressed-down Disney Princesses hanging out in their well-appointed room with Vannelope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), following a wacky groufie photo session. The details on each Princess’ dress (Snow White’s poison apple, Elsa’s “Just Let It Go” slogan) drew plenty of laughs already, but the kicker was when Merida from Pixar’s “Brave” gives a short summary of her film’s story in a very thick Scottish accent. The other Princesses tell Vanellope that even they have some trouble understanding her, even blithely pointing out that she is “from the other studio”.
While the “casual Princess” scene was the real crowd-pleaser for this “Wreck-It Ralph 2” trailer, one other new development spoiled by the trailer was the addition of a new character. She is Shank, a racer character in the online game “Slaughter Race”, and she is voiced by Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot, a surprise considering she is starring in a rival studio’s film franchise. Even better, her role as Shank seems like an echo of the character Gadot portrayed on the “Fast and Furious” films with Vin Diesel. Shank seems impressed by Vanellope’s driving skill, though whether she is friendly or hostile remains to be seen.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” premieres this November.
Image courtesy of Tumblr

MCU “THOR” Actor CHRIS HEMSWORTH Celebrates 35th BIRTHDAY with Son Pushing His Face into CAKE

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It has not been a good year for The Mighty Thor. His home of Asgard was sacrificed, destroyed to bring an end to two threats to its people, who fled the cataclysm to the cosmos. Then the Asgardian survivors (and his brother) were wiped out by Thanos. Then, although he got a replacement weapon he failed to defeat Thanos before he killed half of all life in the universe. Being Thor has sucked, but for his actor Chris Hemsworth, life is great, especially after he celebrated his 35th birthday last Saturday. He even got a nice birthday anecdote to tell.
You read right. The Australian heartthrob who brought Marvel character Thor to life just turned 35 years old on August 11, according to USA Today. Without the long hair and beard required of his role, Chris Hemsworth looked remarkably youthful for three and a half decades of age in a celebratory photo posted on Twitter. There he is beaming with wife and fellow movie star Elsa Pataky, with a well-appointed birthday cake dotted with candles in front of him. Also noticeable is two of the couple’s three children off-panel, which figures into the birthday story Hemsworth captioned with his picture.
Apparently, shortly after the Twitter photo was taken, one of Chris Hemsworth’s twin sons pushed him from behind, causing his face to plow into his birthday cake, with the lit candles even. The actor, and father, was pretty chill about what happened, describing his child’s action as “ninja training”. He did not post any further pictures but played up his facial injuries by stating that he was now ready to portray Marvel antihero Deadpool for 20th Century Fox, with the blessing of original actor Ryan Reynolds, of course. Not surprisingly, the actor in question got into the act as well.
Following up on Hemsworth’s tweet, Ryan Reynolds comically wrote on his post that his daughter stabbed him in his right eye. Said eye was the same one Thor had lost on the 2017 MCU film “Thor: Ragnarok”. With his new “injury”, Reynolds humorously proposed that he and Hemsworth trade roles.
Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have been married since 2010, and they have a daughter and twin sons. It was never specified which of the twin boys carried out the ninja face-in-the-cake maneuver on his dad. Pataky meanwhile put up her own social media greeting to her husband on Instagram.
The actor will reprise his role as Thor for perhaps one more time in Marvel Studios’ “Avengers 4”, coming 2019.
Image courtesy of Entertainment Tonight

Over 400 Now DEAD Following LOMBOK, INDONESIA EARTHQUAKES Last Week

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One of the most famous and false superstitions about natural phenomenon in nature concerns lightning supposedly never striking the same place twice. So many fatalities have been chalked up throughout the years due to this mistaken notion. The same principle applies to earthquakes, in the form of aftershocks at the same spot following a main tremor, and even foreshocks beforehand. This was the case with the island of Lombok, Indonesia that was hit by an earthquake thrice over lately: once in July 28, the main quake in August 5 and a mighty August 9 aftershock. Counting all these, the death toll has risen quite high.
As TIME tells us, over 430 people in Indonesia have now been confirmed as having been died during the rash of earthquakes that happened in Lombok, part of the Indonesian province of West Nusa Tenggara. In addition, the national government of Indonesia has now estimated the losses to the economy from all the destroyed infrastructure and affected businesses to some hundreds of millions of dollars. The Indonesian national disaster agency noted that a large number of the fatalities were killed when buildings collapsed from the powerful tremors with them inside. Property damage is estimated locally to be worth no less than 5 trillion rupiah ($342M).
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the Indonesian disaster agency was plain in his assessment of the aftermath of the earthquake saying, “The damage and losses are very large.” In addition to those who died, the government is now putting their heads together on what to do with the estimated 350,000 evacuees whose homes were wrecked or rendered unsafe by the near-weekly quakes, the main one on August 5 being measured at 7.0 in magnitude. “When all data has been collected later, the amount will be greater,” Nugroho adds. “It will take time to restore community life and economic development.”
The archipelagic country of Indonesia lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, filled with volcanoes and earthquake-triggering fault lines surrounding the great Pacific Basin. Lombok is an island that is also dotted with resorts, though its popularity pales in comparison to the iconic island of Bali, just to its west.
About 20 people on Lombok were killed in the July 28 foreshock that registered at 6.4 in magnitude, only less powerful by half in magnitude to the main tremor that followed days later. Of the over 500 aftershocks that came in the primary quake’s wake, the August 9 tremor at magnitude 6.0 was notably strong. Roads were damaged in the disaster, forcing helicopters to be deployed to Lombok’s mountainous communities to provide needed emergency aid.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia