Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

One of the world's deadliest fungi has been discovered in Australia's far north for the first time -- thousands of miles from its native habitat in the mountains of Japan and Korea. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Scientists find toxic fungus near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

  • The Fire Coral fungus was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland
  • “If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” an expert said

MELBOURNE: A highly poisonous fungus, with toxins that can be absorbed through the skin, has been identified for the first time in the rain forest near the Great Barrier Reef, Australian scientists said on Thursday.
The Fire Coral fungus, which is better known in South Korea and Japan as being among the world’s most poisonous mushrooms, was found near Cairns in the northern state of Queensland, scientists from James Cook University said.
“If found, the fungus should not be touched, and definitely not eaten,” said Matt Barrett, an expert on fungi at the university’s Australian Tropical Herbarium.
“Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which the toxins can be absorbed through the skin.”
If eaten, the distinctive red fungus causes a horrifying array of symptoms: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and numbness are followed over hours or days by the skin peeling off the hands and feet, and the shrinking of the brain, he added.
It was most likely that the fungus occurred naturally in Cairns, although instances have also been reported from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Barrett said in a statement.
“The fact that we can find such a distinctive and medically important fungus like Poison Fire Coral right in our backyard shows we have much to learn about fungi in northern Australia,” he added.


Philippines lowers volcano alert, thousands can return home

Updated 26 January 2020

Philippines lowers volcano alert, thousands can return home

  • The nation’s seismological agency said steadily shrinking ash and gas emissions were signs of “decreased tendency toward hazardous explosive eruption”
  • The immediate impact of the reduced warning was provincial authorities lifting the evacuation order for nearly all the towns that ring the volcano

MANILA: A major explosion of the Philippines’ restive Taal volcano no longer appears imminent, authorities said Sunday as they partially lifted a mass evacuation order but warned residents should still remain ready to flee.
Warning signs like earthquakes have been steadily waning since Taal burst to life two weeks ago, prompting at least 135,000 people into evacuation centers over fears of a massive eruption.
The nation’s seismological agency said steadily shrinking ash and gas emissions were signs of “decreased tendency toward hazardous explosive eruption,” leading them to drop the alert by a notch.
The immediate impact of the reduced warning was provincial authorities lifting the evacuation order for nearly all the towns that ring the volcano, a tourist attraction that sits in the middle of a lake.
“Residents of all towns under lockdown except Agoncillo and Laurel now have the option to return,” local governor Hermilando Mandanas told a press conference.
“There’s a possibility that the volcano may still erupt and we should still be ready to evacuate in one hour.”
The volcano shot ash 15 kilometers (nine miles) high and spewed lava in the January 12 eruption, which crushed scores of homes and killed livestock as well as crops.
However, seismologists warned the volcano could imminently unleash a much bigger eruption, posing a deadly risk to anyone in a 14-kilometer radius “danger zone.”
Taal, located just 60 kilometers from the capital Manila, is one of the most active volcanoes in a country where eruptions and earthquakes are a dangerous part of life.
Its last eruption was in 1977, but it has a long history of activity. In 1965, a Taal eruption killed some 200 people.
The most powerful volcanic explosion in the Philippines in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.

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