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from Photographers' Blog:

Spitting into the sinkhole

It's not the first sinkhole the size of an entire block in Guatemala City.

A giant sinkhole caused by the rains of Tropical Storm Agatha is seen in Guatemala City May 31, 2010.  REUTERS/Casa Presidencial/Handout

I had covered an even bigger one in 2007. Two seemingly bottomless, perfectly round holes, swallowed up an intersection and buildings, and in one case a family eating dinner at their dinner table. They both happened at night, both in the rain. On May 29, 2010 I was transmitting late night pictures from the last two sleepless days, covering a volcanic eruption that blanketed the city and country with a cloud of black sand-like ash. Then came Agatha, the first tropical storm of the season, which pounded Guatemala with so much rain that hillsides collapsed on villages and overflowing rivers washed houses away. More than 150 people are counted as dead so far, but they are still searching, digging through the mud to find more.

Workers clean up ash from the Pacaya volcano during tropical storm Agatha in Guatemala City May 29, 2010.  REUTERS/Daniel LeClair

The night the hole was created, it was still raining heavily. We kept the news blaring on the radio. "A giant hole has opened up in Ciudad Nueva!" Again? This time it was closer to my house -- less than 2 miles according to the city map. I jumped on the back of my wet motorbike. It would be tough to stay dry. I was there quickly but the police line was already up.

Struggling under the weight of the cameras, tangled with duct-taped plastic bags, a backpack with a laptop in it -- all covered with a heavy rain poncho -- I ducked under the yellow emergency tape. Standing about 100 meters from the hole, I could tell from the look on the ranking police officer’s face I wasn't getting anywhere near that thing tonight. I couldn’t even see it. But, what I couldn’t see, I could hear. A great rumbling sound followed by a crash. The sides were crumbling. The hole was unstable and I would be allowed no closer until it settled. Neighbors and evacuees huddled under their umbrellas in the rain. Their faces full of astonishment and worry.

Neighbors gather near the scene of a sinkhole in Guatemala City May 29, 2010.   REUTERS/Daniel LeClair

By the time I finished transmitting images the clock read almost 5:30am. I got back on my motorbike, met up with the Reuters video team and we were off to get early morning pics of the hole in the sunlight. No sleep. We could see it this time. It was huge. The police let us cross the line just enough to talk with a few weary-eyed, pajama-clad residents standing in their door frame about 50 meters from the edge. They looked comfortable enough to be standing at that distance, but still had a look of confusion and fear from the night before on their faces as we approached. I was 50 meters from the hole and it looked like a less than impressive sliver through my lens. I would have to get closer, much closer, and higher.

from Photographers' Blog:

Oil from all angles

From the moment the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made headlines, Reuters has provided extensive coverage. Below are accounts from six of our photographers who have been sent at various times to document the story.

LEE CELANO

Reuters photographer Lee Celano photographs oil in a marsh near Pass a Loutre, Louisiana, May 20, 2010.  REUTERS/Matthew Bigg

Covering the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as a still photographer for Reuters has brought unique challenges. Although the volume of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico is huge, relatively small patches of oil have landed along coastal Louisiana. It's like a monster who hides most of the time and lashes out quickly, withholding its full strength. But it has been important to show that oil is in fact having an ecological impact here, and to find areas with visible proof.

from Photographers' Blog:

Chile: The earthquake picture I never sent

Caption for an unchosen picture:

Constitución, March 1 - An earthquake survivor carries the dog that he rescued from the ruins of his home, along a street devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

“Take my picture with the dog,” the survivor tells me. I take it as if ordered to, and see that his face shows tremendous pain. “I lost my home, the sea took my son and my wife, and this is all that was left. I can’t leave the dog here. He was my son’s.” He pauses. “I found my wife (alive), but my boy is still missing.” Before he finishes speaking I lower my camera and cry. I walk together with him thinking what to say to lessen his suffering, but there is only silence.

from Photographers' Blog:

Slow change in Haiti

In the weeks since I arrived in Port-au-Prince to cover the earthquake, the streets have been cleared of debris and thousands of bodies have been removed from the rubble. But in many ways, the changes seem incremental.

QUAKE-HAITI

In Cite Soleil a small improvised camp looks a lot the same, only it's grown in size. Thousands of families continue living under blue plastic tarps, and they receive food from aid groups fighting against time as the rainy season approaches. When I left, on March 1, the food distribution at least was much more organized, watched over by American soldiers. The food just goes to women now, in an attempt to get aid to nuclear families instead of those who shove the hardest.

from Photographers' Blog:

Rescue amid destruction

"Train crash in Halle" read the sms snap from a local newspaper we received on Monday morning. I called photographer Thierry Roge who was not too far from the scene and managed to arrive there within 15 minutes, while I organized a helicopter flight over the scene of the crash. Thierry had the initiative to jump over a wall beside the tracks and start walking straight to the train, on the track itself. For 10 minutes he was free to take pictures without being stopped by police who were busy rescuing people. Thierry and a Belgian TV crew were the only ones so close to the train at that time.

BELGIUM-CRASH/

Emergency crew work on the site where two trains crashed near Halle February 15, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

from Global News Journal:

EU catches up in race to help Haiti

OUKTP-UK-QUAKE-HAITI-UNIn the six days since a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, the world has responded with vast amounts of aid and promises of long-term reconstruction, something the Caribbean country's creaking infrastructure desperately needs.

The World Bank and the United States pledged $100 million each, the United Nations promised $10 million and announced a "flash" appeal for $500 million more, and dozens of companies including Google, Microsoft and Bank of America committed $1 million a piece. Hollywood stars, rap singers and tennis champions all immediately raised money themselves or lent their support to encourage donations to the relief effort.

from Tales from the Trail:

Helping Haiti: the nightmare scenario

QUAKE-HAITI/About the only thing that has gone right in the Haitian earthquake is the weather.

The dry, warm nights have been kind to the multitudes of homeless, injured and terrified Haitians sleeping out in streets, parks and pavements all over the nation. Not to mention the ever-growing legion of foreign rescuers, aid-workers and journalists who -- like the locals -- fear sleeping indoors because of still-rumbling aftershocks.

from Tales from the Trail:

Haiti … Too Much Suffering

QUAKE-HAITI/Having hurtled by car through the Dominican Republic to the ramshackle Haitian border, I and four other foreign journalists were desperate to reach Port-au-Prince by nightfall. So after exchanging Ramon's beaten-up taxi for the the back of a modern pickup owned by one of Haiti's elite families, our speed stresses were soon put into terrible perspective.

Just a mile or two into Haiti, a group of people stood disconsolately by the road, trying to flag down any vehicle that would stop, and pointing to the collapsed face of a nearby quarry. "There's someone inside there," one of them said, pointing to a pile of rocks.

from Photographers' Blog:

Reliving the tsunami

Today I returned to Aceh, determined to take pictures of the same locations my team and I had photographed five years ago, when the capital Banda Aceh was completely devastated by a tsunami. At the time, I was with two Reuters journalists from the Jakarta bureau.

We landed at Aceh’s Sultan Iskandar Muda airport on December 27, 2004 - one day after the giant waves paralyzed the city, previously unaware of what a tsunami could do to a city. Information from Banda Aceh in the first few days after the disaster was very limited. It dawned on us later that the lack of news from Banda Aceh was because all of the communication facilities had been damaged.

from FaithWorld:

Buddhist charity turns bottles into blankets for disaster victims

bottles (Photo: Crushed plastic bottles at the Tzu Chi Foundation recycling factory in Taipei, 4 Nov 2009/Nicky Loh)

A plastic bottle thrown into a Taipei recycling bin could be reincarnated as a blanket to warm disaster victims in any of 20 countries, thanks to a unique project by the world's largest Buddhist charity.

The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has been taking plastic bottles from the waste stream of Taipei, a city of 2.6 million, for three years to convert them into about 244,000 polyester blankets intended for disaster zones. It has sent volunteers with relief supplies to some of the world's biggest disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 and last year's devastating Sichuan earthquake in China.

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