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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2017 09:37:58 +0200

Dhaka, Aug 15, 2017 (AFP) - An Islamist extremist was killed Tuesday in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka after detonating a suicide vest and other explosives as police prepared to raid his hotel room, an official said.   The blast, on the third floor of a hotel in the city centre, sent police running for cover and showered the streets below in rubble and smoke.   National police chief A.K.M Shahidul Hoque said the deceased was a foot soldier from Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh -- a local militant outfit blamed for the massacre of 22 hostages at a cafe popular with foreigners in Dhaka last year.   "He was carrying bombs and a suicide vest. The door was blown off in one explosion, and he died in the second explosion," he told AFP.   "He is a JMB member. He is a former madrasa student."   The incident came as Bangladesh marked an annual national day of mourning to commemorate the assassination of the nation's founding leader and secular icon, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in a military coup in 1975.   Bangladesh is now ruled by Sheikh Mujibur's daughter Sheikh Hasina, who has ordered a bloody crackdown on Islamist extremist networks that has left nearly 70 suspected militants dead.

Hasina, along with Bangladesh's president and other dignitaries, was paying tribute to her father at a memorial just a few hundred metres from the hotel where the extremist detonated his vest.   Hoque told reporters that the extremists had planned to attack those marching in processions.    Hasina's secular government blames JMB for a slew of attacks in ecent years on foreigners, atheist bloggers, rights activists and religious minorities.   Five of its senior leaders have been executed on charges of murder, genocide, torture and rape, triggering nationwide protests by their supporters.   In the deadliest of these recent attacks, five gunmen stormed an upscale cafe in Dhaka's diplomatic zone in July 2016, killing 22 people including 18 foreigners.   The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police and the government blamed JMB for the carnage, discounting suggestions that the Syria-based militant group had a foothold in Bangladesh.
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:39:33 +0200
By Saidu Bah

Freetown, Aug 14, 2017 (AFP) - At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless on Monday when heavy flooding hit Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown, leaving excavators to pull bodies from rubble and overwhelming the city's morgues.   An AFP journalist saw several homes submerged in Regent village, a hilltop community, and corpses floating in the water in the Lumley West area of the city, as the president assured emergency services were doing all they could to tackle one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the city.   Red Cross spokesman Patrick Massaquoi told AFP the death toll was 312 but could rise further as his team continued to survey disaster areas in Freetown and tally the number of dead.   Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to UN indicators.   "I counted over 300 bodies and more are coming," Mohamed Sinneh, a morgue technician at Freetown's Connaught Hospital, told AFP, having earlier described an "overwhelming number of dead" at the facility leaving no space to lay out every body.   Many more of the dead were taken to private morgues, Sinneh said.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation broadcast on television late Monday that an emergency response centre had been established at Regent, the worst-affected area.   He appealed for unity from a nation still struggling with the legacy of Ebola and a long civil war.   "Our nation has once again been gripped by grief. Many of our compatriots have lost their lives, many more have been gravely injured and billions of Leones' worth of property destroyed in the flooding and landslides that swept across some parts of our city," he said.   "Every single family, every single ethnic group, every single region is either directly or indirectly affected by this disaster," Koroma said.   He announced that centres would be set up across the city to register those made homeless and praised the military, police and Red Cross volunteers, deployed in an all-out effort to locate those trapped.

- No warning -
Images obtained by AFP showed ferocious, churning dark-orange mud coursing down a steep street in the capital, while videos posted by local residents showed people waist- or chest-deep in water trying to cross the road.   The Sierra Leone meteorological department did not issue any warning ahead of the torrential rains to hasten evacuation from the disaster zones, AFP's correspondent based in Freetown said.   Fatmata Sesay, who lives on the hilltop area of Juba, said she, her three children and husband were awoken at 4:30 am by rain pounding on the mud house they occupy, which was by then submerged by water.   "I only managed to escape by climbing to the roof of the house when neighbours came in to rescue me," she said.   "We have lost everything and we do not have a place to sleep," she told AFP in tears.

Deputy Information Minister Cornelius Deveaux earlier confirmed Koroma had called a national emergency, and said his own boss, Information Minister Mohamed Bangura, was in hospital after being injured in the flooding.   Deveaux said "hundreds" of people had lost their lives and had properties damaged, and promised food and other assistance for the victims.   He called on the public to remain calm with rescue efforts underway.   The scale of the human cost of the floods only became clear on Monday afternoon, as images of battered corpses piled on top of each other circulated and residents spoke of their struggles to cope with the destruction and find their loved ones.   Meanwhile disaster management official Vandy Rogers said that "over 2,000 people are homeless," hinting at the huge humanitarian effort that will be required to deal with the fallout of the flooding in one of Africa's poorest nations.

Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of 1.2 million, is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain that destroys makeshift settlements and raises the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera.   - Rainy season not over -   Sasha Ekanayake, Save the Children's Sierra Leone Country Director, said the immediate priority was to provide shelter and protect residents, especially children, from the spread of deadly waterborne diseases.   "We are still in the rainy season and must be prepared to respond in the event of further emergencies to come," she said in a statement.   Flooding in the capital in 2015 killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Sierra Leone was one of the west African nations hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014 that left more than 4,000 people dead in the country, and it has struggled to revive its economy since the crisis.   About 60 percent of people in Sierra Leone live below the national poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).    The country ranked 179th out of 188 countries on the UNDP's 2016 Human Development Index, a basket of data combining life expectancy, education and income and other factors.
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2017 18:16:28 +0200

Athens, Aug 14, 2017 (AFP) - A wildfire was raging Monday on the coastal front of Athens, officials said, with summer homes under threat and a local village evacuated.   The fire in Kalamos, about 45 kilometres (28 miles) east of the Greek capital, was burning across a wide front for a second day and had already burned a number of homes.   There were no immediate reports of injuries.

A force of more than 200 firefighters with over 100 fire engines, water trucks and a handful of aircraft had been mobilised, the fire department said.   "It's a strong fire in an area full of summer homes," civil protection official Ioanna Tsoupra told ERT television.   The local municipality of Oropos had earlier urged residents to evacuate for their safety, and a monastery was also emptied.   The fire service said they were battling two additional blazes on Monday, one near Thessaloniki, the country's second-largest city, and another in the southern Peloponnese peninsula.    "The fire near Thessaloniki is almost under control but we are worried about the new fire in the Peloponnese, around Amaliada, because it's very close to a village of 150 inhabitants," a spokesman told AFP.

Overall, 91 fires had broken out in Greece since Sunday, the fire department said, though most were quickly brought under control.   The other flashpoint is the tourist island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea, where emergency crews have struggled to put out a wave of fires since last week, and officials suggest arson is at play.   "Such a situation is unheard of," regional fire chief Vassilis Matteopoulos told ERT.   "We had 22 fires on Zakynthos just in the last 24 hours."   Greece is routinely hit by wildfires at this time of year, fanned by strong winds and high temperatures, and authorities have warned that the risk remains high.   The worst recent major blazes, in the Peloponnese and on the island of Evia in 2007, left 77 people dead and ravaged 250,000 hectares (620,000 acres).
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:54:23 +0200

Stockholm, Aug 14, 2017 (AFP) - Police in Greenland warned people to stay away from western areas of the island as wildfires scorched swathes of scrubland.     In a statement, the police said it "still discourages all traffic -- including hiking and hunting -- in two areas around Nassuttooq and Amitsorsuaq."     "The fires are not expected to end within the next few days," the statement added.    Some of the blazes have been burning since July 31.

Denmark's meteorological service BMI said the island registered its hottest-ever temperature of 24.8 degrees (77 Fahrenheit) on August 10.   Last year was Greenland's hottest on record.    The Danish territory has lost about 4,000 gigatons of ice since 1995, British researchers said in June, making ice melt on the huge island the biggest single contributor to rising sea levels.
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:42:29 +0200
By Prakash MATHEMA

Janakpur, Nepal, Aug 14, 2017 (AFP) - At least 175 people have died and thousands have fled their homes as monsoon floods swept across Nepal, India and Bangladesh, officials said Monday, warning the toll could rise as the extent of the damage becomes clear.   Three days of relentless downpours sparked flash floods and landslides that have killed at least 80 people in Nepal, 73 across northern and eastern India and 22 in Bangladesh.   Around 200,000 people are living in emergency camps in Assam in northeast India, which suffers frequent flooding during the annual monsoon rains.   Another 15,000 have had to leave their homes in the eastern state of Bihar, which borders Nepal and where one official said seven rivers were at danger levels.   Large parts of the state were submerged in 2008 when a river burst its banks across the border in Nepal, with the two countries trading blame for the disaster.

All trains to the northeast have been suspended until Wednesday, with sections of the track completely submerged in water, Indian railway spokesman Anil Saxena told AFP.   In Nepal, ariel photos taken by an AFP photographer showed huge swathes of land in the southeast still underwater Monday afternoon.   Police said over 48,000 homes have been totally submerged by the floods across Nepal's southern planes.   As emergency workers struggled to reach far-flung areas, the country's home ministry said another 36 people were missing, presumed dead, revising down an earlier count after more bodies were found.

The Nepal Red Cross warned that shortages of safe drinking water and food could create a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished Himalayan country.   "In many parts of the country there is a scarcity of safe drinking water creating a high risk of health hazards," spokesman Dibya Raj Poudel told AFP.   "Several villages and settlements are unreachable. Telecommunications, mobile phones are still not working so it is difficult to give a full assessment."    A local volunteer in Saptari district -- one of the worst affected areas -- said the water level was receding but many people were still stranded on higher ground.   "Water level has decreased a little bit but families still cannot return home. They are taking shelter in sheds. What people need now is clean drinking water and food," volunteer Dipak Kumar Yadav told AFP.

On the outskirts of Janakpur, in southeastern Nepal, local residents were sheltering in a local temple after the flood waters had totally destroyed their basic mud homes, though the water had mostly receded.   In India, emergency workers were scouring the area hit by a massive landslide that swept two passenger buses into a deep gorge on Sunday, killing at least 46 people in the mountainous northern state of Himachal Pradesh.   In the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand -- which also borders Nepal -- three people were killed in a landslide late Sunday triggered by heavy rains, local police official Ajay Joshi told AFP.

- Bangladesh deploys troops -
Bangladesh deployed troops to shore up embankments in the north of the country, where flooding has killed 22 people.   Local government administrator Kazi Hasan Ahmed told AFP up to 700,000 people had been marooned by flood waters after rivers burst their banks following days of heavy rain.   "We've not seen such severe floods in Dinajpur since 1988," he said, referring to the worst-hit district.   "The town protection embankment was washed away by flood water, submerging most of the main town."    The government's Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre warned that water levels in some major rivers would continue to rise over the next 72 hours, raising fears the flooding could spread.

In Nepal, the worst of the flooding was in the southern lowlands known as the Terai, the country's most fertile region and home to much of its agriculture.    "We are getting reports that about 70 percent of agriculture area in the Tarai is inundated," said Shankar Sapkota, senior agricultural economist with the government.   "Paddy fields, vegetable plantation and fish farms have been affected but right now we cannot confirm the extent of damage."   Nearly 150 people have been killed in Nepal since the beginning of the rainy season in late June.   The rains are now expected to shift westwards and authorities in Nepal have begun evacuating 74,000 people from a vulnerable western district.   Hundreds have died in torrential rain, floods and landslides in neighbouring India during the monsoon, which hits the country's southern tip in early June and sweeps across the nation, lasting into September.
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2017 14:14:22 +0200

Geneva, Aug 14, 2017 (AFP) - Cholera is believed to have affected more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 2,000 since late April, the World Health Organization said Monday.   A full 503,484 suspected cases and 1,975 deaths are attributable to the outbreak that erupted less than four months ago in the war-ravaged country, a WHO overview showed.

More than a quarter of the deaths and over 41 percent of all suspected cases are children, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.    WHO said the speed at which the deadly waterborne disease was spreading had slowed significantly since early July, but warned that it was still affecting an estimated 5,000 people each day.   The collapse of Yemen's infrastructure after more than two years of war between the Saudi-backed government and Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa has allowed the country's cholera epidemic to swell to the largest in the world.

WHO warned that the disease had spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions, with millions of people cut off from clean water across the country.   "Yemen's health workers are operating in impossible conditions," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.   "Thousands of people are sick, but there are not enough hospitals, not enough medicines, not enough clean water," he said, also lamenting that many of the doctors and nurses needed to rein in the outbreak had not been paid for nearly a year.   "They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives," he said.

WHO said that it and its partners were "working around the clock" to support the national efforts to halt the outbreak, adding that more than 99 percent of people who contract cholera in Yemen can survive if they can access health services.   More than 15 million people in the country have no access to basic healthcare.    Tedros called on all sides in Yemen's conflict, which has killed more than 8,300 people since March 2015, to urgently seek a political solution.   "The people of Yemen cannot bear it much longer - they need peace to rebuild their lives and their country," he said.
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:01:26 +0200

Tehran, Aug 12, 2017 (AFP) - Flash floods triggered by heavy rain in north-eastern Iran have left at least 11 people dead and two missing, the Red Crescent said on Saturday.   "So far 11 people have died in this accident -- eight of them in Khorasan Razavi, two in Golestan and another in North Khorasan," Red Crescent rescue chief Morteza Salimi told the ISNA news agency.   Friday's storms caused flooding in five provinces and some villages remained cut off on Saturday.   The two people missing were part of a family of three whose car was washed away by the torrent in Golestan province.    One of them, a woman, has been found dead and the search is continuing for the other two.
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2017 07:15:38 +0200

Abrantes, Portugal, Aug 12, 2017 (AFP) - Portugal was battling a new rash of forest fires ahead of a weekend of warm temperatures, as authorities warned of further blazes.   Some 1,800 firefighters backed by hundreds of vehicles were trying to douse around 10 fires across the country, authorities said Friday.   "Despite the relentless fires, the situation is now more stable," said civil protection agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar in Lisbon.

Emergency workers had nearly gained control of wildfires across Portugal's drought-hit central region on Thursday, but stronger winds fanned flames in several areas.   In the village of Bracal, flames were being blown towards houses as residents grabbed what they could to aid firefighters, an AFP journalist said.   Some residents voiced anger at authorities after a season of repeated wildfires which have stretched resources.   "Firefighters can't perform miracles, they are exhausted," said Lucia Ricardo, who lives in Bracal, close to the central town of Abrantes.    Six villages had been evacuated around Abrantes on Thursday as fire-dousing planes flew sorties over the flames.

Another blaze near Grandola, in the southern Setubal district, needed 200 firefighters to bring it under control after burning through around 3,000 hectares (30 square kilometres) of forest.   The fires come after more than 60 people were killed in June, and more than 200 injured, in a giant blaze at Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal that raged for five days.

After an uncommonly dry winter and spring, almost 79 percent of the Portuguese mainland was enduring extreme or severe drought at the end of July, according to the national weather office.   Dry conditions have also fuelled fires on France's Mediterranean coast and on the island of Corsica in recent weeks.    Almost 700 people, mostly holidaymakers, were evacuated from two areas in Corsica Friday night because of fires fanned by strong winds.
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2017 20:51:52 +0200

Guatemala City, Aug 11, 2017 (AFP) - A two-year-old girl is among 17 people killed in floods in Guatemala since the start of the Central American  country's rainy season in April, authorities said on Friday.    The toddler drowned Thursday after heavy rain caused the Platanitos River  to flood a poor district of Guatemala City, national disaster prevention  coordinator David de Leon told reporters.    Nearly 159,000 people have been displaced during this year's rainy season.
Date: Fri 11 Aug 2017 12:55 PM EAT
Source: New Vision [edited]

Results from the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) have [possibly] demystified the strange disease that early this week led to the death of a 20-year-old female in Luweero.

According to a statement from the ministry of health, the female who suffered high fever, dizziness, and blood secretions from her ears and mouth died from high levels of carboxyhemoglobin, as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

There are currently 3 female cases admitted at Bishop Asili hospital, Luweero. However, results from UVRI indicate that all cases were negative for Ebola, Marburg, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, and Sosuga viruses.

"The ministry of health team is working closely with the District Health Team to monitor, review, and manage these cases as well as orienting health workers on management and referral protocols of suspected cases," reads the statement.  [Byline: Vicky Wandawa]
[While it is good news this victim does not seem [to] have any of the haemorrhagic diseases mentioned, the reported clinical signs do not completely fit with carbon monoxide poisoning either.

Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include any or all of the following:
- a dull persistent headache
- confusion
- dizziness
- weakness
- blurred vision
- shortness of breath
- loss of consciousness.

I have never known carbon monoxide to cause bleeding from the ears. Other than haemorrhagic diseases, bleeding from the ears may be associated trauma to the ear drum, pressure changes (such as with diving) causing rupture of the ear drum, an infection in the middle ear, or a foreign body in the ear.

Trauma to the eardrum may result in from a tear or puncture and present as:
- acute hearing loss
- persistent ringing in the ear or ears
- vertigo (a feeling or sensation of spinning)
- vertigo induced nausea and/or vomiting
- rare occasions may include a small amount of fluid, but seldom blood.

An infection, especially of the middle ear may present as:
- fever associated with pain in the ear or pressure in the ear
- unsteady balance
- inability or difficulty sleeping.

Abrupt changes in pressure to the ear or within the ear may present as:
- acute pain in the ear or intense pressure feeling in the ear
- a ringing sensation in the ears
- dizziness
- in rare cases blood or fluid from one or both ears.

Foreign bodies in the ear are most apt to cause bleeding from the ears. Other clinical signs and symptoms associated with this may include:
- fluid or blood discharge from the affected ear, or if both ears if they are both damaged
- pressure in the ear(s)
- pain
- hearing loss
- dizziness
- nausea and/or vomiting.

None of these ear conditions would be associated with blood from the mouth.

So while the individual may have had carbon monoxide poisoning, it seems there is still more to the story.

This piece is a follow-up to ProMED-mail post Ebola-like illness - Uganda (02): (LW) - ProMED Mod.TG]

[Although several virus infections that might be responsible for the hemorrhagic symptoms reported have been ruled out, 2 important viruses not mentioned remain on the rule-out list. They are yellow fever and Lassa fever viruses. There is also a possibility that an as of yet undescribed virus or bacterial pathogen might be responsible. The report above does not indicate if further isolation, or DNA or RNA detection, of an infectious pathogen was attempted. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at: