This small country is situated between France and Spain. Because of its elevation and proximity to the Pyrenees the climate is generally pleasant throughout the year.
During the summer months the temperatures can rise to 30c but there is usually a cooling breeze. Lightening storms can occur during the summer months associated with torrential rain.
Sun Exposure and Dehydration
Those from Northern Europe can develop significant sun exposure and so remember to use a wide brimmed hat when necessary. The altitude can also lead to significant tiredness and dehydration so take sufficient initial rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Safety & Security
The level of crime throughout the country directed at tourists is very low. Nevertheless take care of your personal belongings at all times and use hotel safety boxes where possible.
There are strict laws regarding the use of illegal drugs. Make sure you have sufficient supplies of any medication you required for your trip and that it is clearly marked. The European E111 form is not accepted in Andorra and so it is essential that you have sufficient travel insurance for your trip.
Andorra is one of the regions where many travel to partake of their winter sport facilities. Generally this is well controlled and one of the safer regions. Nevertheless, make certain your travel insurance is adequate for the activities you are planning to undertake.
The only standard vaccine to consider for Andorra would be tetanus in line with many other developed countries of the world.
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Andorra la Vella, Andorra, July 12, 2018 (AFP) - The tax haven of Andorra has long been a favourite destination for smokers looking to stock up on cheap cigarettes, but the enclave said Thursday that it would soon stop advertising the fact. The government said it had signed up to the World Health Organization's (WHO) anti-tobacco convention, which aims to encourage people to quit smoking and combat contraband sales. "The goal is to contribute to public health and pursue the fight against trafficking," government spokesman Jordi Cinca said at a press conference.
The tiny principality of Andorra, perched in the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain, attracts millions of shoppers each year to duty-free stores, where prices of alcohol, cigarettes, electronics and clothes can be up to 20 percent cheaper than elsewhere in the EU. High taxes on tobacco imposed by many countries to help people kick smoking make Andorra's cigarettes a particularly good deal. The average pack costs just three euros ($3.50) compared with eight euros in France, which has said it will gradually raise the price to 10 euros a pack by November 2020.
Tobacco sales bring in some 110 million euros a year for Andorra, whose economy is otherwise based almost entirely on tourism. It is also an enticing destination for smugglers, with French and Spanish border agents regularly seizing cartons from people trying to sneak them out, either by car or by hiking down the mountain trails which criss-cross the Pyrenees. No date has been set for the advertising ban, which will come into effect three months after the ratification of the WHO accord is voted by parliament.
Andorra la Vella, Andorra, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - The tiny principality of Andorra is witnessing a once in a generation phenomenon -- a widespread strike. Around a third of civil servants across the mountainous micro-state have walked out to protest proposed reforms to their sector in what has been described as Andorra's first large-scale strike since 1933.
With no negotiation breakthrough in sight, picket lines are expected to be manned again on Friday with customs officers, police, teachers and prison staff among those taking part. The first major strike in 85 years was sparked by plans from the government of Antoni Marti to reform civil servant contracts. He has assured officials "will not do an hour more" work under the reforms and that 49 million euros would be allocated for the next 25 years to supplement civil servant salaries. But government workers are unconvinced with unions warning the reforms could risk their 35 hour working week and pay.
Customs officers involved in the strike interrupted traffic on the Andorran-Spanish border this week, according to unions, while some 80 percent of teachers have walked out of classes. Strikers have occupied the government's main administrative building and held noisy protests outside parliament calling for Marti's resignation. "We have started collecting signatures to demand the resignation of the head of government and now nobody will stop us," Gabriel Ubach, spokesman for the public service union, told reporters.
ANDORRA LA VELLA, Andorra, Dec 26, 2013 (AFP) - A Spanish skier and a French snowboarder have died in avalanches in different mountain ranges in Europe, officials said Thursday.
The 27-year-old skier, a woman from Barcelona, died Wednesday while going off-piste alone in the Soldeu resort in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, a resort manager told AFP. Although she was rescued within 10 minutes, after her glove was spotted on the surface, she was unable to be revived despite a helicopter dash to hospital.
In the Italian Alps, close to the border with France, a 24-year-old Frenchman who was snowboarding with three friends on a closed run died Thursday when an avalanche swept over him in the resort town of Les Arnauds. Local officials said he succumbed to multiple injuries, asphyxia and hypothermia.
Avalanches are common in Europe's ski resorts at this time of year, when early snows are heavy with moisture, and several deaths occur each winter. Last Sunday, a 35-year-old Frenchman died in an avalanche in the Alps near the Italian border while on a three-day trek with a friend.
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Miami, Sept 24, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.0 magnitude struck off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico late Monday, the United States Geological Survey said, although no casualties or damage were reported. The quake struck 62km northwest of San Antonio at 11:23 pm local time (03:20 GMT) at a depth of 10km, the agency said. San Antonio is home to Rafael Hernandez Airport, a key air link to the mainland US. In 2010 nearby Haiti was struck by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation's infrastructure.
San Juan, Feb 12, 2018 (AFP) - Most of San Juan and a strip of northern Puerto Rico municipalities were plunged into darkness Sunday night after an explosion at a power station, five months after two hurricanes destroyed the island's electricity network.
The state electric power authority (AEE) said the blast was caused by a broken-down switch in Rio Piedras, resulting in a blackout in central San Juan and Palo Seco in the north. "We have personnel working to restore the system as soon as possible," the AEE said. San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, said on Twitter that emergency services and local officials attended the scene in the neighbourhood of Monacillos, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican capital's airport said it was maintaining its schedule using emergency generators. The blackout comes as nearly 500,000 of AEE's 1.6 million customers remain without power since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the US territory in September 2017. AEE engineer Jorge Bracero warned on Twitter that the outage was "serious," and advised those affected that power would not be restored until Monday.
By Leila MACOR
Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Dec 13, 2017 (AFP) - Until Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Jose Figueroa did brisk business renting kayaks to tourists itching to see a lagoon that lights up by night thanks to millions of microorganisms. Today, things are so dire he's considering selling water to motorists stopped at red lights. "Now we are trying to survive," the 46-year-old tour guide said.
It used to be that visitors had to reserve a month in advance to get one of his kayaks and paddle around in the dark on the enchanting, bioluminescent body of water called Laguna Grande. But tourists are scarce these days as the Caribbean island tries to recover from the ravages of the storm back in September. "We do not know if we will have any work tonight," Figueroa said. "Last week, we worked only one day." He and another employee of a company called Glass Bottom PR are cleaning kayaks on the seaside promenade of Fajardo, a tourist town in eastern Puerto Rico whose main attraction is the so-called Bio Bay.
The year started off well for Puerto Rico, with the global success of the song "Despacito" by local musicians Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. The catchy tune helped promote the US commonwealth island of 3.4 million people, which is saddled with huge debts and declared bankruptcy in May. But the hurricane turned what should be an island bustling with tourists into one with deserted beaches, shuttered restaurants and hotels full of mainland US officials working on the rebuilding of the island. "What few tourists we have are the federal officials themselves," said Figueroa.
- Locals only -
The grim outlook spreads up and down the seaside promenade of Fajardo, where many restaurants are closed because there is no electricity. On this particular day around noon, the only restaurant open is one called Racar Seafood. It has its own emergency generator. "We get by on local tourists," said its 61-year-old owner, Justino Cruz. "Our clients are local -- those who have no electricity, no generator, cold food or no food."
Puerto Rico's once-devastated power grid is now back up to 70 percent capacity, but this is mainly concentrated in the capital San Juan. So while inland towns that depend on tourism are struggling mightily, things are getting better in San Juan as cruise ships are once again docking. On November 30, the first cruise ship since the storm arrived with thousands of vacationers on board. They were received with great fanfare -- quite literally, with trumpet blaring and cymbals crashing.
- Pitching in to help -
The World Travel & Tourism Council, based in London, says tourism accounted for about eight percent of Puerto Rico's GDP in 2016, or $8.1 billion. Hurricane Maria's damage has been uneven. Although some tour guides now have no work and many eateries are shut down, hotels that have their own generators are doing just fine. Thanks to the thousands of US government officials and reconstruction crew members that came in after the storm, the hotels that are open -- about 80 percent of the total -- are pretty much full.
These people are starting to leave the island this month but hotels may receive tourists around Christmas, at least in San Juan, where power has for the most part been restored. The hurricane "undoubtedly cost billions in lost revenue," said Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. But Izquierdo nevertheless says he is "optimistic" and suggests an alternative: put tourists to work as volunteers in the gargantuan reconstruction effort that the island needs. "We want to look for travellers who want to travel with a purpose, who might have the commitment to help rebuild," said Izquierdo.
The program, called "Meaningful Travel" and launched in mid-November, organizes trips on which residents, Puerto Ricans living abroad and tourists are invited to help the island get back on its feet. "The plan aims to create empathy with this tourist destination," said Izquierdo. "We want to be like New Orleans after Katrina, where 10 years after the hurricane, tourism is the driving force of its economy. We want to build that narrative of recovery," he added. "There are different ways in which the world wants to help Puerto Rico. The best way is to visit us."
By Marcos PÉREZ RAMÍREZ
San Juan, Nov 9, 2017 (AFP) - Andrea Olivero, 11, consults her classmate Ada about an exercise during their daily English class at San Juan's Sotero Figueroa Elementary School. The task: list the positive and negative aspects of Hurricane Maria's passing almost two months ago.
The girls only have to look around. There is no electricity and they "roast" in the heat, Andrea says. At the back of the room, computers and televisions collect dust. "We would like to move past the topic of the hurricane a bit. It is already getting repetitive," Andrea told AFP. She is one of more than 300,000 pupils in the public education system, although only half of schools are functioning. Barely 42 per cent of Puerto Ricans have electricity seven weeks after Maria struck, killing at least 51 in the American territory.
The lack of power has prompted disorienting timetable changes on the tropical island, to avoid both the hottest hours of the day and the use of dining facilities. "The children are very anxious. We manage to make progress in lessons and they change the hours again. Everything is messed up and we fall behind," English teacher Joan Rodriguez explained. "We can't use the computers to illustrate classes," she said. "They are reading the novel "Charlotte's Web," and we wanted to do exercises comparing it to the film version. But we cannot use the television.
- Suspicions -
From October 23, some directors reopened their schools in the western region of Mayaguez and San Juan. But last Thursday, the Department of Education ordered their closure, insisting they must be evaluated by engineering and architectural firms, then certified by the US Army Corps of Engineers. One of those schools was Vila Mayo, also in San Juan. The community presumed it would open, as it had been used as a shelter, its electrical infrastructure had been inspected and it had not suffered structural damage.
But Luis Orengo, the education department's director in San Juan, told protesters outside the school it was closed as inspectors' findings had not reached the central government. "This is unacceptable! The school is ready to give classes but they don't want to open it. Our children cannot lose a year," fumed Enid Guzman, who protested with her 11-year-old son, Reanny De la Cruz. There are suspicions the stalled reopening of schools is, in part, related to the prior closure of 240 schools over the past year during Puerto Rico's long-running financial crisis. The fiscal difficulties have seen the island's population drop over the past decade by 14 percent, leading in turn to a fall in school enrolment.
Before the storms, 300 schools were at risk of closure -- and for the president of Puerto Rico's federation of teachers, Mercedes Martinez, the government's aim is clear. "Secretary (Julia) Keleher seems to have an orchestrated plan to close schools," she said, referring to the education secretary. "Why do you have to wait 30 days to get a certification so a school can open?" Keleher has announced she expects most schools to be open by the middle of November.
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Dengue-type1 outbreak was declared on the 27 Feb 2019 following a laboratory (NZLabPlus) confirmation of 7 dengue type 1 cases. From 28 Jan-4 Aug 2019, a cumulative number of 78 dengue cases have been reported (22 confirmed, and 56 probable-NS1Ag positives). Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the only islands affected and most of the cases have been from the main island of Rarotonga. Aitutaki has managed to contain its number of cases to 3. The last case was reported on 18 Apr 2019. A total of 42 cases have been hospitalised and given free mosquito nets to take and use at home. Apart from some severe cases, the hospitalisation was also an effort to contain and minimise the spread of the infection into the community. Unfortunately, some cases refused to be admitted but were given some health advice and mosquito precautionary measures. No deaths reported.
As of Wednesday [10 Apr 2019], the Ministry for Health has 18 confirmed and 12 probable dengue fever cases. This is a total of 30 cases compared to 24 previously identified.
Wellington, July 2, 2015 (AFP) - Airport authorities in the Cook Islands on Thursday warned thrill seekers to stay away from their runway's jet blast zone after three tourists were injured when a plane was taking off. The main road in the tiny Pacific nation passes by the bottom of the runway and daring plane-spotters often stand in the wash of jet engines, clinging to the airport's fence as aircraft hit maximum thrust for ascent. "If you don't hang onto anything, you'll be knocked over," Cook Islands Airport Authority chief executive Joe Ngamata told AFP. "You get the young people and tourists looking for thrills going down there."
Ngamata said three tourists were blown over by the power of the jet blast last Thursday and were lucky to only receive cuts and bruises. "It can be dangerous," he said, adding that the area was clearly marked with red danger signs to deter the practice. "We might need to look at extra barriers or fences to keep people away." However, stopping it may be difficult, with the national tourism authority including the jet blast in a recent marketing video showing "the top 10 reasons to come to the Cook Islands".
[This is the 1st report of Zika virus infections in the Cook Islands. The virus has been circulating in the islands of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Easter Island. Although the distances between these islands is significant, the virus is being moved by viraemic people who travel between them. One can expect further spread to localities where there are populations of vector mosquitoes that can initiate new outbreaks. Zika virus is a flavivirus. Symptoms of Zika fever may include fever, headache, red eyes, rash, muscle aches, and joint pains. The illness is usually mild and lasts 4-7 days. No fatalities caused by Zika virus infection have been reported.
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
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Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
World Travel News Headlines
By Holly ROBERTSON, Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel De Cartert in Hillville
Sydney, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - Bushfires raging across eastern Australia singed Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday, with firefighters scrambling planes and helicopters to douse a built-up neighbourhood with water and red retardant. Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought. Although the bushfire season is in its infancy, scientists predict it to be one of Australia's toughest ever, with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.
Twin blazes in the north shore suburb of Turramurra -- around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the centre of Australia's largest city -- tore through a eucalypt forest park and sparked spot fires in homes, before eventually being brought under control. As night fell, authorities said they were bringing another "clearly suspicious" blaze in a national park in the city's southern suburbs under control. Throughout the day, more than 300 bushfires burned up and down Australia's east coast, fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland that has brought some of the most dangerous conditions the country has seen.
In Turramurra, gardens smouldered, thick smoke hung heavy in the air and cars, houses and roads were caked in raspberry-red retardant as if hit by a giant paintball. "It was the embers that floated up that actually went across and set off spot fires in the front yards" resident Nigel Lush told AFP, adding that one roof had been set alight. Another resident, Julia Gretton-Roberts, said the blaze spread shockingly quickly. "Next thing I know the fire was opposite our house and it was massive and the police came and grabbed our kids and took them away," she said. "My daughter is pretty freaked out." Firefighter Andrew Connon told AFP "a number of homes were threatened but it was contained by the aerial bombing".
- 'Catastrophic conditions' -
From early morning thousands of firefighters spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions. They were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines and trapping residents who had not already evacuated. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said so far only a dozen buildings had been damaged Tuesday and a handful non-life-threatening injuries were reported, but the crisis was far from over.
Firefighters will be "working on these fires for days and weeks given the enormity of the firegrounds," he said. Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes. "The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert. "Complacency kills," he added. Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced for the affected area and Rally Australia -- due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend -- was cancelled. The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.
- 'We'll fight it first' -
In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens. Like many, his family -- including his mother nursing a broken leg -- have packed their bags, but have resisted leaving their house and everything they own. "We'll fight it first," he told AFP, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."
In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre. Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog. "The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told AFP. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."
Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge". The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave late can be fatal. Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - An Australian tourist who fly-kicked a motorcyclist and assaulted a man in his own home during a drunken rampage was jailed for four months on Tuesday. The ruling comes after Nicholas Carr's antics were caught in a viral video that saw him carry out a campaign of destruction in Seminyak, a popular tourist area on the Indonesian holiday island. "The defendant Nicholas Carr is found guilty and is sentenced to four months" in jail, presiding judge Soebandi, who goes by one name, told the Denpasar District Court. A lawyer for Carr, charged with assault and property damage, said the 26-year-old would not appeal the ruling. He is expected to be released next month because of time already served. In August, Carr ran barefoot on to a street and shouted expletives before the apprentice builder slammed into the bonnet of a moving car and then fly-kicked an unsuspecting motorcycle rider.
The biker, who was thrown from the moving scooter, sustained minor injuries -- later the pair embraced during a court hearing as Carr apologised to the victim. Carr also shattered a convenience store's glass door before stealing a motorcycle. Later, he broke into a house where he assaulted the sleeping homeowner, leaving him with injuries, police said earlier. He was eventually caught by locals and police and taken to hospital. Pictures that circulated on social media showed at the time showed Carr bloodied and bruised, and trussed with hosepipe and rope. Shortly after his arrest, Carr apologised and admitted drinking more than 10 small bottles of vodka as well as other alcohol.
After a string of embarrassing incidents by tourists, Bali officials recently warned that boorish visitors may be kicked off the island, which attracts millions annually to its palm-fringed beaches, colourful nightlife and ancient temples. Australian professional rugby league player David Fifita returned home this week after he was briefly arrested in Bali for assaulting a nightclub security guard. Several days after Carr's arrest, a Czech couple who were slammed for disrespecting a Balinese temple took part in a ritual purification ceremony.
Lyon, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - An unusually strong earthquake hit south-eastern France on Monday, injuring four people, one of them seriously, authorities said. A physicist at a geophysics institute the IPGP said that quakes of this strength are rare in that region, but warned of possible aftershocks and said people should leave fragile buildings. The quake, with a magnitude of 5.4, was felt in a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar which are about 150 kilometres (93 miles) apart, the national seismological office said. "I was leaning against the oven in my mother's bakery when I felt the tremor," said Victoria Brielle, a resident in Privas, some 25 kilometres from the quake's epicentre. "A customer said her sideboard had moved and all her crockery was broken," she said.
Another resident in the area, Didier Levy, who lives in a 15th century castle, told AFP that "chandeliers were still trembling" several minutes after the quake. Levy, who said his dog starting barking even before humans felt the tremors, added: "I have never experienced anything like it, I could feel the trembling even though these wall are one metre thick." One person was seriously hurt when some scaffolding collapsed, the regional prefect's office said. Three other people in the neighbouring Ardeche region were slightly injured.
Quakes in this region are rarely higher than Magnitude 5, said Mustapha Meghraoui of the IPGP's office in Strasbourg. "We can say that this is a rare one," he added. But he said there might be an aftershock of around 4.5. "If people are in a fragile house, they would be better leaving it" for something more robust for a while, he said. The scale of the damage suggested the quake happened at a depth of between five and 10 kilometres, he added. But they were working on a more accurate reading.
Goma, DR Congo, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - A local radio station that has been involved in the fight against Ebola in eastern DR Congo said Monday it was closing down after one of its broadcasters was murdered. Joel Musavuli, head of Lwemba radio in Mambasa in Ituri province, told AFP that the station had been targeted by armed groups hostile to the campaign to roll back the Ebola epidemic.
"Each of us have received threats since last month. We have now decided to stop broadcasting, Musavuli said, adding that he himself had escaped two kidnap attempts. "We are victims of our commitment to the awareness campaign about the spread of Ebola virus disease. We don't know why the militiamen are targeting us." Nearly 2,200 people have died since the notorious haemorrhagic disease erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2018, according to the latest official figures.
The fight against the outbreak has been hampered by local fears and superstititions, exploited by militia groups that are rampant in the remote region. Several health workers have been killed and media that have supported the campaign have received threats.
Several radio stations in the Mambasa area say they have stopped broadcasting anti-Ebola messages because of intimidation. On November 2, Lwemba broadcaster Papy Mahamba was killed at his home by unidentified men. His wife was injured and their house set ablaze. The station said the authorities had failed to take action against the threats. It said it would resume broadcasts after "the state has restored authority in the area".
Kuwait City, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Hundreds of workers at Kuwait's international airport held a one-hour strike Monday to demand better working conditions, threatening to stage longer walkouts in the coming days. Ahmed Mohammed al-Kandari, a union representative, said workers were calling for improved treatment and to be compensated for daily exposure to pollution and noise. Monday's strike by Kuwaiti staff did not affect flights, officials said. The right to strike is guaranteed for citizens in Kuwait, but such actions remain rare in the Gulf country.
Foreign workers do not have the right to strike. "Airport traffic is very normal," Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud Al-Sabah, head of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, told AFP. Another official, Saleh Al-Fadaghi, the airport's director of operations, also said flights were not affected. "During the one-hour strike, 19 flights were operated as scheduled. There were five departures and 14 arrivals," he told AFP.
Kandari said the purpose of the strike was not to disrupt operations but "to make our voices heard". He added that Kuwaiti workers would hold a further two-hour strike on Wednesday and a 24-hour strike on Sunday if their demands are not met. Of 4,500 civil aviation employees, 1,500 took part in Monday's strike, he said.
La Jonquera, Spain, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Catalan separatist activists blocked traffic on Monday on a motorway linking Spain and France, in a fresh protest against the sentencing last month of nine of their leaders to lengthy jail terms. Demonstrators cut the AP7 motorway at La Jonquera near the city of Girona in eastern Spain, a day after a repeat general election in which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist emerged as winners but weakened, while far-right party Vox surged to third place on the back of its hardline stance against separatism. Dozens of vehicles blocked the motorway near the border with France while some 300 people set up a barricade, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. Some demonstrators began to set up a stage and speakers which they brought to the scene in vans. Catalonia's regional road department confirmed the motorway was cut in both directions at La Jonquera.
The protest was called by a new, mysterious organisation called "Democratic Tsunami" which last month sent thousands of people to block access to Barcelona airport in a protest which ended in clashes between demonstrators and police. "This mobilisation is a cry to the international community so that it makes the Spanish state understand that the only possible path is to sit down and talk," the group said in a message sent to its followers on encrypted messaging service Telegram. Radical separatist group CDR also called on its supporters to head to La Jonquera to block the highway. Catalonia was rocked by days of mass, sometimes violent, pro-independence rallies after Spain's Supreme Court on October 14 sentenced nine politicians and activists to jail for up to 13 years for their role in a failed secession bid in 2017. Demonstrators have frequently cut road and rail links between Spain and France while many shops in downtown Barcelona have been shut during the rallies and there are growing concerns about the impact of the unrest on business in Spain's second largest city.
MOUSOUNI ISLAND, India, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Cyclone Bulbul hit India and southern Bangladesh on Saturday, leaving two dead as authorities in the countries ordered more than two million people to get out of the path of the storm. The cyclone, packing winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, has "weakened" and "started crossing" India's West Bengal and Bangladesh's Khulna coast at about 9:00 pm (1500 GMT), Dhaka's Meteorological Department said in a special bulletin. "It is likely to move in a northeasterly direction" and "weaken gradually, and may complete crossing West Bengal-Khulna coast by midnight tonight," the department said. Airports and ports were shut down and the deaths were reported before the full force of the cyclone had hit. One person was killed by an uprooted tree in Kolkata and another by a wall that collapsed under the force of the winds in Odisha state, authorities said.
More than 60,000 people were moved away from the coast on the Indian side of the border. Bangladesh disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP that "2.028 million" have been evacuated and moved to more than 5,500 cyclone shelters. He said there was no reports of casualties and rejected reports in local media that dozens of local fishermen were missing on the southern coast. Bangladeshi troops were sent to some villages, while about 55,000 volunteers went door-to-door and making loudspeaker announcements in the streets to get people away from the danger zone in villages, many of which were below sea level.
- Ports closed, flights halted -
A storm surge up to two metres (seven feet) was predicted along the coast, Bangladesh's Meteorological Department said. About 1,500 tourists were stranded on the southern island of Saint Martin after boat services were suspended due to bad weather. Bangladesh's two biggest ports, Mongla and Chittagong, were closed because of the storm, and flights into Chittagong airport were halted. In India, flights in and out of Kolkata airport were suspended for 12 hours because of the storm. On the West Bengal island of Mousouni, which lies in the path of the storm, frightened residents took shelter in schools and government buildings because they had not been able to escape. Military planes and ships have been put on standby to help in emergencies, Indian authorities said.
Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and part of eastern India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tiger and the Irrawaddy dolphins. Bangladesh's low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, is regularly battered by cyclones that leave a trail of destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in cyclones in recent decades. While the frequency and intensity have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of 4,000 cyclone shelters along the coast. In November 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people. In May this year, Fani became the most powerful storm to hit the country in five years, but the death toll was about 12.
Beirut, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Several petrol stations in protest-hit Lebanon stopped services Saturday, as reserves ran dry due to a shortage of US dollars to pay suppliers, a syndicate head said. The shuttering of petrol stations came as demonstrators again took to the street across the country, keeping up their three-week-long movement against a political class regarded as inefficient and corrupt. "The petrol stations that opened today are the ones that still have reserves. They will close down as soon as supply runs out," said Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners. He said if officials do not facilitate access to dollars by Tuesday, "we will be forced to stop imports and close down all petrol stations."
Petrol stations receive payment from customers in Lebanese pounds but have to pay importers and suppliers in dollars. For two decades, the Lebanese pound has been pegged to the US dollar, with both currencies used interchangeably in daily life. But banks have been reducing access to dollars since the end of the summer, following fears of a shortage in central bank dollar reserves. In recent days, banks halted all ATM withdrawals in dollars and severely restricted conversions from Lebanese pounds. Many Lebanese have had to instead buy dollars from money changers at a higher exchange rate, in what amounts to a de-facto devaluation of the local currency that has sparked price hikes.
The official exchange rate has remained fixed at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, but the rate in the parallel market has surpassed 1,800. "The banks are under pressure from people, both inside Lebanon and abroad," said economist Naseeb Ghabreel, after many rushed to withdraw their dollar savings or convert Lebanese pound accounts. Since September, petrol station owners have accused banks of failing to provide them with the dollars they need and threatened strikes. In response, the central bank last month pledged to facilitate access to the greenback for importers of petroleum products, wheat and medicine. But the measure has not yet gone into effect.
Lebanon has since October 17 witnessed an unprecedented popular uprising against everything from power cuts and poor social security to alleged state corruption. The government yielded to popular pressure and stepped down last month, with the World Bank urging for the quick formation of a new cabinet to prevent the economy from further deteriorating.
Madrid, Nov 8, 2019 (AFP) - Spanish health authorities confirmed Friday a case of a man spreading dengue through sex, a world first for a virus which until recently was thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos. The case concerns a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner who picked up the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba, said Susana Jimenez of the Madrid region's public health department.
His dengue infection was confirmed in September and it puzzled doctors because he had not travelled to a country where the disease, which causes severe flu-like symptoms such as high fever and body aches, is common, she added. "His partner presented the same symptoms as him but lighter around ten days earlier, and he had previously visited Cuba and the Dominican Republic," Jimenez said. "An analysis of their sperm was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba."
A "likely' case of sexual transmission of dengue between a man and a woman was the subject of a recent scientific article in South Corea, Jimenez said. In an e-mail sent to AFP, the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors health and disease in Europe, said this was "to our knowledge, the first sexual transmission of the dengue virus among men who have sex with men."
According to the World Health Organization's website, dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which thrives in densely-populated tropical climates and breeds in stagnant pools of water. It is most serious -- and deadly -- in children, especially young girls though scientists don't know why.
Dengue is most commonly caught by people travelling to hotter climates such as southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and South and Central America.