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.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
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.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
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.
By Ricardo ARDUENGO, con Nelson DEL CASTILLO en San Juan y Leila MACOR en Miami
Utuado, Puerto Rico, Oct 19, 2017 (AFP) - It's been a month since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico and Samuel de Jesus still can't drive out of his isolated, blacked-out town. In fact, much of the US territory in the Caribbean is still a crippled mess four weeks after that fierce Category Four storm.
The bridge connecting Rio Abajo to the rest of the island was swept away when Maria slammed the island on September 20. For two weeks Rio Abajo, located in a mountainous region in central-western Puerto Rico, was cut off and forgotten, without power or phone service. "We didn't know what to do. We were literally going crazy," said de Jesus, 35. "Those were difficult, desperate days. We could not find a way out, and the hurricane caused extensive damage," he told AFP.
During the two long weeks following Maria, the 27 families living in Rio Abajo saw their supplies quickly deplete. De Jesus, who has diabetes, needed to keep his insulin refrigerated. The storm blew away the island's already decrepit power grid, so people resorted to emergency generators. "But I was running out of gasoline to run the generator," he said. A helicopter now makes regular deliveries of food, water and medicine because with the bridge washed out, there is no other way in or out of town.
People can't wade across the river because it is contaminated with human waste after a pipe broke when the bridge went. Some brave souls use a precarious ladder rigged to get across the water, but for most people it is too dangerous. We need a bridge "to take out our vehicles and leave in case of emergency, or if there is a landslide," he said. Where the bridge once stood, residents set up a system of ropes, pulleys and buckets to move supplies over the river, which has been contaminated with sewer water since the hurricane. Over the remains of the bridge locals hung the single-star, red, white and blue flag of Puerto Rico and a sign that reads "the campsite of the forgotten."
- Desperate need for electricity -
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello visited the surrounding municipality of Utuado on Wednesday to deliver supplies, but he did not stop in Rio Abajo. "Utuado is certainly one of the most severely affected municipalities in all of Puerto Rico," Rossello said. "Our commitment is to give it support and aid during the whole road to recovery." Eighty-one percent of Puerto Rico remains blacked out one month after Maria struck. Clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing is scarce, too.
Puerto Ricans' main obstacle to getting back to some semblance of normality is the slowness of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in getting the power grid back up and running. The lack of power has paralyzed a key industry -- pharmaceutical production -- and most businesses including restaurants are closed or operating at great cost through the use of diesel powered generators.
This nightmare comes about a year after the US government established an external fiscal control board for the island after it declared bankruptcy because of 73 billion dollars in debt. Economist Joaquin Villamil told AFP that damage from Hurricane Maria is estimated at 20 billion dollars -- four times that of Hurricane Georges in 1998, when measured in 2016 dollars.
Villamil said reconstruction money provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from insurance companies will have a positive impact on the island's economy in the second half of fiscal 2018 and in fiscal 2019, but this boost will just be temporary. "From an economic point of view there is not much net gain," said Villamil, who works for a consulting firm called Estudios Tecnicos. He said the economy has been shrinking since 2006 and Maria will delay any prospect of recovery. It will take at least until 2026 to get back to the GDP level of 2006, he added.
Making things worse, people are leaving the island for the mainland US. Forecasts are that the population now at 3.4 million will go down to 3.1 million or even less by 2026, said Villamil. The government of Florida estimates that since October 3 -- the day a state of emergency to deal with an influx of Puerto Ricans was declared -- more than 36,000 people from the island have poured in.
Information for Bali
Bali is one of the main tourist destinations for many Irish travellers to Indonesia. The island is well developed for the tourist industry and genera
Safety & Security
Throughout Indonesia there are many regions where it is unsafe to travel. The Parliament in Indonesia may impeach the President in the near future. Civil disturbance with student demonstrations in the capital Jakarta, earthquakes in the island of Sumatra, unrest regarding the independence of Timor and profound warring fractions on the island of Borneo has the potential to spill over into Bali. Nevertheless during the past years Bali has remained stable and there have been few reports of serious disturbances that have affected tourists or business travellers. Lombok is an island close to Bali often visited by tourists. It is regarded as more unstable and recently (Dec 2000) four explosions during fighting between two villages (Bongor & Parampuan). The main tourist region around Senggigi has remained quiet.
The laws against illegal drugs are severe and travellers should ensure that they carry sufficient well-marked medication that they may require for their time in Indonesia. Travellers are required to show identification at any time and so carrying photocopies of your passport is a wise precaution. Keep all valuable documents in a safe place and do not flaunt personal wealth while travelling around the island.
The nightlife in Bali is one of the main attractions for many tourists but sensible precautions are required. Travelling alone is unwise. Take care to ensure that your drink could not be spiked at any stage and do not walk at night, use an authorised taxi where possible. The level of HIV infection among the bar workers is high and close personal contact is very unwise.
The level of available health facilities varies greatly through Bali and other parts of Indonesia. In general most of the main hotels will have English speaking doctors but care would be required if your illness requires hospitalisation.
Food and Water
It is wise to maintain a high level of care with regard to your food and water while in Indonesia. This includes even those in high quality hotels but also particularly for those eating from street vendors. Bivalve shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams etc) should be avoided at all times due to inadequate cooking. Bottled water should be purchased from your hotel or good quality shops to ensure that it is pure.
Mosquitoes and Insect Bites
Malaria transmission occurs throughout Indonesia all year but the risk in Bali is so low that prophylaxis is not generally recommended for most tourists. Nevertheless for those visiting Lombok (overnight visits) the risk exists and prophylaxis should be considered. Other mosquito borne diseases also occur throughout Indonesia and care must be taken to avoid insect bites. In Jakarta and other main cities there is a particular problem with a viral disease called Dengue Fever. The mosquito, which transmits this disease, typically bites during the day and in main urban centres.
The strength of the sun in Bali is considerable higher than that experienced in Ireland at any time of the year. Sufficient head covering should be worm when exposed and travellers should ensure that their fluid intake is sufficient. Salt depletion also needs to be replaced in times of significant perspiration.
If swimming in pools, make sure that sufficient chlorination has been used. Take care with small children when close to the deep end of the pool. If sea swimming make sure that there are always others around and that you heed any local advice and warning signs. Never swim soon after alcohol or for an hour after mealtime.
The extent of jet lag, which you will experience, depends on the duration of your flight and the amount of rest you were able to get before arrival. Try to rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to acclimatise and make sure you do not fall asleep beside the swimming pool during this initial period.
Vaccinations for Bali
There are no essential vaccines or entry to Bali from Western Europe. However for your personal protection travellers are recommended to consider vaccination cover against;
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water disease)
Other travellers planning a more rural or extensive trip may need to consider other vaccine cover against diseases like Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Rabies.
The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Jakarta, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful magnitude 7.3 quake struck eastern Indonesia on Monday, US seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties. The quake hit at a depth of 208 kilometres (129 miles) south of Ambon island in the Banda Sea at 11:53 local time, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a tsunami as the quake was too deep. The strong temblor came hours after a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Papua, also in the eastern part of the Southeast Asian archipelago. That quake hit about 240 kilometres (150 miles) west of the town of Abepura in Papua province, at a relatively shallow depth of 21 kilometres, according to the USGS.
There were also no immediate reports of casualties after the earthquake. A shallower 6.3-magnitude hit the area last week, but the damage was not extensive. Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide. Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 with a thousand more declared missing. On December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck Aceh province, causing a tsunami and killing more than 170,000.
A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted Friday, spewing a plume of ash and smoke more than 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky. Mount Agung, about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life in 2017, sometimes grounding flights and forcing residents to flee their homes.
The latest eruption shortly before noon on Friday shot a cloud of volcanic ash high into the sky, but caused no disruption to flights, Indonesia's geological agency said. Agung remained at the second highest danger warning level, and there is a four-kilometre no-go zone around the crater.
Last summer, dozens of flights were cancelled after Agung erupted, while tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after an eruption in 2017.
The last major eruption of Agung in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.
Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
Jakarta, May 7, 2019 (AFP) - An Indonesian volcano erupted Tuesday, sending a massive column of ash and smoke 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the air, coating local villages in debris. Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island -- which has been rumbling since 2010 and saw a deadly eruption in 2016 -- spewed the thick plume after activity picked up recent days. Disaster agency officials said the eruption has the "potential" to affect flights, but it had not issued a formal notice for planes to avoid the area. Local residents living along rivers near the crater were advised to be on alert for possible lava flows.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths after the latest eruption and the disaster agency did not issue an evacuation order. No one lives inside a previously announced no-go zone around the volcano. Sinabung roared back to life in 2010 for the first time in 400 years. After another period of inactivity it erupted once more in 2013, and has remained highly active since. In 2016, seven people died in one of Sinabung's eruptions, while a 2014 eruption killed 16.
Last year, a volcano in the strait between Java and Sumatra islands erupted, causing an underwater landslide that unleashed a tsunami which killed over 400 people. Indonesia is home to around 130 active volcanoes due to its position on the "Ring of Fire", a belt of tectonic plate boundaries circling the Pacific Ocean where frequent seismic activity occurs.
By Debbi Ernest
Bengkulu, Indonesia, April 29, 2019 (AFP) - Floods sparked by torrential rains have killed nearly 40 in Indonesia with a dozen more still missing, officials said Monday, marking the latest calamity for a disaster-prone nation. Landslides and floods are common during the monsoon season between October and April, when rains lash the vast Southeast Asian archipelago. On Monday, Indonesia's disaster agency confirmed 29 deaths and said at least 13 more people were missing in Sumatra island's Bengkulu province. A landslide triggered by heavy rain in neighbouring Lampung province on Saturday also killed a family of six.
Meanwhile, flooding in and around parts of the capital Jakarta last week killed at least two people, forced more than 2,000 to evacuate their homes and set 14 pet pythons on the loose. In Bogor, a satellite city of Jakarta, residents had to contend with the prospect of coming face to face with the giant serpents, after they were set loose from a private property due to the high waters.
Six of the snakes -- which were as long as four metres (13 feet) -- have been found, but eight were still missing, officials said at the weekend. "If you find them please report it to authorities or volunteers," said Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. That was not much comfort for some Bogor residents. "We're terrified to hear this," said Samsudin, who goes by one name. "Apparently they're very big so we want authorities to help us find them or take action."
- Illegal mining -
In Sumatra, some 12,000 residents have been evacuated from water-logged Bengkulu with hundreds of buildings, bridges and roads damaged. Authorities have set up temporary shelters and public kitchens for those displaced by the rains. Hardest hit was Bengkulu Tengah district, just outside of the provincial capital, where 22 people were killed along with hundreds of livestock.
Illegal coal mining was partly to blame for deadly landslides, authorities said. "Apart from natural factors like the heavy rain, (the flooding) was also caused by human activity that destroys the environment," disaster agency head Doni Monardo told reporters in Bengkulu on Monday. Activists have long warned deforestation from rampant mining in the province could trigger a catastrophe.
At least four major rivers in Bengkulu overflow every time it rains due to environmental damage near their banks, activists said. "The flooding in Bengkulu was made worse by the severe damage... caused by coal mining," Ali Akbar from local environmental group Kanopi Bengkulu said in a statement. Illegal mining was blamed for killing dozens on the island of Sulawesi in March when a makeshift mine collapsed. Mineral-rich Indonesia has scores of unlicensed mines -- many with complete disregard for even the most basic safety procedures.
Also in Sulawesi this year, some 70 people were killed by floods and landslides that wiped entire villages off the map. Nearly 10,000 people were displaced. Last month, some 112 people died and more than 90 remain missing after torrential rains pounded Indonesia's Papua region, triggering landslides and flash floods. Indonesia, a nation of some 17,000 islands, is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are a common occurrence.
World Travel News Headlines
By Julie Pacorel
Marseille, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - France's second city and key tourist hub Marseille has enforced temporary swimming bans on several beaches amid pollution concerns, disappointing locals and tourists hoping to take a dip as temperatures soar. Seven of the city's 21 beaches have raised a purple flag -- which means no bathing -- since the start of the month, on days when hygiene inspections revealed high levels of faecal matter. Marseille is a tourist hotspot, attracting five million visitors per year thanks to its Mediterranean coastline and sun-kissed climate.
But the city, France's largest port, struggles with pollution from industry and shipping. "It's mostly caused by sanitation problems, but there are also increasing numbers of boats spewing out their grey and black waste before they enter the port," said Sarah Hatimi, head of the water quality programme at Surfrider Foundation Europe environmental group. Swimming bans are nothing new in Marseille. Last year, authorities enforced 153 bans amid fears of a pollution spike after heavy rainfall. "This year, we can't say it's because of the rain," Monique Daubet, local councillor responsible for public health, said, adding that spillages from swimming pools and "lots of animal faeces" are part of the problem. But the city is "proactive", she said, going "even further" than weekly water inspections imposed by a European law to "pay for our own analysis to protect swimmers".
Every morning, inspectors take water samples from each of the city's beaches to test for E. coli and enterococci bacteria, which indicate human or animal defecation. A laboratory can reveal test results the same morning, whereas the previous weekly tests "arrived far too late, two or three days later," Daubet said. Despite efforts, Marseille authorities aren't hopeful they can secure a "blue flag" stamp of approval for beach hygiene. "Our water quality doesn't meet the criteria, which includes, for example, keeping bins at least 100 metres away from the beach". "Nobody is forcing us to do this," she said. "Rather than complaining, people should be grateful we're closing the beaches!"
By Elizabeth Vuvu
Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Papua New Guinea's volatile Ulawun volcano -- designated one of the world's most hazardous -- erupted Wednesday, spewing lava high in the air and sending residents fleeing. A pilot for Niugini Helicopters flying near the crater witnessed a column of lava spurting vertically into the equatorial sky, along with ash that has been belching since early morning. Ulawun, on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, is listed as one of 16 "Decade Volcanoes" targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions. Witnesses said lava had cut off the main highway in north of the island. "The volcanic activity at Mt Ulawun began at 7:00 am this morning after slight rumbling and light emission," Leo Porikura, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office, told AFP earlier. "The Rabaul Volcano Observatory has declared a stage one alert warning of a possible eruption."
Witnesses had reported ash spewing out of the 2,334 metre (7,657 foot) summit, sending trails spanning high overhead. "The sky has turned black," said Kingsly Quou, manager of the nearby Mavo Estates palm plantation. Quou said that villagers living at the base of the volcano had already been evacuated and he and his colleagues were gathering their belongings. Japanese satellite imagery and sources on the ground had shown sulphur dioxide and now volcanic ash drifting from the crater. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said the ash reached more than 13 kilometres (44,000 feet) into the air. The bureau's Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a "red" warning to airlines, indicating the eruption was imminent, although there is not believed to be an immediate threat for flight routes. Thousands of people live in the shadow of Ulawun, despite it being one of the most active volcanoes in the country.
Porikura said people living in the vicinity of the volcano had been instructed to move away to safer areas and a disaster team had been dispatched. "The disaster team will liaise with the local community, local businesses and local level government authorities to prepare for a possible eruption," he said. "Three crucial priority areas being addressed include transport plan, care centre preparations and getting the communities in the high-risk areas to prepare for an evacuation," Porikura said. The nearby Rabaul Volcano Observatory said emissions from the volcano were getting darker, indicating a higher ash content -- which can cause breathing problems, eye irritation and skin irritation because of the high acid content. A team of experts had visited earlier this month and reported the volcano was "quiet" adding "there is no indication of any change in its state of unrest." The ash emissions had been proceeded by an increase in seismic activity, Porikura said.
San José, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - A 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Panama-Costa Rica border around midnight on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, revising earlier warnings of "significant damage", as the tremor cut power supplies near the epicentre. The quake struck at a depth of 26 kilometres (16 miles), about two kilometres from the nearest town of Progreso in Panama, USGS said, updating a previous alert that estimated the depth at 10 kilometres.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, and USGS said "the impact should be relatively localized", reversing an earlier advisory that "past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response." "Estimated economic losses are less than 1 percent of GDP of Panama," the website said. According to the National Seismological Network (RSN) in Costa Rica, the quake struck at 0523 GMT Wednesday (11.23 pm Tuesday) with its epicentre located 11 kilometres east of the Panamanian border town of Puerto Armuelles.
The tremor was felt in Costa Rica's capital San Jose and in many parts of the Central American country, according to initial reports, but the national tsunami warning system said there was no risk of a tsunami. Villagers in the south of Costa Rica fled their homes, fearing aftershocks. Two houses in the region were damaged by the quake, said Alexander Solis, president of the country's National Emergency Commission.
Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado said there were power cuts in several communities in the southwest of the country, near the epicentre. In November 2017 a 6.5-magnitude quake on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica caused buildings to sway in San Jose and contributed to the deaths of two people who had heart attacks. Further north, two months earlier a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people in Mexico.
By Béatrice DEBUT
eMalahleni, South Africa, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness. "My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can't breathe," she coughs. "The doc said there is nothing we can do," says her mother Nono Ledwaba. "We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear."
The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people. Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls. "If I don't have it with me, sometimes I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die," he says. "These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There's solar power. We don't need to use these coal plants." Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent.
Lifa's breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night. Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. "I don't use the inhaler." Tumelo's own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler. The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air -- her grandmother's home is 400 kms from the mines. "The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?" Ledwaba asks. eMalahleni, which means "the place of coal", is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace.
- 'Deadly pollution levels' -
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development -- a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced. But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high. Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits. They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery. Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs. They have initiated a suit against the government for "violation of the constitutional right to clean air" -- a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent.
The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg. "It has evolved into a public health crisis," says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani. "The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion)." In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have "shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations" in the worst-affected region of the Highveld. Criticism by environmental groups "fails to recognise these improvements', the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data. "The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time," it said. Eskom admitted the area's pollution problem "requires urgent attention", adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame.
- 'The life of my kids' -
"When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues," says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni. "When they leave this area, some of them get better." But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons. "I wish to move away because this place is not right," says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. "I don't have money to buy a house".
In Mathebula's home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital. Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask. If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. "Sometimes I don't have money to go there. I must borrow." Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter's asthma attacks. "I'm thinking of taking them to my mother," she adds, broken-hearted. "So that they stay there forever for their health."
By Clare BYRNE
Paris, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - As Europe sizzled Tuesday at the start of a heatwave tipped to break records, drivers on Germany's famously speedy motorways were ordered to slow down and fans at the women's World Cup were showered in health warnings.
Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places on Thursday and Friday. Experts say such heatwaves early in the summer are likely to be more frequent as the planet heats up -- a phenomenon that scientists have shown to be driven by human use of fossil fuels.
In Germany, where forecasters have warned a June record of 38.5 degrees could be smashed, speed restrictions were placed on some stretches of "autobahns" as the unusually warm weather raised the risks of "blow-ups" -- the hot tarmac breaking up and shredding tyres. A forest fire was raging north of Cottbus, the second-largest city in Brandenburg state, in an area that was just recovering from a fire in 2018. It was deemed especially dangerous due to the risk of unexploded ammunition left in the area, which is home to a military training facility.
- 'Hell is coming' -
In Spain, TV weather presenter Silvia Laplana riffed on the doom-filled catchphrase "Winter is coming" from the blockbuster series Game of Thrones to describe what lay in store for the country. "El infierno (hell) is coming," she tweeted alongside a weather map which showed most of the country coloured scarlet later in the week. "Of course it's hot in summer but when you have a heatwave that is so extensive and intense, during which records are forecast to be beaten, it's NOT normal," she tweeted. Temperatures are expected to be particularly sweltering in the northeast of Spain, with a stifling 45 degrees expected Friday in the city of Girona, and 44 degrees in Zaragoza at the weekend. Five northern provinces were placed on an orange high alert for a heatwave on Wednesday, with another five to be added by the weekend.
- 'Overdoing' the warnings? -
Authorities were also taking no chances in France, where a heatwave in August 2003 was blamed for 15,000 deaths, many of them elderly people who were left to fend for themselves. In a highly unusual move, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on Monday postponed national school exams to next week. Paris authorities have banned older models of diesel and petrol cars from Paris on Wednesday, fearing a build-up of pollution. Health Minister Agnes Buzyn denied the government was being excessively vigilant. "For all those who know (the risks), obviously it's too much, but if I can avoid unnecessary deaths, I will continue to communicate about prevention," Buzyn told LCI television, referring to the warnings on radio, TV and public transport.
The Red Cross meanwhile urged people to check on vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends, saying the "coming days will be challenging for a lot of people, but especially older people, young children, and people with underlying illnesses or limited mobility." Players and spectators at the women's football World Cup taking place in cities around France were also being inundated with messages about keeping hydrated. In a rare gesture by FIFA on Monday evening, fans were allowed to bring their own bottles of water into the Paris stadium where Sweden took on Canada. Phil Neville, the England coach, was sanguine about the impact of the weather on the tournament, however. "There's no excuse, the players are ready for it."
Meanwhile, French beekeepers and farming groups said they were bracing for a "catastrophic" honey harvest this year after frost damage in winter, an unusually rainy spring, and, now, unusually high temperatures. "In the hives, there is nothing to eat, beekeepers are having to feed them with syrup because they risk dying from hunger," added the union, which represents many small farms in honey-producing regions. In the Baltic region of northeast Europe, crowds have flocked to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings. Twenty-seven people were reporte to have drowned so far in Lithuania where the temperature soared to an unusual high of 35.7 degrees Celsius.
The Hague, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - Dutch health authorities said Tuesday they are dealing with a measles outbreak in a devout Protestant fishing village where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country. Nine children and one adult have been diagnosed with the disease in the village of Urk, part of the so-called "Bible Belt" in the northern Netherlands, the Flevoland province health service said.
The health service said it was "actively monitoring the situation" and examining whether it was necessary to vaccinate or administer antibodies to people who have been in contact with the infected patients. "In 2013 and previously, the disease occurred more often on Urk. Many people on Urk have experienced this disease and that means that a natural defence has built up," it said. Only 61.1 percent of people are vaccinated against measles in Urk, one of the lowest rates in the Netherlands, where the national average is 92.9 percent, according to the National Public Health and Environment Institute.
Urk is regarded as one of the most devout of the villages in the "Bible Belt" of conservative Protestant communities running from Zeeland in the south of the Netherlands across the country to the north west. Ninety-four percent of people in Urk regularly go to church, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, compared to one in six of all Dutch people.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf said that in this devout community of Urk people believe that life and death are in God's hands, and so vaccinations are not permitted. Urk is considered a "closed' community because of its fisheries culture and Protestant orthodox religion," a European Commission report from 2010 said.
The UN warned in April of a global resurgence of measles -- a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal -- amid a growing "anti-vax" movement worldwide. The WHO says cases of the once all-but-eradicated disease surged 300 percent in 2018 across the globe. The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the United States, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of claims that the jab could cause autism, which medical officials have found are baseless.
Source: I Am Expat [edited]
Normally, the tropical tick species _Hyalomma [marginatum_] only arrives in Germany with the 1st wave of migratory birds. However, experts believe that this year  the disease-carrying giant ticks have spent the winter here for the 1st time ever. The tropical tick species _Hyalomma_ is not native to Germany and was detected in the federal republic for the 1st time in 2017. The ticks only began to appear in large numbers last year , when a total of 19 specimens were found in 8 of Germany's federal states.
This year , however, discoveries of the ticks were reported unusually early, leading researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the Munich Institute for Microbiology to conclude that the newly-arrived tropical tick species overwintered in Germany for the 1st time this year . Over the past few days, 6 of the spidery ticks have been discovered in Germany: 5 on a horse farm in the Lower Rhine and one on a horse in Lower Saxony. "After the 1st evidence of this year , we must assume that these animals can winter in Germany," said Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim.
Accordingly, the ticks are "a significant step further towards establishing themselves here." The _Hyalomma_ tick is native to the dry and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. It is distinctive for its long, spidery, striped legs and large body, and can grow up to 2 centimetres [about 0.8 in] in length, 2-3 times larger than their closest European relatives. Usually, the adult _Hyalomma_ ticks stick to sucking the blood of large animals, but they have been known to transfer themselves to human hosts too.
The major factor that distinguishes them from Germany's native tick population is the fact that they are able to actively sense, track, and hunt their warm-blooded hosts over dozens of meters. _Hyalomma_ ticks are also considered a major carrier of a dangerous virus that can cause Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever -- the most widespread viral disease carried by ticks. Currently, there is no vaccine for this, and 10 to 40 percent of cases are fatal.
However, at the moment there is no cause for alarm: none of the tick specimens that were discovered last year  were found to be carrying infectious agents. The size of the ticks means that they are also easier for humans to detect and remove. Moreover, the early appearance of the ticks does not necessarily mean that they have already become native to [established in] Germany. For a significant population to develop, males and females would have to find each other. That can be a tall order when the population is still relatively small. Even if they did find each other, the unhatched larvae would have to rely on an animal host, such as a bird or hare, to develop. [Byline: Aby Carter]
[Although there may not be immediate concern about _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks posing a human or animal health danger in Germany, if they have truly become established there and their numbers increase, there is a risk of transmission of pathogens such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, as occurred in Spain, or spotted fever rickettsia such as _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ that has been found in these ticks in Germany.
The only documented _Hyalomma_ spp. tick in Germany was found on a human in the southern part of the country (Lake Constance area) in May 2006, but the possibility of tick transportation from Spain was not ruled out (1,2). The authors state that it is reasonable to suggest that the _Hyalomma_ spp. ticks that were examined had been transported by the birds from Africa.
The fact that a randomly caught bird was infested with _R. aeschlimannii_Â-infected ticks is suggestive of the intensive stream of new pathogens transported through Europe by migrating birds
1. Rumer L, Graser E, Hillebrand T, et al. _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ in _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks, Germany [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011; 17(2): 325-6; <https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1702.100308>.
2. Kampen H, Poltz W, Hartelt K, et al. Detection of a questing _Hyalomma marginatum marginatum_ adult female (Acari, Ixodidae) in southern Germany. Exp Appl Acarol. 2007; 43(3): 227-31 <https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-007-9113-y>.
A map of the known distribution of _Hyalomma marginatum_ as of 2018 can be accessed at
An image of _Hyalomma marginatum_ can be accessed at the source URL above. - ProMED Mod.TY]
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Germany:
Mogadishu, 25 June 2019 - Health authorities rolled out a polio campaign yesterday in Puntland and Somaliland to vaccinate more than 940 000 children under 5 years of age to stop an ongoing outbreak of a strain of poliovirus.
The campaign runs from 24 to 27 June 2019, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It targets all children in 12 districts in Somaliland and 9 districts in Puntland.
By the numbers:
- 945,480 children to be vaccinated
- 3160 vaccinators knocking on doors
- 677 team supervisors taking part
- 1558 social mobilizers sharing messages on vaccination and children’s health
- 15 children have been infected with the polioviruses so far, since outbreaks began
“It’s vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine because it builds immunity against a specific strain of poliovirus circulating in the country. I call upon all caregivers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure children are at home and accept the oral polio vaccine when it is offered. Oral polio vaccines are stored and administered safely, and can save children from paralysis and permanent disability,” said Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.
“The only way to protect children from all polioviruses is to ensure they receive multiple doses of polio vaccine, through campaigns and health facilities where possible,” said Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available.”
Somalia’s polio programme has conducted 14 immunization campaigns, including 5 nationwide campaigns, since December 2017 to stop further spread of the outbreaks. Despite these efforts, not all Somalia’s children are being vaccinated, which has resulted in the polioviruses spreading across the country and spilling over to Ethiopia. To address this, polio teams from Somalia and Ethiopia conducted a joint planning workshop in Hargeisa last week, and are coordinating immunization activities along their shared border and in high-risk areas in each country during this round in order to prevent cross-border transmission and spill over.
Concurrent to the polio campaign, polio health workers have also been working to vaccinate more than 650 000 people aged one year and above against cholera in high-risk districts of Somalia.
Kinshasa, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - More than 1,500 people have died in a nearly 10-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry said Monday. As of Sunday, 1,506 people have died out of 2,239 recorded cases, it said. Earlier this month, the virus claimed two lives in neighbouring Uganda among a family who had travelled to the DRC. Nearly 141,000 people have been vaccinated in the affected eastern DRC provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids. The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people. Chronic violence and militia activity in Ituri and North Kivu as well as hostility to medical teams among locals have hampered the response.
On Monday, a crowd of people opposed to the burial of two Ebola victims in the Beni area burnt the vehicle of a health team, local police chief Colonel Safari Kazingufu told AFP. He said a member of the medical team had been injured in the attack and taken to hospital. The United Nations in May nominated an emergency coordinator to deal with the crisis. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month the outbreak currently did not represent a global threat.