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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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.
May 19, 2008
Lithuania is a stable democracy undergoing rapid economic growth. Tourist facilities in Vilnius, the capital, and to a lesser extent in Kaunas and Klaipeda, are simi
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required to enter Lithuania. As there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Lithuania, U.S. citizens should be aware of passport validity requirements in transit countries. American citizens do not need a visa to travel to Lithuania for business or pleasure for up to 90 days. That 90-day period begins with entry to any of the “Schengen Group” countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. Multiple visits to Schengen countries may not exceed 90 days in any 6 month period. Travelers remaining in Lithuania for more than 90 days within any six-month period must apply for temporary residency.
Lithuanian authorities recommend applying or a residency permit through a Lithuanian embassy or consulate before initial entry into Lithuania, as processing times can run beyond 90 days. All foreigners of non-European Union countries seeking entry into Lithuania must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs of hospitalization and medical treatment in Lithuania. Visitors unable to demonstrate sufficient proof of medical insurance must purchase short-term insurance at the border from a Lithuanian provider for roughly $1.00 per day. The number of days will be calculated from the day of entry until the date on the return ticket. Children residing in Lithuania must have written permission to travel outside the country from at least one parent if their parents are not accompanying them on their trip. This policy is not applicable to temporary visitors. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Lithuania and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Lithuania web site at www.ltembassyus.org for the most current visa information.
Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information abut customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Civil unrest is not a problem in Lithuania, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Lithuania is a relatively safe country. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry should be secured in a hotel safe or left at home. Crimes against foreigners, while usually non-violent, do occur. Pickpocketing and thefts are problems, so personal belongings should be well protected at all times. Theft from cars and car thefts occur regularly. Drivers should be wary of persons indicating they should pull over or that something is wrong with their car. Often, a second car or person is following, and when the driver of the targeted car gets out to see if there is a problem the person who has been following will either steal the driver’s belongings from the vehicle or get in and drive off with the car. Drivers should never get out of the car to check for damage without first turning off the ignition and taking the keys. Valuables should not be left in plain sight in parked vehicles, as there have been increasing reports of car windows smashed and items stolen. If possible, American citizens should avoid walking alone at night. ATMs should be avoided after dark. In any public area, one should always be alert to being surrounded by two or more people at once. Additionally, criminals have a penchant for taking advantage of drunken pedestrians. Americans have reported being robbed and/or scammed while intoxicated.
Following a trend that has spread across Eastern and Central Europe, racially motivated verbal, and sometimes physical, harassment of foreigners of non-Caucasian ethnicity has been reported in major cities. Incidents of racially motivated attacks against American citizens have been reported in Klaipeda and Vilnius.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on these serious problems is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. For more information about assistance for victims of crime in Lithuania, please visit the Embassy’s web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/service/crime-victim-assistance.html.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Lithuania has improved in the last 15 years, but medical facilities do not always meet Western standards. There are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services that nearly equal Western European or U.S. standards. Most medical supplies are now widely available, including disposable needles, anesthetics, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. However, hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Lithuania has highly trained medical professionals, some of whom speak English, but their availability is decreasing as they leave for employment opportunities abroad. Depending on his or her condition, a patient may not receive an appointment with a specialist for several weeks. Western-quality dental care can be obtained in major cities. Elderly travelers who require medical care may face difficulties. Most pharmaceuticals sold in Lithuania are from Europe; travelers will not necessarily find the same brands that they use in the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, particularly if immigration status in Lithuania is unclear.
Tick-borne encephalitis and lyme disease are widespread throughout the country. Those intending to visit parks or forested areas in Lithuania are urged to speak with their health care practitioners about immunization. Rabies is also increasingly prevalent in rural areas.
The Lithuanian Government does not require HIV testing for U.S. citizens. However, sexually transmitted diseases are a growing public health problem.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. All foreigners of non-European Union countries seeking entry into Lithuania must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs of hospitalization and medical treatment in Lithuania (please see entry/exit requirements above). Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Lithuania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The Police allow Americans to drive in Lithuania with an American driver’s license for up to 90 days. Americans who reside in Lithuania for 185 days or more in one calendar year and who wish to continue driving in Lithuania must acquire a Lithuanian driver's license. The foreign license must be given to the Lithuanian Road Police to be processed by the Consular Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in turn sends it to the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, where the owner is expected to claim it.
Roads in Lithuania range from well-maintained two- to four-lane highways connecting major cities to small dirt roads traversing the countryside. Violation of traffic rules is common. It is not unusual to be overtaken by other automobiles, traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas. Driving at night, especially in the countryside, can be particularly hazardous. In summer, older seasonal vehicles and inexperienced drivers are extra hazards. Driving with caution is urged at all times. Driving while intoxicated is a very serious offense and carries heavy penalties. The speed limit is 50 km/hr in town and 90 km/hr out of town unless otherwise indicated. The phone number for roadside assistance is 8-800-01414 from a regular phone and 1414 from a GSM mobile phone.
Seatbelts are mandatory for the driver and all passengers except children under the age of 12. During the winter, most major roads are cleared of snow. Winter or all-season tires are required from November 10th through April 1st. Studded tires are not allowed from April 10th through October 31st. Drivers must have at least their low beam lights on at all times while driving. Public transportation is generally safe.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at www.tourism.lt and at www.lra.lt/index_en.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lithuania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lithuania’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Lithuanian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary importation into or export from Lithuania of items such as firearms and antiquities. Please see our Customs Information.
Telephone connections are generally good. American 1-800 numbers can be accessed from Lithuania but not on a toll-free basis; the international long distance rate per minute will be charged. Local Internet cafes offer computer access. ATMs are widely available. Most hotels and other businesses accept major credit cards.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Lithuanian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lithuania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or possessing or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. For more information about arrest procedures in Lithuania, please visit the Embassy’s web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/arrests.html. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web page.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Lithuania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Lithuania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Akmenu Gatve 6, tel. (370) (5) 266-5500 or 266-5600; fax (370) (5) 266-5590. Consular information can also be found on the Embassy Vilnius web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 5, 2007 to update sections on Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
A report in Eurosurveillance Weekly in 2004 stated, "Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is endemic in virtually all countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It is caused by several closely related but distinct flaviviruses. 3 subtypes are recognised at present: a Far-Eastern subtype, a Siberian subtype and a European subtype. The Siberian subtype is associated with Russian spring-summer encephalitis and is transmitted predominantly by the tick _Ixodes persulcatus_, whereas the European subtype causes central European encephalitis and is transmitted by _Ixodes ricinus_.
Vilnius, July 3, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuania declared an emergency on Wednesday as a severe drought hit the Baltic EU state, threatening to slash this year's harvest by up to half. Apart from jeopardising crops, scant rainfall has also drastically reduced water levels in some rivers, threatening fish stocks and shipping activities.
The formal declaration of an "emergency situation" will allow the government to compensate farmers for some losses as well as help them to avoid EU financial sanctions should they fail to reach production goals. "Farmers believe their harvest can be slashed by 40 percent or 50 percent, while fish stocks are also endangered," environment minister Kestutis Mazeika told AFP.
Mazeika said "nobody has any doubt" that global climate change is behind the prolonged and more intensive dry spells and heatwaves in recent years. He also appealed to neighbouring Belarus to increase the water level in the Neris river by allowing more water to flow from its reservoirs. Last month was the hottest June ever recorded with soaring temperatures worldwide capped off by a record-breaking heatwave across Western Europe, satellite data showed Tuesday. Lithuania also registered its hottest-ever June, with a peak of 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded on June 12.
Over the last week, firefighters have fought wildfires triggered by the heat in peat bogs in western Lithuania and neighbouring Latvia. Elsewhere in Central Europe, Polish authorities said this week that varying degrees of drought have put grain crops at risk in 14 of the EU country's 16 regional districts. The Czech Academy of Sciences said it expects drought to affect the entire country, with 80 percent of the territory facing "exceptional to extreme drought".
Vilnius, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuanian temperatures have hit record June highs, meteorologists said Thursday, as a heatwave forced school closures and threatened to reduce harvests in the draught-hit Baltic region. Kaisiadorys in central Lithuania was the hottest place at 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, the highest-ever temperature recorded for June in the country, weather forecaster Paulius Starkus told AFP. Six people drowned in the Baltic EU state on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the year to date, while some schools put classes on hold or cut lessons short due to the heatwave.
Scientists say the extreme weather is in part a result of climate change. "Lithuania used to have heatwaves but now they occur more often and are more intense due to climate change," Vilnius University climatologist Donatas Valiukas told AFP. Starkus said a downpour with thunder and hail could follow in some areas on Thursday afternoon. Agriculture Minister Giedrius Surplys told lawmakers that some areas were experiencing "a real climatic draught" threatening harvests, while hydrologists warned that river water levels posed a threat to fish. Demand for air-conditioning has also soared in recent weeks. Lithuania's hot weather is expected to last through the week, then temperatures may ease below 30 degrees Celsius starting Monday. Fellow Baltic state Latvia is also experiencing unusual heat for June, with temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius.
In recent days, Latvia's western region of Kurzeme saw thunderstorms with hail damaging buildings, smashing greenhouses and tearing power lines. Two people have been hospitalised in the northern Latvian town of Cesis after a tree fell on their camper van while they were inside. Fellow Baltic state Estonia had a heatwave last week and is now experiencing rainy and windy weather. Poland has also been experiencing high temperatures this month, which has resulted in increased air-conditioner use. The power transmission system operator PSE said that on Wednesday there was record electricity demand for a summer morning at nearly 24.10 gigawatts (GW). Forty-two people have already drowned in Poland this month, according to the government security centre RCB.
Vilnius, Oct 11, 2018 (AFP) - Lithuania's parliament on Thursday passed a law that will allow doctors to prescribe marijuana-based medicine in the Baltic EU state. The lawmakers voted 90-0 with three abstentions in favour of the legislation that will now go to President Dalia Grybauskaite to be signed into law. "It is a historic decision to ensure that patients can receive the best possible treatment," said lawmaker Mykolas Majauskas who tabled the bill.
Other European countries have legalised cannabis for medical purposes including Austria, Britain, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece and Italy among them. "Of course, it does not mean cannabis will be available to get at a drugstore to smoke before going to a nightclub," Majauskas said. The law will come into force in May next year. Selling the drugs will require a licence from the state regulator. Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Lithuania, a Baltic state of 2.8 million people.
August 13, 2008
Officially known as the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Libya has a developing economy. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundat
Passports and visas are required. The restrictions on the use of U.S. passports for travel to, in, or through Libya were lifted in February 2004. Please see the section below on Special Circumstances.
Without prior notice, the Libyan government on November 11, 2007 “reinstated” a requirement that all foreign travelers must have an Arabic translation of their personal biographic data added to their passport in order to apply for a Libyan visa, or to enter Libya. This requirement includes foreigners who already received visas before the requirement was put into place, including those foreigners currently resident in Libya. Since that date, foreign travelers whose passports do not have Arabic translations have been denied entry into Libya or refused boarding by airlines on flights into Libya.
The U.S. passport is a U.S. travel document that meets all generally recognized international standards. While the Libyan government has the right to impose its own requirements for travelers in connection with obtaining a Libyan visa, it also has the responsibility to give travelers information on where and how to meet these requirements. Travelers should be aware that in some cases, Libyan officials may ask that U.S. citizens obtain translations from U.S. Government-approved translation services. However, U.S. consular officers have no authority to designate or certify private translations; nor do they have authority to place a consular authentication stamp over a privately-obtained translation.
American citizens who hold Libyan visas or who intend to apply for a visa are advised to contact the nearest Libyan embassy or consulate for information on how to obtain an acceptable translation. Information from Libyan embassies and consulates may differ from country to country. American citizens may also contact the Consular Section at the U.S. embassy or consulate for additional information.
The Government of Libya does not allow persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps to enter the country. At this time, neither Libya nor the U.S. provides visa services to the general public in each other’s countries; U.S. visitors to Libya should therefore plan to obtain a visa via a third country. Libyan visas require an invitation or sponsor, can take up to several months to process, and should be obtained prior to travel. All visas are vetted and approved by immigration departments in Tripoli and only issued by the appropriate Libyan Embassy upon receipt of that approval. There may be another wait for actual visa issuance once approval has been received. For tourists, the visa application procedure in most cases requires a letter of invitation from an accredited tour company in Libya; for business travelers, a letter of invitation is needed from the Libyan business entity. Americans who apply for Libyan visas are experiencing significant delays, often waiting several weeks or months if their applications are approved at all. Inconsistent Libyan visa practice is subject to change without notice and visa service to American citizens is often blocked without warning. With few exceptions, Libya has stopped issuing tourist visas to Americans. It is recommended that Americans always obtain individual Libyan visas prior to travel, rather than group visas. Americans who expected to enter on group tour visas or individual airport visas arranged by Libyan sponsors have routinely been denied entry at the air and sea ports and have been forced to turn back at the airport or remain onboard ship at the port while other nationals disembark. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli cannot provide assistance to American citizens seeking Libyan visas.
Inquiries about obtaining a Libyan visa may be made through the Libyan Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Embassy is located at 2600 Virginia Avenue NW – Suite 705, Washington, DC 20037, phone number 202-944-9601, fax number 202-944-9606, website www.libyanbureau-dc.org. Neither the Libyan Mission to the UN in New York nor the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC accepts visa applications from the general public. The closest Libyan visa-issuing office to the continental United States is the Libyan People’s Bureau in Ottawa, Canada; however, that office frequently declines to accept visa applications from American citizens. The land borders with Egypt and Tunisia are subject to periodic closures even to travelers with valid Libyan visas. Short-term closures of other land borders may occur with little notice. Within three days of arrival, visitors must register at the police station closest to where they are residing or they may encounter problems during their stay or upon departure.
Women and children in Libya are often subject to strict family controls.
This can be a particular problem for young single women of marriageable age. Although a woman does not need her father’s or husband's explicit consent every time she wishes to leave Libya, a Libyan husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. While not illegal, it is unusual for women and children to travel alone. Children under 18 whose fathers are Libyan must have the father's permission to depart Libya, even if the mother has been granted full custody by a Libyan court.
The Libyan Government requires all its citizens, including dual nationals of Libyan descent, to enter and depart Libya on Libyan documents. In some cases American citizens of Libyan descent have entered Libya on old or expired Libyan identity document and then discovered that they cannot depart Libya without obtaining a valid Libyan passport, which can be a cumbersome process.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: As Libya has taken steps to cooperate in the global war on terrorism, the Libyan Government’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was rescinded on June 30, 2006. Recent worldwide terrorist alerts have stated that extremist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the region. Therefore, any American citizen who decides to travel to Libya should maintain a strong security posture by being aware of surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, and varying times and routes for all required travel.
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under observation. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be inspected. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime against foreigners is a growing problem in Libya. The most common types of crime are property crimes of opportunity, to include vehicle burglaries. Pick-pocketing and residential burglaries are also on the increase. Women routinely face verbal harassment. While physical violence is not common, there have been instances of assault against women. These assaults can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Libya is: 193.
This number is generally monitored only in Arabic.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
While some health care providers have been trained in the United States or Europe, basic modern medical care and/or medicines may not be available in Libya. Many Libyan citizens prefer to be treated outside of Libya for ailments such as heart disease and diabetes. A representative list of healthcare providers is available at the U.S. Embassy Tripoli’s web site at http://libya.usembassy.gov/medical_information.html.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Libya.
All positive HIV/AIDS tests made in country must be reported to the government.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Libya is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Paved roads in rural areas are satisfactory; however, many rural roads are unpaved (i.e. dirt roads). Also, major highways along the seacoast and leading south merge into single-lane highways once they are outside the cities. These roads are heavily trafficked and precarious to navigate, especially at night and during the winter rainy season. The presence of sand deposits, and domestic and wild animals that frequently cross these highways and rural roads, makes them even more hazardous.
Availability of roadside assistance is extremely limited and offered only in Arabic. In urban areas and near the outskirts of major cities there is a greater possibility of assistance by police and emergency ambulance services, although they are usually ill equipped to deal with serious injuries or accidents.
Driving in Libya may be hazardous, and there is a high accident rate. Police enforcement of traffic signs and laws is rare. As a result, it is often difficult to anticipate the actions of other drivers on Libyan streets and highways. Wind-blown sand can reduce visibility without warning. Road conditions are poor, and public transportation, which is limited to occasional bus service, is poor. Taxis are available, but many taxi drivers are reckless and untrained, and English-speaking drivers are extremely rare.
The sidewalks in urban areas are often in bad condition and cluttered, but pedestrians are able to use them.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Libya, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Libya’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Libya's economy operates on a “cash-only" basis for most transactions, even though U.S. law now permits the use in Libya of credit cards and checks drawn on U.S. banks. Some hotels, restaurants, and major airlines are the only businesses known to accept credit cards (Visa more often than MasterCard). It is recommended that travelers consult their credit card entity prior to travel to ensure that transactions from Libya can be accepted by that entity. A very limited number of ATM machines are being put into service at a few large hotels, major office complexes, the airport, and one or two markets. Service is sporadic and sometimes unreliable. Foreign visitors should be aware that the penalties for use of unauthorized currency dealers are severe. Foreign visitors should also be aware that their passports might be confiscated in business disputes and/or they may not be permitted to depart Libya until the dispute has been settled. The workweek is Sunday-Thursday. Most U.S. economic sanctions against Libya were terminated effective September 21, 2004. For further information, please contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.
On June 30, 2006, the U.S. Department of State officially rescinded Libya’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. On August 31, 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published an amendment to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) in the Federal Register. This amendment updated BIS’ license requirements for Libya under the EAR due to its removal from the State Sponsors’ List. For further information specific to Libya, contact BIS’ Office of Nonproliferation and Treaty Compliance/Foreign Policy Controls Division at (202) 482-4252. Libya-related information is also found on the BIS web site: http://www.bis.doc.gov/PoliciesAndRegulations/regionalconsiderations.htm.
Libyan customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the introduction into Libya or removal from Libya of firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and currency. Importation of pornographic materials is illegal. The importation and consumption of alcohol and pork products are illegal in Libya. At times, passengers arriving in Libya have been required to bring varying amounts of convertible currency into Libya.
This requirement is subject to a border check, and the passenger faces possible deportation if this requirement is not met. It is advisable to contact any Libyan Embassy abroad for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our Customs Information.
In addition to being subject to all Libyan laws, U.S. citizens of Libyan origin may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Libyan citizens.
The Government of Libya considers all children born to Libyan fathers to be Libyan citizens even if they were not issued a Libyan birth certificate or a passport. Dual Libyan-American nationals may not enter and leave Libya on their U.S. passports, and must obtain a Libyan travel document before traveling to Libya.
Persons with dual nationality who travel to Libya on their Libyan passports are normally treated as Libyan citizens by the local government.
The ability to provide U.S. consular assistance to those traveling on Libyan passports is extremely limited.
For additional information, please see our dual nationality flyer.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Libyan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Libya are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Libya are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Libya.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The Consular Section of U.S. Embassy is located in the Seraj District of Tripoli.
Their phone number is (+218) 91-220-0125.
This number may also be used for emergencies after-hours by American citizens. General information, including forms, is available on the U.S. Embassy’s web site at http://libya.usembassy.gov/.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Libya dated January 16, 2008, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Tripoli, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - Flights at the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport were suspended Thursday after deadly overnight rocket fire, a spokesman for the country's unity government said. Wednesday night's rocket fire "killed a guard and wounded several security agents tasked with protecting the airport," said Moustafa al-Mejii, spokesman for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). He blamed the attack on "the militias of (Khalifa) Haftar" whose forces launched an offensive on the Libyan capital in April. Arrivals and departures at Mitiga airport were suspended as a result, Mejii said. Located east of Tripoli, Mitiga is a former military airbase that has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.
Mitiga is in a zone under the control of forces loyal to the GNA and has often been targeted, leading to repeated suspensions of flights. United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame, in a report to the UN Security Council last month, urged "authorities in Tripoli to cease using the (Mitiga) airport for military purposes and for the attacking forces to halt immediately their targeting of it." The GNA protested at what it said were "untruths" in the envoy's report. Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has encountered fierce resistance from pro-government forces in the battle for Tripoli. A stalemate on the ground in the capital's southern outskirts has led to a greater reliance on air strikes by both sides.
The fighting since April has killed 1,093 people and wounded 5,752 others, according to the World Health Organization. More than 120,000 people have been displaced. The LNA said Thursday its air force carried out a strike against an airfield in Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli, and destroyed two hangars allegedly used to house Turkish drones. "The runway and terminals were spared" at the airfield, which is not open to commercial flights, LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari wrote on Facebook. The GNA, however, posted pictures of a huge crater and debris on the tarmac. Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Tripoli, July 3, 2019 (AFP) - The Libyan capital's only functioning airport suspended flights on Wednesday after an air raid claimed by strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces, airport authorities said in a statement. The attack did not cause casualties or damage, a security source at Mitiga airport said. But Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army, said that a "command centre for drones at Mitiga" was destroyed in the raid.
Haftar launched an offensive in early April to take the capital Tripoli, seat of the rival Government of National Accord. The GNA is recognised by the international community. Over the past three months his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has repeatedly targeted Mitiga airport. It says it is targeting "Turkish drones" which it claims take off from Mitiga to carry out strikes on LNA forces south of Tripoli.
On Sunday the LNA said it had destroyed a Turkish drone in a strike on Mitiga, which prompted aviation authorities to temporarily suspend flights there. Haftar's forces, which hold much of eastern and southern Libya, last month lost a key town to forces loyal to the unity government in an operation the strongman has accused Ankara of backing. Afterwards Haftar ordered his forces to target Turkish companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya, his spokesman said Friday.
Tripoli, 9 May – The World Health Organization today condemned in the strongest terms an attack on an ambulance in Tripoli, Libya, on Wednesday 8 May, that left 3 health workers injured, one severely.
“This attack on an ambulance with visible logos is a shocking and intolerable violation of international humanitarian law,” said Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative in Libya. “Not only did this attack injure key personnel, but the ambulance itself was taken away, thereby depriving patients of future care.”
Since the conflict in Libya escalated in early April, 11 additional ambulances have been impacted or suffered collateral damage. In April, 3 health workers were killed in Tripoli, and numerous first-line responders have struggled to reach the wounded without being injured themselves. As the conflict continues into its second month, more than 400 people have died and over 2000 have been wounded.
WHO has been supporting field hospitals and field ambulance teams in Libya since the beginning of the conflict. The Organization has also deployed emergency medical teams to key referral hospitals to perform surgeries in hospitals in and around Tripoli. WHO is also providing health facilities with medical supplies, including trauma kits with medicines for war injuries.
“This flagrant breach of the basic rules of warfare could jeopardize the operations of field hospitals and ambulance teams, and deter dedicated health staff from performing their life-saving duties,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “WHO cannot accept any actions that put health workers in harm’s way. Health staff in Libya are working to save lives and must be allowed to work without additional risk to their safety or well-being.”
Tripoli, April 16, 2019 (AFP) - At least 174 people have been killed and 758 wounded in the battle for control over the Libyan capital Tripoli, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. Fighting broke out on April 4 when military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take Tripoli, the seat of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
At least 14 civilians are among those killed and 36 have been wounded, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told journalists citing local health facilities. "WHO has deployed additional surgical staff to support hospitals receiving trauma cases," the United Nations agency wrote on Twitter. Both pro-government forces and Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) accuse each other of targeting civilians, with each launching daily air raids in addition to clashes on the ground.
Fighting in the southern outskirts of the capital has displaced more than 18,000 people, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs reported Monday. Urgent medical supplies were being delivered to Libya's health ministry to support those in the worst-hit areas, the UN's refugee agency said. "Health facilities are in critical need of assistance as the situation on the ground continues deteriorating and number of casualties soaring," UNHCR tweeted.
Tripoli, April 14, 2019 (AFP) - Fighting near Tripoli has killed 121 people and wounded 561 since strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive earlier this month to take the Libyan capital, the World Health Organization said Sunday. WHO's Libya account said on Twitter the organisation was sending medical supplies and more staff to Tripoli, and denounced "repeated attacks on health care workers, vehicles" during the fighting which erupted on April 4. Haftar's forces, which control swathes of the country's east, have defied international calls to halt their battle against fighters loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.
The United Nations' office for humanitarian affairs said more than 13,500 people had been displaced by the clashes, while more than 900 residents are living in shelters. "Three medical personnel have been killed and five ambulances have been incapacitated by shrapnel," OCHA said in a Saturday statement. As well as fighting on the ground, the two sides have launched daily air raids and accuse each other of targeting civilians. The north African country has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, which has led to the creation of a bewildering array of militias all seeking to take control. Haftar backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the UN-backed unity government led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
Climate: There is generally a moderate climate with sunny days and cool nights. The Cape Town region has a mean yearly temperature of 170C while Johannesburg has an annual mean temperature of 160C. This is mainly because Johannesburg is at 5,700 feet altitude. Throughout South Africa, summer extends between October and March and winter is between June and September. In Johannesburg the winter months tend to be dry and cool while the rainy season tends to occur during the warmer summer months.
Health Facilities: In the larger cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban & Pretoria and many others there will be no difficulty in receiving excellent medical attention. However when travelling throughout the more isolated rural regions the same situation does not occur. Travellers should always ensure that they are up-to-date in their routine travel vaccinations. World Travel Medicine Consultants (WTMC) in South Africa offer excellent medical facilities in many of the main centres. Contact by email their head office at
Jet Lag: Even though the hour changes from Ireland are not great after flying for approximately 13 hours you will arrive tired. On the plane journey take some exercise by walking around and occasionally stretching your calf muscles to lessen any risk of blood clots. If you are on the contraceptive pill (women only!) this will increase your risk on a long haul flight and you should talk this through with the doctor looking after your health care advice and vaccines. On arrival, try and rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to catch up with itself. If lying by the pool remember not to fall asleep and wake some hours later with significant sunburn!
Mosquito-Borne Disease: Mosquitoes are most often associated with Malaria, however it is not the only disease which the insect may carry. Insect repellents which contain more than 30% DEET are effective for keeping mosquitoes away but remember to cover your arms and legs when they are biting. This is mainly in the hours between dusk and dawn. The risk of malaria can be reduced by taking malarial prophylaxis on a regular basis if you are planning to visit the risk areas. Anti malaria tablets are advised for those visiting low altitude areas especially areas around the Kruger National Park, north, east and western Transvaal, and the costal lowlands of Natal. Large towns and cities and high altitudes are more likely to be free of mosquitoes.
Effects of Heat: Extreme climate conditions can also lead to gastrointestinal difficulties but don't forget that when you perspire you will loose both water and salt. Replacing the lost water is easy but many travellers forget to replace the salt in their diet. This can lead to muscular cramps, tiredness and lethargy, a dull headache and generally feeling cross and out of sorts. Replacing depleted salt is most easily achieved by sprinkling it on your meals. Salt tablets can be dangerous and are best avoided except in expert hands. If you have any blood pressure difficulties then it will be important to talk this whole issue through with your doctor before leaving Ireland.
Waterborne diseases: Water sources in well developed urban areas of South Africa are generally safe. Outside the main cities caution must always be exercised with regard to drinking water. Safe water should be well chlorinated and so will have a distinct chlorine odour. Sealed bottled water is more preferable especially in less developed areas. Avoid ice in your drinks as its source may be unknown and don't brush your teeth in water you wouldn't want to drink. If unsure be careful and use sealed bottled water from one of the hotels.
Food-Borne Disease: Again, in the larger cities and tourist resorts, the food and its preparation is generally of an excellent standard and you should experience no problems. It is advised however to avoid eating shellfish and cold/rare meats. In particular, Capetown is famous for its various shellfish meals. Personally I would strongly encourage travellers to avoid them even in the best hotels and restaurants. It is just not worth the risk. As in any hot climate it is also wise to choose only the type of fruit you can peel yourself. Above all avoid buying or consuming food from roadside stalls or street vendors.
Rabies in South Africa: Travellers need to be aware that this potentially fatal viral condition occurs throughout Africa. The risk to any tourist or business traveller is very small but common sense needs to be maintained at all times. The disease is mainly transmitted through the bite of an infected warm blooded animal. Usually dogs and cats are involved but also be very careful of monkeys. If bitten by any potentially at risk animal wash out the wound immediately, apply a strong antiseptic and seek medical attention urgently
Yellow Fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is only required for travellers coming from endemic zones in Africa and the Americas. Travellers on scheduled airlines whose flights have originated outside the areas regarded as infected (or who are only in transit through these areas) are NOT required to possess a certificate.
If the flight originated from within a Yellow fever endemic area a certificate is then required.
Vaccination Schedule: Apart from Yellow Fever vaccine in certain circumstances, as mentioned above, there are no other vaccinations required for entry into South Africa from Ireland. Nevertheless there are a number of recommended vaccines for most travellers which need to be discussed. For trekking holidays or extended visits Rabies and Hepatitis B may need to be considered. Most travellers should start their vaccines at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure.
Further Information: South Africa is a beautiful destination with much to offer. Further general health information on staying healthy while travelling abroad may be obtained from the Tropical Medical Bureau. www.tmb.ie
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Johannesburg, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - South Africa on Thursday announced visa waivers for four countries in a bid to boost tourism amid an economic crisis and falling visitor numbers. Visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit for holiday, conferencing and business purposes, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said.
The unilateral decision comes as official tourism figures released in May reflected a dip in the overall number of visitors to South Africa from Europe and the Middle East in the first financial quarter of the year, normally one of the most popular times to visit. Foreign traveller arrivals decreased by more than 10 percent between April and May 2019 alone. Motsoaledi said the South African government was engaging with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand about a similar relaxation of entry requirements for SA citizens. He argued the move by his department would boost tourism "and by extension growing the economy and creating jobs".
South Africa's economy has hit trouble, with gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2019 and unemployment at a record high of 29 percent. The government estimates there is potential to create 2.1 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2028. South Africa is in talks to extend the visa waiver to Ghana, Cuba and Principe and Sao Tome. The country has already waived the visa requirement for 82 of the 193 countries who are UN members.
By Susan NJANJI
Johannesburg, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - Four years ago, South African fashion designer Innocent Molefe, 38, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. A year ago, it developed into multi-drug resistant strain requiring painful injections and heaps of pills. Three months after the first round of treatment, he relapsed and started a second round. At the end of it he still wasn't cured.
Thanks to a new treatment - approved Wednesday by the US Food and Drug Administration - he is now cleared of the disease, has bounced back to work and has even resumed night-clubbing, something he has stopped four years ago. "I was willing to beat TB and I'm living proof. I can move around... I can still go clubbing till the early hours," said the dreadlocked designer at his home in Soweto township. The announcement was especially welcomed in South Africa, one of the countries with the highest number of TB cases. Of the more than 1.6 million TB deaths recorded every year, more than 75,000 are in South Africa alone. In 2017, South Africa recorded more than 322,000 active TB cases. The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period.
The three-drug regimen consists of bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid - collectively known as the BPaL regimen. Pretomanid is the novel compound developed by the New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance and which received the FDA greenlight Wednesday. The treatment regimen was trialed at three sites in South Africa involving 109 patients and achieved a 90 percent success rate after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-ups.
- 'Groundbreaking treatment'-
With the treatment involving five pills of the three drugs daily taken over just six months - it makes easier to administer. This compares to between 30 and 40 drugs that multiple-drug resistant TB patients take each day for up to two years. "Usually and in many places in the world the treatment for (multiple) ... drug resistant TB would take anything between 18 to 24 months," said Pauline Howell, principal investigator of the clinical trial at Sizwe Tropical Disease Hospital in Johannesburg. "This still includes daily injections for six months, which are extremely painful," Howell said, adding that taking only five pills would make a huge difference.
The FDA approval represents a victory for those suffering from highly drug-resistant forms of the world's deadliest infectious disease, said Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of TB Alliance. Last year there were more than half a million drug resistant TB cases in the world. A chronic lung disease which is preventable and largely treatable if caught in time, tuberculosis is the top infectious killer, causing over 1.6 million deaths each year. More than 10 million are cases recorded every year. The disease has worsened as it has become increasingly resistant to available medicines.
TB Alliance started designing the trial in 2014. "This is really groundbreaking result we have here," said Folu Olugbosi, clinical director and head of the South African office of TB Alliance. Patients are moving from a "truckload of pills" to cure the resistant strain with just three drugs and in just six months, Olugbosi said. At the Sizwe hospital northeast of Johannesburg, a patient named Nxumalo arrived from Katlehong township for his regular post-treatment check-up to make sure he is still in the clear. "With the old regimen, I would vomit," said the 23-year-old unemployed man. "But with the one for research, it's easier to take than 24 tablets."
By Béatrice DEBUT
eMalahleni, South Africa, June 27, 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."
Heavy rains and driving winds forced the evacuation of a Cape Town building and left several suburbs without power. City council disaster officials and firefighters evacuated as many as 1,000 people from a building in Kruskal Avenue in Bellville after it was damaged by the storm. City of Cape Town traffic chief Richard Coleman said while no injuries had been reported, the road was closed and emergency service personnel were attending to the incident. Mandy Thomas, of the city’s disaster risk management, said officials were dealing with the incident.
A massive cold front pounded the Western Cape with up to 50mm of rainfall expected over the weekend. The SA Weather Service issued a weather warning on Thursday, informing residents to take proactive measures as the cold front approached. Localised flooding was expected in some areas, and vulnerable residents were advised to dig trenches around their properties.
According to an update issued by disaster risk management earlier on Saturday, there had been numerous reports of flooded roadways and fallen trees. As a result, the electricity supply in parts of Milnerton, Plumstead and Sybrand Park was interrupted. “Roofs were blown off in Belhar, Strand, Khayelitsha, Woodstock and Claremont. No rockfalls or mudslides have been reported. The City's Electricity Department is busy restoring the power and other city departments are busy with mopping up operations,” the update read. A tree is also reported to have fallen over onto a train at Thornton station. Officials said the tree was being removed but that major train delays could be expected.
World Travel News Headlines
Bangkok, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - At least 13 Chinese tourists were killed and dozens injured when their bus skidded off the road and plunged 30 metres into a ravine in Laos, a police officer said Tuesday. The bus was carrying more than 40 Chinese nationals heading towards the tourist town of Luang Prabang when the accident occurred late on Monday. "At this moment, 13 bodies have been recovered... while two are still missing," police officer Xaiyaphon Chitavong told AFP, blaming brake failure for the accident. He added that 31 people were receiving medical treatment. Chinese state media showed photos of rescuers wading through ankle-deep floodwaters.
Traffic accidents in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar are common, with safety regulations often flouted and law enforcement low. The monsoon season from June to October also drenches rural roads with heavy rains creating slippery conditions. Tourism to communist-run Laos has grown in recent years, and visitors from China increased by 13 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to the year before, according to the state-backed Vientiane Times.
Bukavu, DR Congo, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - A child has died from Ebola in DR Congo's South Kivu, health authorities said Monday, the second person to succumb to the virus since the epidemic spread to the eastern province. The announcement last week of the first confirmed cases in South Kivu revived concerns that the highly contagious disease could cross the porous borders of the central African country, where it has claimed more than 1,900 lives since August last year. "A seven-year-old child died yesterday (Sunday) of Ebola" in South Kivu's Mwenga region, said Claude Bahizire, communication officer of South Kivu's provincial health division.
The first death in South Kivu was a woman in her twenties who evaded movement controls to travel from the North Kivu town of Beni, the epicentre of the outbreak, to South Kivu's capital Bukavu and then Mwenga. She died on Wednesday, and her seven-month-old son has been diagnosed with the virus and is receiving treatment. Bahizire said that "two other suspected cases, two women, have been detected and admitted to Bukavu's transit centre". The two women "were in contact with the woman who died last week while she was staying in Bukavu on the way to Mwenga," he added.
The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in North Kivu on August 1, 2018 and spread to Ituri province. The health ministry also announced that "a new health zone had been assigned in North Kivu". A confirmed case of Ebola has been recorded in North Kivu's Pinga region, in Walikale territory, a source said without providing further details. According to the latest numbers published on Sunday, 1,934 people have since died, while 862 have been cured.
The latest outbreak is the second-deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016. Also on Monday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on the nine countries that share a border with DR Congo to show solidarity to stop the spread of Ebola. "We now have an Ebola vaccine that is more than 97 percent effective and treatments that are more than 90 per cent effective if used early enough," he said in Republic of Congo capital Brazzaville.
By Alain JEAN-ROBERT
Paris, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - French construction workers wearing protective masks returned to the site of stricken Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday after a three-week pause due to the risk of lead contamination. Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud was given a tour of the scorched monumet wearing a white protective suit while workers could again be seen surveying the structure which was left damaged and weakened in a massive fire in April.
Restoration of the cathedral has yet to begin with efforts focused entirely on securing the building. The culture ministry has warned it is still at risk of collapse. Efforts to remove lead from the area around Notre-Dame began last week after alarm grew over the presence of the toxic metal. Hundreds of tonnes of lead in the roof and steeple melted during the April 15 blaze that nearly destroyed the gothic masterpiece, with winds spreading the particles well beyond the church grounds.
Residents have accused the Paris authorities of underplaying the risk from the lead although the culture ministry insists safety is the top priority. But prefect Michel Cadot, the government's top official for the Paris region, approved the resumption of the works after visiting the site. "I saw that the different recommendations of the labour inspectors had been implemented," he said, adding the decontamination work would help keep contractors safe. Securing the structure is required before the restoration work can start. The culture ministry said that stones had fallen from the nave vault during a heatwave in July. "It is only the urgency linked to the persistent risk of a collapse that justifies the rhythm of work undertaken" since the fire, it said in a statement Wednesday.
President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious target of five years for the restoration to be finished. But the ministry said the work would not even begin until next year. Paris prosecutors said in June that a poorly stubbed-out cigarette or an electrical fault could have started the fire and opened an investigation into criminal negligence, without targeting any individual.
French investigative news site Mediapart published a report this week accusing the ministry of repeatedly ignoring warnings by labour inspectors about the dangers posed by the lead until work was finally suspended on July 25. Critics have accused the city of failing to notify the public about the test results, while an environmental group has filed a lawsuit alleging that officials failed to sufficiently contain the contamination. The ministry rejected Mediapart's allegations it had failed to pay attention to the risks encountered by workers on the site.
Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - Scores of people including children were wounded Monday after a series of explosions shook the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.
As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province, authorities said, and casualty numbers rose as the day wore on. "The explosions were caused by IEDs in different parts of the city and as groups of people were celebrating independence day," the Nangarhar governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said, referring to improvised explosive devices. Jalalabad is the scene of frequent bomb attacks, and the surrounding terrain is home to both Taliban fighters and the Islamic State group's local affiliate.
At least 52 people were wounded, Khogyani said. Zaher Adel, a spokesman for a local hospital, said 66 wounded people had been brought in. An AFP correspondent saw children among the victims. This year's August 19 celebrations mark 100 years of Afghan independence from British influence. The day was supposed to be one of national pride and unity, but was overshadowed by an IS suicide attack Saturday on a crowded Kabul wedding hall that killed at least 63 people.
In Kabul, locals took to the streets to wave the black-red-and-green Afghan flag, but several public events to commemorate the date were scrapped as Kabul mourns and due to fears of a fresh attack. "We postponed the celebrations to honour the victims, but we will definitely take revenge for our people," Afghan President Ahraf Ghani said. "We will avenge the blood of our people, every drop of it."
Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day, even though the US and the Taliban are in final negotiations for a deal that would see US troops begin to quit Afghanistan and could potentially lead to a reduction in violence.
Lomo del Pino, Spain, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - A raging wildfire on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria forced the evacuation of some 5,000 people, authorities said Sunday, warning it could take days for the blaze to be brought under control. The fire, which has spread to the mountainous Cruz de Tejeda region popular with tourists for its breathtaking views, is "extremely fierce" and "unstable", said Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres in a statement. No fatalities have been reported.
More than 600 firefighters and 14 aircraft battled to contain the flames, hampered by strong winds and high temperatures. With the temperature set to rise Monday, authorities estimate it could take days before the blaze is brought under control. "The next few hours will be very important because the weather forecast for the night is not good," Torres said. The fire broke out days after another wildfire in the same region forced the evacuation of hundreds.
Gran Canaria is the second most populous of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa. The Canary Islands received 13.7 million foreign visitors last year, over half of them from Britain and Germany. Spain is frequently plagued by huge forest fires because of its arid summer climate.
Lisbon, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Portuguese fuel tanker drivers whose strike has caused fuel shortages at the summer holiday season on Sunday ended their industrial action. Drivers have been staging a strike since Monday to demand further wage increases in 2021 and 2022, prompting the government to declare an energy crisis. "Since all the conditions are now in place to negotiate, we decided to end the strike," Pedro Pardal Henriques, spokesman for the National Union of Dangerous Goods Carriers (SNMMP), told reporters.
A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, the union President Francisco Sao Bento said, adding that the union did not "rule out new strikes being called if Antram (the employers association) adopts an uncompromising attitude". Police had launched an operation to escort fuel tankers with extra supplies and Portugal also mobilised about 500 members of the security forces to replace the strikers and drive the trucks. Despite the shortages, Energy Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said about two-thirds of the country's 3,000 or so petrol stations had not run dry.
By By Emal Haidary and Mushtaq Mojaddidi
Kabul, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul in months, officials and witnesses said Sunday. The massive blast, which took place late Saturday in west Kabul, came as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and hopefully build a roadmap to a ceasefire. The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.
The attack "changed my happiness to sorrow", the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told local TV station Tolo News. "My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting," he said. "I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again." Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 63 people had been killed and 182 injured. "Among the wounded are women and children," Rahimi said. Earlier he stated a suicide bomber carried out the attack.
Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children. "The wedding guests were dancing and celebrating the party when the blast happened," recounted Munir Ahmad, 23, who was seriously injured and whose cousin was among the dead. "Following the explosion, there was total chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying for their loved ones," he told AFP from his bed in a local hospital, where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.
Images from inside the hall showed blood-stained bodies on the ground along with pieces of flesh and torn clothes, hats, sandals and bottles of mineral water. The huge blast ripped parts of the ceiling off. The wedding was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility.
Wedding guest Hameed Quresh told AFP the young couple were saying their vows when the bomb went off. "We fainted following the blast, and we don't know who brought us to the hospital," sobbed Quresh, who lost one brother and was himself wounded. Another guest told Tolo that some 1,200 people had been invited. With low security, weddings are seen as easy targets. The attack sent a wave of grief through a city grimly accustomed to atrocities. President Ashraf Ghani called it "barbaric", while Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described it as a "crime against humanity".
- Withdrawal deal expected -
The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity. On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh as he campaigned in presidential elections. The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks. The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see Washington begin to withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan.
The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Saturday's attack suggests any such promise would be tough to keep. The "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists," Ghani said. Few believe such a deal will bring quick peace.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war. Meanwhile, in the northern province of Balkh, 11 members of the same family were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb, officials said. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban for planting the device.
By Amélie BOTTOLLIER-DEPOIS
Paris, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Seafood lovers who prize the mussel for its earthy taste and succulent flesh may be unaware of its growing potential in the fight against water pollution. The mussel is the hoover of the sea, taking in phytoplankton for nourishment along with microplastics, pesticides and other pollutants -- which makes it an excellent gauge.
One day, it may also be pressed into service to cleanse water. "It's a super-filter in the marine world, filtering up to 25 litres of water a day," says marine biologist Leila Meistertzheim. "It's a real model of bioaccumulation of pollutants generally speaking." As they pump and filter the water through their gills in order to feed and breathe, mussels store almost everything else that passes through -- which is why strict health rules apply for those destined for human consumption.
Like canaries in a coal mine, mussels have long been used as "bio-indicators" of the health of the seas, lakes and rivers they inhabit. Little-known pollutants can turn up to join the usual suspects, with increasing attention paid to microplastics containing bisphenol A and phthalates, both thought to be endocrine disruptors.
Meistertzheim heads a study for France's Tara Ocean Foundation using mussels to gauge the health of the estuaries of the Thames, Elba and Seine rivers. The mussels, placed in fish traps, are submerged in the waters for a month before researchers dissect them to determine what chemical substances lurk in their tissues. The idea of deploying mussels across the oceans to absorb ubiquitous microplastics is just a dream for now, but for other pollutants, the bivalves are already at work. "In some places, mussels are used, as well as oysters, to cleanse the sea of pesticides, for example," Meistertzheim notes.
- E. coli busters -
Richard Luthy, an environmental engineer from California's Stanford University, says that, in most cases, mussels harvested from contaminated waters should not be eaten. But if the contaminant is E. coli, mussels can be thanked for the "removal and inactivation" of the faecal material, he says, calling the service a "public health benefit". The mussels are edible because they "excrete the bacteria as faeces or mucus," he says. Mussels living in waterways affected by eutrophication -- often marked by abundant algae -- are also fit for human consumption, researchers say. The phenomenon is often the result of waste dumped into the waterway containing phosphates and nitrites, such as detergents, fertilisers and sewage. The nutrients in these substances encourage the proliferation of algae, which in turn starves the water of oxygen, upsetting the ecosystem.
Mussels "recycle" these nutrients by feeding on the algae, says Eve Galimany, a researcher of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Milford Laboratory who has experimented with mussels in the Bronx River in New York. The recycling principle is already at work in a pilot project titled Baltic Blue Growth in Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries which grows mussels to be fed to animals such as poultry, fish and pigs. "Eutrophication... is the biggest problem of the Baltic Sea, the most urgent one," says project head Lena Tasse. Mussels "could be part of a solution". Why feed them to animals if they are safe for humans? Because Baltic mussels are too small to be of interest to seafood lovers, says Tasse, adding: "Swedes like big mussels."
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on the effects of microplastics on human health. A recent report by WWF said that humans ingest an average of five grammes of microplastics a week -- about the weight of a credit card. A 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, based on samples from British coastlines and supermarkets, estimated that every 100 grammes (3.5 ounces) of mussels contained 70 tiny pieces of plastic. Should we be worried? Meistertzheim thinks not. "I eat them," she says. "A dish of mussels is not necessarily worse than organic hamburger meat wrapped in plastic."