Afghanistal US Consular Information Sheet March 03, 2009
Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but still faces daunting challenges, including de
A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport or any other ports of entry in Afghanistan. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125. 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:
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan emphasizes that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. The Taliban and associated insurgent groups, al-Qaida network terrorist organizations, and narco-traffickers oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan and to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence, including targeting civilians. Terrorist activities may include, but are not limited to bombings -- including improvised explosive devices and car bombs -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings. There were over 120 suicide attacks in 2008. There is an ongoing threat to attack and kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. In 2008,, more than 30 NGO workers were killed (six foreigners) and at least 78 NGO staff members (seven foreigners) were abducted. Over 25 other foreign civilians, including journalists, were kidnapped. Kabul continues to experience suicide bombings against Afghan government personnel and installations, Afghan and coalition military assets, and international civilians. Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Kandahar highways and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. Insurgents continue to use roadside and car bombs to conduct attacks and abductions along major highways. Millions of unexploded land mines and other ordinance present a constant danger. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns. The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world. 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, 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.
A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for assistance. The Embassy 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 provide a list of attorneys if needed. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Afghanistan is: 119 Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing is often viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. 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.
Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are limited. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities, but can be unreliable. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited. In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www.afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country. There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul, however, there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Afghanistan. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx| The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan. However, if one has questions, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Afghanistan at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org before you travel. 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. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering improvised-explosive devices and land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordinance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and kidnappings are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved. 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 Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’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. U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. R
EGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. 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 in Kabul on Great Massoud (Airport) Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov/ * * * * * This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 16, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Laurent ABADIE
Kabul, Jan 11, 2019 (AFP) - Standing in his garden in Kabul, Baz Mohammad Kochi oversees the drilling of a new well more than 100 metres deep after his first water reservoir dried up. He is not alone. A shortage of rain and snow, a booming population and wasteful consumption have drained the Afghan capital's water basin and sparked a race to the bottom as households and businesses bore deeper and deeper wells in search of the precious resource. "The water level has dropped so much that it is now necessary to reach other underground basins 100 metres, even 120 metres" deep, says well digger Mohammad Aman as his dilapidated machine pierces the ochre earth in Kochi's yard. Every year 80 million cubic metres (2.8 billion cubic feet) of water are extracted from Kabul's aquifers -- nearly double the natural recharge rate through precipitation, according to utility Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation.
As a result Kabul's water table has fallen at least 30 metres (100 feet) in recent years, says Asian Development Bank deputy country director Shanny Campbell. Snow has fallen in the city this month but it is not nearly enough to solve the water shortage -- in some areas the level has dropped 20 metres in the past year. "The problem we have in Kabul is the massive increase in population, impact of climate change and overall less precipitation and snowfall," Campbell explains.
Only around 20 percent of Kabul is connected to the city's piped water system, leaving many residents to ensure their own supply by digging wells that are often shared by several neighbours. Others buy water from private companies, or, like Mohammad Nazir, fill up jerry cans at mosques or more than 400 public taps scattered around the city. "There is no point turning on the taps -- there is no water here," says Nazir, 50, who lives on a hill where the ground is too hard to dig a well and the city's pipes do not reach. "It's the worst year we've ever lived."
- Undrinkable -
Water is not only scarce in Kabul, but most of it is undrinkable, according to the National Environmental Protection Agency. Around 70 percent of the city's groundwater is contaminated by waste and chemicals from leaky household septic tanks and industrial plants that can cause diarrhoea or other illnesses if the water is not boiled or purified properly. Efforts to increase connections to the municipal piped water network and improve sanitation systems are under way. But progress is slow as authorities struggle to keep up with demand in one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Kabul's population has more than doubled to around five million in the past 30 years, boosted by the arrival of people fleeing war and poverty. It is expected to reach eight million by 2050, according to a report published in the Washington-based SAIS Review of International Affairs in 2017. Improving living standards for many households also means more people are showering and washing cars than ever before. A lack of public awareness about water conservation and no restrictions on its usage means much of it is wasted.
While they try to work out how to replenish the city's subterranean reserves, authorities are using a television campaign and the influence of religious leaders to encourage households to save water. "In our Friday sermons, we call on the faithful not to waste water," said Abdul Raouf, a member of the Ulema Council, the country's highest religious body. As they wait for the first winter snow in the city, worshippers also pray "for this drought to end as soon as possible". Even the Taliban are on board, issuing a statement to followers to "pray for rain".
- Quick fix -
Authorities are not waiting for divine intervention to fix Kabul's water problem. With droughts, like the one affecting swathes of Afghanistan this year, expected to increase in severity and frequency as a result of climate change, a long-term solution is needed. Among the options being explored by the ADB are "spreading basins" -- large ponds that trap rainwater long enough for it to seep into the soil and recharge aquifers.
The ADB is also looking at using "pumps to inject the water directly into" the basins and the construction of a dam on the outskirts of Kabul. "The answer is not in one technology but in a mixture," Campbell said. "Kabul is under a situation of water stress so we're looking for a solution with lower impact, lower cost technology that could fix the problem quickly." That would be welcome news to Kochi, who cannot hide his relief as water gushes out his new well. He knows the borehole could dry up again soon. "We have survived revolution and civil wars, the Taliban regime and suicide attacks, but this water shortage may force us to leave," Kochi says. "There is no life without water."
Kabul, Nov 20, 2018 (AFP) - At least 40 people were killed in an explosion at a meeting of top clerics in Kabul on Tuesday, officials said, in one of the deadliest attacks to strike the Afghan capital in months. Another 60 people were wounded in the blast, health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said, which targeted an Ulema Council gathering at a wedding hall to mark the Prophet Mohammad's birthday. "Initial information suggests it was caused by a suicide bomber," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said. He said the number of dead and wounded was "more than 50" so far. A manager of Uranus Wedding Palace, which also hosts political and religious functions, told AFP a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the gathering. "There are a lot of casualties -- I myself have counted 30 casualties," he told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
World Travel News Headlines
By Amelie BARON
Port-au-Prince, Feb 21, 2019 (AFP) - With flaming barricades and widespread looting, 10 days of street violence in Haiti have all but buried a tourism industry that managed to resurrect itself after a devastating earthquake in 2010. Ugly, violent footage beamed around the world has again sent the message that this impoverished Caribbean country is politically unstable and no place to go on vacation.
The final straw was the helicopter evacuation last week of 100-odd Canadian tourists trapped as angry protesters demanded the resignation of the president, whom they accuse of corruption. "We have been through 12 days of hell. We managed the crisis but today we are suffering from the aftershocks," said Tourism Minister Marie-Christine Stephenson.
- Blacklist -
Beside the direct effects of the demonstrations, the United States delivered another crushing blow on February 14 when it urged its citizens not to travel to Haiti, which thus joined a no-go list with war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.
The minister said the US travel alert for Haiti was too harsh, calling the riots something that flared up unexpectedly and are now over. "OK, they lasted 12 days but I am not sure that other Caribbean countries, which have had riots of their own, have been punished as severely and quickly as we have," said Stephenson. Overnight, the decision by the US State Department hit the tourism industry hard. Travel web sites simply stopped offering flights to Haiti's two international airports. Hotels are reporting cancellation of reservations and many empty rooms.
Officials in the industry have yet to tally up the damage but say that for the second time in less than a year, they will have to lay off workers. In July of last year, three days of riots over a government attempt to raise fuel prices ruined the summer vacation season for Haiti's tourism industry. It is not just hotels that will suffer again, said Beatrice Nadal-Mevs, president of the Haitian Tourism Association. "This is going to affect everyday people because these are direct jobs that are going to be lost and supply chains will be threatened: farming, fishing, crafts, transport," Nadal-Mevs said.
- Mardi Gras cancelled -
With the opposition planning more demonstrations to seek the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, the sector got yet more bad news with word that Carnival celebrations have been called off in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. City Hall said it could not guarantee revelers' safety. The festivities, which this year were planned for March 3-5, usually draw many Haitians living abroad and fleeing the winter cold in Canada and the eastern US.
Another major Carnival celebration is scheduled to take place in the city of Gonaives, but the government has not said if it will go ahead. As grim as things are, some foreign tourists have gone ahead with visits to Haiti. On Wednesday, a group of Australians under police escort visited a square featuring statues of heros of Haiti's independence from France. Days ago, demonstrators at the same plaza were throwing rocks at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas grenades.
A woman named Carole, who did not want to give her last name, said, "I trust the company we're traveling with. They not only want to take us but they want to bring us back." Kevin McCue, another of the people in the group of 20, said he was glad that their tour operator had not opted for Plan B, which would have meant skipping Haiti and spending the whole week in the neighboring Dominican Republic. "Tourism is alive and well here. People should come. The more they come, the better they spread some money among people who need it and the better for Haiti," said McCue.
By Shafiqul ALAM
Dhaka, Feb 21, 2019 (AFP) - At least 70 people were killed when fire tore through crumbling apartment blocks in a historic part of Dhaka, setting off a chain of explosions and a wall of flames down nearby streets, officials said Thursday. It started in one building where chemicals for deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored and spread at lightning speed to four nearby buildings, the fire service said. People became trapped by the flames at a nearby bridal party and a restaurant. TV images showed the gates to one building were chained up so residents were unable to escape.
Traffic jams in the clogged narrow streets held up the rescue operation. Bangladesh fire chief Ali Ahmed said at least 70 people were killed but that the toll would likely rise. "The number of bodies may increase. The search is still going on," he told AFP. Doctors said at least 10 of the scores of injured were in critical condition. Firefighters who took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control, went through the blackened floors of the building, littered with spray cans, looking for bodies.
The fire started at about 10.40pm (1640 GMT) on Wednesday at Chawkbazar in the old Mughal part of the capital. Ahmed said it may have been started by a gas cylinder and quickly spread through the building where chemicals were stored in rooms alongside the apartments. Chemicals used for household products were also stored in the nearby buildings. They exploded as the fire spread, witnesses said. "There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape," the fire chief said. Another fire official told reporters the blaze was under control but was not extinguished despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters. "It will take time. This is not like any other fire," he said, adding that the inferno had been made more devastating by the "highly combustible" chemicals. Fire trucks had struggled in the narrow streets to reach the scene and there was also a lack of water for the battle, officials said. The main gate of one five storey building was chained up, trapping residents inside, according to images shown on Bangladesh television.
- 'Flames were everywhere' -
Members of a bridal party in a nearby community centre were also caught in the fire and many were injured. Others were caught in small restaurants. Dhaka deputy police commissioner Ibrahim Khan said at least two cars and 10 cycle rickshaws were burned in the fire. "The victims included passersby, some people who were eating food at a restaurants and some members of the bridal party," he told AFP. "I saw the charred body of a woman who was holding her daughter in her lap as their rickshaw was caught in the fire," said one witness.
Haji Abdul Kader, whose shop was destroyed, said he only survived the blaze as as he had left to go to a pharmacy. "When I was at the pharmacy, I heard a big bang. I turned back and saw the whole street, which was jam packed with cars and rickshaws, in flames. Flames were everywhere," he told AFP. "I got burned and rushed to hospital," he said.
Doctors at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said at least 55 people were injured, including 10 in a critical condition. Hundreds of people rushed to the hospital looking for missing relatives. However, most of the bodies of the dead were charred beyond recognition. Sohag Hossain, one of the injured, told the Daily Star that he and two friends were working at a plastic factory in one of the buildings at the time of the fire. They heard an explosion and could not escape the flames.
A similar blaze in 2010 in an old Dhaka building, which was also used as a chemical warehouse, killed more than 120 people in one of the worst fire disasters in the city of 20 million people. Dhaka authorities launched a crackdown on chemical warehouses in residential areas following the blaze, but efforts to rein in the practice have waned. Many buildings in Bangladesh lack adequate fire safety measures and the enforcement of fire regulations in factories and apartment buildings is lax.
Source: El Pais in English [edited]
An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of death of a 46-year-old woman, who became ill after eating at a one-star Michelin restaurant called RiFF in Valencia. A total of 23 other patrons, including the victim's husband and 12-year-old son, also fell sick after the meal but their symptoms were mild and they have reportedly all recovered. The case was confirmed by regional health chief Ana Barcela, who expressed her condolences to the family and said that an investigation was already underway. "We've conducted a primary inspection of the establishment and everything appears to be normal," she said. "Analytical tests will now be carried out on the food products."
Barcela explained that the regional public health department will be in charge of the investigation and for determining the causes behind the woman's death. According to sources from the regional health department, the food poisoning outbreak was reported on [Sun 17 Feb 2019], after the 3 family members fell ill. They began to show symptoms of food poisoning - vomiting and diarrhoea - on [Sat 16 Feb 2019]. According to Europa Press, the father and son recovered but the woman's symptoms were more severe, and she died in her home early on the following morning. The investigation into the death revealed that a total of 9 patrons had experienced illness, mainly vomiting, after eating at the same restaurant.
Subsequently, it emerged that a further 14 people had also suffered light symptoms. "17 people have been interviewed, of whom 14 stated that they had some kind of mild symptoms," explained regional health chief Ana BarcelÃ³ today, [Wed 20 Feb 2019]. "The samples that have been collected over the last few days have been sent to the National Toxicology Institute to be analyzed." Public health officials inspected the restaurant on [Mon 18 Feb 2019], but did not find any problems that could have contributed to the food poisoning. Investigators also collected samples of ingredients and raw food products that were part of the menu, and are currently analyzing them.
Barcela added that at this point she could not confirm whether the sickness had been caused by morel mushrooms that were on the restaurant's menu. "We will have to wait for the autopsy to be carried out on the woman before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an existing condition," she explained on [Wed 20 Feb 2019].
Forensic teams are working to determine whether she could have been poisoned by something she ate, or whether she may have choked on her own vomit. In a statement, the owner of RiFF, Bernd H. Knaller, announced that the restaurant will remain closed until the cause of the food poisoning outbreak is determined and "activities can resume with full assurances for the staff and the patrons." The owner said he has been cooperating with the regional health department on the investigation and pointed out that the inspection "showed that the restaurant complies with all sanitary regulations." He added: "Regardless of what caused the situation, I want to convey my deep regret for what happened, and I hope all of the facts will be clarified shortly." [Byline: Cristina Vazquez]
- Report all cases of confirmed typhoid fever to the appropriate local or state health departments." - ProMED Mod.LL]
Geneva, Feb 19, 2019 (AFP) - An avalanche left four skiers injured Tuesday at a resort in the Swiss Alps where rescue operations went on after dark with police fearing people could still be trapped under the snow. The authorities held a press conference to announce the injuries, including one person seriously hurt, after local reports said up to a dozen people were engulfed by the avalanche. Police officers said that based on witness reports other skiers could still be buried and the search would continue into the night.
Swiss RTS television said the army had set up lighting to aid the 240 rescue workers at the site. The police had earlier tweeted that several people were under the avalanche that hit early afternoon on a slope 2,600 metres (8,600 feet) up at Crans-Montana, which was busy with skiers during school holidays. A local newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, had quoted the head of Crans-Montana's municipal government, Nicolas Feraud, as estimating that "between 10 and 12 people" were buried under the snow. "We are shocked and hope for good news about these people," Feraud was quoted as saying.
A first attempt at locating victims using sniffer dogs was unsuccessful, a rescue worker told Le Nouvelliste, with four helicopters joining the search from the air. Pierre Huguenin, of the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, described the snow in the area as damp and dense. According to statistics from his institute, after 15 minutes under an avalanche, the chances of survival are no more than 50 percent. Le Nouvelliste said the avalanche swept over 300 to 400 metres (yards) of the lower section of the Kandahar piste. It quoted rescue workers as saying the snow was compacted and more than two metres (seven feet) thick.
Crans-Montana's website had listed the risk of an avalanche at two on a scale that runs from one (lowest risk) to five. As the victims were on a designated ski slope, they were unlikely to have detector equipment to help rescue workers locate them. The vast majority of deadly avalanches in the Alpine nation hit people skiing off-piste. "We don't know yet whether the avalanche detached by itself or was set off by skiers, or a rockfall," Swiss avalanche expert Robert Bolognesi told the daily 20 Minutes.
Prague, Feb 20, 2019 (AFP) - Czech authorities said Wednesday they would slap checks on beef imported from Poland after veterinarians found the dangerous Salmonella bacteria in a 700-kilogramme batch of Polish beef. "Tests have shown the presence of Salmonella enteritidis, which can cause serious diarrhoea and affect human health, in beef imported from Poland on February 13," Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman told reporters.
Czech veterinary authorities have warned the European Commission and Polish authorities through a rapid warning system, he said, adding that they are also checking whether any of the meat has been consumed. "The State Veterinary Administration (SVS) will immediately adopt an extraordinary measure -- all beef imported from Poland must be tested in a lab before hitting the market," Toman added.
SVS head Zbynek Semerad said meat from the 700-kilo (1,500-pound) batch had been distributed to five "places" in the Czech Republic and one in Slovakia. "I will inform my Slovak counterpart. As far as we know, not all of the meat has been distributed to the end customer," Semerad said. The case comes on the heels of a scandal which saw Poland export a total of 2.7 tonnes of suspect beef to around a dozen fellow EU members, triggering an EU probe.
The scandal erupted in January when the TVN24 commercial news channel aired footage of apparently sick or lame cows being butchered at a small slaughterhouse in northeast Poland in secret late at night when veterinary authorities were unlikely to visit. Poland is a leading producer and exporter of meat in Europe, turning out around 600,000 tonnes of beef per year and exporting most of it mainly to the EU, according to meat producer associations.
Kuala Lumpur, Feb 20, 2019 (AFP) - Six people, including three foreigners, were killed when a fire broke out Wednesday in a Malaysian karaoke centre, with rescuers describing scenes of chaos as the blaze engulfed the building. The fire erupted before dawn on the fourth floor of an eight-storey building in the city of Ipoh, northern Perak state.
Firefighters rushed to the scene and found the bodies of six people who had died of smoke inhalation, Perak fire department acting director Sayani Saidon told AFP. "We came across two locals, two Vietnamese women and a Bangladeshi man. We are still determining the identity of the sixth person," she said.
Firefighters rescued eight people alive, including two in critical condition, she added. People inside were unable to find the way out after the fire erupted as exit lights did not come on, she said. Those that survived had run to an upper level to escape the flames. "When the fire happened, all the electricity went out, and it was dark, so the exit signs weren't clear," she said. The building was originally an office block, and had 30 karaoke rooms on the fourth and fifth floors.