Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu
A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. 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
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.
In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. 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 is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. 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 (CDC) 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/en
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 Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. Please see our Customs Information 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 Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania 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. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
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 Albania 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 Albania. 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 Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday. More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.
Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry. The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country. Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
Tirana, Dec 3, 2017 (AFP) - Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed in Albania to rescue stranded residents after heavy rainfall triggered major flooding, and caused the death of a utility worker, officials and the power company said Sunday. The victim, Sabri Vlinga, died while he was working on a electricity pole at Roskovec in the flooded south of the country, the power company said in statement. Two other people were injured in similar accidents. it added. Some 6,400 police and soldiers have been sent to help rescue people stranded by the floods, Prime MInister Edi Rama said Saturday, calling the situation "very critical".
Around 1,500 people in the affected areas have been rescued, while several thousand homes were without electricity as many utility poles have been swept away by mudslides, said Shemsi Prenci, head of civil protection. More than 7,874 hectares (19,450 acres) of farm land as well as 3,193 homes are under water and several roads in the south remained impassable.
Army forces have built a temporary bridge at Darezeze, about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the capital Tirana, to come to the aid of 2,000 residents stranded by the floods, the defence ministry said. In neighbouring Macedonia, the heavy rains have also caused flooding as several rivers include the main Vardar river have burst their banks, the MIA news agency reported.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - Emira Sela covers her face with her hand to hide a disfiguring abscess, the traumatic result of unregulated cosmetic treatments now rampant across Albania. The 31-year-old began to worry when wrinkles appeared on her face. Sela's hairdresser told her that a simple injection, costing around 60 euros ($65), would banish the signs of ageing. "She assured me that I would not risk anything. She even listed well-known names" of women who had undergone such treatment, said Sela. "I did not think twice, I trusted her without asking questions," said the blonde woman with green eyes, her voice trembling.
Albanian hair and beauty salons lacking expertise and medical supervision are offering such cosmetic treatments, unregulated in a legal vacuum, much to the alarm of qualified doctors. A single injection of a product whose content and dosage Sela knew nothing about was enough to ruin her life in late August. Despite antibiotics she has permanent pain, fever and nausea, while the abscess on her right cheek forces her eye to half-close and her face is nearly paralysed. "I am so disfigured that I tried to commit suicide," said Sela, who lost her job in a bank. Her only hope now is corrective surgery at an Italian hospital, scheduled for this month.
- Desiring Kardashian look -
"There are more and more impostors with syringes," said Panajot Papa, a plastic surgeon at a private clinic in Tirana. "The problem is also the products... Forbidden in Europe, they enter illegally from Turkey or China." Eriona Shehu, a dermatologist at Tirana's university hospital, said these unregulated synthetic products, such as injected liquid silicone and acrylamide, were being offered at temptingly low prices.
"Cosmetic interventions have become a lucrative industry. The patient is only a customer, exposed to a number of risks." Shehu said the desire to look like voluptuous US reality television star Kim Kardashian was "destroying the lives of young Albanian girls looking for beauty". Albanian doctors say the typical age of clients for such procedures is between 16 and 28. In the country of about three million people, the demand for cosmetic interventions rose more than 50 percent in 2015, according to a study published by Albania's economic magazine Monitor.
Promotional offers can be seen everywhere, such as a beauty salon advertising 20 percent reductions for three people coming together for treatment during the holiday season. Papa says he has treated a dozen young women aged between 20 and 27 who suffered complications after having their lips and cheekbones swollen with injected liquid silicone for 40 to 50 euros. The product has been banned for cosmetic use in countries such as Italy and France for more than 15 years. Papa said such botched interventions left these women prone to particularly bad swellings during their menstrual period, requiring further treatment -- and he warned they may suffer such symptoms for life.
- Closing legal gap -
Albanian doctors are worried about foreign practitioners who come from Italy, Turkey and Greece to work just for a weekend. "They may not have a diploma, qualification or licence for these kind of interventions or for assuming the responsibility of a patient's medical follow-up," said Besim Boci, head of the otolaryngology department at Tirana's university hospital. Due to legal loopholes, the judiciary cannot step in. A spokesman at Tirana's tribunal, Alba Nikolla, admits that it is currently impossible to "open investigations and prosecute based only on complaints" against practitioners.
But authorities are set to tackle this with a draft law to control cosmetic products and beauty salons, which is due to be introduced in parliament in the next few months. The law complies with the requirements of the European Union, which Albania aspires to join, and will enable authorities to shut down rogue establishments using synthetic products. When health is adversely affected, practitioners could be imprisoned for three to 10 years. Such regulations could go some way to easing the trauma of women like Elisa Lura, a 22-year-old economics student. She underwent a laser treatment to restore her natural look after paying 50 euros to a neighbourhood salon for permanent eyebrow tattoos, which went wrong. But the laser made things much worse. "Everything is spoiled!" she said of her face now covered with painful scars.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Albania, Jan 13, 2016 (AFP) - With her sick daughter in the arms, Mira Lela pushes her way through the hallway of the doctor's clinic, crowded with patients ailing from heavy pollution in Albania's capital. "This is an emergency, she has difficulty breathing," said the tearful woman, forcing open the door to the office of Bardhyl Vaqari, who has worked in the specialist Tirana clinic for more than 20 years. "An acute asthma attack," said the doctor on seeing the child. "The number of people with respiratory allergies and cardiovascular problems has greatly increased," he told AFP, adding that the number of patients on the clinic's books has more than doubled to 8,000 in the last four years.
On the noisy and congested streets outside, clapped-out bangers and Hummer trucks cross paths with Mercedes, BMWs and overloaded buses that leave a trail of black smoke and heavy odour. Having been cut off from the world under a strict communist regime until 1991, the Western Balkan city had just a few hundred cars on its roads in the 1990s.
But today, through a mixture of pride, luxury-seeking and necessity, given the lack of public transport, there are more than 190,000 cars circulating in a city of about one million people. "Albanians take the car even when going to buy bread in a nearby store. That's why the traffic is overloaded all day and this increases pollution levels," said Altin Duka, a despairing 65-year-old shopkeeper.
The average age of vehicles on Tirana's roads is around 16 years, twice the European average, according to Gani Cupi, deputy manager of Albania's Road Transport Services. Many of the vehicles do not meet the standards of the European Union, which Albania hopes to join. "The traffic load, the age of vehicles, their technical condition but also the poor quality of fuel are all factors contributing to the capital's pollution," said Cupi.
- Taxing dilemmas -
In a bid to clean up the air, Albanian authorities considered doubling taxes on ageing vehicles but then dropped such plans. Analysts suggested the cost would weigh too heavily on citizens in one of the poorest countries in Europe. New cars are already exempt from paying annual tax for the first three years, but authorities in 2012 lifted a levy on the import of old vehicles as the EU considered it a "fiscal discrimination".
Tirana's Mayor Erion Veliaj has pledged to battle against the fumes by increasing the number of green spaces, introducing hybrid buses and improving infrastructure in the city, which is crammed with mostly illegal constructions. "The number of vehicles does not stop growing," he told AFP, pointing out that about 500 people die in the city each year "because of respiratory or cardiovascular problems related to pollution".
A report this year from the European Environment Agency noted a 20 to 30 percent decrease in Tirana's concentration levels of PM10 and PM2.5 -- damaging particulate matter -- according to data assessment from 2011 to 2013. But Laureta Dibra, head of the air and climate change department at Albania's Environment Ministry, told AFP that PM10 levels had actually been rising in areas of heavy traffic in recent years. Tirana remains "among the most polluted cities in Europe", added the director of the National Environment Agency, Julian Beqiri. "The level of the population's exposure to pollutants is still a problem," he said.
- On your bikes -
In an effort to improve air quality in the capital and educate residents, Tirana organised two car-free days in 2015, when the air was said to be at least four times less polluted than usual. Worried activists are campaigning to promote the bicycle as a means of transport and a way of life. Ecovolis, a bike sharing system, rents out at least 200 bicycles from different tations around Tirana, at 60 leke (44 euro cents, $0.47) per bike per hour -- but many people still prefer getting behind the wheel.
Although Albania's energy minister claims that 95 percent of fuel meets the required standards, even Prime Minister Edi Rama attacked its quality in May last year. "It is so bad that even a strong car like a Mercedes ends up being bad for Albanians' lungs," he said, calling for urgent measures to improve fuel controls. The government says restrictions have since been tightened, but those at the frontline of the fumes remain unhappy. "I come home in the evening with a completely dry throat and a bitter taste my mouth," said Bequir Veseli, 37, a traffic policeman who spends eight hours a day at the centre of a chaotic roundabout. "I have trouble breathing but what can I do? The next day I have to go back to my post".
September 15, 2008
Paraguay is a constitutional democracy with a developing economy.
Tourist facilities are adequate in the capital city of Asuncion, but they vary greatly
Travelers outside Asuncion should consider seeking travel agency assistance, as satisfactory or adequate tourist facilities are very limited in other major cities and almost nonexistent in remote areas.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Paraguay for additional information.
A passport and visa are required.
U.S. citizens traveling to Paraguay must submit completed visa applications in person or by secure messenger to the Paraguayan Embassy or one of the consulates and pay a fee.
Paraguay issues visas for one-entry or multiple entries up to the validity of the U.S. passport.
Applicants under 18 years of age traveling alone must appear with both of their parents or a legal guardian.
In case of a guardian, an original and one copy of proof of legal guardianship are required.
A document of authorization from parents/guardian will be accepted only if it is notarized and certified by the county clerk.
Travelers entering or departing Paraguay with regular U.S. passports will be fingerprinted.
Some airlines include the Paraguayan airport departure tax in the price of the airline ticket.
It is recommended that you check with the airline in order to determine whether or not the departure tax has been included.
If the tax is not included in the airline ticket then payment would be required upon departure in either U.S. or local currency (no credit cards or checks accepted). Visit the Embassy of Paraguay web site at http://www.embaparusa.gov.py for the most current visa information.
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 stated in the Department of State's latest Worldwide Caution, U.S. citizens overseas may be targeted by extremist groups and should maintain a high level of vigilance.
The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any specific terrorist threat to Americans in Paraguay.
Individuals and organizations providing financial support to extremist groups operate in Ciudad del Este and along the tri-border area between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.
Small armed groups have also been reported to be operating in the San Pedro and Concepcion Departments.
Drug trafficking remains a serious concern in the Department of Amambay.
Because of concerns about the lack of security in border areas, the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion requires U.S. Government personnel and their family members to provide advance notice and a travel itinerary when traveling to Ciudad del Este or Pedro Juan Caballero.
As a general precaution, the Embassy also counsels its employees traveling outside the capital to provide an itinerary including dates, contact names, and telephone numbers where the employee may be reached.
Since January 2007, there have been numerous kidnapping incidents mainly in the Alto Parana department.
Targets have been members of the Paraguayan business community or their family members.
It is believed that the individuals responsible for the kidnappings are financially motivated and have pre-selected their targets based on the victims’ wealth.
U.S. citizens should avoid large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest.
Such activities have resulted in intermittent road closures including major routes traveled by tourists and residents.
While generally nonviolent, demonstrations and/or roadblocks have turned violent in the past.
Areas where such closures and barricades exist should be avoided.
U.S. citizens who encounter demonstrations and/or roadblocks should not attempt to continue the planned travel or to confront those at the roadblock.
Instead, they should avoid areas where individuals are demonstrating and in case of roadblock, wait for the road to reopen or return to the origin of their trip.
Uniformed police often conduct roving checks of vehicles and passengers.
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 United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States 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 has increased in recent years with criminals often targeting those thought to be wealthy.
Although most crime is nonviolent, there has been an increase in the use of weapons and there have been incidents where extreme violence has been used.
U.S. citizens have on occasion been the victims of assaults, kidnappings, robberies, and rapes.
Local authorities frequently lack the training and resources to solve these cases.
Under these circumstances, U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Paraguay should be aware of their surroundings and security at all times.
They should take common sense precautions including refraining from displaying expensive-looking cameras and jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.
Resistance to armed assailants has often aggravated the situation and therefore is not advised.
Armed robbery, carjackings, car theft, and home invasions are a problem in both urban and rural areas.
Street crime, including pick pocketing and mugging, is prevalent in cities.
The number of pick pocketing incidents and armed assaults is also increasing on public buses and in the downtown area of Asunción.
As many incidents on public buses involve individuals snatching valuables, passengers should not wear expensive-looking jewelry or display other flashy items.
There have been incidents of pilferage from checked baggage at both airports and bus terminals.
Travelers have found it prudent to hide valuables on their person or in carry-on luggage.
Unauthorized ticket vendors also reportedly operate at the Asuncion bus terminal, badgering travelers into buying tickets for substandard or non-existent services.
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 are 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.
Below are the local equivalent phone numbers to the “911” emergency line in Paraguay.
In Asuncion, the following phone numbers exist for roadside/ambulance assistance:
Emergency Services, including police and ambulances:
Fire Department, including rescue of accident victims: 131, 132.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Adequate medical facilities, prescription and over-the-counter medicine, supplies, and services are available only in Asuncion.
Elsewhere, these are limited and may not exist.
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/en.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to Paraguay or foreign residents of the country.
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 Paraguay is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
U.S. citizens have been injured and killed in traffic accidents.
Only minimal standards must be met to obtain a Paraguayan driver's license, and driver education prior to licensing is not common.
Drivers throughout Paraguay routinely ignore traffic regulations.
No vehicle insurance is required, and many Paraguayans drive without any insurance coverage.
Persons who drive in Paraguay should be prepared to drive defensively and with their own insurance in both urban and rural areas.
Public transportation is readily available for urban and inter-city travel.
Buses vary in maintenance conditions and may not meet U.S. safety standards.
Armed robberies and pick pocketing occur on buses in cities and rural areas, sometimes with the apparent collusion of the bus driver.
Taxis are available and may be called using telephone numbers listed in the newspapers.
No passenger train service exists.
Bicycle travel may not be safe due to traffic and other road hazards.
Most urban streets consist of cobblestones over dirt.
Some roads in Asuncion and other large cities are paved.
However, these roads frequently develop potholes that often remain unrepaired.
Nearly all rural roads are unpaved, and during rainy periods and the rainy season (November-March/April), they may be impassable.
Road signs indicating hazards, such as sharp curves or major intersections, are lacking in many areas.
Driving or traveling at night is not advisable outside Asuncion because pedestrians, animals, or vehicles without proper lights are often on the roads.
In addition, assaults and other crimes against motorists traveling at night have occurred.
Extra precautions should be exercised along infrequently traveled portions of the rural roads.
Intercity highway maintenance is not equal to U.S. standards.
The privately maintained toll road between Caaguazu and Ciudad del Este and the routes between Asuncion and Encarnacion and Asuncion and Pedro Juan Caballero are in good condition.
Most other intercity routes are in good to fair condition, with brief stretches in poor condition.
The Trans-Chaco route is in fair condition except for the portion between Mariscal Estigarribia and the Bolivian border, which is unpaved and at times impassable.
The Touring and Automobile Club provides some roadside assistance to its members.
The Club may be contacted in Asuncion by visiting its offices at 25 de Mayo near Brazil, First Floor, or telephoning 210-550, 210-551, 210-552, 210-553, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon, except for Paraguayan holidays.
The Touring Club also has offices in Ciudad del Este (tel. 061-512-340), Coronel Oviedo (tel. 0521-203-350), Encarnación (tel. 071-202-203), San Ignacio Misiones (tel. 082-232-080), Caaguazu Campo 9 ( tel. 0528-222-211), Santani (tel. 043-20-314), Pozo Colorado (cell phone. 0981-939-611, Villa Florida (tel. 083-240-205) and Ybyyau (tel. 039-210-206).
Towing services are scarce outside urban areas.
Twenty-four-hour tow truck services from Asuncion may be contacted by telephoning (021) 224-366, (021) 208-400, (cellular service provider) Tigo by dialing *822 or 0971-951-930.
For an extra fee, these companies may provide service outside Asuncion, but they typically demand immediate payment and may not accept credit cards.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Paraguay’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.senatur.gov.py and http://www.mopc.gov.py/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Paraguay’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Paraguay’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs%5Finitiatives/oversight/iasa/
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Paraguay’s customs authority may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Paraguay of items such as firearms, medications, toys resembling weapons, or protected species.
It is advisable to contact the Paraguayan Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of Paraguay's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Paraguay does not recognize dual Paraguayan nationality for American citizens.
Under Article 150 of the Paraguayan Constitution, naturalized Paraguayans lose their nationality by virtue of a court ruling based on unjustified absence from the Republic for more than three years, or by voluntary adoption of another nationality.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Paraguay’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Paraguay 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 residing or traveling in Paraguay are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Paraguay.
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 1776 Mariscal Lopez Avenue, Asuncion; telephone (011-595-21) 213-715, fax (011-595-21) 213-728; Internet: http://paraguay.usembassy.gov, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizen services, including registration, Monday through Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., except for U.S. and Paraguayan holidays; telephone (011-595-21) 213-715, fax (011-595-21) 228-603.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Hugo OLAZAR
Nanawa, Paraguay, May 28, 2019 (AFP) - Like 70,000 people living close to the broken banks of the Paraguay River, where the water level has risen seven meters (23 feet) in some places, Graciela Acosta has had to pack up her belongings and evacuate. Piled up on a canoe are the 39-year-old housewife's bed, wardrobe, bedside table and her dog Pirulin.
Acosta is getting ready to cross the border into Argentina with her daughter to seek refuge in a reception center in the neighboring town of Clorinda. "I've had enough! It's the third time that I've had to move everything because of the floods," said Acosta. "I pray to God that it ends. Every time. it costs a lot of money." However, there's no chance of Acosta leaving her home in Nanawa, a town of just 6,000 people that borders Argentina to the west and faces the capital Asuncion to the east across the Paraguay River, for good. "As soon as the water level drops, I'll go home," she said.
- 'Greater impact' -
In Nanawa, only around 500 people were able to avoid evacuation, due to living in homes with upper floors above the flood levels. They're used to this as the Paraguay River, one of the largest in the Americas, breaks its banks and causes havoc in the poorest Nanawa neighborhoods built on the flood plain. The river's brown waters rise almost to the height of street signs: in some areas, there is up to one or two meters of water covering roads.
Paraguayans have seen worse, though, back in 1983, according to the assistant director of the country's meteorology and hydrology service, Nelson Perez. "It's not the Paraguay River's worst flood, but the impact is greater because more people live close to the river," said Perez. "These are the worst floods I've seen," said Ruben Acosta, 55, who peddles his moving services by canoe. It's a far cry from January and February, when the river's level was so low that navigating it became difficult. "It rained a lot in March, three times more than usual, and it also rained a lot in April and May," said Perez, who pointed to deforestation as an added problem.
- 'It's like being in Venice' -
Wading through water up to his chest, Rigoberto Nunez leaves a cemetery carrying a chandelier, a vase, some crucifixes and family portraits, all plucked from the family vault. "I prefer to take them away to be safe," says the 47-year-old traveling salesman. The town is without electricity or police and inhabitants are afraid of looters. Nunez is heading to a reception center provided by Argentine authorities in a Clorinda slum where he's already stashed his furniture. Enrique Cardozo's workshop has already been ravaged by the floods. "I've lost my sofa, the cupboard, I had nowhere to put them," said the 51-year-old father of four.
The family has moved into the first floor of their house, which is just 15 meters from the river. "It rained non-stop for a week. One day, the water rose one meter. It was impressive, we couldn't save everything," said Cardozo. "There's nowhere you can put your feet on the ground. It's like being in Venice, we move about by Gondola!"
On the other side of the river, Asuncion has not been spared as several areas have also had to be evacuated. In the Sajonia residential zone, inhabitants and shopkeepers have seen their sidewalks lined with sandbags, to keep back the floodwaters. According to Perez, though, the problems -- and waters -- will soon subside. The water level rose only slightly on Monday, and will continue to do so for a few more days before it drains away during the first half of June, he said.
Asuncion, May 27, 2019 (AFP) - Heavy flooding in Paraguay has displaced 70,000 families and is threatening to further inundate the capital Asuncion in the coming weeks, the country's weather bureau said. Water levels on the Paraguay River are rising at a rate of 4-5 centimetres (1.5-2 inches) every day and is only 46 cm (18 in) below a "disaster" level, according to official data from the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH).
Crossing that threshold would "have a very strong impact" because of the number of Asuncion residents who have moved into the city's floodplain, said DMH deputy director Nelson Perez on Sunday. The city's water service infrastructure was clogged with garbage which was exacerbating the floods, Perez added.
Unusually heavy downpours over May, including two days which together exceeded Asuncion's average monthly rainfall, have exacerbated the flooding, said DMH meteorologist Eduardo Mingo. Some 40,000 people in Asuncion have already been affected by the floods, official data reported. A further 10,000 people have been displaced in the southern town of Pilar on the Argentinian border. The government has mobilized armed forces to help displaced residents relocate to shelters, but hundreds of families have opted to stay behind in their inundated homes.
Asuncion, April 4, 2019 (AFP) - More than 20,000 families across Paraguay have been affected by severe flooding from two weeks of heavy rain that caused the country's main river to burst its banks, a senior official said Wednesday as an emergency was declared in the capital. National Emergency Minister Joaquin Roa made the announcement as forecasters said the precipitation would continue for the rest of the week. The Paraguay River, which runs some 1,000 kilometres north to south and splits the country in two, is expected to continue overflowing.
A 90-day emergency was declared in Asuncion on Wednesday due to the flooding. Hardest-hit are some 5,000 families living in the Banado Sur working-class neighbourhood on the city outskirts. The people affected by flooding "need sheet metal roofing, wood, and all types of help," a municipal official told AFP. The Paraguay River flows past Asuncion and eventually merges into the Parana River in Argentina. "We did not expect it to swell so quickly," said Pablo Ramirez, a resident of Banado Sur, a neighbourhood in the capital, dismayed after returning to his home after he left it one month ago due to flooding.
Ramirez, who relies on crutches to get around following a car accident, said that he will not leave home this time. The flooding "will go by quickly," he said optimistically. Pedro Velasco, the leading neighbourhood Catholic priest, said that one week ago they warned emergency officials that the river was about to overflow and asked for trucks to deliver aid and help evacuate people. "They didn't move until Monday, but by then it was already too late and they couldn't come in" because of the flooding, Velasco said. Roa said that his office will deliver 400,000 of food in the next days in coordination with the Paraguayan military.
Paraguay has an integrated approach to entomological surveillance activities, taking into account several vector-borne diseases including dengue, leishmaniasis, and Zika virus. Integration of malaria surveillance into the general health system had been a challenging task in Paraguay, but the lessons and experiences learned from other vector-borne diseases have contributed to the smooth integration and transition of the malaria programme. At the same time, the approach used to eliminate malaria is now being applied to eliminate Chagas disease and schistosomiasis.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Beatrice DEBUT
Jamestown, Nov 22, 2017 (AFP) - Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, St. Helena, which lies isolated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is now reachable by plane for the first time. The aviation breakthrough promises to lift the British-run territory from obscurity and bring it within reach of international tourists. The arrival of the first commercial flight was also a relief for islanders frustrated by a delay to the opening because of high winds.
After years of procrastination, London gave the green light in 2011 a full runway on the island. The ambition was to bring it within six hours of mainland Africa instead of the five days previously needed to make the ocean voyage from Cape Town. British officials hoped that 30,000 tourists a year would visit the island, which is home to just 4,500 residents -- known as "Saints". Just don't expect white sandy beaches and palm trees.
Rather, the island is known as a paradise for hikers and divers with dramatic scenery and its volcanic origins, and boasts history as rich as its flora and fauna. The British have detained various opposition forces on the island over the centuries, including the defeated Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo who died in exile on St. Helena in 1821. It was also temporarily home to 25,000 former slaves after they were released in the 19th century on the island, which lay on the slave-trading route from Africa to America and the Caribbean.
- 'We had already invested' -
Encouraged by London's upbeat estimates, islanders began investing in tourism, sensing an opportunity in an economy where the average annual salary is just £7,280 (8,150 euros, $9,600). Local businessman Johnny Herne runs a pleasure boat that he imported from Scotland 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) away on which guests can spot humpback whales and dolphins along the craggy coastline. He has so far invested £182,000 in his business but now is drowning in debt as a result of the airport delay, which he says contributed to his divorce. "It ruined my life," he said.
Entrepreneur Paul Hickling produces a cactus liqueur and a local coffee and has invested more than £100,000. "The government said: 'Invest because the airport is coming... all these people are going to come'," he said. "Unfortunately the airport got delayed -- but we had already invested the money." In April 2016, just three weeks before the £285-million airport's grand opening, disaster struck. Unforeseen winds meant that takeoffs and landings were ruled too dangerous, leaving islanders dismayed.
- 'Big relief' -
Hazel Wilmot, a hotelier in the capital Jamestown, had had large quantities of food and drink shipped to St. Helena and her property was fully booked. But with the delay, tourists cancelled their trips. "I had four containers at sea full of food, full of booze that I could not use," she said. In 2016 she says she lost at least £200,000. Local officials set up a scheme to help businesses affected by the delay -- but no one has yet claimed, according to the island's trade board.
But overly strict criteria and a complex claiming process have deterred claimants, locals say. After the 18-month delay, the first commercial flight finally touched down on October 14 this year. A sense of euphoria swept through the cabin as champagne was served and the island edged into view. On the ground, islanders celebrated the long-awaited arrival. "It was a big relief when the airport finally opened. It has not been easy," said Craig Yon, a manager of a hotel that opened in 2012.
- 'Not going to stop' -
But the island may never experience a tourism boom on the scale that was promised. For safety reasons, the passenger capacity of the aircraft serving the island is far smaller than planned. And the single weekly flight from Johannesburg will serve the island at a cost of about £800 return. "South Africans would prefer to go for three weeks in Thailand than to go to St. Helena," said one South African travel agent, who organises trips to the island. For this Christmas, Wilmot has just five bookings so far. "Where are all these tourists we were told were going to swamp the island?" she said. Tourism chief Helena Bennett now thinks the goal of 30,000 visitors was "unrealistic" -- indeed the small plane can bring less than 4,000 people, including residents, to the island each year.
Even today, the island has just 121 guest beds including a new hotel funded by the local government. None of the properties have a website, while roads are so small that often only one car can pass. But with the air link, the flow of tourists will at least be more constant. "During the two-week period when the Royal Mail Ship is away, the island is dead," said Bennett, referring to the passenger and cargo vessel that calls at the island. "With the plane, we are going to have visitors every week. The island is not going to stop anymore."
By Beatrice DEBUT
Jamestown, Oct 14, 2017 (AFP) - The first regular commercial flight landed at St. Helena Saturday, opening the small British island in the South Atlantic to the world after centuries of isolation. Around 100 islanders came out to the airport to watch the historic landing of the Embraer 190 jet which came from Johannesburg. On the tarmac, some 60 incoming passengers were welcomed by the island's smiling governor, Lisa Phillips. "It is connecting us to the world and it is opening us to the world," said Niall O'Keeffe, in charge of economic development on the island.
St. Helena, with just over 4,000 residents known as "Saints", is best known as the rocky outcrop where French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte saw out his final days. After five years of construction, controversy and embarrassing delays due to high winds, the airport built at a cost of £285 million (318 million euros) finally opened for business. "It will bring in tourists and we will be able to get a better standard of living," said Phillips.
The volcanic tropical island itself measures just 122 square kilometres (47 square miles) and is located almost exactly halfway between Africa and South America. Its isolated location meant it was chosen as a place of exile for those who suffered defeat at the hands of the British, with Napoleon held there from 1815 until his death in 1821.
Several thousand Boer prisoners of war were also detained there at the start of the 20th century. Until Saturday, St. Helena was one of the world's most inaccessible locations. It has been only reachable by sea, a five-day voyage from Cape Town aboard a Royal Mail vessel that chugs along at a speed of just 15 knots (28 kilometres an hour). Every three weeks, the RMS St. Helena has been the islanders' link to the outside world, bringing a cargo of food, post, visitors and vehicles.
- Major engineering challenge -
The new flight route, via Windhoek in Namibia, makes the island reachable by air from South Africa in just six hours. The airport has been a colossal civil engineering challenge. The island had no suitable flat surface to construct the necessary 1,950 metre-long airstrip. Engineers were forced to chip away a mountain peak and fill in a valley to create enough of an even surface. The runway is located on a breathtaking mountain just 300 metres from the sea. Because of high winds, Comair abandoned plans to operate the route with a Boeing 737, paving the way for AirLink's smaller Embraer 190 jet.
- High winds setback -
The winds meant that the airport could not be opened in 2016 as originally planned with a ribbon-cutting by Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son. The conditions made take-offs and landings much more difficult than expected and just weeks before the scheduled ceremony, it was cancelled and the airport became practically unused. After more than a year of test flights and studies, the decision was taken to use the Embraer 190. The island will be served by a weekly service from Johannesburg costing about £800 return ($1,060). The average salary on St. Helena is just £7,280. "It's more expensive that a flight to London" from South Africa, said
But on the personal side people are just so glad there is an airport. "Now we will be able to go home more often. Our family and friends will be able to visit, which is very great," said Catherine Man, the only veterinarian on the island.: It is also hoped that the air link will help reduce the island's dependence on aid from London which cost the British taxpayer £53.5 million in 2015 alone. When the RMS St. Helena is retired from service next year, the island will become almost completely dependent on its airport. But with its Napoleonic heritage, rare birds and exotic plant life, hopes are high that the island will become a nirvana for curious travellers.
[The causative agent for hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is an enterovirus. It is not the same as other diseases that have similar names: foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called hoof-and-mouth disease). See previous ProMED post Hand, foot & mouth disease - USA (04): (CA) http://promedmail.org/post/20160505.4204778 for a discussion of HFMD.
Johannesburg, July 15, 2016 (AFP) - The mail boat that is the only link to St Helena, one of the world's most remote islands, has had its retirement delayed after a new airport failed to open due to dangerous winds. The airport, constructed between soaring mountains and the South Atlantic Ocean, was designed to boost tourism and revive the community on the British territory where Napoleon was exiled and died in 1821.
But the 250-million-pound ($330 million) facility has been closed indefinitely for more data to be gathered after the first test flights in April measured severe air turbulence. The RMS St Helena mail boat, which was due to be decommissioned this year after the airport's scheduled opening, takes about five days to reach the island from Cape Town.
The St Helena government said Friday that the boat would be kept in service until at least July 2017. "Intensive work continues to mitigate wind conditions experienced at St Helena Airport," it added in a statement. "Getting this right will take some time." Located nearly 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the African coast, St Helena has about 4,200 residents, one bank, and no cash machines. A mountain ridge had to be lowered and a small valley filled in during the construction of the airport.
Johannesburg, April 28, 2016 (AFP) - The opening of an airport on St Helena, one of the world's most remote islands, has been postponed indefinitely after test flights revealed dangerous wind conditions, officials said Thursday. The airport, constructed between soaring mountains and the South Atlantic Ocean, was designed to boost tourism and revive the community on the British territory where Napoleon was exiled and died in 1821. An opening ceremony to be attended by Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, had been scheduled for next month to mark the start of weekly commercial flights from Johannesburg, four and half hours away. But the 250-million-pound ($360 million) airport will remain closed after a test flight last week measured severe turbulence and wind data.
The only way to reach the island is a five-day journey by sea from Cape Town by a mail boat that is due to be decommissioned this year. "It is quite a disappointment, but when you are talking about airports, everything revolves around safety," Ian Jones, the St Helena government spokesman, told AFP, speaking from the island's capital Jamestown. "There are some side winds and wind shear that we knew about, but it is not until you land a full-size aircraft that you fully understand the conditions. "We did not realise how serious it was." Jones said the airport had no new opening date, but analysis of wind data, new observational equipment and adjustments to the approach route would be considered to enable the runway to open.
An amateur video on the Internet showed the Boeing 737 test flight aborting its first landing attempt seconds before touchdown and climbing steeply back into the air. "Difficult wind conditions, including turbulence and windshear, are encountered and safely managed at many airports around the world," the island's government said in a statement. "Everyone involved remains committed to commencing commercial flights to and from St Helena at the earliest possible opportunity." A mountain ridge had to be lowered and a small valley filled in during the construction of the airport, which has a 1,950-metre long runway. It was first due to open in February, but building work was not yet completed. Located nearly 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the African coast, St Helena has about 4,200 residents, one bank, and no cash machines.
World Travel News Headlines
Patna, India, June 16, 2019 (AFP) - Severe heat has left dozens dead over a 24-hour period in India's Bihar state, as the country enters a third week of searing temperatures, officials said Sunday. The deaths occurred in three districts of the poor northern state, where temperatures have hovered around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in recent days, senior health official Vijay Kumar told AFP.
Forty-nine people died in three districts of the Magadh region that has been hit by drought, he said. "It was a sudden development on Saturday afternoon. People affected by heatstroke were rushed to different hospitals," Kumar added. "Most of them died on Saturday night and some on Sunday morning during treatment." Kumar said about 40 more people were being treated at a government-run hospital in Aurangabad. "Patients affected by heat stroke are still being brought, the death toll is likely to increase if the heatwave continues."
Most of the victims were aged above 50 and were rushed to hospitals in semi-conscious state with symptoms of high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. Twenty-seven people died in Aurangabad district, 15 in Gaya and seven in Nawada district, officials said. State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,700) for the family of each victim. Harsh Vardhan, India's health minister, said people should not leave their homes until temperatures fall. "Intense heat affects brain and leads to various health issues," he said.
Large parts of northern India have endured more than two weeks of sweltering heat. Temperatures have risen above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the desert state of Rajasthan. A heatwave in 2015 left more than 3,500 dead in India and Pakistan. In 2017, researchers said South Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world's population, could see heat levels rise to unsurvivable levels by the end of the century if no action is taken on global warming.
Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake stuck near the uninhabited Kermadec islands northeast of New Zealand Sunday, the US Geological Survey said as authorities monitored for signs of a tsunami. New Zealand's civil defence organisation said it was monitoring the situation and if a tsunami was generated it would take at least two hours to reach the country. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicentre along the coasts of the Kermadec islands." The earthquake struck at 10:55am (2255 GMT Saturday) some 928 kilometres (575 miles) north-northeast of the New Zealand city of Tauranga in North Island at a depth of 34 km.
Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Sunday centred 97 kilometres (60 miles) north-east of Ohonua, on the Pacific island of Tonga, the US Geological Survey reported. The quake hit at 2156 GMT Saturday with an epicentre depth of 10 kilometres, the US global quake monitor said. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued no alerts, and there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The reported epicentre lies within the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of regular seismic activity. In February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
Geneva, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A woman has drowned in Lake Geneva when her sightseeing boat sank as a violent storm battered parts of Switzerland on Saturday, police said. A man who was in the same boat was able to swim to another vessel from where he fired "two flares", Joanna Matta, police spokeswoman for the canton (region) of Geneva, told AFP. The man told officers that the woman had been "passing through Geneva" and that the storm had taken them "by surprise", Matta said. Three police boats and emergency services rushed to the scene. Police divers later retrieved the woman's body from the lake.
The victim, whose nationality remains unknown, was then taken to a hospital in Geneva where she was declared dead. In a separate incident, the storm also damaged some of the 465 boats taking part in the 81st edition of the Bol d'Or, an annual regatta on Lake Geneva, the event's press service said. Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the participants on Saturday afternoon, causing boats to capsize although nobody was injured.
However, the storm broke the mast of the ultra-fast "Real Team" catamaran, which had been in the lead and was forced to pull out of the race. The bad weather struck western Switzerland on Saturday afternoon, bringing hail and winds reaching up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour, according to the national forecaster MeteoSwiss. In the neighbouring French region of Haute-Savoie the storm also caused damage and left a 51-year-old German tourist dead after a tree came down at a campsite.
Windhoek, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - Drought-hit Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals -- including elephants and giraffes -- to limit loss of life and generate $1.1 million for conservation, the authorities confirmed Saturday. "Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management," environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.
The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the southern African nation estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. "The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation," Muyunda said.
In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather. Namibia's cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals. They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus -- all from national parks. The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.
The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants. The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday. Namibia, a country of 2.4 million people, has previously made calls for aid to assist in the drought emergency that has already affected over 500,000 people. In April the government announced that it will spend about $39,400 (35,200 euros) on drought relief this year to buy food, provide water tankers and provide subsidies to farmers.
By Rosa SULLEIRO
Sao Paulo, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - A nationwide strike called by Brazil's trade unions disrupted public transport and triggered road blocks in parts of the country Friday, ahead of protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's pension reform. Hours before the opening match of the Copa America in Sao Paulo, some metro lines in the country's biggest city were paralyzed as professors and students also prepared to take to the streets over the government's planned education spending cuts. It will be the latest mass demonstration against Bolsonaro since he took office in January, but the timing could not be worse for the embattled president as Brazil prepares to play Bolivia in South America's showcase football tournament.
Bolsonaro was expected to attend the opener at Morumbi stadium where police sharpshooters will be deployed as part of increased security for the competition. One of Brazil's main trade unions estimated 45 million workers had taken part in the strike. Some 63 cities had been affected by the stoppage, with more than 80 cities recording demonstrations, G1 news site said. The number of protesters is expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil's major cities. Protesters have already blocked some roads in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where G1 said police had used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and clear the streets. Brazilians were divided over the partial strike. "This current government wants to destroy everything that we built decades ago so that's why I'm in favor (of the strike) and I am fighting against social inequality," Vania Santos, 49, told AFP in Rio. In Sao Paulo, Flavio Moreira opposed the stoppage, however, saying it "hurts the commercial part" of the city.
- Pension savings cut -
Bolsonaro's proposed overhaul of Brazil's pension system -- which he has warned will bankrupt the country if his plan is not approved -- is seen as key to getting a series of economic reforms through Congress. But the changes, including an increase in the retirement age and workers' contributions, have faced resistance from trade unions and in the lower house of Congress, where Bolsonaro's ultraconservative Social Liberal Party has only around 10 percent of the seats. A pared-back draft of the reform presented to Congress on Thursday -- which reduces expected savings from 1.2 trillion reais ($300 billion) in 10 years to around 900 billion reais -- did little to appease union leaders, who vowed to go ahead with the shutdown. Such savings are seen as vital to repairing Brazil's finances and economy, which were devastated by a 2015-2016 crisis.
Economy minister Paulo Guedes, who is spearheading the government's reform agenda, has threatened to resign if the bill is not passed or is watered down significantly. It caps a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America's biggest economy from sliding back into recession. More than 13 million people are unemployed, the latest data shows, with a record number giving up looking for a job. Fighting between military and far-right factions of Bolsonaro's government has fueled chaos in his administration where his sons and right-wing writer and polemicist Olavo de Carvalho wield enormous influence. Bolsonaro sacked his third minister on Thursday -- retired general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who had been the government secretary and seen as a moderate voice. That came on the same day Bolsonaro broke his silence to defend Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who has been accused of wrongdoing while serving as a judge in the sprawling Car Wash anticorruption investigation.
By Clotilde RAVEL
Abidjan, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - "Cover your goods," Diakaria Fofana, a doctor of public health, warns food vendors as a thick cloud of insecticide spray wafts down a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic capital. Men in protective clothes, goggles and masks are disgorging plumes of mosquito-killing chemicals in a bid to roll back an outbreak of dengue. Two people have died and 130 have fallen ill since the fever returned to the West African state last month.
The toll, so far, is tiny compared with other tropical countries, especially in Southeast Asia, where the painful and sometimes deadly disease is an entrenched peril. But tackling the outbreak is a major challenge for Ivory Coast, a poor country that is having to resort to time-honoured, labour-intensive methods of spraying and neighbourhood awareness campaigns to prevent its spread. Female mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus transfer the pathogen when they tuck into a blood meal from someone.
A vaccine does exist, but is not available in Ivory Coast because "it has many secondary effects (and) it's expensive"," explained Joseph Vroh Benie Bi, director of the National Institute for Public Hygiene (INHP). Developed by French pharmaceutical group Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine is recommended for use in people aged nine and older, and only for individuals who have already been infected. Usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms, dengue makes some people very sick indeed, developing into a haemorrhagic fever that can cause difficulty breathing, heavy bleeding or even organ failure. While a first bout of dengue is rarely fatal, subsequent infections are usually worse.
- 'Fighting the mosquito' -
The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) says there are up to 100 million cases of dengue worldwide every year, and almost half the world's population lives in countries where the disease is endemic. It kills more than 20,000 people each year. Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are the worst-hit areas. There is no cure, and the WHO recommends that patients take paracetamol, rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Five new vaccines are in development, but in the meantime Fofana says: "The only effective means of fighting (dengue) is fighting the mosquito." In Ivory Coast, most recorded cases have occurred in Abidjan.
Health workers are striving to enlist the public in tackling the mosquito, targeting its life cycle. "The larvae multiply in stagnant water, for example inside used tyres," said Fofana, deputy director of the vector control unit at the INHP. "People should never store water in buckets in the open air and they should regularly throw out the water in plates under houseplants." But he faces an uphill job in a sprawling port city of 4.4 million people in the middle of the rainy season. What's more, people who are infected, even without knowing it, and can bring the virus to new areas when they are bitten by local mosquitoes. The WHO has set a goal to halve the number of dengue deaths by 2020, but incidence of the disease has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years. "Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries," it says.
- 'Malaria's big brother' -
In Ivory Coast, where malaria accounts for a third of all medical consultations, many people self-medicate when they experience symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, nausea or aches and pains. "This is a real problem, because the symptoms of malaria, dengue, typhus and yellow fever are similar. Doing a blood test is absolutely indispensable," said Fofana. Treatment with the wrong medicines can worsen the situation, he stressed -- aspirin or ibuprofen can increase the risk of bleeding, for example. In the meantime, the spraying goes on. "We know the risks," said Bamba Segbe, an Abidjan resident watching the masked men in action. "It's not for nothing that we call dengue malaria's big brother."
By Grace Matsiko
Mpondwe, Uganda, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - At the bustling Mpondwe border post, a woman crossing from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda is whisked away to an isolation unit after a thermal scanner picks up her high temperature. Health workers keep Mulefu Kyakimwa, a 32-year-old vegetable oil trader, under observation but later discharge her, once Ebola has been ruled out as the cause of her fever.
The border post is on high alert after a family with suspected Ebola escaped isolation on the Congolese side and entered Uganda, where two of them died this week. The spread of the deadly virus to Uganda comes after months of efforts in a region of porous borders to contain an outbreak in Congo which has killed 1,400 people, according to the latest official data. "Since the start of the outbreak, the total number of cases is 2,084, of which 1,990 have been confirmed and another 94 are probable," the Congolese health ministry said in its daily bulletin from Wednesday. "In all, there have been 1,405 deaths -- 1,311 confirmed and 94 probable -- and 579 people have recovered," the bulletin said, adding that 132,679 people had been vaccinated.
- 'We expected it' -
Few people seem to be surprised that Ebola would eventually make its way to Uganda -- which has experienced outbreaks in the past. "The outbreak is not a surprise. We expected it. People cross the borders all the time and interact a lot," said Dorcus Kambere, a 29-year-old Ugandan bar attendant who feels her job puts her at risk.
At Mpondwe -- where 25,000 people cross daily -- travellers undergo rigorous health checks to detect the lethal virus, which attacks the organs and leads to internal and external bleeding. Soldiers carrying automatic rifles guide travellers through the screening process, making sure they wash their hands with disinfectant. The travellers then pass through a shelter with a thermal scanner that feeds people's body temperatures into a computer. "This is a situation we go through every day since the Ebola outbreak," said Ambrose Nyakitwe, 34, a Ugandan trader returning from the Congo side. "It is good. I have a family. I have to see that they don't get affected," he added, after passing through the scan. Outside the busy border post, business carries on as usual, with children swimming and playing in the muddy Lhubiriha river that draws a natural boundary between the two nations.
- 'Not safe' -
A woman serves pancakes with her bare hands from a bucket as pot-bellied money changers lounging next to her carry out their trade. However, while some carry on seemingly oblivious to the dangers posed by the virus, others are increasingly suspicious. "It is not safe. If they say people with Ebola crossed into Uganda, how sure are we there are not many who will infect us and are yet to be got?" asked Bernadette Bwiso, 41, a trader. "Government must do a house-to-house search," she said. Meanwhile, Nyakitwe is anxious about how the infected patients managed to cross into Uganda despite heightened surveillance. A Congolese woman -- who is married to a Ugandan -- her mother, three children and their nanny had travelled to DRC to care for her ill father, who later died of Ebola.
The World Health Organization said 12 members of the family who attended the burial in Congo were placed in isolation in the DRC, but six "escaped and crossed over to Uganda" on June 9. The next day, a five-year-old was checked into hospital in Bwera vomiting blood. Tests confirmed he had Ebola and the family was placed in an isolation ward. His three-year-old brother was also confirmed to have Ebola, as was their grandmother who died late Wednesday. Uganda and the RDC are discussing what can be done to intensify collaboration between the two countries to prevent the spread, the Congolese authorities said.
- No surveillance -
Uganda's health ministry said that the surviving travellers and the Ugandan father -- five people in total -- had agreed to be repatriated to DRC on Thursday for treatment and "family support and comfort" from relatives on the other side of the border. However, three unrelated patients are still in a Ugandan hospital awaiting the result of Ebola tests.
Uganda's Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said challenges remained at "unofficial entry points" between Congo and Uganda, which share a porous 875-kilometre (545-mile) border. These unauthorised border crossings, known as "panyas" in the local Lukonzo language, are often merely planks laid down across a point in the river, or through forests and mountains where there is no surveillance. In a bid to contain the spread of the disease the Ugandan government has suspended market days and urged people to stop shaking hands and hugging.
Madrid, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Spain will launch a campaign to urge young people to "always carry a condom on them" as the number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) surges, the government said Thursday. The news comes a week after the World Health Organization expressed alarm at the lack of progress on curbing STI or diseases (STD), with one expert warning of complacency as dating apps spur sexual activity. In Spain, videos and ads will be posted from Monday on social networks, music platforms and media that 14- to 29-year-olds most follow, the health ministry said. "It's normal that you want to do it in your parents' bed. What isn't normal is that you want to complicate your life," reads one ad, going on to show the number of new cases of HIV and other infections.
In a statement, the health ministry urged "everyone -- and particularly the young -- to always have a condom on them and use it." "The use of condoms has dropped among the 15- to 18-year-olds over the last few years," Health Minister Maria Luisa Carcedo told reporters. She said there was complacency over STI, including infection by the HIV virus that causes AIDS. The campaign is a "first shock measure" to challenge the rise of STI among young people, the statement said. The number of cases of gonorrhoea, for instance, has risen an average of more than 26 percent annually between 2013 and 2017, according to the ministry.
Syphilis "has risen less but in 2017, it reached its highest peak since the start of statistics in Spain: 10.61 infections per 100,000 residents compared to 2.57 in 1995." The highest rates of chlamydia, meanwhile, are among 20- to 24-year-olds and particularly women, the ministry said. In 2017, Spain registered close to 24,000 cases of infection by gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia and LGV, a sexually-transmitted disease, according to the statement.
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.