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, Sept 21, 2019 (AFP) - Albania was rattled by its strongest earthquake in decades Saturday, officials said, sending people fleeing into the streets in several cities, damaging buildings and triggering power cuts in the capital. The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake, was near Durres, less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.
Albania's defence ministry said it was the "strongest earthquake in the country in the last 20 to 30 years". "There are no deaths," defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said. Some 80 people sought medical help in both Tirana and Durres, 21 of whom were hospitalised due to injuries caused by falling objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterilu said. Qajaj told AFP that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages. Prime Minister Edi Rama cancelled his scheduled trip to the United States following the quake, which cut electricity and telephone lines in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.
Many people remained outside their homes for several hours in the capital, fearful of aftershocks. "I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others," Drita Lohja, a resident in her fifties, told AFP. Falling debris pulverised parked cars in parts of the city. AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital. Media reported that a large building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated. A University of Tirana building was also damaged, witnesses said.
According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10 kilometres from Tirana. Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.
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.
This group of islands are situated off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The main Island is Mahe and it has a population of under 100,000. The other two islands with significant popula
Safety and Security:
The majority of tourists visiting the Seychelles will have a very peaceful time and the rate of crime throughout the country is small. However, like many other destinations this situation is changing and there are increasing numbers of reports of petty crime - even on the more popular beaches. Generally it is unwise to leave valuables unattended while you bathe and walking around the main streets in Victoria after dark is not recommended especially for women. All money exchanges must be transacted with official designated dealers and a receipt obtained. Otherwise strict penalties may be enforced.
The level of healthcare in the main tourists resorts is perfectly adequate for most situations but outside these regions the level of care is significantly less. On isolated islands doctors are often unavailable and it may take many hours before you could move to a better equipped location. Always make sure your travel and health insurance is up to date before you leave home.
Food & Water Facilities:
The level of food and water preparation in the main tourist resorts is excellent but when travelling to isolated regions the standards drop considerably. Consuming foods cooked in local homes will be a significant risk in many circumstances and usually best avoided. However, well cooked fresh fish and other well prepared local delicacies should not present any particular difficulty. As always it is wise to avoid all under cooked bivalve shellfish such as oysters, mussels and clams. Unprepared cold foods like lettuce are also better left untasted and fruit which has been previously peeled will be potentially contaminated. If you peel it yourself it should be fine. Check the tap water smells of chlorine and if not, do not use it for drinking or even brushing your teeth.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
No malaria risk occurs throughout the Seychelles so prophylaxis will not be required. This is excellent news but you should be aware that mosquitoes can still be a problem and so careful avoidance techniques are required - particularly between dusk and dawn. Dengue Fever has been found on the Islands through there has been no epidemic of the disease for some years.
The risk of Rabies:
The Seychelles are rabies free but obviously care should still be taken to avoid any contact with warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats and monkeys. With the difficulties in patrolling the extensive coastline of the Seychelles it is always possible that the disease will be introduced at some stage in the future.
Take care to listen to local advice before swimming in the sea. Strong currents and various marine life may lead to a severely spoiled holiday. Never swim after a heavy meal or significant intake of alcohol and always swim in the company of others.
The strength of the sun in the Seychelles throughout the year is significant and this can cause both sunburn and serious dehydration. After a long haul flight it may be tempting to fall asleep beside the hotel pool but this may cause dreadful sunburn and can easily ruin a holiday. Children need to be watched carefully as they are more liable to the effects of the sun, particularly on any fair skinned child. Wearing a light good fitting t-shirt and Increasing their salt intake may be very beneficial.
In the Seychelles they drive on the left side of the road but outside the main tourist resorts the roads tend to be very narrow with often shear drops. Barriers are rare and accidents can easily occur. The speed limits are between 25 to 50 mph and both drivers and front seat passengers are required to wear safety belts at all times. There is an ambulance service on the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue which is summonsed by ringing 999.
Local Laws and Customs:
There are strict regulations regarding import and export of firearms, spear-fishing equipment, fruit and vegetables. When paying for your hotel expenses a credit card must be used in most circumstances. If you have cash you must provide a receipt showing how it was obtained. A casino receipt would be adequate if you have been lucky enough!
Vaccinations for the Seychelles:
Unless you are entering the islands from tropical Africa there are no essential vaccines for entry or exit. However for your own personal health it is recommended that travellers are covered against the following diseases;
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food and water borne disease)
Hepatitis A (food and water borne disease)
For those undertaking a longer more rural trip other vaccines may need to be considered including Hepatitis B.
Generally most tourists who maintain the usual commonsense rules stay perfectly healthy while in the Seychelles. Just remember the different climate conditions to your home situation and take care with food and water consumption. Further information is available from the Tropical Medical Bureau.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
WHO is working with the Seychelles health authorities to reduce the risk of plague spreading from neighbouring Madagascar, which faces an unprecedented outbreak that has killed more than 70 people since August. No plague cases have been confirmed in the Seychelles.
Alongside support for laboratory testing, WHO has deployed experts and medical supplies to the 115-island country. The Organization is also providing guidance for the tracing and treatment of contacts of people who are suspected to have been infected.
“We are working with health authorities to reduce the risk of the spread of plague in the Seychelles by improving surveillance and preparedness,” said Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO Regional Emergencies Director for the Africa region.
WHO is advising the Government of Seychelles on the implementation of public health measures that are in line with the WHO International Health Regulations, such as enhanced surveillance, isolation and treatment of suspect cases, contact tracing and prophylactic treatment of potential contacts.
WHO currently assesses the risk of spread of plague in the Seychelles to be low.
- everyone entering Seychelles from Madagascar will immediately be referred to the isolation centre in Perseverance [Perseverance Island is an artificial island in Seychelles, lying 2 km (1.3 mi) from the capital Victoria]. - ProMED Mod.LL]
- a Travel Advisory has been issued, in collaboration with Seychelles Tourism Board requesting all transiting points (Mauritius, Kenya, and Reunion) to redirect all passengers who are not a citizen of Seychelles.
- cruise ships are advised to remain at sea for at least 7 days before entering the port after visiting Madagascar. If it is less than 7 days (incubation period) all passengers and crew will remain under surveillance for the recommended time before entering the country.
Mogadishu, Oct 14, 2017 (AFP) - More than 20 people were killed when a car bomb exploded on a busy street in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Saturday, a police official said. "Initial reports from emergency departments indicate more than 20 bodies picked up off the street and many more are under the wreckage of buildings destroyed by the blast", said Ibrahim Mohamed, a senior police officer. Government security official Mohamed Aden said that bombing took place in a busy part of the city. "There was a huge blast caused by a truck loaded with explosives. It went off at the entrance of a hotel alongside the K5 intersection," he said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab carries out frequent suicide bombings in the capital and elsewhere as it fights to overthrow the internationally-backed government.
Victoria, Seychelles, Oct 13, 2017 (AFP) - The Seychelles government ordered schools to close Friday, after the discovery of two suspected cases of plague thought to have been brought from Madagascar where the disease has killed scores. The health ministry has also put under surveillance 320 people who have come into contact with the two patients.
A total of 12 people showing plague-like symptoms have been admitted to hospital and given antibiotics. Panic gripped parents on the Indian Ocean archipelago after some students developed fevers in recent days, leading to the school closures. "We made this decision as a precautionary measure to reassure parents," said Merida Delcy, an adviser to the education ministry, noting that they would not reopen until Wednesday at the earliest.
Preliminary tests on the two people, including a Seychellois who returned from Madagascar a week ago, showed they could have plague, the health ministry said. "It has not yet been confirmed that the two people are sick due to plague, samples will be sent this weekend to the Institut Pasteur (in France)," said public health commissioner Jude Gedeon. The results are expected next week. The sick include a student at Anse Boileau Elementary School on the main island of Mahe where all students have since been given antibiotics.
As fear of plague spreads, there has been a run on surgical masks which people hope will offer protection against the highly infectious disease. Plague outbreaks are common on Madagascar, 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles) to the south, where the disease is endemic. But this year both bubonic plague, spread by infected rats via flea bites, and the pneumonic type, spread person-to-person, have hit urban areas, including the capital Antananarivo, leaving at least 54 dead.
A Seychellois basketball coach who was visiting Madagascar is among the victims. The Seychelles government has begun to quarantine people who have arrived from Madagascar in the last week. The latest Madagascar health ministry report this week says 500 cases and 54 deaths have so far been recorded, with around half of each occurring in the capital.
British Indian Ocean Territory
Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
Safety & Security:
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.
July 8, 2008
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau, a small country in western Africa, is one of the world’s poorest nations.
The capital is Bissau and the official language
The country underwent a civil war in 1998-99 that devastated the economy.
Tourist facilities and infrastructure in general are very limited and not up to American standards.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Guinea-Bissau for additional information.
A valid passport, visa, and proof of onward/return ticket are required.
As of January 2007, the Bissau-Guinean Embassy in Washington, DC is temporarily closed.
The Embassy of Guinea-Bissau does not have a web site.
Due to lack of consular representation in the U.S., it is difficult to obtain the required visa for entry into Guinea-Bissau.
Since most flights destined for Guinea-Bissau must pass through Dakar, Senegal or Lisbon, Portugal, most travelers are able to apply for visas at the Bissau-Guinean embassies in those countries.
Although it is possible to obtain a visa upon arrival in Bissau if arrangements are made in advance, there are no clear instructions for how to make those arrangements.
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.
As of the date of publication of the Country Specific Sheet, the Bissau-Guinean Embassy is closed.
Travelers needing information about customs regulations should contact Bissau-Guinean authorities in Dakar, Senegal or Lisbon, Portugal before traveling.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
There is no permanent U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau.
The U.S. Embassy in Bissau suspended operations on June 14, 1998.
While officials from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, make periodic visits to Guinea-Bissau, their ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is very limited.
The U.S. maintains a liaison office in Bissau, located at Edifício SITEC, Rua José Carlos Schwarz 245, Bairro d’Ajuda (tel/fax 245-256382, 245-5954647).
This office is staffed by locally employed staff and, while not equipped to provide consular services, may be contacted in the event of an emergency.
The nearest U.S. Embassies are located in Banjul, the Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Dakar, Senegal.
Although the civil war that led to the closure of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and elections were held in June and July 2005, travelers should be aware that political tensions persist.
Sporadic politically-motivated violence remains an issue.
Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.
With legislative elections scheduled for late 2008, the potential for future political unrest remains high.
In December 2004, the Government of Senegal and some factions of the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC), a Senegalese separatist movement, instituted an end to hostilities and agreed to negotiate with the goal of achieving a definitive end to the armed conflict in the Casamance.
This conflict has not yet been resolved, however, and its effects reach into Guinea-Bissau.
In the spring of 2006, Bissau-Guinean military forces conducted offensive operations near the town of Sao Domingos to expel elements of the MFDC.
The fighting reportedly resulted in dozens of military and civilian casualties, mostly from landmine explosions.
There are currently instances of fighting in the Casamance region (composed of the Ziguinchor and Kolda regions) involving factions of the Casamance separatist MFDC (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance) in southern Senegal and the Senegalese military.
Although the recent escalation in hostilities has not spilled over into Guinea-Bissau, the potential for conflict along the border remains.
Unexploded military ordnance and landmines remain scattered throughout the country.
Although the capital city of Bissau was declared “mine-free” in June 2006 by the national de-mining center (CAAMI), occasional findings or unintentional explosions do occur.
There are two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in successfully removing mines.
To minimize the risks posed by both bandits and landmines, U.S. citizens are encouraged to limit driving outside of towns to daylight hours only and to remain on well-traveled roads at all times.
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, including the Travel Warning for Uzbekistan and 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.
Although there is a fairly low incidence of normal daytime street crime, travelers should observe security precautions in the city, particularly with regard to pickpocket activity in marketplaces.
Travelers should refrain from walking alone at night.
The lack of reliable public electricity means that urban streets are dark at night, even in Bissau.
There have been periodic incidents of bandits accosting travelers in rural areas.
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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
While modern medical facilities are virtually nonexistent in Guinea-Bissau and travelers should not rely on them, limited emergency medical care is available at a new hospital in Bissau operated by the Sant’Egidio Community.
Monday to Saturday there are flights from Bissau to Dakar, Senegal, where more acceptable levels of medical care are available.
Malaria, a serious and sometimes fatal disease, is a risk for travelers to Guinea-Bissau.
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 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 Guinea-Bissau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The public transportation system, urban and rural road conditions, and the availability of roadside assistance are all poor.
There is no consistent public electricity in the capital, and the lack of lighting at night makes careful driving essential.
Since there are minefields left over from the civil war and the war of independence, travelers should not leave designated roads and pathways.
The landmines are scattered in several areas throughout Guinea-Bissau, including Bafata, Oio, Biombo, Quinara and Tombali regions.
While there has been significant progress in locating and removing landmines, an estimated 46,000 landmines remain.
Speak with local authorities first and use caution if leaving a main road or highway to enter a trail network or to make other types of cross-country movement.
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 Guinea- Bissau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Guinea-Bissau’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Guinea-Bissau's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. (See contact information in the section on Entry Requirements.)
International banking and finance is problematic due to a limited formal banking sector.
ATMs are rarely available, credit cards are rarely accepted, currency exchange outside of the black market is almost non-existent, wire transfer possibilities are extremely limited, and repatriation of funds is problematic.
As there is currently no U.S. Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, U.S. consular officials may not be properly notified when an American citizen is arrested or detained in Guinea-Bissau.
Because notification would have to be made to consular officers at U.S. Embassies in neighboring countries, there may be a delay in consular access to such citizens.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a notarized copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.
Guinea-Bissau has a cash-only economy, so travelers should not count on using credit cards and ATMs. 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 Bissau-Guinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Guinea-Bissau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Guinea-Bissau 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 Guinea-Bissau.
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 in Guinea-Bissau remains closed.
U.S. citizens who plan to enter Guinea-Bissau are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal.
The mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal.
The telephone number is (221) 33 829-2100 and the fax is (221) 33 822-2991.
The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The web site is http://dakar.usembassy.gov/.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Guinea-Bissau dated September 12, 2007 to update sections on Country description, Special Circumstances, Safety and Security, and Registration/Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Bissau, Oct 18, 2018 (AFP) - Guinea-Bissau's government on Thursday signed a deal with a federation of truckers, bus owners and taxi drivers to end a strike that had brought the West African state to a standstill, officials said. The federation launched the strike on Tuesday in protest at the many problems facing transporters, including police bribery.
The protocol agreement was signed on the government's side by the General Directorate for Land Transport (DVGTT), which is in charge of Guinea-Bissau's roads; the National Traffic Police; and the National Guard. Under the deal, the government pledged to cut the number of checkpoints -- a major source of kickbacks and delays -- within two months.
DVGTT chief Bamba Banjai, speaking to journalists after the signature, hailed the accord. Bus traffic swiftly began to return to the streets Bissau, the capital, which had been virtually deserted. Private schools, which depend on minibuses and taxis to drop off and pick up children, had told students to stay at home, and many civil servants did not go to work.
As the strike ran into its second day on wednesday, the head of the transporters' federational, Bubacar Felix Frederico, warned that the protest would only be lifted "with the official undertaking" of Prime Minister Aristides Gomes. Among the federation's demands were improvement to the country's notoriously poor roads, but the issue is not addressed in the protocol and has been placed to one side.
Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, ranks among the poorest countries in the world, according to the UN's development index. It has just 4,400 kilometres of roads, of which only 10 percent (453 km) are paved. Non-paved roads are notoriously slow and dangerous, and prone to being washed out during the rainy season.
Bissau, Aug 3, 2018 (AFP) - Public-sector workers in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau have called off a strike after securing a pay increase in talks with the government, their main trade union said Friday. The strike, launched on July 24, ended after the government agreed on Thursday to increase minimum monthly pay from 19,200 CFA francs ($33.91, 29.28 euros) to 50,000 francs from September, Julio Mendonca, head of the UNTG union, told AFP. However, Prime Minister Aristide Gomes was somewhat more cautious. In a statement to AFP late Thursday, he said, "all parties have accepted the principle" of a pay rise. "We are still in negotiations," he said. "We are all going to work at finding a definitive solution to this situation."
The strike, which affected a sector with 13,000 employees, was also followed by state media organisations. Public radio and television went silent and there were strikes at the daily newspaper No-Pintcha and news agency ANG. Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony with a population of 1.8 million, is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world. It has experienced years of volatility, marked by coups and soldiers' mutinies. The country plunged into a power struggle in August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked his then prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira. After lawmakers did not meet for nearly two years, an agreement was reached in April at a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which led to Gomes's appointment as prime minister.
Bissau, July 17, 2018 (AFP) - Public radio and television in Guinea-Bissau went quiet on Tuesday as state media workers joined an ongoing civil servants' strike. Daily newspaper No-Pintcha and news agency ANG, both state-funded, also took part in a planned three-day strike over pay and working conditions. "We have interns who have worked in newsrooms for over three years without pay," union leader Julciano Balde told AFP. "We work with the little we have, with no means of transport, old computers, while ministers drive brand new cars." The journalists want better working conditions, including "decent" salaries, the hiring of all interns and means of transportation, according to their representatives. The minimum wage is 45,000 CFA francs (around 68 euros) at the No Pintcha newspaper, 60,000 CFA francs (90 euros) at the national radio and 120,000 CFA francs (180 euros) at the state television channel.
Civil servants launched regular strikes in June and their largest union UNTG confirmed it will keep asking workers to stay home from Tuesday to Thursday every week. "We will keep the pressure on and paralyse the administration until we get what we want," UNTG leader Julio Antonio Mendonca told AFP. Guinea-Bissau, with a population of 1.8 million, has experienced periods of political and military instability marked by coups and mutinies of soldiers for several years. The former Portuguese colony had been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked his then prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira. After lawmakers did not meet for nearly two years, an agreement was reached in April at a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and a new prime minister, Aristides Gomes, was appointed.
Bissau, July 11, 2018 (AFP) - Hundreds of civil servants took to the streets of Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday to demand a hike in the minimum wage and better living conditions. The protest was organised by the Union of Guinea-Bissau workers (UNTG), which regroups 8,000 out of the West African country's 13,000 civil servants. Demonstrators marched from the outskirts of the capital Bissau to its centre, chanting "Down with lawmakers paid to do nothing" and "We demand decent wages and better conditions," an AFP journalist saw. "It is intolerable for government to raise the wages of ministers and parliamentarians while at the same time other public servants are paid next to nothing," UNTG Secretary General Julio Antonio Mendoca said.
UNTG is calling for the minimum monthly salary to be upped from 19,200 CFA francs (29 euros) to 59,000 CFA francs (90 euros). "We will carry on until we succeed," Mendoca added. It is the fifth action organised by UNTG in six weeks, including a three-day strike in June. "The civil servants' claims are fair but the method used is inappropriate because the government cannot afford to meet the claims," Prime Minister Aristides Gomes told reporters last week. "The government was formed to organise elections and deal with day-to-day matters."
Parliament last month adopted its first budget after nearly three years of political instability ahead of legislative elections set for November. The former Portuguese colony was plunged into a power struggle in August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked his then prime minister, Domingos Simoes Pereira. Lawmakers did not meet for nearly two years -- a crisis that was defused in April under an agreement reached at a summit in Togo of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Under it, Gomes was appointed as a consensus prime minister and tasked with steering the country to the November 18 polls.
Bissau, June 26, 2018 (AFP) - Civil servants in Guinea-Bissau went on strike Tuesday, days after the country passed its first budget following a three-year political crisis, their union told AFP. The workers, who plan to strike for three days, are demanding a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, according to the National Union of Guinea-Bissau Workers (UNTG), the largest civil servants' union. The small West African country's parliament just unanimously adopted its first budget after nearly three years of political instability ahead of legislative elections set for November. Guinea-Bissau, with a population of 1.8 million, has experienced periods of political and military instability marked by coups and mutinies of soldiers for several years.
In the capital Bissau, ministries and public offices were closed on Tuesday and hospital services were reduced to a minimum, an AFP journalist said. UNTG -- which says 90 percent of the country's estimated 13,000 civil servants are striking -- is calling for the minimum monthly salary to be upped from 19,200 CFA francs (29 euros) to 59,000 CFA francs (90 euros). The government can increase civil servants' salaries as MPs and ministers recently received a raise, UNTG leader Julio Antonio Mendoca told AFP. The former Portuguese colony had been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015, when President Jose Mario Vaz sacked his then prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira. After lawmakers did not meet for nearly two years, an agreement was reached in April at a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and a new prime minister, Aristides Gomes, was appointed.
World Travel News Headlines
Manila, Oct 16, 2019 (AFP) - A child was killed in a strong 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the southern Philippines on Wednesday, a local mayor said, as houses collapsed, power was knocked out and a shopping mall burst into flames. Residents evacuated homes and buildings across the Mindanao region including a mall that caught fire in the city of General Santos shortly after the quake struck in the evening, officials said. The child died in a house collapse in the town of Datu Paglas, while four residents of nearby Tulunan town were injured when at least two other houses fell down, Tulunan Mayor Reuel Limbungan told AFP. "The child was crushed by a collapsed house wall" and pronounced dead in hospital, Limbungan said, adding that he had visited the medical facility and spoken to its director.
Rescue and local officials said there were no immediate reports of deaths elsewhere in Mindanao, and rescue official Anthony Allada told local television that 20 people were treated for injuries in the town of Magsaysay, near the epicentre. Three other people were hurt in the town of M'lang, added its vice-mayor, Joselito Pinol. The quake was 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) deep and was followed by at least two aftershocks, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). "It was the most powerful earthquake I have ever experienced," Sara Duterte, mayor of the largest Mindanao city of Davao, and daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, told local television.
- Falling debris -
The Philippines is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin. An elderly man was treated for injuries after being struck by a falling object during the evacuation of a Davao mall, local TV reported. Jerome Barranco, civil defence officer for the region, said several people were also injured in the city of Kidapawan "as a result of falling debris". In General Santos, television footage showed firemen battling a blaze that engulfed the three-storey Gaisano shopping mall. It was not known if there were still people inside the building, which was evacuated as the quake struck. The blaze was still raging more than three hours later despite the efforts of nearly 100 firemen, fire officer Redentor Batulan told AFP.
Coastal residents of Davao fled their homes in fear of a tsunami, but rescue workers were trying to convince them to return as no warning was issued, city civil defence chief Rodrigo Bustillo told local television. "Our volunteers are out to calm the people and tell them there is no tsunami," Bustillo added. Chief Philippine government seismologist Renato Solidum said there was no risk of a tsunami because the quake occurred inland, but he advised residents to check their homes for possible damage. "We ran out of the police station, and we also let the inmates at the municipal jail out," patrolwoman Celina Sarte told AFP by telephone from the town of Bansalan. She said the 10 prisoners were put in handcuffs outside moments later.
Addis Ababa, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Rescue workers on Tuesday used excavators to dig out bodies after a landslide in southern Ethiopia washed away homes and killed more than 20 people, a local official said. The landslide in the remote district of Konta occurred Sunday following 10 hours of heavy rains, said the official, Takele Tesfu. "There are 22 people dead and we have only been able to dig up 17 using manpower and machine power," Takele told AFP. "So far, we cannot get the others, so tomorrow we will continue to dig." He said the victims included nine women and six children.
While the district -- located in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region -- sees landslides with some regularity, Takele said this was the deadliest he could remember. "The area where this occurred is very mountainous, and this means the landslide was very dangerous," he said. Ethiopia is nearing the end of its rainy season, but security forces are nonetheless relocating some families for fear that more rain in the coming days could lead to similar disasters, Takele said.
New Delhi, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - New Delhi banned the use of diesel generators on Tuesday as pollution levels in the Indian capital exceeded safe limits by more than four times. Every winter, New Delhi is enveloped in a noxious blanket of smog of car fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from stubble burning at farms outside the megacity of 20 million people. The ban on generators is part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that entered into force on Tuesday. Other measures that will come into effect as smog levels rise, particularly following the Diwali festival in late October, include banning trucks and setting up a "war room".
From November 4-15, a road-rationing scheme will come into force, meaning cars with odd and even plates would be allowed on alternate days in that period. "We will hand out anti-pollution masks to schoolchildren next week but the date is yet to be decided," the official told AFP. Indian authorities have also sought to reduce the burning of stubble by farmers in areas surrounding Delhi. According to government data, concentrations of particles measuring less than 2.5 microns across -- which can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood -- hit 108 icrograms per cubic metre on Tuesday. This was more than four times the recommended World Health Organization safe daily maximum of 25. In previous years, the level has regularly exceeded 400. Last year, a UN report found 14 of the world's 15 most polluted cities were in India, with one US study saying it kills a million people prematurely every year.
By Kyoko HASEGAWA
Tokyo, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Rescuers in Japan were working around the clock Tuesday in an increasingly desperate search for survivors of a powerful weekend typhoon that killed nearly 70 people and caused widespread destruction. Hagibis slammed into Japan on Saturday night, unleashing fierce winds and unprecedented rain that triggered landslides and caused dozens of rivers to burst their banks. By Tuesday afternoon, local media put the toll at nearly 70, with around a dozen people missing. The government's tally was lower, but it said it was still updating information. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no plan to slow rescue operations, with around 110,000 police, coast guard, firefighters and military troops involved. "Currently in damaged areas rescue work and searches for the missing are continuing around the clock," Abe told parliament. "Where rivers flooded, work is ongoing to fix spots where banks broke, and water is being pumped out where floods occurred," he added. The prime minister's office said more than 3,000 people have been rescued in the wake of the disaster, which affected 36 of the country's 47 prefectures. The defence ministry has called up several hundred reserve troops in addition to active duty soldiers for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
- Rain prompts new warnings -
Government officials warned that more rain was expected throughout the day Tuesday in several parts of the country affected by the typhoon. "We ask people not to drop their guard and to remain fully alert," chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. told reporters. Hagibis crashed into land packing gusts up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, but it was the storm's heavy rain that caused the most damage. At least 176 rivers burst their banks, including in central Nagano, where a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods and submerging bullet trains in a depot up to their windows. Deaths were reported across many prefectures and included a man whose apartment was flooded, a municipal worker whose car was caught in rising waters and at least seven crew aboard a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo bay on Saturday night. By Tuesday morning, some 34,000 households were still without power, and 133,000 homes had no water. Tens of thousands of people spent Monday night in government shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home. "My frightened daughter can't stop shaking. We want to go home quickly," Rie Nishioka, 39, told Kyodo News agency in Miyagi prefecture.
- Government pledges aid -
The government pledged financial support to affected regions without specifying how much aid it would set aside. "Support for the victims of the disaster is an urgent task," Abe said. "There are concerns that the impact on daily life and economic activities may be long-lasting." Another area affected by the storm was Fukushima, where several bags containing soil and plants collected during nuclear decontamination efforts were washed away. "Ten bags out of 2,667 were swept into a river during the typhoon, but six of them were recovered yesterday," environment ministry official Keisuke Takagi told AFP, adding that the remaining four bags had been found and would be collected soon. "Residents must be worried about the environment, but there are no reports that the bags were broken, so there will be nothing to worry about once they have been recovered safely," he said. Hagibis caused transport chaos over a holiday weekend in Japan, grounding flights and halting train services. By Tuesday, things were largely back to normal, though some flights were cancelled and train services partially disrupted where tracks or train stock were damaged by the storm. The typhoon also caused disruption to sporting events, delaying Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and forcing Rugby World Cup organisers to cancel three matches. A crunch fixture pitting the hosts against Scotland went ahead on Sunday night, with Japan winning its first-ever quarter final spot.
Harare, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Striking Zimbabwe doctors on Monday defied a court order to return to work, saying a pay rise offered by the government failed to meet everyday costs. Doctors remained home for a 43rd consecutive day, striking for better pay after their salaries were eroded by the country's spiralling inflation. Zimbabwe's labour court ruled the action "unlawful" on Friday and ordered the medics back to their wards within 48 hours.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) announced Sunday it would appeal to the Supreme Court. "We noted the court order but unfortunately we don't have the means by which to comply," said ZHDA spokesman Masimba Ndoro on Monday. "We remain incapacitated... There is nothing we can do when we don't have the means to go to work and to meet our basic needs," he told AFP. The doctors say the value of their pay shrank 15-fold over the past year -- a legacy of hyperinflation caused by economic mismanagement under ex-president Robert Mugabe. His successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has so far failed to redress the situation. Fuel prices have increased by more than 400 percent since the start of the year, and the ZHDA said that doctors had to use their savings just to show up to hospital each morning.
Negotiations with the government have been deadlocked since the ZHDA rejected a 60-percent salary rise offer. With pay slips worth less than the equivalent of $100 (91 euros) in some cases, they are demanding doctors' salaries be pegged to the US dollar and have appealed to international bodies to supplement their wages. "While doctors would want nothing more than to return to work in service of their patients, they continue to be incapacitated and lack the resources to comply with the Labour Court judgement," the ZHDA said in a statement on Sunday. Nurses joined in the action last week. "We have reduced the number of days we are coming to work initially to three days a week now we are down to two days," Zimbabwe Nurses Association spokesman Enoch Dongo told AFP. "If the issue of salaries is not urgently addressed we will soon have a situation where nurses will no longer be able to come to work," he said, adding that nurses were "taking turns" in coming to hospital. Rural teachers also embarked on strike action on Monday with a stay-at-home protest "against underpayment". "We urge the government to respect our right to engage in job actions and peacefully protest demanding a living wage," the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe posted on Twitter.
By Daniel BOSQUE
Barcelona, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - "I feel fury and a sense of powerlessness," said Joan Guich, a 19-year-old student protesting in Barcelona after Spain's Supreme Court jailed nine Catalan leaders jailed over a failed independence bid. "They have been convicted for an ideology which I agree with." Within minutes of the ruling demonstrators had poured onto the streets of the Catalan capital, waving flags and blocking traffic over the conviction of the separatist leaders who organised a 2017 referendum banned by Madrid. "We have to mobilise and stick up for them ... in a way that has an impact, closing airports, stations, but always avoiding violence," Guich said. "Or at least, it won't be us that provokes it."
Workers rallied outside their offices, university students walked out of classes and regional lawmakers demonstrated inside Catalonia's parliament, where most of the defendants had held a senior role. "Today is going to be historic, you can feel it in the atmosphere. Serious things are happening, we can't stay home," said Oscar Quiles, a 47-year-old real estate entrepreneur. News of the verdict reached him as he arrived at the office and he immediately called his mother to join him at a protest in Plaza Cataluna in the centre of Barcelona. By noon the square was packed with thousands of demonstrators, many waving yellow, red and blue Catalan separatist flags or banners reading "We would do it again" and "Freedom for political prisoners". The protesters then set off walking towards Barcelona's airport, Spain's second busiest, in the hope of blocking it, just as pro-democracy activists have done recently in Hong Kong.
- 'Weeks of mobilisation' -
Tension gripped Barcelona on Monday morning ahead of the ruling, with a heavy police presence outside the courts, the airport and the city's main train station, as a helicopter flew overhead. Democratic Tsunami, a group advocating more active forms of civil disobedience, had urged demonstrators to hit the streets as soon as the verdicts were announced. "Tomorrow everyone ready! When the verdict is out, the response will be immediate," said the group in a message to its roughly 150,000 followers on mobile messaging service Telegram. Juli Cuellar, a 44-year-old office worker, said he believed the verdict was politically motivated. "Now all we have left is a life of civil and institutional disobedience," he told AFP, predicting "weeks of mobilisation". The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, the region's two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, have also called supporters to attend an evening rally. They have organised some of the largest separatist protests in recent years. Several more protests are scheduled over the next few days across Catalonia, as well as a general strike on Friday.
- 'Felt like crying' -
Democratic Tsunami, the group that called the gathering in Plaza Cataluna, only emerged in recent weeks. It says it does not depend on Catalan separatist parties or civil associations for support. Its leaders remain unknown, keeping in touch with each other through encrypted messaging apps such as Wire. But supporters tend to be kept in the dark until the last minute. "We don't know exactly what we have to do," said Arnau Font, a 22-year-old shop assistant who took the week off to protest. "We have to get involved. Right now I feel really powerless in light of the verdicts," he told AFP. "When I found out, I felt like crying." The uncertainty was over a few minutes later when a Telegram message arrived urging everyone to "go to the airport", a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) walk from the city centre. "The time has come to make our voice felt around the world. The goal: stop the activity of Barcelona's airport," it said. Spain's airport operator Aena said no flights were disrupted, but many passengers got stuck in traffic jams leading to the airport.
Frankfurt am Main, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - German cabin crew union UFO urged members Monday to walk off their jobs at airline giant Lufthansa on October 20, although the carrier contests its right to represent workers. "We call on all cabin crew... not to show up to work" between six and eleven am (0400 to 0900 GMT) at Germany's two busiest hubs Frankfurt and Munich, Ufo chairman Daniel Flohr said in a video message to staff. At least five of the Lufthansa group's airlines -- Lufthansa, Eurowings, Germanwings, Cityline and Sunexpress -- would be hit by strikes for higher pay in the coming weeks, Flohr added.
Lufthansa told AFP it would "maintain its entire timetable", calling UFO's call to strike "illegal". Bosses at the airline group believe UFO may no longer have the legal right to speak for workers and have challenged its status in court. Internal disputes at the union have cost it members and support among cabin crew, some of whom have now turned to other representative organisations. Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Monday called UFO a "half-dead" outfit. "UFO is battling for its life," agreed business daily Handelsblatt. "With its far-reaching call for strikes, it wants to show members it remains capable of acting and is representing cabin crew interests." Lufthansa could also contest before a court whether UFO has the right to initiate a strike -- potentially leaving the worker representatives on the hook for any resulting costs.
Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases. Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September. "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.
Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June. The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.
Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines. Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic. The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.
The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated. A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it. According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN
Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts. Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding. "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday. "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.
But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides. "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify. "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP. "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."
- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information. The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said. Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member. While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.
A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said. In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding. Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.
- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home. "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK. "I feel lucky I'm still alive." The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.
By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted. The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches. But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster. "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday. "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC. It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added. DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.
Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic. "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added. "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri." DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said. More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018.
The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high. But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola. In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate. Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."