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
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Nov 26, 2019 (AFP) - Six people died and some 150 were injured in Albania after the strongest earthquake in decades rocked the Balkan country early Tuesday, destroying buildings and burying victims in rubble.
The epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude quake was about 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana, at a depth of 10 km, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre. "We have victims," Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter. "We are working to do everything possible in the affected areas." The quake struck at 3:54 am local time (0254 GMT) and sent panicked residents running out onto the streets of Tirana, with people huddling in the open, an AFP correspondent said.
The worst damage appeared to be around the coastal town of Durres. The quake was the strongest to hit this region since 1926, Albanian seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television. Three bodies were pulled from the ruins of damaged buildings in the port town, where a three-story hotel collapsed and other buildings were damaged, according to the defence ministry. The bodies of a man and a woman were uncovered in rubble in the nearby town of Thumane, the ministry said.
A man in his fifties died after he jumped out of his building in panic in the town of Kurbin, the defence ministry said. Some 300 armed forces personnel have rushed to Durres and Thumane for rescue operations, where "there are people trapped under the ruins", defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qahajaj said.
In Thumane, around a dozen rescuers used an excavator to dig through a mountain of debris in search of possible victims. At least 150 people with injuries have sought first aid in Tirana and Durres, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterliu said.
- Trapped under rubble -
In Thumane, soldiers, rescuers and families were sifting through the rubble of a collapsed five-storey building as cries of people trapped under debris were heard, an AFP reporter said. Thoma Nika, a 58-year-old who lived in the building, said there were at least six people under rubble. Another man, Arben Allushi said with tears in his eyes, that his wife and niece missing after the building collapsed.
A man in Durres told local television that his daughter and niece were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building. "I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. I could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them," the man said.
The tremors were felt across the Balkan region, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks. It was followed by several aftershocks, including one of 5.3 magnitude, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. It was described by authorities as the strongest earthquake in the last 20-30 years. The Balkans is an area prone to seismic activity and earthquakes are frequent.
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.
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.
June 04, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Montserrat is a British overseas territory and part of the British West Indies.
The island rises in a series of mountain slopes to a high point of over 3,000 feet
Montserrat is a highly active volcanic island.
The Government of Montserrat has issued several recent proclamations and warnings urging residents and visitors to be vigilant and to be prepared to move at short notice.
For further information, see "Special Circumstances" in this Information Sheet.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Proof of citizenship and identity, in addition to an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds to cover the expected stay, are required for entry into Montserrat.
However, U.S. citizens are now required to present a valid passport to travel by air between the United States and the Caribbean.
As early as January 1, 2008, a valid passport will also be required for travelers by sea.There is a departure tax payable upon leaving Montserrat.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Montserrat and other countries.
For further information, travelers may contact the British Embassy, 19 Observatory Circle N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 588-7800; or the nearest consulate of the United Kingdom in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Seattle, or San Francisco.
Visit the British Embassy's web site at http://www.britainusa.com/ for the most current visa information.
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: The crime rate in Montserrat is low.
However, travelers should take normal, common sense precautions.
Travelers should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and displaying expensive jewelry.
Travelers should also use hotel safety deposit facilities to safeguard valuables and travel documents.
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: St. John’s Hospital, Montserrat’s main hospital, can handle most routine and surgical emergencies.
However, there is no hyperbaric chamber in Montserrat.
Doctors in private practice are also available.
Arrangements can be made quickly to transfer more serious problems off island by helicopter to Antigua or Guadeloupe.
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 internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
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 Montserrat is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
In Montserrat, vehicles are operated on the left-hand side of the road.
There is no organized government roadside assistance, but local residents are often willing to aid those with car trouble.
Roads are narrow, winding and steep.
For specific information concerning Montserrat driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Montserrat Tourist Board in Montserrat at tel. 1 (664) 491-2230 or 491-8730.
You may also email them at email@example.com.
The web address for the Tourist Board is http://www.visitmontserrat.com/.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Montserrat's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Montserrat’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Ongoing volcanic activity from the Soufriere Hills Volcano has led to the evacuation and relocation of residents from the southern half of the island’s so called ‘exclusion zone' since 1995.
Additional evacuations occurred as recently as early 2007, when volcanic activity increased.
Because the volcano is still active and dangerous, access to the southern part of the island and a surrounding maritime exclusion zone is restricted.
Persons entering restricted areas without authorization are subject to fine and/or imprisonment.
In early 2007, Montserrat government authorities warned residents and visitors of volcanic activity and an increase of pyroclastic flows in Tyres Ghaut, Gages Valley and behind Gages Mountain.
Authorities also evacuated people living in the potential impact areas in and near the Belham Valley - Isles Bay Hill, Old Towne (south of Loblolly Lane), Isles Bay Plantation, lower Happy Hill, Water Works junction and Water Works Estate - due to the volcano’s activity.
When in Montserrat, citizens are advised to monitor Radio Montserrat (Radio ZJB) for the latest official guidance.
In addition to the hazards posed by the Soufriere Hills Volcano as outlined above, Montserrat can be affected by hurricanes.
The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
The official Montserrat Volcano Observatory website, http://mvo.ms/, is helpful for updates on volcanic activity.
Updates on volcano activity can also be found on the website of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency at http://www.cdera.org/.
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 offences.
Persons violating Montserrat's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Montserrat 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.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Montserrat are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Montserrat.
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 in the Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael, telephone 1-246-436-4950, web site http://bridgetown.usembassy.gov.
Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Barbados and U.S. holidays.
Assistance may also be provided by the U.S. Consular Agency in Antigua, located at Suite #2, Jasmine Court, Friars Hill Rd, St. John’s, Antigua.
Contact information is as follows: telephone 1-268-463-6531, cellular 1-268-726-6531, or e-mail ANUWndrGyal@aol.com.
The mailing address is P.O. Box W-1562, St. John’s, Antigua.
The Consular Agent is available by appointment only.
The office is closed for local and U.S. Holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 9, 2007, to update the Entry/Exit Requirements, Aviation Safety Oversight and Embassy Location sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
by Colin James
ST JOHN'S, Feb 13, 2010 (AFP) - Resilient residents of the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat Saturday shrugged off clouds of ash spewing out of a volcano, and donned masks to go about their daily business. "It is makes you sneeze a lot," Gregory Willock, the president of the Montserrat Cricket Association, told AFP in the nearby island of Antigua by telephone.
Life has continued as normal since the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted Thursday, throwing up a plume of smoke and volcanic ash 10 kilometers (six miles) into the air, he said. "All I know is it can create problems for people who have sinus" problems, Willock added, saying many residents had taken to wearing masks while schools and government offices have been operating as normal. Thursday's eruption came almost 15 years after the volcano, which had lain dormant throughout recorded history, first rumbled into life in July 1995.
The 1995 eruption threw up a huge plume of ash and molten lava into the sky, which in coming weeks rained down on the British overseas territory. The island's capital city Plymouth was buried in ash and volcanic debris in a further massive eruption a month later and destroyed. Two-thirds of the island's population were forced to flee abroad. This time islanders are praying for rain to clear away the blanket of dust, which has even stopped the cricket team practicing. "We cannot practice because Salem Park is not accessible. We need rain to get rid of ash on the ground," Willcock said Saturday.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said his only complaint so far had to do with his medical condition. He's asthmatic. "It has not worried me but because of my complaint I'm being ultra-careful. I'm talking to you with a mask over my mouth," he told AFP. "However, life goes on beautifully. It is just like normal life. We are a resilient people," he said. Many flights around the Caribbean remained cancelled Saturday due to clouds of ash spewed up into the skies. "The continued ash hanging in the atmosphere presents a risk to planes and to the security of passengers," the police in the nearby island of Guadeloupe said in a statement.
The airport in Guadeloupe, which lies just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Montserrat, would remain closed until Sunday, it said. "The dispersion of these ashes will depend on today's weather conditions," it added in a statement, after fire engines were deployed late Friday to try clear the airport's runways of a thick layer of ash. Some 300 people were stranded on Guadeloupe waiting to leave, the director of the islands' tourism office Thierry Gargar told AFP. He added they were all being accommodated in hotels on the islands.
Flights to other Caribbean tourist hotspots including Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Maarten also remained disrupted. The ash has also forced LIAT, the region's biggest airline, to temporarily suspend flights in and out of the V.C. Bird International airport in nearby Antigua, although flights resumed Saturday to Dominica.
Montserrat, settled by English and Irish colonizers in 1632, has been dubbed "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" for its lush vegetation. It has been trying to rebuild its tourism industry since the 1995 eruption. The buried capital Plymouth, which has been compared to a modern-day Pompeii, now lies in an exclusion zone, but can be visited with organized tours.
ST. JOHN'S, Feb 12, 2010 (AFP) - Ash from a volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat hung in the air around Antigua and Barbuda Friday, causing difficult driving conditions and forcing flight suspensions. Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano erupted Thursday, sending a plume of ash 10 kilometers (six miles) high into the sky, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory said.
The ash forced LIAT, the region's biggest airline, to temporarily suspend flights in and out of Antigua's V.C. Bird International airport. The airline said in a statement late Friday it had resumed flights to and from Antigua, but added that the "continued presence of airborne ash clouds over Dominica and Guadeloupe has forced LIAT to suspend all remaining flights to both destinations." Flights to other Caribbean islands including Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Maarten were also disrupted on Thursday.
Montserrat is about 35 kilometers south of Antigua and Barbuda, but residents on the southern side of Antigua said heavy ash had fallen on their homes and made driving conditions difficult at times. Yvonne McMillan, a resident of the southern village of Jennings, told an Antiguan radio station that "it was pretty rough" on Friday morning. "Visibility was extremely poor. Coming off a hill you don't see what's below. I had to switch (my lights) to low beam all the time because high beam confused me even more," she said. Meteorological officials described the ash fall as "quite bad." Senior forecaster Lorne Salmon said cooling meant the air had become heavier, sinking into valley and low-lying areas. "When this happens a lot of the ash becomes more concentrated," she said.
POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe, Feb 12, 2010 (AFP) - Ash from a volcano that has erupted on the Caribbean island of Montserrat has spread to neighbouring islands, forcing authorities to close schools in the French territory of Guadeloupe.
The Soufriere Hills volcano on Montserrat erupted on Thursday sending ash 10 kilometers (six miles) high into the sky, according to French weather experts, and forcing other islands to take precautions. Montserrat is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Guadeloupe. Point-a-Pitre airport on Guadeloupe was closed straight away and French state representative Jean Fabre ordered schools to close on Friday. He said there was a risk of eye irritation and breathing problems.
Buildings and cars were covered in a layer of grey ash on Friday while flights to Guadeloupe were still diverted to Martinique about 250 kilometers (160 miles) to the south. The Soufriere volcano has been active since 1995 when a major eruption buried half of Montserrat's capital, Plymouth. Two thirds of the island's 12,000 people have since left.
World Travel News Headlines
By Mariëtte Le Roux and Joseph Schmid
Paris, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - French commuters gritted their teeth for a ninth day of public transport strikes Friday, with unions vowing to keep up their protest against a pension overhaul through the holidays unless the government backs down. Officials have said they are ready to negotiate, with Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer meeting teachers' representatives on Friday to try and stave off another day of class shutdowns. "It was an intense and frank meeting... but we still need details, and maintain our call to strike on Tuesday," Stephane Crochet of the SE-Unsa union said.
Unions are hoping for a repeat of 1995, when they forced a rightwing government to back down on pension reforms after three weeks of metro and rail strikes just before Christmas. The prospect of a protracted standoff has businesses fearing big losses during the crucial year-end festivities, and travellers worried that their Christmas plans may be compromised. "Right now it's a catastrophe here, but we're hoping there will be a solution before Christmas," Frederic Masse, a foie gras producer at the huge Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris, told AFP on Friday.
The capital city was again choked by huge traffic jams as most metro lines remained shut, only a handful of buses and trams were running, and one in four TGV trains were cancelled. "I'm sick of this, and I won't be able to keep working if it goes on," Zigo Makango, a 57-year-old security agent, told AFP onboard a bus in the Bobigny suburb northeast of Paris. To get home at night Makango said he has to use taxis, but "my boss doesn't reimburse me for that".
- 'Historic reform' -
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday expressed his "solidarity" with people impacted by the strike, "but I want the government to continue its work" in forging a single pension system, a key campaign promise. "It's a historic reform for the country," he told journalists at an EU summit in Brussels.
The overhaul unveiled by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would do away with 42 separate regimes, some of which offer early retirement and other benefits to public-sector employees such as train drivers, dockers and even Paris Opera employees. But Philippe angered unions further by proposing a reduced payout for people who retire at the legal age of 62 instead of a new, so-called "pivot age" of 64.
They have called for new mass demonstrations for next Tuesday, the third since the action started on December 5 in the biggest show of strength in years by France's notoriously militant unions. Philippe insisted on Twitter that "My door is open and my hand outstretched". But Laurent Brun of the hard-line CGT union, the largest among public-sector workers including those at rail operator SNCF, has already warned "There won't be any Christmas truce" unless the government drops the plan entirely.
- France divided -
A poll released Thursday by the Elabe institute found France evenly divided on Philippe's plan, with 50 percent for and 49 percent against. But 54 percent rejected the mooted 64-year cutoff for a full pension, and 54 percent supported the protest.
Staff at four of France's eight oil refineries were on strike Friday, affecting output and raising fears of shortages down the line. And both Paris operas, the Garnier and the Bastille, again cancelled Friday performances and others through the weekend. Macron's government insists the changes will make for a fairer system and help erase pension system deficits forecast to reach as much as 17 billion euros ($19 billion) by 2025. The average French person retires at just over 60, years earlier than most in Europe or other rich OECD countries.
Milan, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - More than 300 flights were cancelled Friday in Italy due to a planned one-day strike by workers from Alitalia and Air Italy. Alitalia said in a statement that 315 flights were cancelled on Friday, with another 40 cancelled Thursday night and Saturday morning. It was not immediately clear how many flights were cancelled at Air Italy. The 24-hours strike, which involves pilots, flight attendants and ground personnel, was called by three unions to draw attention to what they called "the ongoing crisis at Alitalia and Air Italy."
The strike was felt most in Sardinia, with about 30 flights cancelled. Money-losing Alitalia has been under special administration since 2017 when employees rejected a restructuring plan that would have laid off 1,700 workers out of an approximately 11,000. The government has so far looked for buyers without success. Unions plan to meet on Tuesday with Economy Minister Stefano Patuanelli. A potential consortium of buyers for the ailing carrier fell apart last month after Atlantia, which operates Rome's airports, pulled out.
By Neil SANDS
Wellington, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - Adventure tourism is a key part of New Zealand's international appeal but the White Island volcano eruption is a tragic reminder that such activities carry genuine risk that must be better explained to travellers, experts say. The South Pacific nation offers a wealth of adrenaline-fuelled pursuits, from heli-skiiing on snow-capped mountains to ballooning and blackwater rafting through caves.
Some, such as bungee-jumping, jet-boating and zorbing -- where you hurl yourself down a hill inside an inflatable ball -- were invented or popularised in a country that prides itself on catering to intrepid visitors. The tourism industry as a whole is among New Zealand's biggest earners, generating about NZ$16.2 billion ($10.7 billion) and attracting 3.8 million international visitors annually. "Adventure tourism is a massive sector in New Zealand. We are promoting ourselves as the adventure capital of the world," professor Michael Lueck, a tourism expert at Auckland University of Technology, told AFP.
New Zealand is also renowned for its rugged landscapes, which feature prominently films such as Kiwi director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings". Day-trips to White Island combined both, taking tourists including cruise ship passengers to a desolately beautiful island off the North Island coast where they could experience the thrill of standing on an active volcano. Instead, at least 16 people are believed to have died and dozens suffered horrific burns when 47 tourists and guides were caught on the island during Monday's eruption.
The disaster has raised questions about why tourists were allowed on a volcano where experts had recently raised threat levels, as well as broader issues about the regulation of risky activities in the tourism sector. "There will be bigger questions in relation to this event," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament after the eruption. "These questions must be asked, and they must be answered."
- 'Slapdash' or world's best? -
The disaster on White Island -- also known as Whakaari -- is not the first mass-fatality accident to affect tourists in New Zealand. In 2015, seven people were killed when a scenic helicopter flight crashed into Fox Glacier. Two years earlier, a hot-air balloon claimed 11 lives and in 2010 nine died when a plane carrying skydivers plunged into a paddock.
Briton Chris Coker's son Brad, 24, died in the skydive plane crash and since then he has campaigned from afar for tighter regulations in New Zealand's adventure tourism sector. "In my opinion, the New Zealand authorities... are still slapdash about tourist safety," Coker told news website stuff.co.nz after the White Island eruption. "To run tourists there is insane. I know they signed a waiver and so on, but it's not really taking care of people."
Trade body Tourism Industry Aotearoa disputes such assessments, saying operators are "working within a world's best regulatory framework", but could not eliminate risk completely. "Operators put safety first, but adventure activity inherently carries some risk and it's critical that 'adventure' remains in adventure tourism," TIA chief executive Chris Roberts told AFP. "Operators take all practical actions to minimise the risks and the safety culture of individual operators remains the key factor in preventing accidents."
Roberts said the issue was not tourism operators, but the alert system they relied on at volcanic destinations such as White Island, which attracts about 17,000 visitors a year. The GeoNet monitoring agency raised White Island's threat level in the week before the eruption but also advised current activity "does not pose a direct hazard to visitors". "The reviews need to look at the science and specifically the guidance provided about volcanic activity, and whether the operating practices followed for the past 30 years need to change," Roberts said.
- 'Understand the risks' -
Travel companies such as White Island Tours brief customers before setting off and require them to sign a waiver declaring they understand the risk, as well as supplying equipment such as hard-hats and gas masks. However, some relatives of those affected by the eruption have expressed scepticism that their loved ones truly appreciated the potential danger they faced. Options for legal redress are limited under New Zealand's Accident Compensation Commission scheme, which covers victims' medical bills and provides modest compensation but does not allow civil suits for damages.
Neither Roberts nor Lueck expected the White Island eruption to hit international arrivals in New Zealand, which have continued to climb despite major earthquakes in 2011 and 2016. The nature of any review arising from White Island remains uncertain, but Lueck said at the very least tourists needed to be better informed about any risks. "Operators and tourism boards should have tourists understand what these risks are, and not brush over quickly signing a waiver," he said. "Only then can tourists make an informed decision and decide whether or not they want to take that particular risk."
Kinshasa, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) - Twenty-three cases of Ebola have been recorded in four days in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where deadly violence is hampering efforts to end the 16-month-old epidemic, authorities said on Thursday. Ten cases were recorded on Tuesday alone in Mabalako in North Kivu province, after six on Monday, according to the Multisectoral Committee for Epidemic Response (CMRE). Three out of the six were practitioners of traditional medicine, it said.
On Wednesday, three cases were recorded in North Kivu, including one in the Biena neighbourhood -- which has had no new Ebola cases for the last 85 days. More than 2,200 people have died since the epidemic was declared on August 1, 2018. As of November 22, the rate of new cases had fallen to 10 per week. CMRE said "security reasons" -- attacks on Ebola health workers and sites by armed groups and angry youths -- had "paralysed" work in the key zones of Beni, Biakato and Mangina. The attacks led to a pullout of locally-employed Ebola workers in Biakato by the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Juba, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) - Devastating flooding in South Sudan following a fierce drought could tip parts of the country into famine in the next few months, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday. According to the UN refugee agency nearly one million people were affected by floodwaters that submerged entire towns, compounding an already dire humanitarian situation after six years of war.
The WFP said that 5.5 million people are expected to be going hungry in early 2020 -- the time at which the population is generally benefiting from their harvest in October and November of the previous year. An earlier harvest failed due to drought. This time crops have been washed away. "The number of people in need is likely to increase because of the catastrophic level of destruction caused by floods since October following a drought that hammered parts of the country earlier in the year," the agency said in a statement.
The floods wiped out 73,000 metric tons of potential harvests as well as tens of thousands of cattle and goats, said the WFP. "We know the problems that we've been having in South Sudan, but the rains and the floods have led to a national disaster and are much worse than anyone could have anticipated," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. "In fact, if we don't get funding in the next few weeks and months, we are literally talking about famine. We need support, we need help and we need it now." The agency estimated its needs at $270 million (242 million euros) for the first half of 2020. South Sudan declared a "man-made" famine affecting around 100,000 people in 2017.
The term "famine" is used according to a scientific system agreed upon by global agencies, when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day for the entire population. "Famine in South Sudan was defeated after four months in 2017 by a concerted large-scale humanitarian response," said the WFP. "Experts now say the country's food security outlook has never been so dire." Political instability is also high as President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar have again delayed their formation of a power-sharing government, this time by 100 days until February 2020.
By Holly ROBERTSON
Sydney, Dec 11, 2019 (AFP) - Up to 20,000 protesters rallied in Sydney on Wednesday demanding urgent climate action from Australia's government, as bushfire smoke choking the city caused health problems to spike. Sydney has endured weeks bathed in toxic smoke as hundreds of blazes have raged across the countryside, with hospitals recording a 25 percent increase in the number of people visiting emergency departments last week. On Tuesday smoke alarms rang out across Australia's biggest city, with thick haze triggering smoke alarms and forcing buildings to be evacuated, school children to be kept indoors, and ferries to be cancelled. The devastating fires have focused attention on climate change, with scientists saying the blazes have come earlier and with more intensity than usual due to global warming and a prolonged drought. Police estimated the crowd size at 15,000, organisers put the figure at 20,000.
Many of the protestors voiced anger at the government's silence in the face of the crisis. "The country is on fire" said 26-year-old Samuel Wilkie attending his first climate protest. He described politicians' response as "pathetic". "Our government is not doing anything about it," said 29-year-old landscape gardener Zara Zoe. "No one is listening, no one is doing anything." Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- a staunch backer of Australia's vast coal industry -- has said little about the smoke since the crisis began, preferring to focus on fire-hit rural communities. Organiser Chloe Rafferty said that had created anger at the conservative government's inaction. "I think the wider public can see that we are not expecting the climate crisis in the future but we are facing the climate crisis now," she told AFP. "People are experiencing it in their day-to-day lives." As well as a rise in people visiting hospitals with smoke-related health symptoms, the number of emergency calls for ambulances spiked 30 percent last week. "For most people, smoke causes mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat," top health department official Richard Broome said. "However, people with conditions like asthma, emphysema and angina are at greater risk because the smoke can trigger their symptoms."
Smoke from bushfires is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution in Australia, releasing fine particles that can lodge deep within people's lungs and cause "severe" health impacts over time, according to scientist Mick Meyer from government-funded scientific research agency CSIRO. "The impact of smoke on people remote from the fires may, on occasion, substantially exceed the direct injury to people within the fire zone," he wrote in The Conversation. "But we currently lack the operational tools to understand the extent of these impacts or to manage them." Six people have been killed and more than 700 houses destroyed in bushfires this fire season. Though the human toll has been far lower than the deadliest fire season in 2009 -- when almost 200 people died -- the scale of this year's devastation has been widely described as unprecedented. Three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land has been burnt -- the size of some small countries -- and vast swathes of koala habitat scorched. Official data shows 2019 is on track to be one of the hottest and driest years on record in Australia.