January 05, 2009
Armenia is a constitutional republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities, especially outside Yerevan, the capital, are not highly developed, and many of
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. U.S. citizens may purchase visas in advance for a stay of up to 120 days online at http://www.armeniaforeignministry.am/ for the fee of USD 60; however, this visa is valid only for entry at Zvartnots airport in Yerevan. At this time a visa valid for 120 days may also be obtained upon arrival at the port of entry for the fee of 15,000 Armenian Drams (approx. USD 50). Visas for up to 120 days may be purchased at the Armenian Embassy in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate General in Los Angeles for the fee of USD 69. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Armenian Embassy at 2225 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 319-1976 and (202) 319-2983; the Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles at 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Suite 210, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, tel. (310) 657-7320, or visit the Armenian Embassy’s web site at http://www.armeniaemb.org for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
A cease-fire has been in effect since 1994 around the self-proclaimed “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh,” an unrecognized ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan. However, intermittent gunfire along the cease-fire line and along the border with Azerbaijan continues. Because of the existing state of hostilities, consular services are not available to Americans in Nagorno-Karabakh. Travelers should exercise caution near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and consult the Country Specific Information for Azerbaijan if considering travel to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian territory. Armenia's land borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan remain closed and continue to be patrolled by armed troops who stop all people attempting to cross. There are still land mines in numerous areas in and near the conflict zones.
Political rallies in the aftermath of the February 2008 presidential elections turned violent. Clashes between government security forces and opposition demonstrators resulted in dozens of casualties, including 10 fatalities, in early March 2008. While the opposition continued to hold periodic protests over the summer and early fall, there have been no violent confrontations since the March events.
Americans should be mindful that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful could turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.
Armenia is an earthquake- and landslide-prone country. In addition to these natural disasters, there exists the possibility of chlorine gas spills and radiation poisoning due to industrial accidents.
The Soviet-era Armenia Nuclear Power plant is located in Metsamor, approximately 30 kilometers southwest of Yerevan.
Armenia is currently under international pressure to close the plant permanently, due to safety concerns.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State‘s Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. 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.
CRIME: Crime against foreigners is relatively rare in Armenia. Break-ins, particularly of vehicles, and theft are the most common crimes, but there have been instances of violent crime as well.
While the incidence of violent crime remains lower than in most U.S. cities, American citizens are urged to exercise caution and to avoid traveling alone after dark in Yerevan. Several American investors have also reported being involved in disputes over property ownership, and have had to seek legal recourse through a long, and in the majority of cases, unsuccessful court proceeding.
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 U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. For information on assistance in the U.S. including possible compensation, see our Victims of Crime.
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Armenia are: 101 - fire emergency; 102 - police emergency; 103 - medical emergency; and 104 - gas leak.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Though there are many competent physicians in Armenia, medical care facilities are limited, especially outside the major cities. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking physicians in the area. Most prescription medications are available, but the quality varies. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Armenia.
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
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 Armenia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Travel in Armenia requires caution. Public transportation, while very inexpensive, may be unreliable and uncomfortable. Travel at night is not recommended, and winter travel can be extremely hazardous in mountain areas and higher elevations.
Travelers should avoid the old highway between the towns of Ljevan and Noyemberyan in the Tavush region, as well as the main highway between the towns of Kirants and Baghanis/Voskevan. The U.S. Embassy has designated this portion of the road off-limits to all U.S. Government personnel because of its proximity to the cease-fire line between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, a line which has seen numerous cease-fire violations over the years.
On weekends, there are an increased number of intoxicated drivers on Armenian roads. American citizens are urged to exercise particular vigilance while traveling on the main highway from Yerevan to the resort areas of Tsaghkadzor and Sevan. Traffic police will attempt to stop individuals driving erratically and dangerously, but police presence outside of Yerevan is limited.
Armenia does have emergency police and medical services, but they may take time to reach remote regions.
With the exception of a few major arteries, primary roads are frequently in poor repair, with sporadic stretches of missing pavement and large potholes. Some roads shown as primary roads on maps are unpaved and can narrow to one lane in width, while some newer road connections have not yet been marked on recently produced maps.
Secondary roads are normally in poor condition and are often unpaved and washed out in certain areas. Street and road signs are poor to nonexistent. Truck traffic is not heavy except on the main roads linking Yerevan to Iran and Georgia, i.e. the roads virtually all travelers need to use when traveling overland to those countries. Minibuses are considered more dangerous than other forms of public transportation. Travelers who choose to ride minibuses should exercise caution because these vehicles are often overcrowded and poorly maintained, commonly lack safety measures including seatbelts, and are frequently involved in accidents.
People driving in Armenia should be aware that “road rage” is becoming a serious and dangerous problem on Armenian streets and highways.
For safety reasons drivers are encouraged to yield to aggressive drivers.
Incidents of physical aggression against drivers and pedestrians have occurred
Though crime along roadways is rare, the police sometimes seek bribes during traffic stops. Drivers in Armenia frequently ignore traffic laws, making roadways unsafe for unsuspecting travelers.
Pedestrians often fail to take safety precautions and those driving in towns at night should be especially cautious. In cities, a pedestrian dressed in black crossing an unlit street in the middle of the block is a common occurrence.
The quality of gasoline in Armenia ranges from good at some of the more reliable stations in cities to very poor. The gasoline and other fuels sold out of jars, barrels, and trucks by independent roadside merchants should be considered very unreliable.
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 Armenia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Armenia’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.
Travelers on Armavia International Airways may experience prolonged delays and sudden cancellations of flights. Air travel to Armenia via European carriers is typically more reliable. Ticketed passengers on flights leaving Yerevan should reconfirm their reservations 24 hours prior to departure.
Armenia remains largely a cash-only economy. Credit cards are accepted at some businesses, including major hotels and restaurants in Yerevan, but rarely outside of the capital. Limited facilities exist for cashing traveler's checks and wiring money into the country. There are a number of ATMs in the center of Yerevan. Dollars are readily exchanged at market rates. Travelers may experience problems with local officials seeking bribes to perform basic duties.
Armenian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Armenia of items such as firearms, pornographic materials, medication, and communications equipment. For export of antiquities and other items that could have historical value, such as paintings, carpets, old books, or other artisan goods, a special authorization is required in advance from the Armenian Ministry of Culture. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, DC or Consulate General in Los Angeles for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information.
Dual Nationals: Changes to Armenian legislation now permit Armenian citizens to hold dual citizenship. This means that U.S. citizens who emigrated from Armenia to the U.S. and subsequently acquired U.S. citizenship without explicitly giving up their Armenian citizenship may be able to (re)acquire Armenian citizenship along with all the associated rights and duties, e.g. the right to vote in Armenian elections and/or the duty for certain males to perform military service. The new law also means that dual citizens need to enter and leave Armenia on their Armenian passport, i.e. they would no longer need an Armenian visa. U.S. citizens interested in obtaining Armenian citizenship must register their dual citizenship with Passport and Visa Department of the Police of the Republic of Armenia (formerly OVIR) by simply presenting proof of their other citizenship (e.g. passport). For more information, please consult with Passport and Visa Department of the Police (tel.: +37410-501439) and/or http://www.armeniaforeignministry.am.
Compulsory Military Service: In addition to being subject to all Armenian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals are also subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Armenian citizens. Male U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are also considered to be Armenian citizens may be subject to conscription and compulsory military service upon arrival, and to other aspects of Armenian law while in Armenia.
Armenian authorities have regularly detained U.S. citizens on these grounds upon their arrival in or departure from Armenia. In most cases, ethnic Armenian travelers who are accused of evading Armenian military service obligations are immediately detained and later found guilty of draft evasion. Penalties for those convicted are stiff and include jail time or a substantial fine. Those who may be affected are strongly advised to consult with Armenian officials and inquire at an Armenian embassy or consulate to their status before traveling. For additional information on dual nationality, see our dual nationality flyer.
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 Armenian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Armenia 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 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 Armenia 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 Armenia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The American Citizen Services section of the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan maintains a computer terminal in the consular waiting room available to U.S. citizens for registration. The U.S. Embassy provides Internet access to the general public through the American Corners program and through the U.S. Embassy's Information Resource Center. American Corners are located in Yerevan (2 Amiryan Street, tel. +374-10-56-13-83), Gyumri (68 Shirakatsi Street, tel. +374-312-22153), Vanadzor (25, Vardanants Street, tel. +374-322-21672), and Kapan (6, Shahumyan Street, tel. +374-285-22151). By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan is located at 1 American Avenue, tel. +374-10-46-47-00 and fax: +374-10-46-47-42. The Consular Section is open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with time reserved for American citizen services from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for official U.S. Embassy holidays. For more information, see the Embassy's web site at http://yerevan.usembassy.gov/
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 9, 2008 to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Mariam HARUTYUNYAN
Arinj, Armenia, July 29, 2018 (AFP) - When Tosya Gharibyan asked her husband to dig a basement under their house to store potatoes, she had little idea the underground labyrinth he would eventually produce would prove to be one of Armenia's major tourist draws. Their one-storey house in the village of Arinj outside the capital Yerevan may not look like much but today it brings in visitors from all over the globe after a 23-year labour of love by Tosya's late husband, Levon Arakelyan. They come to see a twisting network of subterranean caves and tunnels known as "Levon's divine underground."
In the cold and quiet, Tosya leads tourists through corridors that connect seven chambers adorned with Romanesque columns and ornaments like those on the facades of mediaeval Armenian churches. "Once he started digging, it was impossible to stop him," she said of the project that began in 1995. "I wrangled with him a lot, but he became obsessed with his plan." A builder by training, Levon would toil for 18 hours a day -- only pausing to take a quick nap and then rush back to the cave, confident that he was being guided "by heaven". "He never drew up plans and used to tell us that he sees in his dreams what to do next," his widow told AFP.
Over more than two decades he hammered out the 280-square-metre (3,000 square-foot) space, 21 metres deep into strata of volcanic rocks -- only using hand tools. "My primary childhood recollection is the loud knock of my father's hammer heard at night from the cave," said his 44-year-old daughter Araksya. At the start he had to break through a surface layer of black basalt, but at the depth of a few metres Levon reached much softer tufa stone and the work progressed. He pulled out 600 truckloads of rocks and earth, using only hand-held buckets. Levon died in 2008 at the age of 67 from a heart attack after destroying the last wall that separated two tunnels.
- 'Amazing place' -
A decade on from the project's completion, Tosya also runs a small museum commemorating her husband's work in the village of some 6,000 people. The underground complex has several analogues in the world. An eccentric man named William Henry "Burro" Schmidt spent more than three decades digging a half-a-mile tunnel to transport gold through a granite mountain in California, beginning his work in the early 1900s during the state's gold rush.
In Ethiopia a man named Aba Defar began carving churches on a mountainside after claiming divine inspiration from years of dreams. Today the Armenian cave features prominently in travel brochures, regularly drawing busloads of visitors. Milad, a 29-year-old Iranian tourist, called the maze an "amazing place". He said it made him realise just "how boundless the spiritual and physical capabilities of a person can be".
Yerevan, May 1, 2018 (AFP) - Armenia's hugely popular protest leader Nikol Pashinyan warned lawmakers of the prospect of major unrest if they did not elect him prime minister during a parliamentary vote on Tuesday. "There is information that (former presidents) Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharyan -- the famous tandem -- are planning to take back power," Pashinyan said during a nail-biting session of parliament in the capital Yerevan. "I want to warn them -- gentlemen, the mistaken interpretation of people's leniency as weakness can lead to a genuine political tsunami."
"I call on everyone to take to the streets because once again they want to steal the people's victory," he added. Pashinyan, the leader of mass protests that forced former president turned prime minister Sarkisian from power in the impoverished South Caucasus nation, is the only candidate for the post of prime minister. He however is a handful of votes short of a majority and lacks the crucial support of the ruling party to get elected.
Speaking to his supporters in the early hours of Tuesday, Pashinyan said that the ruling party planned to derail the vote and urged hundreds of thousands to take to the streets. A source familiar with the negotiations told AFP on Tuesday that the situation was febrile, saying Pashinyan could still be elected prime minister if several lawmakers from the Republican Party defected and voted for him.
Pashinyan is six votes short of the 53 he needs from the 105-seat legislature, where the Republican Party has a majority. Ex-Soviet Armenia has been in the grip of a severe political crisis for the past few weeks, with leader Sarkisian stepping down last week after a decade in power in the face of peaceful protests.
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
World Travel News Headlines
Kinshasa, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - A six-month-old baby in the eastern DR Congo city of Bunia has died of Ebola, becoming the first fatality of the disease in a provincial capital, the heath ministry said Thursday. Bunia, which has a population of 300,000, is the capital of Ituri province, which along with neighbouring North Kivu province has been battling an epidemic of Ebola since last August.
The baby is among 610 fatalities out of 980 recorded cases, the ministry said in a statement. "The parents are apparently in good health," it said. "Extensive investigations are underway and will include, among other things, analysis of the maternal milk to identify the source of contamination." The ministry added that it had also registered 97 new cases in the previous three weeks. This increase "was expected" given the impact of an attack on two Ebola treatment centres by armed groups in the troubled region, it said.
Blantyre, Malawi, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - Heavy rains could cause a dam in southern Malawi to give way if there is no let-up, authorities said Thursday, urging local residents to take shelter. The warning came after cyclone Idai battered neighbouring Mozambique last Friday killing 242 people Hurricane-force winds and rains have also ravaged hit eastern Zimbabwe where over 100 have died.
In Malawi, the storm has affected nearly a million people with over 80,000 displaced, according to the WHO. The Chagwa dam "has had one of its major embankments eroded due to heavy rains," the interior security ministry said in a statement. "(It) is likely to burst in the event of heavy and incessant rains." The statement advised local residents in the southern African country to evacuate "in case of an emergency".
By Abhaya SRIVASTAVA
New Delhi, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - Walls draped in lush vertical gardens and air filtered through purifiers insulate diners at a swanky New Delhi food court from the choking haze outside in one of the most polluted places on earth. But these eco-eateries, offering cleaner air as well as modern menus to the well heeled are beyond reach for the poor, who have little means of escaping the deadly smog which coats the city for much of the year. Air pollution kills more than one million Indians every year, according to a study by Lancet Planetary Health, and Delhi is ranked one of the most toxic urban centres to live, regularly exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.
But for Ramavtar Singh there is no escape: like many of the city's poorest, he eats, sleeps, and works outside. "I work for six to eight hours every day and my children eat and sleep outside most times of the year," the father of five tells AFP at a roadside food stall, gulping down a 50-cent dish of rice and lentils. Singh earns a living by cycling passengers and cargo around Delhi on his rickshaw, a strenuous activity that means he's inhaling dangerous concentrations of tiny pollutants deep into his lungs. At best, he can wrap a rag over his mouth on smoggy days, a low-cost approach taken by labourers and rickshaw drivers that does little to prevent the most dangerous particles entering the bloodstream. Delhi's smog peaks from October to February, routinely exceeding WHO recommendations for PM2.5 -- tiny and harmful airborne particles -- and some days registers levels more than 20 times safe limits. Experts warn the long term health consequences of living enveloped in pollution are disastrous, often causing chronic sickness and in some cases early death.
- ' A quick oxygen shot' -
Across town, Abhimanyu Mawatwal is settling down for lunch at a food court in Worldmark Aerocity, a grand commercial centre boasting purified air. A meal here could cost twice Singh's monthly salary, but it is a price Mawatwal is willing to pay because outside the smog is at hazardous levels. "I love to come here for my meals. It is like getting a quick oxygen shot," the office worker says, surrounded by creeper vines and a faux stream as he breathed lungfuls of filtered air circulating through expensive filters. "We need to bring greenery to concrete jungles and create places where everybody can come for a breath of fresh air," insists S. K. Sayal, CEO of Bharti Realty which owns Worldmark Aerocity. Delhi's affluent, who are often better informed about the dangers of pollution, increasingly expect the same safety measures they have in place at home, to be available when they are out.
High-end eateries, bars and cinemas are tapping into that demand -- installing electronic air purifiers and creating dedicated areas of rich vegetation to help filter airborne toxins. But for Singh, and the one in five Indians living on less than $2 a day, visiting such places is nothing more than a fantasy. "What will I do if I spend all the money on one meal? How will I feed my family?" said the rickshaw cyclist, who earns about 1,200 rupees ($17) a month. He cannot dream of buying the foreign-made air purifiers to protect his family at home -- machines favoured by Delhi's elite, expat communities and office workers -- that easily cost Singh's annual wage. "The rich and the poor have to breathe the same poisonous air. But the poor are more exposed to pollution," explains Sunil Dahiya, a campaigner for Greenpeace India. He adds: "Most of the time, they don't even know the effects the toxic air is having on their health. Poor communities are definitely at the losing end."
Geneva, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - The number of people in Zimbabwe affected by a devastating cyclone and flooding has jumped to 200,000, with most of the damage occurring near the Mozambique border, the UN said Thursday. The initial estimate of those hit in Zimbabwe was 15,000 but World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva that the numbers had surged following an overnight assessment.
By Vishal MANVE
Mumbai, March 20, 2019 (AFP) - India's Jet Airways was fighting multiple crises Wednesday after grounding six planes, leaving it with only a third of its fleet flying, while pilots have threatened to walk out and a major shareholder is reportedly looking to offload its huge stake. The problems at India's number-two carrier come as other airlines struggle to turn a profit despite the sector rapidly expanding in the country over recent years. Jet, which employs more than 20,000 people, is gasping under debts of more than $1 billion and has now been forced to ground a total of 78 of its 119 aircraft after failing to pay lenders and aircraft lessors. In a statement late Tuesday announcing its latest grounding, the firm it said it was "actively engaging" with lenders to secure fresh liquidity and wanted to "minimise disruption".
But with hundreds of customers left stranded, Jet's social media accounts have been flooded with often suddenly stranded passengers demanding information, new flight tickets and refunds. "@jetairways We book our flights in advance so that we save on travel cost and you are sending cancellation (message) now?", read one irate tweet on Wednesday. "I have sent a DM (direct message) regarding my ticket details. Please respond!", said Sachin Deshpande, according to his Twitter profile a design engineer. Another, Ankit Maloo, wrote: "Received an email for all together cancellation of flight days before departure without any prior intimation or communication over phone!" The firm is also facing pressure from its many pilots who have not been paid on time, with unions threatening they will walk off the job if salaries do not arrive soon.
- Alarm bells -
"Pilots will stop flying jet planes from 1st April 2019 if the company does not disburse due salaries and take concrete decisions," a spokesperson for the National Aviator's Guild, a pilots union, told AFP. India's aviation regulator on Tuesday warned Jet Airways to ensure that staffers facing stress are not forced to operate flights. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates has offered to sell its 24 percent stake in Jet to State Bank of India (SBI). A collapse would deal a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pragmatic pro-business reputation ahead of elections starting on April 11. India's passenger numbers have rocketed six-fold over the past decade with its middle-class taking advantage of better connectivity and cheaper flights. The country's aviation sector is projected to become the world's third-largest by 2025.
But like other carries, Mumbai-based Jet has been badly hit by fluctuating global crude prices, a weak rupee and fierce competition from budget rivals. Alarm bells for Jet first rang in August when it failed to report its quarterly earnings or pay its staff, including pilots, on time. It then later reported a loss of $85 million. In February, it secured a $1.19 billion bailout from lenders including SBI to bridge a funding gap, but the crisis has since deepened. "Jet Airways is rapidly reaching a point of no return and running out of assets to keep itself afloat," Devesh Agarwal, editor of the Bangalore Aviation website, told AFP. "The only solution is equity expansion by diluting its stakes but Jet is just trying to cut losses and running out of options," Agarwal said. Shares in Jet Airways were down more than five percent on Wednesday.