Embassy of Ireland
1011 Buenos Aires
Her Excellency Paula Ní Shlattara
Argentina - US Consular Information Sheet
October 02, 2008
Last year, Argentina's charm, natural beauty and diversity attracted more than 400,000 American citizen visitors, and this year's total is expected to be even higher. Buenos Aires and other large cities have well-developed tourist facilities and services, including many four- and five-star hotels. The quality of tourist facilities in smaller towns outside the capital varies. The country suffered a major financial crisis in 2001-2002. While it has made a dramatic recovery, continued economic hardship has been linked to a rise in street crime. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Argentina for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Argentina. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism and business. U.S. citizens who arrive in Argentina with expired or damaged passports may be refused entry and returned to the United States at their own expense. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide guarantees on behalf of travelers in such situations, and therefore encourages U.S. citizens to ensure their travel documents are valid and in good condition prior to departure from the United States. Different rules apply to U.S. citizens who also have Argentine nationality, depending on their dates of U.S. naturalization. For more information, check the Argentine Ministry of the Interior web site at www.mininterior.gov.ar/migraciones/. Most dual nationals are permitted 60-day visits. Dual nationals who stay beyond their permitted time are required to depart on an Argentine passport.
The application process for an Argentine passport is lengthy, and the U.S. Embassy is not able to provide assistance in obtaining Argentine passports or other local identity documents. Children under 21 years of age who reside in Argentina, regardless of nationality, are required to present a notarized document that certifies both parents' permission for the child's departure from Argentina when the child is traveling alone, with only one parent, or in someone else's custody (click on the "international child abduction" link below for more information). An airport tax is collected upon departure, payable in dollars or Argentine pesos.
American citizens wishing to enter Brazil are required to obtain a visa in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires cannot assist travelers to obtain Brazilian visas. For more information, see the Country Specific Information for Brazil.
Visit the Embassy of Argentina’s web site at http://www.embassyofargentina.us/ 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:
Traffic accidents are the primary threat to life and limb in Argentina. Pedestrians and drivers should exercise caution. Drivers frequently ignore traffic laws and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. The rate and toll of traffic accidents has been a topic of much media attention over the past year. The Institute of Road Safety and Education, a private Buenos Aires organization dedicated to transportation safety issues, reports that Argentina has the highest traffic mortality rate in South America per 100,000 inhabitants.
Care should be exercised when traveling in Brazil and Paraguay, near the Argentine border, where criminal entities are known to operate. These organizations are involved in the trafficking of illicit goods, and some individuals in the area have been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for financially supporting terrorist organizations.
The U.S. government is supportive of coordinated efforts by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to combat illegal activity in that region. Americans crossing from Argentina into Paraguay or Brazil may wish to consult the most recent Country Specific Information for those countries.
Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and occur in other major cities as well. Protesters on occasion block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. While demonstrations are usually nonviolent, hooligans in some of the groups sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy and U.S.-affiliated businesses. U.S. citizens should take common-sense precautions and avoid gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to protest. Information about the location of possible demonstrations is available from a variety of sources, including the local media. Additional information and advice may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers or email address listed at the end of this document.
Domestic flight schedules can be unreliable. Occasional work stoppages, over-scheduling of flights and other technical problems can result in flight delays, cancellations, or missed connections. Consult local media for information about possible strikes or slow-downs before planning travel within Argentina.
Public transportation is generally reliable and safe. The preferred option for travel within Buenos Aires and other major cities is by radio taxi or "remise" (private car with driver). The best way to obtain safe taxis and remises is to call for one or go to an established stand, rather than hailing one on the street. Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses can order remises or radio taxis, or provide phone numbers for such services, upon request. Passengers on buses, trains, and the subway should be alert for pickpockets and should also be aware that these forms of transport are sometimes interrupted by strikes or work stoppages.
Argentina is a geographically diverse country with mountains, forests, expansive deserts, and glaciers, making it a popular destination for outdoor and adventure sports. Despite the best efforts of local authorities, assisting visitors lost or injured in such remote areas can be problematic. American citizens have been killed in recent years while mountain climbing, skiing, trekking, and hunting. Travelers visiting isolated and wilderness areas should learn about local hazards and weather conditions and always inform park or police authorities of their itineraries. Reports of missing or injured persons should be made immediately to the police so that a search can be mounted or assistance rendered.
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 United States, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Most American citizens visit Argentina without incident. Nevertheless, street crime in the larger cities, especially greater Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is a problem for residents and visitors alike. As in any big city, visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers on the street, in hotel lobbies, at bus and train stations, and in cruise ship ports. Criminals usually work in groups and travelers should assume they are armed. Criminals employ a variety of ruses to distract and victimize unsuspecting visitors.
A common scam is to spray mustard or a similar substance on the tourist from a distance. A pickpocket will then approach the tourist offering to help clean the stain, and while doing so, he or an accomplice robs the victim. Thieves regularly nab unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage, and criminals will often distract visitors for a few seconds to steal valuables. While most American victims are not physically injured when robbed, criminals typically do not hesitate to use force when they encounter resistance. Visitors are advised to immediately hand over all cash and valuables if confronted. Thieves will target visitors wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
Your passport is a valuable document and should be guarded. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes. The U.S. Embassy has observed a notable rise in reports of stolen passports in the past year. Some travelers have received counterfeit currency in Argentina. Unscrupulous vendors and taxi drivers sometimes pretend to help tourists review their pesos, then trade bad bills for good ones. Characteristics of good currency can be reviewed at the Argentine Central Bank web site at www.bcra.gov.ar.
Along with conventional muggings, so-called express kidnappings continue to occur. Victims are grabbed off the street based on their appearance and vulnerability. They are made to withdraw as much money as possible from ATM machines, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually quickly released unharmed. There have been some foreign victims. Visitors are particularly advised not to let children and adolescents travel alone.
Travelers worldwide are advised to avoid packing valuables in their checked baggage. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the systematic theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. Authorities are working to resolve the problem and have made a number of arrests, but travelers should exercise continued care and caution. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds can 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 Argentine Federal Police have established a special Tourist Police Unit to receive complaints and investigate crimes against tourists. The unit, located at Corrientes 436 in Buenos Aires, responds to calls around the clock at 4346-5748 or toll-free 0800-999-5000 from anywhere in the country. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in the city of Buenos Aires or in the surrounding Province of Buenos Aires is 911 for police assistance. In the city of Buenos Aires, dial 100 in case of fire and 107 for an ambulance. In the Province of Buenos Aires, fire and ambulance numbers vary by location. See our information for Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The public health system in Argentina provides emergency and non-emergency services free of charge to all, regardless of nationality or immigration status. However, the quality of non-emergency care in public hospitals is generally below U.S. standards. Medical care in private hospitals in Buenos Aires is generally good, but varies in quality outside the capital. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization in private facilities and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Private physicians, clinics, and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
HIV/AIDS restrictions. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Argentina.
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 Preventions hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) web site 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 policies apply overseas and will cover prior conditions and emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. If not covered, visitors are encouraged to consider purchasing travel insurance. No Medicare benefits are available abroad. 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 Argentina is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be very aggressive, especially in the capital city of Buenos Aires, and frequently ignore traffic regulations. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but Argentine or international licenses are required to drive in the rest of the country. For further information, please contact the Argentine Automobile Club, Av. Libertador 1850, 1112 Capital Federal, telephone (011) (54)(11) 4802-6061, or contact the Embassy of Argentina as listed in the above section on Entry Requirements. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the websites of Argentina's national tourist office and national roadways office at www.turismo.gov.ar and www.vialidad.gov.ar.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Argentina’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Argentina’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all Argentine laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Argentine citizens. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Please see our information on Customs Regulations.
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 also be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Argentina's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Argentina are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country are crimes 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 Argentina are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Argentina. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it much easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida Colombia 4300 in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires (near the Plaza Italia stop on the "D" line subway). The main Embassy switchboard telephone is (54) (11) 5777-4533. Recorded consular information, including instructions on whom to contact in case of an American citizen emergency, is available at tel. (54) (11) 4514-1830. The Consular Section fax is (54) (11) 5777-4293. The Consular Section is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on American and Argentine holidays. Additional information on Embassy services is available on the Internet at http://argentina.usembassy.gov or by e-mail: BuenosAires-ACS@state.gov
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This replaces the Country Specific Information December 28, 2007 to update Sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Locations.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Buenos Aires, April 30, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Argentines demonstrated Tuesday in a partial strike that grounded airplanes and shut banks and other businesses to protest the economic policies of President Mauricio Macri. "I came here to protest because I can't manage on my salary. The government has to go. It hasn't managed to sort out the economic situation," said Juan Arrique, a 32-year-old trucker demonstrating in Buenos Aires.
The truck drivers' union was one of the main groups calling for the protests that saw airplanes parked on the tarmac and transit buses lined up in rows at their terminal. Sea traffic was also suspended, most schools closed and many shops as well as banks were shut. Macri's popularity has fallen in recent months, a disappointing sign for the president just six months out from elections in which he hopes to win a second term. In an effort to reduce the state deficit, the government last year launched an austerity plan that has cut services to low-income Argentines.
The measures came in exchange for a $56 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help the South American country battle its currency crisis and soaring prices. Inflation over the last 12 months was around 55 percent, while the spending power of ordinary citizens has been in freefall. "Take Macri, leave the dollars," read one banner in reference to the IMF loan repayments. The same slogan was also scrawled on the wall of a building next to that of the US bank JP Morgan.
Unemployment is increasing, poverty now affects 32 percent of the population and 41 percent of children, while businesses lay off workers and consumption drops. The partial strike followed a protest called by trade unions in early April which saw thousands of demonstrators march in Buenos Aires against Macri's economic policies.
Argentina (Santa Fe province and national).
(Conf.) 180 cases. Municipality most affected: Santa Fe 105 cases. Nationally, the localities with dengue cases are: Ingeniero Juarez (Formosa province), Puerto Iguazu (Misiones), Los Blancos, Oran, and Tartagal (in Salta); Santa Fe, Rosario and Buenos Aires cities; the partido La Matanza and the department of Ledesma in Jujuy. DEN-1 virus circulating with 2 patients with DENV-4. 36 cases with history of travel to Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Dominican Republic.
Information for Bali
Bali is one of the main tourist destinations for many Irish travellers to Indonesia. The island is well developed for the tourist industry and genera
Safety & Security
Throughout Indonesia there are many regions where it is unsafe to travel. The Parliament in Indonesia may impeach the President in the near future. Civil disturbance with student demonstrations in the capital Jakarta, earthquakes in the island of Sumatra, unrest regarding the independence of Timor and profound warring fractions on the island of Borneo has the potential to spill over into Bali. Nevertheless during the past years Bali has remained stable and there have been few reports of serious disturbances that have affected tourists or business travellers. Lombok is an island close to Bali often visited by tourists. It is regarded as more unstable and recently (Dec 2000) four explosions during fighting between two villages (Bongor & Parampuan). The main tourist region around Senggigi has remained quiet.
The laws against illegal drugs are severe and travellers should ensure that they carry sufficient well-marked medication that they may require for their time in Indonesia. Travellers are required to show identification at any time and so carrying photocopies of your passport is a wise precaution. Keep all valuable documents in a safe place and do not flaunt personal wealth while travelling around the island.
The nightlife in Bali is one of the main attractions for many tourists but sensible precautions are required. Travelling alone is unwise. Take care to ensure that your drink could not be spiked at any stage and do not walk at night, use an authorised taxi where possible. The level of HIV infection among the bar workers is high and close personal contact is very unwise.
The level of available health facilities varies greatly through Bali and other parts of Indonesia. In general most of the main hotels will have English speaking doctors but care would be required if your illness requires hospitalisation.
Food and Water
It is wise to maintain a high level of care with regard to your food and water while in Indonesia. This includes even those in high quality hotels but also particularly for those eating from street vendors. Bivalve shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams etc) should be avoided at all times due to inadequate cooking. Bottled water should be purchased from your hotel or good quality shops to ensure that it is pure.
Mosquitoes and Insect Bites
Malaria transmission occurs throughout Indonesia all year but the risk in Bali is so low that prophylaxis is not generally recommended for most tourists. Nevertheless for those visiting Lombok (overnight visits) the risk exists and prophylaxis should be considered. Other mosquito borne diseases also occur throughout Indonesia and care must be taken to avoid insect bites. In Jakarta and other main cities there is a particular problem with a viral disease called Dengue Fever. The mosquito, which transmits this disease, typically bites during the day and in main urban centres.
The strength of the sun in Bali is considerable higher than that experienced in Ireland at any time of the year. Sufficient head covering should be worm when exposed and travellers should ensure that their fluid intake is sufficient. Salt depletion also needs to be replaced in times of significant perspiration.
If swimming in pools, make sure that sufficient chlorination has been used. Take care with small children when close to the deep end of the pool. If sea swimming make sure that there are always others around and that you heed any local advice and warning signs. Never swim soon after alcohol or for an hour after mealtime.
The extent of jet lag, which you will experience, depends on the duration of your flight and the amount of rest you were able to get before arrival. Try to rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to acclimatise and make sure you do not fall asleep beside the swimming pool during this initial period.
Vaccinations for Bali
There are no essential vaccines or entry to Bali from Western Europe. However for your personal protection travellers are recommended to consider vaccination cover against;
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water disease)
Other travellers planning a more rural or extensive trip may need to consider other vaccine cover against diseases like Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Rabies.
The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted Friday, spewing a plume of ash and smoke more than 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky. Mount Agung, about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life in 2017, sometimes grounding flights and forcing residents to flee their homes.
The latest eruption shortly before noon on Friday shot a cloud of volcanic ash high into the sky, but caused no disruption to flights, Indonesia's geological agency said. Agung remained at the second highest danger warning level, and there is a four-kilometre no-go zone around the crater.
Last summer, dozens of flights were cancelled after Agung erupted, while tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after an eruption in 2017.
The last major eruption of Agung in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.
Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
Jakarta, May 7, 2019 (AFP) - An Indonesian volcano erupted Tuesday, sending a massive column of ash and smoke 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the air, coating local villages in debris. Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island -- which has been rumbling since 2010 and saw a deadly eruption in 2016 -- spewed the thick plume after activity picked up recent days. Disaster agency officials said the eruption has the "potential" to affect flights, but it had not issued a formal notice for planes to avoid the area. Local residents living along rivers near the crater were advised to be on alert for possible lava flows.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths after the latest eruption and the disaster agency did not issue an evacuation order. No one lives inside a previously announced no-go zone around the volcano. Sinabung roared back to life in 2010 for the first time in 400 years. After another period of inactivity it erupted once more in 2013, and has remained highly active since. In 2016, seven people died in one of Sinabung's eruptions, while a 2014 eruption killed 16.
Last year, a volcano in the strait between Java and Sumatra islands erupted, causing an underwater landslide that unleashed a tsunami which killed over 400 people. Indonesia is home to around 130 active volcanoes due to its position on the "Ring of Fire", a belt of tectonic plate boundaries circling the Pacific Ocean where frequent seismic activity occurs.
By Debbi Ernest
Bengkulu, Indonesia, April 29, 2019 (AFP) - Floods sparked by torrential rains have killed nearly 40 in Indonesia with a dozen more still missing, officials said Monday, marking the latest calamity for a disaster-prone nation. Landslides and floods are common during the monsoon season between October and April, when rains lash the vast Southeast Asian archipelago. On Monday, Indonesia's disaster agency confirmed 29 deaths and said at least 13 more people were missing in Sumatra island's Bengkulu province. A landslide triggered by heavy rain in neighbouring Lampung province on Saturday also killed a family of six.
Meanwhile, flooding in and around parts of the capital Jakarta last week killed at least two people, forced more than 2,000 to evacuate their homes and set 14 pet pythons on the loose. In Bogor, a satellite city of Jakarta, residents had to contend with the prospect of coming face to face with the giant serpents, after they were set loose from a private property due to the high waters.
Six of the snakes -- which were as long as four metres (13 feet) -- have been found, but eight were still missing, officials said at the weekend. "If you find them please report it to authorities or volunteers," said Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. That was not much comfort for some Bogor residents. "We're terrified to hear this," said Samsudin, who goes by one name. "Apparently they're very big so we want authorities to help us find them or take action."
- Illegal mining -
In Sumatra, some 12,000 residents have been evacuated from water-logged Bengkulu with hundreds of buildings, bridges and roads damaged. Authorities have set up temporary shelters and public kitchens for those displaced by the rains. Hardest hit was Bengkulu Tengah district, just outside of the provincial capital, where 22 people were killed along with hundreds of livestock.
Illegal coal mining was partly to blame for deadly landslides, authorities said. "Apart from natural factors like the heavy rain, (the flooding) was also caused by human activity that destroys the environment," disaster agency head Doni Monardo told reporters in Bengkulu on Monday. Activists have long warned deforestation from rampant mining in the province could trigger a catastrophe.
At least four major rivers in Bengkulu overflow every time it rains due to environmental damage near their banks, activists said. "The flooding in Bengkulu was made worse by the severe damage... caused by coal mining," Ali Akbar from local environmental group Kanopi Bengkulu said in a statement. Illegal mining was blamed for killing dozens on the island of Sulawesi in March when a makeshift mine collapsed. Mineral-rich Indonesia has scores of unlicensed mines -- many with complete disregard for even the most basic safety procedures.
Also in Sulawesi this year, some 70 people were killed by floods and landslides that wiped entire villages off the map. Nearly 10,000 people were displaced. Last month, some 112 people died and more than 90 remain missing after torrential rains pounded Indonesia's Papua region, triggering landslides and flash floods. Indonesia, a nation of some 17,000 islands, is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are a common occurrence.
By Harry PEARL
Luwuk, Indonesia, April 12, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on Friday, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground. The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 17 kilometres (10 miles) off the east coast of Sulawesi island, the US Geological Survey said, where a 7.5-magnitude quake-tsunami around the city of Palu killed more than 4,300 people last year.
Three light-to-moderate aftershocks occurred in the same area following the initial quake Friday, USGS reported. Indonesia's disaster agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal communities in Morowali district, where residents were advised to move away from the coast. The warning was later lifted by the agency, which had estimated the wave at under a half a metre (20 inches). Video footage from Luwuk city showed scared residents -- some carrying children -- running from their homes and racing to higher ground on motorcycles.
The USGS warned that considerable damage was possible in poorly built or badly designed structures. Hapsah Abdul Madjid, who lives in Luwuk city in Banggai district, Central Sulawesi, where the tremor was felt strongly, said people fled to higher ground and the electricity was cut, adding that residents panicked as fears soared over an imminent tsunami. One person trying to flee fell and died, Kompas.com news website reported, citing a provincial health worker. Kompas identified the victim as Daeng Pasang, 66. The tremor off the eastern coast of Sulawesi is on the other side of the island from disaster-hit Palu, where residents still felt the quake despite being hundreds of kilometres away. "I ran straight outside after the earthquake -- everything was swaying," 29-year-old Palu resident Mahfuzah told AFP.
- Disaster prone -
Thousands in Palu were still living in makeshift shelters six months after the late September disaster, with at least 170,000 residents of the city and surrounding districts displaced and entire neighbourhoods still in ruins, despite life returning to normal in other areas of the tsunami-struck city. The force of last year's quake saw entire neighbourhoods levelled by liquefaction -- a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand. Apart from the damage to tens of thousands of buildings, the disaster destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing residents of their income. Indonesia has said the damage bill in Palu topped $900 million. The World Bank has offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide. On boxing day December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck westernmost Aceh province, causing a tsunami and killing more than 170,000 in Indonesia. Last year was also particularly tough, when Indonesia experienced more than 2,500 disasters ranging from a series of deadly earthquakes to killer landslides and volcanic eruptions. The sprawling archipelago is dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands that erupted in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.
May 12, 2008
The five islands of Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius (or “Statia”) and St. Maarten (Dutch side) comprise the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All Americans traveling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009. Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other document compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted. Based on current projections, we expect to begin production of the passport card in June 2008 and be in full production in July 2008. The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on the Passport Card is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html. We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
The U.S. Consulate recommends traveling in the Netherlands Antilles with a valid U.S. passport to avoid delays or misunderstandings. A lost or stolen passport is also easier to replace when outside the United States than other evidence of citizenship. Visitors to the Netherlands Antilles may be asked to show onward/return tickets or proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Length of stay is granted for two weeks and may be extended for 90 days by the head office of immigration. For further information, travelers may contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch Consulate in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston or Miami. Visit the web site for the Embassy of the Netherlands at http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp for the most current visa information.
We have 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:
Drug-related organized crime exists within the Netherlands Antilles but has not directly affected tourists in the past.
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, 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., 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: In recent years, street crime has increased, especially in St. Maarten. Valuables, including passports, left unattended on beaches, in cars and hotel lobbies are easy targets for theft, and visitors should leave valuables and personal papers secured in their hotel. Burglary and break-ins are increasingly common at resorts, beach houses and hotels. Armed robbery occasionally occurs. The American boating community has reported a handful of incidents in the past, and visitors are urged to exercise reasonable caution in securing boats and belongings. Car theft, especially of rental vehicles for joy riding and stripping, can occur. Incidents of break-ins to rental cars to steal personal items have been reported by American tourists. Vehicle leases or rentals may not be fully covered by local insurance when a vehicle is stolen. Be sure you are sufficiently insured when renting vehicles and jet skis.
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, to 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.
Please see our information for American Victims of Crime Overseas.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is generally good in Curaçao and St. Maarten, but may be limited on the other three islands. Hospitals have three classes of services i.e.: First Class: one patient to a room, air conditioning etc.; Second Class: two to six patients to a room, no air conditioning; Third Class: 15 to 30 people in one hall. Patients are accommodated according to their level of insurance.
Bonaire: The San Francisco hospital is a medical center (35 beds) with decompression facilities. The hospital has an air ambulance service to Curaçao and Aruba.
Curaçao: St. Elizabeth hospital is a public hospital that may be compared to midrange facilities in the United States. St. Elizabeth's hospital has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness. Several private clinics provide good to excellent medical service.
St. Maarten: St. Maarten Medical Center (79 beds) is a relatively small hospital where general surgery is performed. Complex cases are sent to Curaçao.
Statia: Queen Beatrix Medical Center (20 beds) is a medical facility well equipped for first aid. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten.
Saba: Saba Clinic (14 beds) is a well-equipped first aid facility. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten. The Saba Marine Park has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
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 the Netherlands Antilles is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in the Netherlands Antilles is on the right hand side. Right turns on red are prohibited, and traffic conditions require somewhat defensive driving. Local laws require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Children under 4 years of age should be in child safety seats; children under 12 should ride in the back seat.
Nonexistent or hidden and poorly maintained street signs are the major road hazard in the Netherlands Antilles. Therefore, drivers should proceed through intersections with caution. Roads in the Netherlands Antilles are extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe in the Netherlands Antilles as long as drivers are familiar with the route and road conditions. Most streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. In Curacao, drivers should be aware of herds of goats that may cross the street unexpectedly. In Bonaire, wild donkeys may also cross the road.
Taxis are the easiest, yet most expensive form of transportation on the islands. As there are no meters, passengers should verify the price before entering the taxi. Fares quoted in U.S. dollars may be significantly higher than those quoted in the local currency. Vans are inexpensive and run non-stop during daytime with no fixed schedule. Each van has a specific route displayed in the front of the windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are good to fair.
See road safety information at the following sites; http://www.curacao.com, http://www.statiatourism.com, http://www.sabatourism.com, http://www.infobonaire.com, http://www.st-maarten.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 the Netherlands Antilles’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Netherlands Antilles’ air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Dutch law in principle does not permit dual nationality. However, there are several exceptions. For example, American citizens who are married to Dutch citizens are exempt from the requirement to abandon their American nationality when they apply to become a Dutch citizen by naturalization. For detailed and specific information on this subject, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington or one of the Dutch consulates in the U.S. In addition to being subject to all Dutch laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Dutch citizens.
Time-share buyers are cautioned about contracts that do not have a "non-disturbance or perpetuity protective clause" incorporated into the purchase agreement. Such a clause gives the time-share owner perpetuity of ownership should the facility be sold. Americans sometimes complain that the timeshare units are not adequately maintained, despite generally high annual maintenance fees. Because of the large number of complaints about misuse of maintenance fees, particularly in St. Maarten, prospective timeshare owners are advised to review the profit and loss statement for maintenance fees. Investors should note that a reputable accounting firm should audit profit and loss statements.
Potential investors should be aware that failed land development schemes involving time-share investments could result in financial losses. Interested investors may wish to seek professional advice regarding investments involving land development projects. Real estate investment problems that reach local courts are rarely settled in favor of foreign investors.
An unusually competitive fee to rent vehicles or equipment could indicate that the dealer is unlicensed or uninsured. The renter is often fully responsible for replacement costs and fees associated with any damages that occur during the rental period. Visitors may be required to pay these fees in full before leaving the Netherlands Antilles and may be subject to civil or criminal penalties if they cannot or will not make payment.
Netherlands Antilles customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Netherlands Antilles. For example, it is strictly prohibited to export pieces of coral and/or seashells. Please see our information on customs regulations.
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 the laws of the Netherlands Antilles, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands Antilles are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The Netherlands Antilles has strict gun control laws; even a stray bullet in a suitcase can trigger a fine or time in jail. 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 web site.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
American citizens residing or traveling in the Netherlands Antilles 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 the Netherlands Antilles. 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. Consulate General is located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curaçao, telephone (599-9) 461-3066; fax (599-9) 461-6489; e-mail address: email@example.com.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated May 7, 2007, to update the Entry/Exit, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registry / Embassy Location sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Washington, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - The Church of Scientology said Thursday all the passengers from a cruise ship that was quarantined over a measles case had been cleared to leave. "All passengers and crew (100%) of the Freewinds have been fully cleared of any possible risk of being infected by the measles or infecting others," the organization said in a statement. "All passengers and crew are free to come and go as they wish," a spokesman added to AFP.
The infected individual was a member of the crew who, according to the Church, had fully recovered and was given a clean bill of health a week ago. She had been earlier confined on the ship. The ship, which is based in Willemstad on the island of Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, was quarantined after its arrival in Saint Lucia on April 30. It remained there for two days before returning to Willemstad on May 4 where local authorities ordered a fresh quarantine to give them time to confirm the passengers were either immunized or had no risk of contracting the virus.
By Sara MAGNIETTE
The Hague, May 4, 2019 (AFP) - The Dutch territory of Curacao said Saturday it would do what is needed to prevent measles spreading from a Scientology cruise ship, after a crew member came down with the disease. The Freewinds, which left the Caribbean island of St. Lucia on Friday, arrived back in its home port of Curacao at around 9:00 am (1300 GMT) Saturday, according to myshiptracking.com.
The Curacao government said in a statement that it would "take all necessary precautions to handle the case of measles on board of the Freewinds," including vaccinations. "An investigation will also be done to determine who will be allowed to leave the ship without (posing) a threat to the population of Curacao," it said. "It is imperative to make all efforts to prevent a spread of this disease internationally." Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that three health officials had boarded the boat to examine those on board. Only people able to prove that they have been vaccinated against measles or had already had the disease would be able to leave the boat, its correspondent there reported.
- Anti-vaccine movement -
The Church of Scientology says the 440-foot (134-meter) vessel is used for religious retreats and is normally based in Curacao. The vessel had arrived in St Lucia from Curacao on Tuesday, when it was placed under quarantine by health authorities there because of a measles patient, said to be a female crew member. According to NOS, the crew member concerned is a Danish national, who arrived in Curacao from Amsterdam on April 17. It was only when the boat was at sea, on route to St Lucia, that a doctor discovered she had measles, their correspondent said.
The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly contagious disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as a major global health threat. The authorities in Curacao nevertheless urged local people not to panic, as the risk of the disease spreading in this case was fairly low. Several people did however visit the cruise ship between April 22 and April 28 before it set sail for St Lucia and the authorities asked them to make themselves known to health officials.
Officials said the Freewinds had travelled between Curacao, St Lucia and another Dutch-held island, Aruba, several times towards the end of April. There were about 300 people aboard the ship, according to Saint Lucia authorities, which placed the vessel in quarantine. They said they provided 100 doses of measles vaccine at no cost. The Scientology church, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1953, did not respond to requests for comment. Its teachings do not directly oppose vaccination, but followers consider illness a sign of personal failing and generally avoid medical interventions.
Miami, Aug 26, 2015 (AFP) - Tropical storm Erika took aim at the Lesser Antilles Wednesday as storm warnings went up there and in Puerto Rico in anticipation of heavy rains, US forecasters said. With winds of 75 kilometres (45 miles) per hour, Erika was 540 kilometres (335 miles) east of Antigua at 1200 GMT, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported.
Advancing at a speed of 28 kilometres (17 miles) per hour, it was expected to sweep over the Lesser Antilles Wednesday night and then head toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tropical storm warnings were up in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saba, St Eustacia and St Maarten.
A US Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft that flew into the storm found it was slightly increasing in strength. "Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," the hurricane centre said. According to the NHC's projections, Erika could become a hurricane by the end of the week, or early next, as it nears Florida. But "the intensity forecast remains very uncertain," it said.
Erika is arriving on the heels of Danny, the season's first hurricane which petered out before reaching the Caribbean. Experts said earlier this month that there was a 90 percent chance the 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic would be less active than usual.
World Travel News Headlines
Patna, India, June 16, 2019 (AFP) - Severe heat has left dozens dead over a 24-hour period in India's Bihar state, as the country enters a third week of searing temperatures, officials said Sunday. The deaths occurred in three districts of the poor northern state, where temperatures have hovered around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in recent days, senior health official Vijay Kumar told AFP.
Forty-nine people died in three districts of the Magadh region that has been hit by drought, he said. "It was a sudden development on Saturday afternoon. People affected by heatstroke were rushed to different hospitals," Kumar added. "Most of them died on Saturday night and some on Sunday morning during treatment." Kumar said about 40 more people were being treated at a government-run hospital in Aurangabad. "Patients affected by heat stroke are still being brought, the death toll is likely to increase if the heatwave continues."
Most of the victims were aged above 50 and were rushed to hospitals in semi-conscious state with symptoms of high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. Twenty-seven people died in Aurangabad district, 15 in Gaya and seven in Nawada district, officials said. State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,700) for the family of each victim. Harsh Vardhan, India's health minister, said people should not leave their homes until temperatures fall. "Intense heat affects brain and leads to various health issues," he said.
Large parts of northern India have endured more than two weeks of sweltering heat. Temperatures have risen above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the desert state of Rajasthan. A heatwave in 2015 left more than 3,500 dead in India and Pakistan. In 2017, researchers said South Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world's population, could see heat levels rise to unsurvivable levels by the end of the century if no action is taken on global warming.
Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake stuck near the uninhabited Kermadec islands northeast of New Zealand Sunday, the US Geological Survey said as authorities monitored for signs of a tsunami. New Zealand's civil defence organisation said it was monitoring the situation and if a tsunami was generated it would take at least two hours to reach the country. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicentre along the coasts of the Kermadec islands." The earthquake struck at 10:55am (2255 GMT Saturday) some 928 kilometres (575 miles) north-northeast of the New Zealand city of Tauranga in North Island at a depth of 34 km.
Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Sunday centred 97 kilometres (60 miles) north-east of Ohonua, on the Pacific island of Tonga, the US Geological Survey reported. The quake hit at 2156 GMT Saturday with an epicentre depth of 10 kilometres, the US global quake monitor said. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued no alerts, and there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The reported epicentre lies within the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of regular seismic activity. In February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
Geneva, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A woman has drowned in Lake Geneva when her sightseeing boat sank as a violent storm battered parts of Switzerland on Saturday, police said. A man who was in the same boat was able to swim to another vessel from where he fired "two flares", Joanna Matta, police spokeswoman for the canton (region) of Geneva, told AFP. The man told officers that the woman had been "passing through Geneva" and that the storm had taken them "by surprise", Matta said. Three police boats and emergency services rushed to the scene. Police divers later retrieved the woman's body from the lake.
The victim, whose nationality remains unknown, was then taken to a hospital in Geneva where she was declared dead. In a separate incident, the storm also damaged some of the 465 boats taking part in the 81st edition of the Bol d'Or, an annual regatta on Lake Geneva, the event's press service said. Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the participants on Saturday afternoon, causing boats to capsize although nobody was injured.
However, the storm broke the mast of the ultra-fast "Real Team" catamaran, which had been in the lead and was forced to pull out of the race. The bad weather struck western Switzerland on Saturday afternoon, bringing hail and winds reaching up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour, according to the national forecaster MeteoSwiss. In the neighbouring French region of Haute-Savoie the storm also caused damage and left a 51-year-old German tourist dead after a tree came down at a campsite.
Windhoek, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - Drought-hit Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals -- including elephants and giraffes -- to limit loss of life and generate $1.1 million for conservation, the authorities confirmed Saturday. "Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management," environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.
The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the southern African nation estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. "The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation," Muyunda said.
In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather. Namibia's cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals. They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus -- all from national parks. The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.
The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants. The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday. Namibia, a country of 2.4 million people, has previously made calls for aid to assist in the drought emergency that has already affected over 500,000 people. In April the government announced that it will spend about $39,400 (35,200 euros) on drought relief this year to buy food, provide water tankers and provide subsidies to farmers.
By Rosa SULLEIRO
Sao Paulo, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - A nationwide strike called by Brazil's trade unions disrupted public transport and triggered road blocks in parts of the country Friday, ahead of protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's pension reform. Hours before the opening match of the Copa America in Sao Paulo, some metro lines in the country's biggest city were paralyzed as professors and students also prepared to take to the streets over the government's planned education spending cuts. It will be the latest mass demonstration against Bolsonaro since he took office in January, but the timing could not be worse for the embattled president as Brazil prepares to play Bolivia in South America's showcase football tournament.
Bolsonaro was expected to attend the opener at Morumbi stadium where police sharpshooters will be deployed as part of increased security for the competition. One of Brazil's main trade unions estimated 45 million workers had taken part in the strike. Some 63 cities had been affected by the stoppage, with more than 80 cities recording demonstrations, G1 news site said. The number of protesters is expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil's major cities. Protesters have already blocked some roads in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where G1 said police had used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and clear the streets. Brazilians were divided over the partial strike. "This current government wants to destroy everything that we built decades ago so that's why I'm in favor (of the strike) and I am fighting against social inequality," Vania Santos, 49, told AFP in Rio. In Sao Paulo, Flavio Moreira opposed the stoppage, however, saying it "hurts the commercial part" of the city.
- Pension savings cut -
Bolsonaro's proposed overhaul of Brazil's pension system -- which he has warned will bankrupt the country if his plan is not approved -- is seen as key to getting a series of economic reforms through Congress. But the changes, including an increase in the retirement age and workers' contributions, have faced resistance from trade unions and in the lower house of Congress, where Bolsonaro's ultraconservative Social Liberal Party has only around 10 percent of the seats. A pared-back draft of the reform presented to Congress on Thursday -- which reduces expected savings from 1.2 trillion reais ($300 billion) in 10 years to around 900 billion reais -- did little to appease union leaders, who vowed to go ahead with the shutdown. Such savings are seen as vital to repairing Brazil's finances and economy, which were devastated by a 2015-2016 crisis.
Economy minister Paulo Guedes, who is spearheading the government's reform agenda, has threatened to resign if the bill is not passed or is watered down significantly. It caps a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America's biggest economy from sliding back into recession. More than 13 million people are unemployed, the latest data shows, with a record number giving up looking for a job. Fighting between military and far-right factions of Bolsonaro's government has fueled chaos in his administration where his sons and right-wing writer and polemicist Olavo de Carvalho wield enormous influence. Bolsonaro sacked his third minister on Thursday -- retired general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who had been the government secretary and seen as a moderate voice. That came on the same day Bolsonaro broke his silence to defend Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who has been accused of wrongdoing while serving as a judge in the sprawling Car Wash anticorruption investigation.
By Clotilde RAVEL
Abidjan, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - "Cover your goods," Diakaria Fofana, a doctor of public health, warns food vendors as a thick cloud of insecticide spray wafts down a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic capital. Men in protective clothes, goggles and masks are disgorging plumes of mosquito-killing chemicals in a bid to roll back an outbreak of dengue. Two people have died and 130 have fallen ill since the fever returned to the West African state last month.
The toll, so far, is tiny compared with other tropical countries, especially in Southeast Asia, where the painful and sometimes deadly disease is an entrenched peril. But tackling the outbreak is a major challenge for Ivory Coast, a poor country that is having to resort to time-honoured, labour-intensive methods of spraying and neighbourhood awareness campaigns to prevent its spread. Female mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus transfer the pathogen when they tuck into a blood meal from someone.
A vaccine does exist, but is not available in Ivory Coast because "it has many secondary effects (and) it's expensive"," explained Joseph Vroh Benie Bi, director of the National Institute for Public Hygiene (INHP). Developed by French pharmaceutical group Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine is recommended for use in people aged nine and older, and only for individuals who have already been infected. Usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms, dengue makes some people very sick indeed, developing into a haemorrhagic fever that can cause difficulty breathing, heavy bleeding or even organ failure. While a first bout of dengue is rarely fatal, subsequent infections are usually worse.
- 'Fighting the mosquito' -
The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) says there are up to 100 million cases of dengue worldwide every year, and almost half the world's population lives in countries where the disease is endemic. It kills more than 20,000 people each year. Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are the worst-hit areas. There is no cure, and the WHO recommends that patients take paracetamol, rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Five new vaccines are in development, but in the meantime Fofana says: "The only effective means of fighting (dengue) is fighting the mosquito." In Ivory Coast, most recorded cases have occurred in Abidjan.
Health workers are striving to enlist the public in tackling the mosquito, targeting its life cycle. "The larvae multiply in stagnant water, for example inside used tyres," said Fofana, deputy director of the vector control unit at the INHP. "People should never store water in buckets in the open air and they should regularly throw out the water in plates under houseplants." But he faces an uphill job in a sprawling port city of 4.4 million people in the middle of the rainy season. What's more, people who are infected, even without knowing it, and can bring the virus to new areas when they are bitten by local mosquitoes. The WHO has set a goal to halve the number of dengue deaths by 2020, but incidence of the disease has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years. "Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries," it says.
- 'Malaria's big brother' -
In Ivory Coast, where malaria accounts for a third of all medical consultations, many people self-medicate when they experience symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, nausea or aches and pains. "This is a real problem, because the symptoms of malaria, dengue, typhus and yellow fever are similar. Doing a blood test is absolutely indispensable," said Fofana. Treatment with the wrong medicines can worsen the situation, he stressed -- aspirin or ibuprofen can increase the risk of bleeding, for example. In the meantime, the spraying goes on. "We know the risks," said Bamba Segbe, an Abidjan resident watching the masked men in action. "It's not for nothing that we call dengue malaria's big brother."
By Grace Matsiko
Mpondwe, Uganda, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - At the bustling Mpondwe border post, a woman crossing from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda is whisked away to an isolation unit after a thermal scanner picks up her high temperature. Health workers keep Mulefu Kyakimwa, a 32-year-old vegetable oil trader, under observation but later discharge her, once Ebola has been ruled out as the cause of her fever.
The border post is on high alert after a family with suspected Ebola escaped isolation on the Congolese side and entered Uganda, where two of them died this week. The spread of the deadly virus to Uganda comes after months of efforts in a region of porous borders to contain an outbreak in Congo which has killed 1,400 people, according to the latest official data. "Since the start of the outbreak, the total number of cases is 2,084, of which 1,990 have been confirmed and another 94 are probable," the Congolese health ministry said in its daily bulletin from Wednesday. "In all, there have been 1,405 deaths -- 1,311 confirmed and 94 probable -- and 579 people have recovered," the bulletin said, adding that 132,679 people had been vaccinated.
- 'We expected it' -
Few people seem to be surprised that Ebola would eventually make its way to Uganda -- which has experienced outbreaks in the past. "The outbreak is not a surprise. We expected it. People cross the borders all the time and interact a lot," said Dorcus Kambere, a 29-year-old Ugandan bar attendant who feels her job puts her at risk.
At Mpondwe -- where 25,000 people cross daily -- travellers undergo rigorous health checks to detect the lethal virus, which attacks the organs and leads to internal and external bleeding. Soldiers carrying automatic rifles guide travellers through the screening process, making sure they wash their hands with disinfectant. The travellers then pass through a shelter with a thermal scanner that feeds people's body temperatures into a computer. "This is a situation we go through every day since the Ebola outbreak," said Ambrose Nyakitwe, 34, a Ugandan trader returning from the Congo side. "It is good. I have a family. I have to see that they don't get affected," he added, after passing through the scan. Outside the busy border post, business carries on as usual, with children swimming and playing in the muddy Lhubiriha river that draws a natural boundary between the two nations.
- 'Not safe' -
A woman serves pancakes with her bare hands from a bucket as pot-bellied money changers lounging next to her carry out their trade. However, while some carry on seemingly oblivious to the dangers posed by the virus, others are increasingly suspicious. "It is not safe. If they say people with Ebola crossed into Uganda, how sure are we there are not many who will infect us and are yet to be got?" asked Bernadette Bwiso, 41, a trader. "Government must do a house-to-house search," she said. Meanwhile, Nyakitwe is anxious about how the infected patients managed to cross into Uganda despite heightened surveillance. A Congolese woman -- who is married to a Ugandan -- her mother, three children and their nanny had travelled to DRC to care for her ill father, who later died of Ebola.
The World Health Organization said 12 members of the family who attended the burial in Congo were placed in isolation in the DRC, but six "escaped and crossed over to Uganda" on June 9. The next day, a five-year-old was checked into hospital in Bwera vomiting blood. Tests confirmed he had Ebola and the family was placed in an isolation ward. His three-year-old brother was also confirmed to have Ebola, as was their grandmother who died late Wednesday. Uganda and the RDC are discussing what can be done to intensify collaboration between the two countries to prevent the spread, the Congolese authorities said.
- No surveillance -
Uganda's health ministry said that the surviving travellers and the Ugandan father -- five people in total -- had agreed to be repatriated to DRC on Thursday for treatment and "family support and comfort" from relatives on the other side of the border. However, three unrelated patients are still in a Ugandan hospital awaiting the result of Ebola tests.
Uganda's Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said challenges remained at "unofficial entry points" between Congo and Uganda, which share a porous 875-kilometre (545-mile) border. These unauthorised border crossings, known as "panyas" in the local Lukonzo language, are often merely planks laid down across a point in the river, or through forests and mountains where there is no surveillance. In a bid to contain the spread of the disease the Ugandan government has suspended market days and urged people to stop shaking hands and hugging.
Madrid, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Spain will launch a campaign to urge young people to "always carry a condom on them" as the number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) surges, the government said Thursday. The news comes a week after the World Health Organization expressed alarm at the lack of progress on curbing STI or diseases (STD), with one expert warning of complacency as dating apps spur sexual activity. In Spain, videos and ads will be posted from Monday on social networks, music platforms and media that 14- to 29-year-olds most follow, the health ministry said. "It's normal that you want to do it in your parents' bed. What isn't normal is that you want to complicate your life," reads one ad, going on to show the number of new cases of HIV and other infections.
In a statement, the health ministry urged "everyone -- and particularly the young -- to always have a condom on them and use it." "The use of condoms has dropped among the 15- to 18-year-olds over the last few years," Health Minister Maria Luisa Carcedo told reporters. She said there was complacency over STI, including infection by the HIV virus that causes AIDS. The campaign is a "first shock measure" to challenge the rise of STI among young people, the statement said. The number of cases of gonorrhoea, for instance, has risen an average of more than 26 percent annually between 2013 and 2017, according to the ministry.
Syphilis "has risen less but in 2017, it reached its highest peak since the start of statistics in Spain: 10.61 infections per 100,000 residents compared to 2.57 in 1995." The highest rates of chlamydia, meanwhile, are among 20- to 24-year-olds and particularly women, the ministry said. In 2017, Spain registered close to 24,000 cases of infection by gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia and LGV, a sexually-transmitted disease, according to the statement.
Vilnius, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuanian temperatures have hit record June highs, meteorologists said Thursday, as a heatwave forced school closures and threatened to reduce harvests in the draught-hit Baltic region. Kaisiadorys in central Lithuania was the hottest place at 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, the highest-ever temperature recorded for June in the country, weather forecaster Paulius Starkus told AFP. Six people drowned in the Baltic EU state on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the year to date, while some schools put classes on hold or cut lessons short due to the heatwave.
Scientists say the extreme weather is in part a result of climate change. "Lithuania used to have heatwaves but now they occur more often and are more intense due to climate change," Vilnius University climatologist Donatas Valiukas told AFP. Starkus said a downpour with thunder and hail could follow in some areas on Thursday afternoon. Agriculture Minister Giedrius Surplys told lawmakers that some areas were experiencing "a real climatic draught" threatening harvests, while hydrologists warned that river water levels posed a threat to fish. Demand for air-conditioning has also soared in recent weeks. Lithuania's hot weather is expected to last through the week, then temperatures may ease below 30 degrees Celsius starting Monday. Fellow Baltic state Latvia is also experiencing unusual heat for June, with temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius.
In recent days, Latvia's western region of Kurzeme saw thunderstorms with hail damaging buildings, smashing greenhouses and tearing power lines. Two people have been hospitalised in the northern Latvian town of Cesis after a tree fell on their camper van while they were inside. Fellow Baltic state Estonia had a heatwave last week and is now experiencing rainy and windy weather. Poland has also been experiencing high temperatures this month, which has resulted in increased air-conditioner use. The power transmission system operator PSE said that on Wednesday there was record electricity demand for a summer morning at nearly 24.10 gigawatts (GW). Forty-two people have already drowned in Poland this month, according to the government security centre RCB.