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North Korea

Democratic People's Republic of Korea US Consular Information Sheet
April 29, 2008
Prior to departing the United States, U.S. citizens planning to transit China on their visit to North Korea are encouraged to register on line with the U.S. Emba
sy in Beijing; U. S. citizens transiting South Korea to take the Mount Kumgang or Kaesong City tours should register with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
U. S. citizens visiting North Korea should also register with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang (U.S. Protective Power).
Please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) is a highly militaristic Communist state located on the Korean Peninsula between northeast China and the Republic of Korea (South Korea or ROK), with land borders with China, Russia and South Korea.
The DPRK is one of the world’s most isolated countries.
The continuing dispute over North Korea’s development of nuclear programs and nuclear weapons has resulted in tensions in the region and between the United States and the DPRK.
North Korea limits trade and transportation links with other countries and tightly restricts the circumstances under which foreigners may enter the country and interact with local citizens.
Telephone and fax communications are unavailable in many areas of the country and foreigners can expect their communications to be monitored by DPRK officials.
In the past few years, North Korea has experienced famine, flooding, fuel and electricity shortages, and outbreaks of disease.
Many countries, including the United States, have contributed to international relief efforts to assist the people of North Korea.

Foreign tourists are a means for North Korea to earn much needed foreign currency, but an underdeveloped service sector, inadequate infrastructure, and political tensions with surrounding countries have stymied any significant tourist flow.
North Korean efforts to expand tourism have focused primarily on group tours from China, as well as from South Korea primarily to the Mount Kumgang tourist area and the city of Kaesong.

The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.
The Swedish Embassy located in Pyongyang acts as the United States’ interim consular protective power and provides basic consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea.
Please refer to Special Circumstances for additional information.

Read the Department of State Background Notes on North Korea for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: North Korean visas are required for entry.
The U.S. Government does not issue letters to private Americans seeking North Korean visas, even though in the past such letters have sometimes been requested by DPRK embassies.
Prospective travelers entering and departing North Korea through China must also obtain a two-entry visa for China, as a valid Chinese visa is essential for departing North Korea at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency.
While the ROK government is attempting to open direct travel routes to the DPRK, routine travel from the ROK to the DPRK is currently prohibited.
Travel across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges, or aid shipments, and for tours limited to Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong City.
There are no regularly operating direct commercial flights from South Korea to North Korea.
U.S. citizens who arrive in North Korea without a valid U.S. passport and North Korean visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry.
Travelers to North Korea report that fees for local travel costs (taxi, tolls, permits and the cost for security personnel assigned to escort foreigner visitors) can be high and arbitrary.

Where to obtain a North Korean visa: There is no DPRK embassy in the United States.
U.S. citizens and residents planning travel to North Korea must obtain DPRK visas in third countries, for example in Beijing, China.
For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Address inquiries to:

The Permanent Representative of the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue
New York, NY
10017
Tel: (212) 972-3105
Fax: (212) 972-3154

Americans living abroad can contact the DPRK embassy, if any, in their country of residence.
U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea may obtain their visas at the DPRK Embassy in Beijing, China, which will issue visas only after receiving authorization from the DPRK Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang.
Prior to traveling to the region, travelers may wish to confirm that authorization to issue their visa has been received from Pyongyang.
Americans can call the North Korean Embassy in Beijing prior to their travel by telephone at (86-10) 6532-1186 or (86-10) 6532-1189 (fax: (86-10) 6532-6056).

Information on dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
Please see those sections below under Special Circumstances.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: DPRK government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea.
Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Photographing roads, bridges, airports, rail stations, or anything other than designated public tourist sites can be perceived as espionage and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention.
DPRK border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure.
Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside the DPRK, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
at where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on worldwide security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: The North Korean government does not release statistics on crime.
Violent crime is rare and street crime is uncommon in Pyongyang.
Petty thefts have been reported, especially at the airport in Pyongyang.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the Swedish Embassy.
If you are a victim of any crime while in North Korea, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the Swedish Embassy for assistance (address and phone number below).

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Persons with medical problems should not travel to North Korea.
For decades, medical facilities in the DPRK have suffered from a lack of resources and electricity, as well as inadequate and often outdated skills among the medical staff.
Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available.
Surgery should be avoided.
For accidents outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be a lengthy trip without medical assistance.
Persons requiring regular medication are encouraged to bring sufficient stocks of drugs for personal use since most drugs are impossible to obtain locally.
Hospitals will expect immediate U.S. dollar cash payment for medical treatment.
Credit cards and checks have not been honored in the past, according to diplomatic personnel stationed in the DPRK.
Local DPRK hosts are often not aware of available evacuation options and might claim that no such options exist.
In case of serious medical problems, it is important to insist on immediate contact with the Swedish Embassy.
The Swedish Embassy can arrange a medical evacuation to Beijing within approximately 5-10 hours.

Vaccinations.
All necessary vaccinations should be received prior to traveling to North Korea.
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 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.
Travelers with special dietary requirements are advised to bring food with them to North Korea, as the restaurants available to foreigners may have limited menus that lack variety and nutritional adequacy.

Medical Vaccinations. In the case of a critical illness or accident, the Swedish Embassy will attempt to arrange flight clearances for air ambulances performing emergency medical evacuations.
Medical air evacuation costs vary, but average approximately $40,000 to $50,000 for medical, personnel, aircraft and clearance costs.
Clearances can usually be arranged within one day.
Medical evacuation by regularly scheduled airlines can be arranged, but is limited to the very few flights that operate from Pyongyang to Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang and Macau.
Chinese visas for injured foreigners and any escorts must be obtained prior to the evacuation from North Korea in order to transit China.
Even in the case of a medical emergency, transit visas may take several days to arrange.
Evacuation across the DMZ to South Korea is not allowed.

If an American citizen falls ill or is injured while traveling in the DPRK, accompanying travelers or family members should immediately contact the Swedish Embassy using the phone numbers listed below.

The Embassy of Sweden,
Munsu-Dong District,
Pyongyang, DPRK

Telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) are:
Tel:
(850-2) 3817 485 (Reception)


(850-2) 3817 904, 907(First Secretary)


(850-2) 3817 908, 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:
(850-2) 3817 663
Email:
ambassaden.pyongyang@foreign.ministry.se
Notification also should be made to the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit in Beijing, China, using the phone numbers listed below:

U.S. Embassy, Beijing
American Citizen Services
2 Xiushui Dong Jie
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431
Fax: (86-10) 6532-4153.

After hours, please call (86-10) 6532-3431 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
Americans who wish to contact U.S. consular officials in China can e-mail amcitbeijing@state.gov
Companies that may be able to arrange evacuation services include, but are not limited to those listed below.
Travelers may wish to contact these or other emergency medical assistance providers for information about their ability to provide medical evacuation insurance and/or assistance for travelers to North Korea.

SOS International (www.intsos.com)
U.S. telephone:
(1-800) 468-5232
China telephone:
(86-10) 6462-9111/9118

Medex Assistance Corporation (www.medexassist.com)
U.S. telephone:
(410) 453-6300 / 6301
Toll free:
108888-800-527-0218 (call from China)
China telephone:
(86-10) 6595-8510)

Global Doctor (www.globaldoctor.com.au/default.php)
China telephone: (86-10) 83151914).









(86-24) 24330678 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad , available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

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 if it will cover emergency expenses such as 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 North Korea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or situation.

Foreigners not holding a valid DPRK driver’s license are not allowed to drive in North Korea.
Foreigners generally are not allowed to use public buses or the subway.
North Korea has a functioning rail transport system; however delays occur often, sometimes for days.
On occasion, service may cease altogether before a traveler reaches his/her final destination.
Bicycles are unavailable for rental or purchase.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and North Korea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed North Korea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Interim Consular Protecting Power: The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.
The U.S. Government therefore cannot provide normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens in North Korea.
On September 20, 1995, a consular protecting power arrangement was implemented, allowing the Swedish Embassy in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang to provide basic consular protective services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested or who have died while there.

Consular Access:
There is no United States diplomatic or consular presence in the DPRK.
Americans traveling in the DPRK may receive limited consular services from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
Please see section above on “Medical Insurance” for address and contact information for the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry photocopies of their passport data and photo pages with them at all times so that, if questioned by DPRK officials, evidence of their U.S. citizenship is readily available. The U.S.- DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Swedish Embassy within four days of an arrest or detention of an American citizen and will allow consular visits within two days after a request is made by the Swedish Embassy.
However, consular access has not been readily granted in cases where American citizens have been reported as being detained or held against their will by DPRK officials.
Moreover, delegations with ethnic Korean individuals, or delegations representing Korean-affiliated organizations in the U.S., are handled by DPRK structures that are well beyond the reach of diplomatic missions in Pyongyang.
Hence, in case of a situation requiring consular assistance, the Embassy’s access is even more limited.

Customs Regulations:
DPRK authorities may seize documents, literature, audio and videotapes, compact discs and letters deemed by North Korean officials to be pornographic, political or intended for religious proselytizing.
Persons seeking to enter North Korea with religious materials in a quantity deemed to be greater than that needed for personal use can be detained, fined and expelled.
It is advisable to contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations or a DPRK embassy or a DPRK consulate in a third country for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our information on customs regulations.

Dual Nationality:
The DPRK does not recognize dual nationality.
U.S. citizens of Korean heritage may be subject to military obligations and taxes on foreign source income.
For further information see our dual nationality flyer.
Additional questions on dual nationality may be directed to Overseas Citizens Services, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC
20520 or by telephone at 1-888-407-4747.

U.S. Government Economic Sanctions Against North Korea:
At this time, goods of North Korean origin may not be imported into the United States either directly or indirectly without prior notification to and approval of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Exports to North Korea may be subject to licensing requirements.
Check with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
Most financial transactions between U.S. and North Korean citizens are authorized, provided they meet the criteria outlined in the June 19, 2000, and subsequent amendments to OFAC regulations.
All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to, from and within North Korea and to maintenance within North Korea are authorized, and U.S. travel service providers are allowed to organize group travel to North Korea.
Commercial U.S. ships and aircraft carrying U.S. goods are allowed to call at North Korean ports with prior clearance.
In May 2006, OFAC began prohibiting U.S. persons from “owning, leasing, operating or insuring any vessel flagged by North Korea.”
Full text of the regulation can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/fr/2000/061900-a.txt.

The U.S. maintains various export controls and other sanctions on North Korea for counter- terrorism, nonproliferation and other reasons.
Exports of military and sensitive dual-use items are prohibited, as are most types of U.S. economic assistance.
The U.S. also abides by multilateral restrictions and sanctions with respect to North Korea, including those contained in recent United Nations Security Council Resolutions in response to the North Korean missile launches and nuclear test in July and October 2006.

For additional information, consult the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treasury.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.

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.
Local laws also may not afford the protections available to U.S. citizens under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking local laws can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders often face long jail sentences and heavy fines.
North Korean security personnel may view unescorted travel inside North Korea by Americans who do not have explicit official authorization as espionage, especially when the U.S. citizens are originally from South Korea or are thought to understand the Korean language.
Security personnel may also view any attempt to engage in unauthorized conversations with a North Korean citizen as espionage.
Foreigners are subject to fines or arrest for unauthorized currency transactions or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners.
It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country's current and former leaders, Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung, respectively.
Foreign journalists have been threatened when questioning the policies or public statements of the DPRK or the actions of the current leadership.

Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see additional 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: There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea.

U.S. citizens planning to visit North Korea are encouraged to register prior to departing the United States with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing if entering North Korea from China.
U.S. citizens planning to visit the Mount Kumgang tourism area or Kaesong from South Korea should register with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
Registration can be done on line through the State Department's travel registration web site
or in person, by telephone or fax, at the U.S. Embassy.

The Embassy of Sweden (U.S. Protective Power).
Americans who have a medical or consular emergency and who wish to contact the Swedish Embassy are reminded first to communicate this need to their North Korean escorts or guides.
Do not attempt to travel to the Swedish Embassy unescorted.
The Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) is located at Munsu-Dong District, Pyongyang.
The telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) are:

Tel:
(850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Tel:
(850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (First Secretary)
Tel:
(850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:
(850-2) 3817 663

U.S. Embassy Beijing.
The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, is located at:
2 Xiushui Dong Jie, Beijing.
The Embassy is located near Ritan Park.
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431.
Fax: (86-10) 6532-4153.
Email: amcitbeijing@state.gov.
The Embassy Beijing web site is http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/.

For after-hours emergencies please call (86-10)6532-3431 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
U.S. Embassy Seoul.
The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, is located at:
32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
The Embassy is located across the street from Sejong Cultural Center and next to the Ministry of Information and Communication/KT Building.

Telephone: (82-2) 397-4114.
Fax: (82-2) 2-397-4101.
E-mail: seoul_acs@state.gov.
The Embassy Seoul web site is http://seoul.usembassy.gov/.

For after-hours emergencies please call (82-2) 721-4114 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 15, 2007, to update the sections on Country Description, Medical Insurance, Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2018 14:08:01 +0200

Pyongyang, Sept 6, 2018 (AFP) - Severe flooding in North Korea has killed at least 76 people with another 75 missing, many of them children, the Red Cross said Thursday.   Thousands of people have been left homeless after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides, toppling more than 800 buildings including houses, clinics and schools in North and South Hwanghae provinces, leaving Red Cross volunteers scrambling to find survivors.   "Thousands have lost their homes and are in urgent need of health services, shelter, food, safe drinking water and sanitation," said John Fleming of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) North Korea country office.   "With the cold season around the corner, we are also concerned this disaster will increase the risk of health problems and food insecurity for some communities."

Impoverished North Korea is vulnerable to natural disasters. More than 130 people died after floods struck North Hamgyong province in 2016, bringing down buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands in urgent need of food and shelter.   The country's territory is largely composed of mountains and hills that have long been stripped bare for fuel or turned into terraced rice fields, allowing rainwater to flow downhill unchecked.   A series of floods and droughts was partially responsible for a famine that killed hundreds of thousands between 1994-98, with economic mismanagement and the loss of Soviet support exacerbating the situation.
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2018 07:21:10 +0200

Seoul, Aug 21, 2018 (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has denounced his own country's health services, state media reported Tuesday, criticising officials for being "very idle and irresponsible".   Impoverished and isolated North Korea, which is subject to multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its pursuit of nuclear weapons, suffers from chronic food shortages and inadequate health services according to international aid agencies. 

Hospitals lack medicines, equipment, and trained staff.   While Pyongyang regularly proclaims its desire to provide its people with a better life, Kim roundly condemned its health system on a visit to a medical devices factory.   Some sectors "have made remarkable leaps forward in recent years" Kim said according to the official Korean Central News Agency, "but the public health sector has never done so and become more and more passive".   "There is no unit keeping its environment well in the public health sector, to say nothing of equipment modernisation," he added at the Myohyangsan Medical Appliances Factory.

Such "field guidance" visits by the leader are the mainstay of the North's state media output, and a key part of the authorities' domestic messaging, sometimes lauding the quality of projects and sometimes criticising officials.   The ruling Workers' Party had stressed the need to improve health services, but "officials are very idle and irresponsible in doing so", Kim said according to KCNA.

In the Korean-language version, he berated them for "hibernating for a long time", adding: "Animals only hibernate once a year but the health sector has been holed up and hibernating for years and shouting empty slogans."   Since his summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, Kim has stressed a focus on economic development, visiting industrial sites and factories across the nation.

In this year's "needs and priorities" assessment of North Korea, the UN Development Programme described its healthcare services as "inadequate", with a "lack of essential medical equipment, pharmaceutical remedies, appropriate referral systems, therapeutic equipment and assistive devices, as well as limited professional capacity".   "Furthermore, health infrastructure is poor with many [facilities] having inconsistent water, electricity and heating," it added.

North Korea has called for an end to sanctions against it, while the US has urged the international community to maintain a tough approach until its complete denuclearisation.   Following several ballistic missile launches and by far the North's most powerful nuclear test last year, Kim declared the development of its atomic capabilities complete and said economic development was the new priority.
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2018 07:41:24 +0200

Seoul, Aug 14, 2018 (AFP) - North Korea has stopped processing tourist visas for foreigners ahead of a high profile anniversary next month, according to a China-based tour operator.   The measure follows reports that Pyongyang had suspended visits by Chinese tour groups as it prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the country is officially known.

Koryo Tours, a popular agency among Western tourists seeking to visit the North, said on its website it had been "informed on 13 August by our partners in Pyongyang that they had been instructed from above that all tourist visa applications currently underway are to be frozen".   It was not given a reason for the freeze, the company said, but was told it would apply until the anniversary on September 9.   "This suggests to us that... a higher power in the country is simply pressing pause on tourism until it is clear to them who is coming in such delegations and how many people," it added.   Pyongyang has previously lavishly celebrated the date with military parades or mass games involving thousands of people performing acrobatic choreography in unison, and is expected this time to hold its first mass games for five years.

Speculation has also mounted that the nuclear-armed North could be preparing to mount a parade -- at which it normally shows off some of the weapons that have earned it multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions.   Chinese President Xi Jinping is speculated to be on the guest list, as officials in the North told South Korean journalists that he was invited to the event.   In his New Year speech in January, leader Kim Jong Un said North Korean people would "greet the 70th founding anniversary of their Republic as a great, auspicious event".

The occasion comes during a rare diplomatic detente on the Korean peninsula which has seen the South's president Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un meet twice, with a third summit planned for September.   The rapprochement also led to a landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, where the two leaders signed a vague agreement on denuclearisation.   Although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the North has since criticised Washington for its "gangster-like" demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.   The US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime.
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2018 10:27:07 +0200

Seoul, Aug 2, 2018 (AFP) - North Korea on Thursday warned that an "unprecedented" heatwave has caused heavy damage to crops as it urged citizens to "join the struggle" to prevent drought-like conditions from worsening and hampering food production in the impoverished country.   The Korean peninsula has been gripped by a scorching heatwave in recent weeks, with dozens of deaths in the South blamed on soaring temperatures that have hit all-time highs.    The temperature in North Korea's capital Pyongyang climbed to a record high of 37.8 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, with state TV warning that it was "taking a toll on the economy".   It did not elaborate on the scale of the damage.

But the rising temperatures have already inflicted heavy losses on the richer South, which has reported more than three million deaths of livestock and a fivefold increase in deaths from heat-related illnesses, while vegetable prices have doubled due to supplies being affected.   The North's state-run Rodong newspaper on Thursday said that curbing further damage to the agriculture sector was an "extremely important and urgent task".   "Rural areas across the country... are reporting damages to crops including rice and corn due to extremely high temperatures and drought," it said in an editorial.   "Today's reality is calling for every single individual across the country to join the struggle to contain the damages stemming from high temperature and drought," it said, urging citizens to "display their patriotic zeal" and "save every single dollop of water".   "This year's high temperature is an unprecedented natural disaster but it is not an insurmountable difficulty," it added.

The North has a fragile economy and has been frequently condemned by the international community for decades of prioritising its military and banned nuclear weapons programme over adequately providing for its people.  It has also been slapped with UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests, with the restrictions remaining in place despite an ongoing diplomatic rapprochement that has seen the North's leader Kim Jong Un hold a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump.   The country has periodically been hit by famine, and hundreds of thousands of people died -- estimates range into millions -- in the mid-1990s.   The food situation has improved in recent years however, partly due to reforms in agriculture and increasing trade at state-sanctioned private markets that have cropped up nationwide.    But the nation remains vulnerable to natural disasters including flood and drought due to chronic lack of infrastructure, deforestation and decades of state mismanagement. 
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:04:19 +0200
By Poornima WEERASEKARA, Ryan MCMORROW

Beijing, April 23, 2018 (AFP) - Thirty-two Chinese tourists and four North Koreans were killed when a bus plunged from a bridge in North Korea, Chinese officials and state media said Monday.   Two other Chinese nationals were injured in Sunday's accident south of the capital Pyongyang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.   Lu said China was investigating the cause of the accident and had deployed a team, including medical experts, to North Korea "to assist with the emergency rescue and treatment operations".

The ministry provided few details but China's official Xinhua news agency reported later that the bus had fallen from a bridge in North Hwanghae Province on Sunday night.   China's state broadcaster showed images of a large overturned vehicle, with light rain falling on rescue vehicles at night and doctors attending to a patient.   China was informed about the accident on Sunday night and its embassy personnel in Pyongyang rushed to the scene, the foreign ministry said in a statement.   The vast majority of foreign tourists to North Korea are Chinese, with the Cold War-era allies sharing a long land border and operating flights between the two countries.

Western visitors to the North once averaged around 5,000 a year, but numbers have been hit recently by a US travel ban -- Americans accounted for around 20 percent of the market -- and official warnings from other countries.   Tens of thousands of Chinese tourists are believed to visit the North every year, with many crossing via train through the Chinese border city of Dandong. For some, North Korea provides a window into what Communist China may have looked like decades ago.   Chinese tourism to the North has continued even though Beijing has enforced a slew of United Nations sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

- 'All necessary means' -
President Xi Jinping urged China's foreign ministry and embassy in North Korea to take "all necessary means" to handle the accident, and called for an "all-out" effort to help the injured and deal with the deceased, according to Xinhua.

China's state broadcaster CGTN had tweeted that the tour bus had plunged from a bridge prior to official confirmation of the accident. The post was later deleted without explanation.   North Hwanghae province lies south of the capital Pyongyang and stretches to the border with South Korea. It includes the city of Kaesong, an ancient Korean capital with historical sites.

More recently, the area hosted a manufacturing complex operated with the South.   The tour group was travelling by bus from Kaesong to Pyongyang when the accident happened, according to the independent Seoul-based website NK News, which cited an unnamed source.   North Korean roads are largely poor and potholed, and in many areas they are dirt rather than tarmac. Vehicles are sometimes forced to ford rivers or take detours when bridges are unpassable.

But the route from Pyongyang to Kaesong, where the accident reportedly happened, is one of the best in the country.   It runs north-south from the Chinese border to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with South Korea but has little traffic, like all North Korean highways.   Tank traps have been installed along the road in many locations -- sets of high concrete columns on either side of the road that can easily be blown up to create an obstruction for invading armoured vehicles.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:28:56 +0200

Wellington, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - A strong 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand's remote Kermadec Islands on Wednesday but authorities said there was no tsunami threat.   The quake struck at 4.19pm (0419GMT) at a depth of 111 kilometres (69 miles), with its epicentre 770 kilometres northeast of Auckland, the US Geological Survey said.   "Based on all available data, there is no tsunami threat from this earthquake," the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.   The uninhabited Kermadecs are New Zealand's northernmost islands.   They are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a hotbed of volcanic and earthquake activity at the intersection of several tectonic plates.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:17:20 +0200

Tokyo, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - The death toll from a powerful earthquake that triggered massive landslides in northern Japan rose to 44 on Monday with tens of thousands of police and troops still on the ground to support survivors.   Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said no one was left on a missing list, which suggested the figure could be the final death toll.   Around 40,000 police, fire fighters, troops and maritime safety officials were providing assistance, with more than 2,700 people still forced to stay in shelters after the killer quake struck the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido last week.

The majority of the dead are from the small rural town of Atsuma, where a cluster of dwellings were wrecked when a hillside collapsed from the force of the 6.6-magnitude quake, causing deep brown scars in the landscape.   "The government will strive to get hold of what is needed on the ground and take every possible measure so that people can return to a normal, safe life as soon as possible," Suga told a news conference.   He also warned that islanders should remain on alert as rainfall was forecast in the region, which could trigger fresh landslides.

The quake was the latest in a string of natural disasters to batter the island nation.   Western parts of the country are still recovering from the most powerful typhoon to strike Japan in a quarter of a century, which claimed 11 lives and shut down the main regional airport.   Launching a campaign for another term as head of his ruling party, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his government will "do its best" to restore the disasters-hit regions.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:13:22 +0200
By Gregory DANEL, Romain FONSEGRIVES

Paris, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - Seven people including two British tourists were wounded in Paris late Sunday by a knife-wielding man, a terrifying attack that bystanders tried to stop by throwing petanque balls at the assailant.   Four of the victims were in a critical condition, police said, after the man brandishing a large blade and and iron bar went on the rampage next to a canal in the northeast of the capital.   The suspect is believed to be an Afghan national and has been arrested, said a source close to the enquiry, adding he had targeted "strangers" but that "nothing at this stage shows signs of a terrorist nature".

Chaos erupted on the banks of the Bassin de la Villette, an area popular with locals and visitors who frequent the cafes, cinemas and other cultural venues along its banks, just after 11:00pm (2100 GMT).   Eyewitness Youssef Najah, 28, said he was walking beside the canal when he saw a man running and holding a knife about 25-30 cm (10-11 inches) long.   "There were around 20 people chasing him. They started throwing petanque balls at him," Najah said, referring to the sport popular in France also known as boules.   "Around four or five balls hit him in the head, but they weren't able to stop him," he added.

According to the same witness, the attacker then dived into an alleyway, where the man "tried to hide behind two British tourists. We said to them: 'Watch out, he has a knife". But they didn't react".    The pair were then attacked, he said.   A security guard at one of two cinemas on either side of the water said he had seen the attacker running away from two men who were trying to stop him.   "He had an iron bar in his hand which he threw at the men chasing him, then he took out a knife," he told AFP.   The UK foreign office said it was aware of reports of the attack and was "urgently investigating this incident" in cooperation with French authorities, British media reported.

- High alert -
A police investigation has been launched for attempted murder, according to a judicial source.   It is the latest of several knife attacks France has seen in recent months, with terrorism being ruled out in most cases.   On August 23, a man stabbed his mother and sister to death and seriously injured another person in a town near Paris before being shot dead by police.

The motive for the violence remained unclear despite a claim by the Islamic State (IS) group that it was an attack by one of its fighters responding to the terror organisation's propaganda.   Authorities said the 36-year-old had serious mental health problems and had been on a terror watch list since 2016.   That attack came days after an Afghan asylum-seeker was arrested in town of Perigueux for a drunken rampage with a knife in which four people were wounded, one seriously.   Police said investigators had "very quickly" dismissed a terrorist motive after the August 13 incident.

And on June 17, two people were hurt in another southern town when a woman shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) attacked them in a supermarket with a boxcutter knife.   France has been on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks in recent years, often by people who have become radicalised or claim to have acted in the name of the IS group.   More than 240 people have been killed by Islamist extremists since a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris in January 2015.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 06:41:23 +0200

Miami, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - Hurricane Florence is expected to become a dangerous "major hurricane" by late Monday as it heads toward the US East Coast, the National Hurricane Center said, as states of emergency were declared in preparation for the storm.   The center of Florence was located about 685 miles (1,100 kilometres) southeast of Bermuda, the NHC in its 0300 GMT Monday advisory.   Florence had maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making it a Category 1 storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

The NHC warned that Florence "is forecast to rapidly strengthen to a major hurricane by Monday night, and is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday."   The storm is moving towards the west at seven miles per hour, and is forecast to drench a large swath of the US East Coast running from northern Florida to New Jersey.   On its current track Florence is expected to slam the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest -- and all three states have issued emergency declarations to speed preparations.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades," warning of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages."   It added: "The largest threat to life from hurricanes is not the high winds. Flooding is the deadliest result of these storms."   The US navy has ordered ships at its major base in Hampton Roads, Virginia, base to put to sea, saying "the forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge are too great to keep the ships in port."

- Two more hurricanes -
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's office said that Florence is already being felt along the state's coast, with large sea swells resulting in life-threatening rip currents and surf.   "Everyone in North Carolina needs to keep a close eye on Florence and take steps now to get ready for impacts later this week," Cooper said.

The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances," South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in issuing his state's emergency declaration.   Florence was producing large swells expected to reach from the northern Caribbean to the southern coasts of Canada's Maritime provinces.   At this statistical height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two hurricanes, Helene and Issac.   Helene -- currently just southeast of the Cabo Verde islands off the African coast -- had winds of 85 miles per hour, and was expected to turn northwest and then north into the open Atlantic by midweek, the NHC said.

Hurricane Isaac -- which late Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season -- is heading west towards the Caribbean.   At 0300 GMT Issac was about 1,305 miles east of the Windward Islands -- a region still recovering from last year's powerful Hurricane Maria -- with winds of 75 miles per hour.   Issac is expected to gain strength in the next days, but then weaken by the middle of the week when it approaches the Caribbean.   Maria -- which killed at least 3,057 people, most in Puerto Rico -- is elieved to be the third costliest tropical cyclone on record.
Date: 9 Sep 2018
Source: ProMED-mail promed@promedmail.org

[There has been significant chatter on social media from individuals working in Haiti and their colleagues, friends and family, suggesting there is a "new, as yet undiagnosed outbreak," possibly of a mosquito-borne disease, in the expat and local Haitian communities. Some of the content of this social media chatter is excerpted below [edited for clarity/readability - CopyEd.MSP]. - ProMED Mod.MPP]

"...there is some sort of new mosquito-borne virus in Haiti. Do I know for sure that it is a virus caused by a flying insect? No. Do I have a lot of unqualified and under-documented personal research to back up my belief nonetheless? Yes. If you know a guy or gal at the CDC, tell them to come chat with me. Something is going around, and many people are not well. It is eerily similar to chikungunya and malaria."

"Mayaro virus?"

"I have been saying the same thing! Well, when my fever brain has been capable of putting thoughts together this week. 2014 was ChikV; 2016 was Zika, so it does seem time for a new one. This new one is no fun at all."

"My person is negative for everything, Zika, chikV, malaria, dengue. It started with high fever, aches, joint pain, then progressed to stomach ache, headache. Now it's just persistent joint aches and sharp stabbing pain."

"We have this all over Mirebalais as well. Here, it also seems to be often accompanied by severe lower abdominal pain."

"Yes! My son just asked me if there is another mosquito borne illness yesterday!"

"Several of our girls have been sick with these same symptoms! It's awful."

"We all had it too and are seeing a lot of patients at our clinic with it!"

"I was sick for days before the uprising in July [2018] ... totally felt like malaria but tested negative. My BP was 80/40 at best, and it was pa bon [not good]."

"Yes! I've been sick this week as well as a few others I know! Lots of body pain."

"People thought that I was crazy!"

"You're not crazy! Several cases showing up at the Maternity Center here, and I also think there is influenza A going around. Some cases have respiratory stuff (to me that is the flu/influenza A), and several cases have nothing respiratory but have the fever and aches and terrible headache."
======================
[According to Wikipedia (in an unsubstantiated report without references) "Mirebalais is a commune in the Centre department of Haiti, approximately 60 km northeast of Port-au-Prince on National Road 3. The city was established in 1702. During the United Nations occupation of 2005, Nepalese troops were stationed in the city, using the city jail as their headquarters,"  (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirebalais>).

"Mirebalais is served by the teaching hospital Hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais, the largest solar-operated hospital in the world," a hospital that is run by the US-based Partners in Health,  (<https://www.pih.org/pages/mirebalais>).

>From the sound of the social media chatter, there is an as yet undiagnosed outbreak affecting parts of Haiti. Trying to connect the dots, there is concern that it is malaria-like (fever, chills and headaches), but in those that have been tested for malaria, laboratory results have not supported the diagnosis, and possibly dengue- or chikungunya-like (fever, headache, joint pains) with the addition of complaints of lower abdominal pain (notably described in Mayaro virus disease.

If the symptoms are similar to those of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika virus infections, they need to be ruled out by laboratory testing. There is the possibility that Mayaro virus (MAYV) may be circulating in Haiti. Mayaro virus was isolated from a child with acute febrile illness in rural Haiti. The case report stated that "on 8 Jan 2015, an 8-year-old boy was examined at the school clinic because of fever and abdominal pain. His temperature was 100.4 F [38 C]; lung sounds were clear, and his abdomen was soft and not tender. He had no rash and no conjunctivitis. On the basis of this clinical presentation, the clinic physician empirically diagnosed typhoid and administered co-trimoxazole... MAYV was detected in viral RNA extracted from infected Vero cells.

A question now is: if this is another MAYV infection, is this a continuation of the 2015 transmission or a new introduction into Haiti? Clearly, laboratory follow up is needed to establish the etiology of the current cases of febrile disease to determine an etiology and rule out other pathogens. If MAYV presence is established, surveillance is needed to determine the extent of its distribution, and health care providers and laboratories in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other countries in the Caribbean Basin need to be informed to be on the alert and to be prepared to make a diagnosis should any cases occur there.

Of additional curiosity is a recent media report in the Jamaican Star relating a tale of 3 Haitians recently arrived claiming illness, with malaria suspected in one of them. Testing is still pending, but given the social media chatter, one can't help but wonder whether this isn't malaria. Could it be part of the same as of yet undiagnosed outbreak reported in the above chatter? ...

References:
1- Lednicky J, De Rochars V, Elbadry M, Loeb J, Telisma T, Chavannes S, et al. Mayaro Virus in Child with Acute Febrile Illness, Haiti, 2015. Emerg Infect Dis. 2016;22(11):2000-2002.

2- Mavian C, Rife BD, Dollar JJ, Cella E, Ciccozzi M, Prosperi MCF, Lednicky J, Morris JG, Capua I, Salemi M. Emergence of recombinant Mayaro virus strains from the Amazon basin. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 18;7(1):8718. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07152-5.

A HealthMap/ProMED map of Haiti can be found at:

More information from knowledgeable sources would be greatly appreciated, especially results of laboratory testing on individuals presenting with the above-mentioned symptoms, and results of clinical as well as epidemiologic investigations. - ProMED Mods.MPP/TY]
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2018 14:04:57 +0200

Rome, Sept 9, 2018 (AFP) - Authorities have issued health alert after 150 cases of pneumonia were recorded in a week, mainly in towns near the northern Italian city of Brescia.   Suspecting the presence of a pneumonia-causing virus in the water supply, they have taken samples from the distribution network for analysis.   Results are expected in several days.

Autopsies will be conducted on a 69-year-old woman and an 85-year-old man who died this week to determine whether they died from pneumonia, according to local media reports.   Pneumonia is usually caused when bacteria, viruses or fungi infect the lungs.   It can be life-threatening, especially among the elderly and those with serious health conditions.

Provincial health services have called on residents to take precautions, including disinfecting tap filters and shower hoses and to let hot water run for a period of time with the windows open before using it.   Hospital emergencies in several municipalities to the south and east of Brescia identified 121 cases of pneumonia, the health officer in the Lombardy region Giulio Galera said on television.   A survey of general practitioners found at least 30 other people had been affected.
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2018 10:04:14 +0200

Tokyo, Sept 9, 2018 (AFP) - Japan is suffering its first outbreak of pig cholera in more than 25 years, authorities said Sunday after culling more than 600 animals and suspending pork exports.    A farm in central Japan saw 80 pigs die last week after catching the highly-contagious disease, an agricultural ministry official told AFP.

Early tests showed negative results for classical swine fever, as the illness is officially known.   But follow-up tests came out positive Sunday, prompting the cull of all 610 pigs at the farm, he added.   "We are now processing the livestock there and disinfecting the farm," he said, adding that officials had set up sterilisation points on access roads to the affected farm.

The government has set up a team of specialists to analyse possible infection routes, the agricultural ministry said in a statement.   Tokyo halted pork exports after the outbreak was confirmed. The nation sold roughly $9 million in raw pork meat to foreign markets last year.   Japan saw its last case of classic swine fever, which does not affect humans, in 1992.   The disease continues to rage in many parts of Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2018 21:58:47 +0200

Kinshasa, Sept 8, 2018 (AFP) - Health authorities in Kinshasa declared the Ebola virus under control five weeks after the latest outbreak left 89 people dead in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.   The health ministry announced the outbreak on August 1 in North Kivu province and on Thursday revealed that it had spread to Butembo, a city of a million people.

But Health Minister Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga said: "Since August 13, there have been practically no more cases, we can say that the situation has been brought under control at the epicentre (of Mabalako)."   The latest outbreak of the virus is 10th to strike DR Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified and named after a river in the country's north.   "To date, we have 129 cases (31 probable and 98 confirmed), 89 deaths and 33 patients cured," Dr Oly Ilunga said.   Fears that the disease might  spread further had been expressed Thursday after news of two deaths in Butembo, a commercial hub and popular transit point for neighbouring Uganda.

A woman and one of the medical staff who had been treating her died ini the city.   "Even at Butembo, the situation is not critical," the minister told a news conference also attended by Congolese professor and leading Ebola researcher Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who urged people to report any sign of the disease.   "The Ebola virus is circulating here and in Africa in general ... we must be vigilant," Muyembe said.

Complicating the battle against the spread of the disease is the fact it is afflicting an area of Congo wracked by insecurity owing to the presence of armed groups.   Even so, Dr Oly Ilunga said teams treating sufferers had enjoyed army and police backing as well as support from the UN mission Monusco.   The previous outbreak of Ebola, which left 33 people dead in the northwestern province of Equateur, was decreed over on July 24.
Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2018 13:02:52 +0200

Seoul, Sept 8, 2018 (AFP) - South Korea reported its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in three years, health officials said on Saturday.   A 61-year-old businessman was diagnosed with the highly contagious viral respiratory illness, according to officials at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).   He returned to South Korea Friday from a business trip in Kuwait where he stayed for three weeks, the KCDC said a statement.

"Authorities have traced and separated 20 people who have come in close contact with the infected person," KCDC head Chung Eun-gyeong told journalists.   They include medical staff, flight attendants and passengers of the plane the man flew back to South Korea on, she said.    He was hospitalised with fever and phlegm and has been quarantined at a university hospital, she added.   It is the first case of MERS diagnosed in South Korea since 2015, when an outbreak killed 38 people and triggered widespread panic.
Date: Wed 5 Sep 2018
Source: El Comercio [in Spanish, machine trans. edited]
<https://elcomercio.pe/mundo/latinoamerica/chile-brote-hepatitis-suma-201-casos-region-antofagasta-noticia-nndc-554166>

Health authorities in the region of Antofagasta in northern Chile are on alert for an outbreak of hepatitis A that adds 201 cases so far in 2018, 2 more than those recorded throughout 2017, they said today, 5 Sep 2018. "Unfortunately, we are having about 5 cases every 2 weeks, which means that we are facing an epidemic," Cooperativa Rossana Díaz, ministerial regional Secretary of Health, told Radio. It is a situation "that is controllable with the help of the community," which, in his opinion, has a fundamental role in the prevention of this disease, which can "be fulminating, create a risk to life, and require organ transplantation." Diaz stressed that hepatitis A can be prevented with simple measures, such as constant hand washing and optimal handling and preparation of food.

The authorities must combat street food sales and control businesses, "but we do not get anything if people continue to consume food on the street or in places that do not have sanitary authorization for that," he said. The profusion of cases, according to the official, corresponds to the increase in the consumption of food in unauthorized places and the lack of vaccinated personnel or strict hygiene regulations in establishments that do have a permit.

The authorities have set up an Outbreak Response Committee in the region and questioned contacts of the confirmed cases and of the suspects in order to find the origin of transmission. The cases registered in Antofagasta range from 2 to 60 years, with an average of 23 years, of which 62% are men and 38% are women, and although the presence of immigrants is large in the region, 98% of the cases are Chileans, the regional authorities reported.

Hepatitis A, according to the Institute of Public Health, can be prevented with a vaccine, and its detection requires a medical diagnosis in addition to laboratory tests or diagnostic imaging studies. It is transmitted through water, contaminated food, or through contact with an infected person. It is considered a disease with worldwide distribution that occurs sporadically or epidemically with a seasonal cycle, which in Chile is an intermediate endemic, with epidemic outbreaks every 4 or 5 years, and there are no chronic carriers.
==============================
[It seems to be the case that the cases are occurring at a low, steady rate rather than from a specific recent exposure.

Antofagasta (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antofagasta>) is a port city in northern Chile, about 1100 km (700 mile) north of Santiago. It is the capital of Antofagasta province and the Antofagasta region. Formerly part of Bolivia, Antofagasta was captured by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), and the transfer of sovereignty was finalized in the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the 2 countries. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Antofagasta, Antofagasta, Chile:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/11048>]