Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu
A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. Please see our Customs Information CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION
Americans living or traveling in Albania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Tirana, Sept 21, 2019 (AFP) - Albania was rattled by its strongest earthquake in decades Saturday, officials said, sending people fleeing into the streets in several cities, damaging buildings and triggering power cuts in the capital. The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake, was near Durres, less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.
Albania's defence ministry said it was the "strongest earthquake in the country in the last 20 to 30 years". "There are no deaths," defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said. Some 80 people sought medical help in both Tirana and Durres, 21 of whom were hospitalised due to injuries caused by falling objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterilu said. Qajaj told AFP that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages. Prime Minister Edi Rama cancelled his scheduled trip to the United States following the quake, which cut electricity and telephone lines in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.
Many people remained outside their homes for several hours in the capital, fearful of aftershocks. "I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others," Drita Lohja, a resident in her fifties, told AFP. Falling debris pulverised parked cars in parts of the city. AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital. Media reported that a large building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated. A University of Tirana building was also damaged, witnesses said.
According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10 kilometres from Tirana. Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.
Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday. More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.
Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry. The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country. Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
Tirana, Dec 3, 2017 (AFP) - Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed in Albania to rescue stranded residents after heavy rainfall triggered major flooding, and caused the death of a utility worker, officials and the power company said Sunday. The victim, Sabri Vlinga, died while he was working on a electricity pole at Roskovec in the flooded south of the country, the power company said in statement. Two other people were injured in similar accidents. it added. Some 6,400 police and soldiers have been sent to help rescue people stranded by the floods, Prime MInister Edi Rama said Saturday, calling the situation "very critical".
Around 1,500 people in the affected areas have been rescued, while several thousand homes were without electricity as many utility poles have been swept away by mudslides, said Shemsi Prenci, head of civil protection. More than 7,874 hectares (19,450 acres) of farm land as well as 3,193 homes are under water and several roads in the south remained impassable.
Army forces have built a temporary bridge at Darezeze, about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the capital Tirana, to come to the aid of 2,000 residents stranded by the floods, the defence ministry said. In neighbouring Macedonia, the heavy rains have also caused flooding as several rivers include the main Vardar river have burst their banks, the MIA news agency reported.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - Emira Sela covers her face with her hand to hide a disfiguring abscess, the traumatic result of unregulated cosmetic treatments now rampant across Albania. The 31-year-old began to worry when wrinkles appeared on her face. Sela's hairdresser told her that a simple injection, costing around 60 euros ($65), would banish the signs of ageing. "She assured me that I would not risk anything. She even listed well-known names" of women who had undergone such treatment, said Sela. "I did not think twice, I trusted her without asking questions," said the blonde woman with green eyes, her voice trembling.
Albanian hair and beauty salons lacking expertise and medical supervision are offering such cosmetic treatments, unregulated in a legal vacuum, much to the alarm of qualified doctors. A single injection of a product whose content and dosage Sela knew nothing about was enough to ruin her life in late August. Despite antibiotics she has permanent pain, fever and nausea, while the abscess on her right cheek forces her eye to half-close and her face is nearly paralysed. "I am so disfigured that I tried to commit suicide," said Sela, who lost her job in a bank. Her only hope now is corrective surgery at an Italian hospital, scheduled for this month.
- Desiring Kardashian look -
"There are more and more impostors with syringes," said Panajot Papa, a plastic surgeon at a private clinic in Tirana. "The problem is also the products... Forbidden in Europe, they enter illegally from Turkey or China." Eriona Shehu, a dermatologist at Tirana's university hospital, said these unregulated synthetic products, such as injected liquid silicone and acrylamide, were being offered at temptingly low prices.
"Cosmetic interventions have become a lucrative industry. The patient is only a customer, exposed to a number of risks." Shehu said the desire to look like voluptuous US reality television star Kim Kardashian was "destroying the lives of young Albanian girls looking for beauty". Albanian doctors say the typical age of clients for such procedures is between 16 and 28. In the country of about three million people, the demand for cosmetic interventions rose more than 50 percent in 2015, according to a study published by Albania's economic magazine Monitor.
Promotional offers can be seen everywhere, such as a beauty salon advertising 20 percent reductions for three people coming together for treatment during the holiday season. Papa says he has treated a dozen young women aged between 20 and 27 who suffered complications after having their lips and cheekbones swollen with injected liquid silicone for 40 to 50 euros. The product has been banned for cosmetic use in countries such as Italy and France for more than 15 years. Papa said such botched interventions left these women prone to particularly bad swellings during their menstrual period, requiring further treatment -- and he warned they may suffer such symptoms for life.
- Closing legal gap -
Albanian doctors are worried about foreign practitioners who come from Italy, Turkey and Greece to work just for a weekend. "They may not have a diploma, qualification or licence for these kind of interventions or for assuming the responsibility of a patient's medical follow-up," said Besim Boci, head of the otolaryngology department at Tirana's university hospital. Due to legal loopholes, the judiciary cannot step in. A spokesman at Tirana's tribunal, Alba Nikolla, admits that it is currently impossible to "open investigations and prosecute based only on complaints" against practitioners.
But authorities are set to tackle this with a draft law to control cosmetic products and beauty salons, which is due to be introduced in parliament in the next few months. The law complies with the requirements of the European Union, which Albania aspires to join, and will enable authorities to shut down rogue establishments using synthetic products. When health is adversely affected, practitioners could be imprisoned for three to 10 years. Such regulations could go some way to easing the trauma of women like Elisa Lura, a 22-year-old economics student. She underwent a laser treatment to restore her natural look after paying 50 euros to a neighbourhood salon for permanent eyebrow tattoos, which went wrong. But the laser made things much worse. "Everything is spoiled!" she said of her face now covered with painful scars.
World Travel News Headlines
- The male-to-female ratio for confirmed cases is 1:1 - Figure 6.
Jakarta, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - An endangered Sumatran Tiger has mauled to death an Indonesian farmer and seriously injured a domestic tourist, a conservation official said Monday. The fatal attack happened Sunday at the farmer's coffee plantation on Sumatra island where the 57-year-old wrestled with the big cat before it killed him, according to Genman Hasibuan, head of the South Sumatra conservation agency. "The farmer was attacked while he was cutting a tree at his plantation," he told AFP on Monday. The mauling came a day after the same tiger attacked a group of Indonesian tourists who were camping at a local tea plantation in South Sumatra's Mount Dempo region.
One of the tourists was rushed to hospital for wounds to his back after the cat stormed into his tent, Hasibuan said. The animal, which remains loose in the protected-forest area, is believed to be one of just 15 critically endangered tigers in South Sumatra, which has seen five tiger attacks this year, including two fatal incidents, Hasibuan said.
Human-animal conflicts are common in the vast Southeast Asian archipelago, especially in areas where the clearing of rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations is destroying animals' habitats and bringing them into closer contact with people. In March last year, a man was killed by a tiger in Sumatra's Riau province while several months earlier a tiger also killed a plantation worker in the area. Sumatran tigers are considered critically endangered by protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with 400 to 500 remaining in the wild.
Karachi, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - Pakistan has become the first country in the world to introduce a new typhoid vaccine, officials said Friday, as the country grapples with an ongoing outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of the potentially fatal disease. The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be used during a two-week immunisation campaign in southern Sindh province.
Sindh is where most of Pakistan's 10,000 cases of typhoid have been documented since 2017. "The two-week campaign beginning from today would target over 10 million children of nine months to 15 years of age," Azra Pechuho, the health minister in Sindh province, said in Karachi on Friday. The new vaccines have been provided by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to the Pakistani government free of cost.
After the two-week campaign, it will be introduced into routine immunisations in Sindh, and in other areas of Pakistan in the coming years. Pakistan spends a meagre amount of its national resources on public health and a majority of its population remains vulnerable to contagious diseases such as typhoid. In 2017, 63 percent of the typhoid cases documented and 70 percent of the fatalities were children, according to a joint press release from the Pakistani government, WHO and Gavi.
By Abhaya SRIVASTAVA
New Delhi, Nov 16, 2019 (AFP) - A thick grey smog choked New Delhi for the fifth day Saturday, adding to a mounting pollution health crisis, but retired naval commander Anil Charan is one of the vast majority of the city's 20 million inhabitants who do not wear a mask. Indian media is packed with warnings about the risk of premature death, lung cancer and particular danger to children from PM2.5 -- tiny particles that get into the bloodstream and vital organs -- carried in the smog. But the smartly-dressed Charan was among shoppers in Delhi's upmarket Khan Market district browsing the luxury clothes and jewellery stores without a mask, seemingly oblivious to the risk. Many are too poor to afford protection but others simply do not like the way a pollution mask looks.
Charan, wearing aviator sunglasses, said it did not fit his "rough and tough" image. "I have been brought up in this kind of atmosphere, the smog and all, so I am kind of used to it. And being a naval officer I think if I wear a mask I will think I am a sissy," he said. Doctors say face masks must be worn and air purifiers used at home and in offices. There are a variety of masks to choose from. A basic cloth version can cost as little as 50 rupees (70 US cents) but the protection they offer is debatable. More reputable types start from 2,500 rupees ($34) while some Khan Market stores charge more than 5,500 rupees ($75) for top of the range imported models.
- Bare-faced bravado -
The mask-look worried a lot of the Khan Market shoppers and diners however. Some said the danger had been overblown. "I know I am risking my health but I am not very comfortable wearing them (masks)," said Ritancia Cardoz, who works for a private company. "I don't find it appealing," she told AFP. Lopa Diwan, on a visit to the capital from the provinces, said the Delhi air was "not as bad as it is being made out to be." "So many people advised me not to go to Delhi because of the pollution but I don't think it's that bad. I don't see people dying," she said.
Pollution -- blamed on industrial and car emissions mixed with stubble fires on thousands of farms surrounding the city -- has been building up each winter for the past decade. The past five years have been particularly bad. The toxic air cuts short the lives of one million people in India every year, according to government research published earlier this year. Concentrations of the most harmful airborne pollutants in Delhi are regularly about 20 times the World Health Organisation safe limit. That rams home the city's reputation as the world's most polluted capital. Some foreign companies and embassies now do not let families move to Delhi, or at least give strong warnings about the pollution.
The Delhi government has given out hundreds of thousands of masks to children and closed schools for four of the past five days. Construction is banned and cars can only go on the roads on alternate days. But still only a tiny number of inhabitants follow medical advice when outside. Rickshaw drivers who earn about $7 a day on an average say they cannot afford masks. Chand Babu, a car park attendant at Khan Market, said he could buy one of the cheaper masks but it was too much of a hassle to wear. "I have to blow the whistle all the time so it's inconvenient." Babu does worry, however, about his three children who also do not have masks. "They go outside to play. The problem is real, but what do we do, tell me?"
By Filippo MONTEFORTE with Charles ONIANS in Rome
Venice, Nov 17, 2019 (AFP) - Venice's St Mark's Square was closed on Sunday as the historic city suffered its third major flooding in less than a week, while rain lashing the rest of Italy prompted warnings in Florence and Pisa. Venice's latest "acqua alta", or high water, hit 150 centimetres (just under five feet) on Sunday, lower than Tuesday's 187 centimetres -- the highest level in half a century -- but still dangerous. "The water has stopped rising," tweeted mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has estimated damage so far from the invading salt water at over one billion euros (dollars). "High of 150 centimetres... Venice is working to restart," Brugnaro said after the sea water swamped the already devastated city where authorities have declared a state of emergency. To the south, Tuscany president Enrico Rossi tweeted a warning of a "flood wave" on the Arno and said boards were being installed on the swollen river's banks in Pisa "as a precautionary measure".
The Italian army tweeted photos of paratroopers helping to bolster river defences in Pisa, with authorities monitoring the same river in Florence after heavy rain made it rise dramatically overnight. Arno flooding devastated Renaissance jewel Florence in 1966, killing around 100 people and destroying thousands of priceless works of art. Civil protection units in Florence advised citizens "not to stand near the Arno's riverbanks". Firefighters tweeted footage of a hovercraft being deployed to rescue stranded citizens in southern Tuscany's Grossetano province.
- Brief respite -
The renewed threat from exceptionally high tides in Venice came after a brief respite on Saturday. Emergency workers removed temporary walkways from St Mark's Square as the water started to rise on Sunday, with only police and soldiers visible at around midday. The top tourist site had already been shut for several hours on Friday as strong storms and winds battered the region, leaving it submerged by sea surges.
Churches, shops and homes have also been inundated in the Renaissance city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been under way since 2003 to protect the city, but the multi-billion euro project has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays. "We weren't expecting the high waters to be so exceptionally high," said Guido Fulgenzi, who had planned to open his cafe on St Mark's square this week. "We're paying the price" for the MOSE project not being completed, he said, sloshing around in his flooded kitchen and pointing to Tuesday's high water mark on the wall. The crisis has prompted the government to release 20 million euros ($22 million) in funds to tackle the devastation. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has warned that the task of repairing the city, where more than 50 churches have suffered damage, will be huge.
- Hotel reservations cancelled -
Residents whose houses have been hit are eligible for up to 5,000 euros in immediate government aid, while restaurant and shop owners can receive up to 20,000 euros and apply for more later. Most of the city's cash machines were no longer working, making life even more difficult for tourists and Venetians. "We didn't expect there to be so much water, now we're soaked," said French tourist Magali Mariolou, visiting Venice for her wedding anniversary. "We'll come back another year when it's a bit drier. The boots are heavy, they're full of water!"
Older residents who remember the infamous "acqua alta" of 1966, when the water rose to 1.94 metres, say they have not seen such frequent flooding before. Hotels reported cancelled reservations, some as far ahead as December, following the widespread diffusion of images of Venice underwater. Tuesday's high waters submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said. Many, including Venice's mayor, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that the country prone to natural disasters must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons. The Serenissima, as the floating city is called, is home to 50,000 residents but receives 36 million visitors each year.
Wellington, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - Samoa finalised plans for a compulsory measles vaccination programme Monday, after declaring a state of emergency as a deadly epidemic sweeps the Pacific nation. At least six fatalities, including five children, have been linked to the outbreak of the virus, which has also hit other island states such as Tonga and Fiji. Samoa is the worst affected with more than 700 cases reported from across all areas of the country, prompting the government on Friday to invoke emergency powers.
Declaring a state of emergency, the government said plans for compulsory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisations would be published on Monday. "MMR vaccinations for members of the public who have not yet received a vaccination injection is now a mandatory legal requirement for all of Samoa," it said. A national emergency operations centre to coordinate the measles response in the nation of 200,000 people was opened on Monday, with children aged six months to 19 years and non-pregnant females aged 20-35 given priority.
However, no information was immediately available on how the vaccinations would be administered or whether those who were not immunised would face sanctions. Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death. Samoa has closed all schools, kindergartens and the country's only university in a bid to halt the spread of the virus. New Zealand, which is experiencing its own measles outbreak in the Auckland region, will this week send 30 nurses, 10 doctors and 3,000 MMR doses to Samoa.
University of Auckland immunologist Helen Petousis-Harris said even though measles was already widespread, the mass rollout of vaccinations could help limit the number of cases and reduce the death count. She said it was also important to boost Samoa's low levels of immunisation and help prevent future outbreaks. "In Samoa, the proportion of people who are immune to measles is very, very low, one of the lowest in the world," she told AFP. "So if they aren't able to improve that, this is going to happen again." The country's vaccination programme was briefly suspended last year when two babies died shortly after being given the MMR vaccine. Subsequent investigations found the problem was not the widely used vaccine but the fact that nurses had prepared it incorrectly.
Neighbouring Tonga last week announced government primary schools and kindergartens would be closed until later this month as the number of measles cases in the kingdom approaches 200. Fiji has reported four cases but says they are contained to a township west of the capital Suva.