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Bahrain

Bahrain - US Consular Information Sheet
June 27, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Bahrain is a hereditary kingdom governed by the Al-Khalifa family. In 2002, the country adopted a new constitution that reinstated a parliament, which consists of o
e elected and one appointed chamber. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices. Bahrain is a modern, developed country and tourist facilities are widely available. The capital is Manama. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bahrain for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and a visa are required. Passports should be valid for at least six months after the date of arrival. U.S. passport holders outside of Bahrain may apply and pay for a two-week tourist visa online through the Bahraini government web site at http://www.evisa.gov.bh, or may obtain it upon arrival at the airport. U.S. diplomatic passport holders receive a no-fee two-week visa. Prior to travel, visitors may obtain five-year multiple-entry visas valid for stays as long as one month from Bahraini embassies overseas. Bahrain assesses heavy fines on visitors who fail to depart Bahrain at the end of their authorized stay. The amount of the fine is determined by a formula related to the visa type, duration, and location of issuance. An exit tax is included in the ticket price for flights out of Bahrain, and no additional exit fees are required upon departure. Residents of Bahrain who intend to return must obtain a re-entry permit before departing. For further information on entry/exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, 3502 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 342-1111; or the Bahrain Permanent Mission to the U.N., 2 United Nations Plaza, East 44th St., New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 223-6200. Visit the Embassy of Bahrain web site at www.bahrainembassy.org for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Americans in Bahrain should maintain a high level of security awareness. Spontaneous demonstrations take place in Bahrain from time to time in response to world events or local developments. We remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possible escalate into violence. American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Information regarding demonstrations in Bahrain can be found on the U.S. Embassy Manama’s web site at http://bahrain.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html.

Visiting U.S. citizens should register with the U.S. Embassy in Manama upon arrival. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with caution. In addition, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities. Please report any security concerns to the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Office at telephone (973) 1724-2700 during office hours or (973) 1727–5126 after hours.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts 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 security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
The crime rate in Bahrain is low and violent crime is rare. However, burglary, petty theft, and robberies do occur. Visiting Americans are urged to take the same security precautions in Bahrain that one would practice in the United States. Hotel room doors should be locked when visitors are in their rooms, and travelers are encouraged to store valuables in hotel room safes when they are available. Women are encouraged to keep their purses firmly under their arms, and men should avoid keeping their wallets in their hip pockets while in the old market area. The U.S. Embassy in Manama recommends that travelers using local taxis insist on the use of a meter since unexpectedly high fares may otherwise be charged. Bahrain has a professional police force, and visitors are encouraged to contact the police if problems are encountered.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how to transfer funds. 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 in Bahrain is 999.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Basic modern medical care and medicines are available in several hospitals and health centers in Bahrain. Two government hospitals, several private hospitals, and numerous private clinics located throughout the country offer a wide range of medical services. Cardiac care, general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics and dentistry services are readily available, as are x-rays, CT-scan and MRI testing. The government hospitals house both trauma and ICU units. Pharmacies are common throughout Bahrain and carry a wide range of medications. Prescriptions are normally required.
Payment at all medical facilities is due at the time of service. Some hospitals have limited direct billing capability for certain insurance carriers. Billing and insurance practices vary among the medical facilities.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bahrain is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Travel by road in Bahrain is generally safe although unsafe driving practices are common. Highways and major roads in the northern third of Bahrain are four to six lanes wide and well maintained; roads in villages and older parts of Manama and Muharraq are narrow and twisting. As in the United States, traffic in Bahrain moves on the right. Roundabouts (traffic circles) follow the British system, with those automobiles within the traffic circle having right of way over those attempting to enter. Although the Bahraini penal code calls for fines of up to 100 dinars ($270.00) or imprisonment of up to six months for driving above posted speed limits, it is not uncommon for drivers to drive well over the posted speed limits of 50-120 km per hour. The law allows the police to detain drivers for traffic violations until they can appear before a magistrate. It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving.

Under Bahraini law, any sign of having consumed alcohol may be taken as prima facie evidence of driving under the influence, which can lead to imprisonment and/or fines of up to 1,000 Bahraini Dinars (2,700 U.S. dollars). Except for minor accidents, drivers may not move their vehicles after an accident until a report has been filed with the traffic police. This is true even in cases of single-car accidents. Insurance companies may not provide coverage if the cars are moved. However, drivers involved in minor, non-injury accidents no longer need to wait at the scene for the police. Individuals should get their vehicles off the road to avoid further accidents. Drivers can call the accident hotline at 199 (if there are no injuries) or 999 (when someone is injured) where they will be directed to one of five centers to file the accident report. This report must be filed within 24 hours of the accident. Both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country until the matter is resolved if an accident results in legal proceedings. The main switchboard at the traffic department is 1787-2222.
Emergency numbers are as follows:
Fire/Ambulance/Police: 999
Traffic/Accidents: 199 (no injuries) OR 999 (injuries)
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of Bahrain’s national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.traffic.gov.bh/main.htm.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Bahrain, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Bahrain’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Individuals subject to Bahraini court orders arising from indebtedness, labor disagreements, or other legal disputes may be prevented from departing Bahrain until their cases are resolved. Instances have occurred in which departure was prohibited for several years, since the legal process can be both lengthy and complex. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manama maintains a list of local attorneys capable of representing Americans.
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. Persons violating Bahrain’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Disrespect to officials in word or deed can result in heavy fines. Travelers who are driving should be aware that one drink may be sufficient grounds for a DUI arrest. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bahrain are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Bahrain 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 Bahrain. 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 Bldg. 979, Road no. 3119, Zinj District (next to Al Ahli Sports Club). The mailing address is P.O. Box 26431, Manama, Bahrain. The telephone number is (973) 1724-2700. The after-hours number is (973) 1727-5126. The Consular Section’s fax number is (973) 1725-6242. The Embassy's web site, which includes consular information and the most recent messages to the American community in Bahrain is at http://bahrain.usembassy.gov/. The workweek in Bahrain is Sunday through Thursday.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Bahrain dated November 23, 2007 without substantive changes.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2017 19:26:47 +0200

Dubai, Oct 2, 2017 (AFP) - A "terrorist explosion" during a Shiite procession commemorating Ashura lightly wounded five policemen on Monday, the interior ministry in Sunni-ruled Bahrain announced.   "A terrorist explosion caused five light injuries among policemen deployed as security for a procession along Budaiya Avenue" in western Manama, a tweet from the ministry said.

Shiites in the tiny Gulf kingdom mark Ashura with processions in Manama and in villages around the capital.   The annual Ashura commemorations mark the killing of Imam Hussein by the forces of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD -- a formative event in Shiite Islam.   Imam Hussein's death was part of a dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Mohammed, which eventually developed into a bitter schism between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam.

Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, has seen sporadic violence since the repression in 2011 of a protest movement by the Shiite majority, demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.   Hundreds of protesters, mainly but not all Shiites, were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their role in the demonstrations.   Bahrain says it does not discriminate towards the country's Shiites, and regularly accuses Shiite Iran of meddling in its internal affairs, an allegation Tehran denies.
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2017 20:11:48 +0100

Dubai, Feb 26, 2017 (AFP) - Four Bahraini policemen were wounded in a bomb attack Sunday near the village of Jaw, south of the capital Manama, the interior ministry said.   "Terrorist blast in police bus near Jua village. 4 policemen injured and they are in a stable condition. Necessary steps are being taken," the ministry said on its Twitter account.   It gave no further details.

On January 1, gunmen attacked the prison in Jaw, killing a policeman and allowing 10 inmates to escape.   Shiites convicted over anti-government protests in Sunni-ruled Bahrain were held at Jaw.   Tiny but strategic Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, has been rocked by unrest since the authorities crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Hundreds of Shiites have been arrested and many have faced trials over their role in the demonstrations.   One of those on trial is Sheikh Issa Qassem, the country's Shiite spiritual leader.   He was stripped of his citizenship last year for "serving foreign interests" -- a reference to Shiite Iran.   On Sunday, clashes broke out between security forces and protesters in several Shiite villages as a new hearing in Qassem's case was underway, witnesses said.   Protesters chanted anti-government slogans and carried portraits of Qassem, they said.
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2017 11:55:11 +0100

Dubai, Feb 15, 2017 (AFP) - An explosion wounded two civilian passers-by in Bahrain, the interior ministry said early Wednesday, as demonstrators were marking the sixth anniversary of an anti-government uprising that was bloodily suppressed.   The ministry did not say what caused Tuesday evening's blast in a village outside the capital Manama but demonstrators sometimes throw petrol bombs during the sporadic protests that still grip the Sunni-ruled but Shiite-majority kingdom.   "Terrorist blast in Sitra causes minor injuries to a married couple passing the site. Police at the scene," the ministry said on its Twitter account without elaborating.   It also tweeted a picture of a black 4X4 with a shattered windscreen and significant damage to the front bonnet.   The blast came as demonstrators clashed with police in Manama and several nearby villages.   The demonstration in the capital ended when police fired tear gas and stun grenades, witnesses said.

Activists posted pictures of injured protesters online, but the interior ministry has not published any official statements about the reported demonstrations.   The Shiite-led protests of February 2011 sought a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister to replace the current government dominated by the ruling Al-Khalifa family.   Authorities crushed them the following month with the support of Saudi-led forces who secured key installations.   Since then, the authorities have banned the Shiite opposition and handed long jail terms to many of its leaders. Some have been stripped of their citizenship.   Tiny but strategic Bahrain lies just across the Gulf from Iran and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
Date: Thu, 19 May 2016 21:53:48 +0000
From: Dr Manaf Alqahtani <drmanaf@gmail.com> [edited]
BDF Hospital, Bahrain
-----------------------------------
Measles is a highly infectious virus that spreads easily from person to person through the air, through breathing, coughing and sneezing. Although measles is largely considered a disease of children, we have noticed increasing numbers of adults infected. Since 9 May 2016, we had a total of 7 cases with measles. 4 were adults (30-40 years old) and 3 children (less than 12 months old). All adults were Bahraini (3 originally born in Yemen and one in Pakistan). All of the adults either have no documentation of MMR or received one dose MMR only.

Regarding the 3 children with measles, all were non-vaccinated and got infected from their infected adult family member.

3 out of 7 cases needed to be admitted for hydration and symptomatic treatment. Luckily, all our HCWs [health care workers] have documented 2 doses of MMR.

In the 2014 measles outbreak in Bahrain, 32 cases were registered, of which 27 were among children under 15 years and 5 among adults. Of the total, 14 cases were detected among expatriates.

Bahrain and the other member states of the EMR [Eastern Mediterranean Region] adopted a resolution for elimination of measles from the region by 2010. In 1996, the Ministry of Health (MOH) developed a plan for measles elimination that included a revised measles immunization schedule, introduction of case-based surveillance, and annual immunization campaigns of school children.

Most of recent measles cases are imported.
------------------------------
Dr. Manaf Alqahtani
BDF Hospital
Bahrain
=================
[ProMED thanks Dr. Alqahtani for sending this information.

Also see: JS Jawad et al. Toward Measles Elimination in Bahrain -- A Middle East Country Experience. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2011;204:S299-S304

"Abstract
---------
Measles was a leading cause of infant and child morbidity and mortality in Bahrain before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1974. With the establishment of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) in 1981 and the introduction of a 2nd dose of measles vaccine in 1985, coverage for 1st and 2nd doses of measles vaccine increased to 94 percent by 1997 and has been sustained greater than 97 percent since 2001. Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) immunization campaigns targeting 12-year-old students were conducted annually during 1998-2006 and achieved coverage of greater than 95 percent. As a result, the incidence of measles in Bahrain has declined markedly over the past 4 decades, to 2.7 cases per million persons in 2009. Recent confirmed measles cases have occurred sporadically, in under-vaccinated children or in infants too young or adults too old to receive measles vaccine. Bahrain has made significant progress toward measles elimination by sustaining high immunization coverage and strengthening case-based measles surveillance activities. Further success will depend on improved identification and immunization of under-vaccinated expatriate workers and their families."

A map of Bahrain can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/127>.
Bahrain is an archipelago in the middle of the Arabian Gulf encompassing 33 islands, the largest of which is Bahrain Island. - ProMED Mod.LK]
Date: Fri 6 Nov 2015
Source: Reuters [edited]

A cholera outbreak in Iraq has spread to Kuwait and Bahrain, and risks turning into a region-wide epidemic as millions of pilgrims prepare to visit the country, UNICEF's Iraq director has said. The disease, which can lead to death by dehydration and kidney failure within hours if left untreated, was detected west of Baghdad in September 2015 and has since infected at least 2200 people in Iraq and has killed 6.

"It [the outbreak] already has a regional dynamic and the risk of that can only be increased by people from all over the region coming into Iraq," UNICEF country director, Peter Hawkins, said on Thu 5 Nov 2015. Hawkins said cholera had spread to Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria, but in a later statement, UNICEF said the cases in Syria were not confirmed: "However, given the scale of the outbreak in Iraq the risk of cholera spreading across Iraq's borders remains high," it said.

Millions of Shi'ite Muslims are due to visit Iraq in December for Arbaeen, a religious ritual marking the end of an annual mourning period for the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein, whose death in 680 AD entrenched the schism between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

Hawkins said UNICEF was working with clerics in the Shi'ite shrine cities of Najaf and Kerbala to convey information about how to guard against cholera, which is endemic in Iraq and the wider region. The outbreak can be traced to a number of factors including low water levels in the Euphrates and winter flooding that has contaminated the river and shallow wells with sewage water.

The war against [the so-called] Islamic State militants who control large swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq has also contributed to the outbreak. The conflict has displaced more than 3 million people, with many living in camps where conditions are conducive to the spread of cholera -- a bite of contaminated food or a sip of contaminated water is enough to cause infection.

Hawkins said UNICEF has only limited access to areas controlled by Islamic State, which swept across the Syrian border in mid-2014 in a bid to establish a modern caliphate.

Higher military expenditure and other costs associated with the battle against Islamist militancy has aggravated a cash crunch for Iraq, a major OPEC oil producer that has suffered from the drop in global crude prices over the past year. A higher proportion of the government budget is also being spent on security at the expense of other services and infrastructure such as water supply, Hawkins said.

1 in 5 of the confirmed cases in Iraq is among children, and in large parts of the country the start of the school year was delayed by a month as a precaution, UNICEF said in a statement. In response to the outbreak, UNICEF is providing bottled water, oral rehydration salts and installing community water tanks, but like most humanitarian operations in Iraq it is severely underfunded.  [byline: Isabel Coles]
=====================
[The conflicts in the Middle East have exacerbated the endemic cholera in Iraq, and it has spread beyond Iraq's borders. The number of cases of cholera in Kuwait and Bahrain are not reported, nor is it clear whether the cases were acquired in these countries or imported. UNICEF has not confirmed any cases in war-torn Syria, but there are informal reports circulating. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 08:37:15 +0100 (MET)

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.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 17:12:24 +0100 (MET)

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.
Date: Sat, 16 Nov 2019 05:50:25 +0100 (MET)
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?"
Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2019 14:28:44 +0100 (MET)
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.
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 06:41:11 +0100 (MET)

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.
Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2019 18:10:23 +0100 (MET)

Johannesburg, Nov 17, 2019 (AFP) - South African unions on Sunday called on all aviation workers to join striking South African Airways (SAA) staff after the cash-strapped airline failed to meet their demands.   The country's embattled flag carrier has been losing 52 million rand ($3.5 million) per day since more than 3,000 workers started an open-ended strike on Friday -- forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights.   Talks with the two unions representing the striking workers ended without resolution on Saturday, prompting threats of further action.   "In response to this deliberate provocation by the SAA board and its executive management, (the) NUMSA (metalworkers' union) is in the process of consulting workers for a secondary strike in aviation," NUMSA spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told reporters outside the SAA headquarters in Johannesburg.

NUMSA and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) first threatened to strike after SAA announced this week that almost 1,000 employees could lose their jobs as part of a restructuring process.   Initial talks with management deadlocked after they failed to agree on wage hikes, prompting the unions to press on with their threats.   SAA is offering a 5.9 percent pay rise, while unions are demanding an eight percent across-the-board hike and a three-year guaranteeof job security.   They are also asking the airline to in-source more jobs.    "We are fighting against retrenchment, corruption and privatisation," Hlubi-Majola told journalists.   She said discussions with SAA subsidiaries, South Africa's airport management company and airline service providers were under way.   Two transport unions have also been called on to join the action.   "This secondary strike will have the impact of shutting down the entire aviation sector," NUMSA and SACCA said in a joint statement.   SAA CEO Zuks Ramasia voiced "concern" about the unions' intentions and urged them to "reconsider".   "The intent of a secondary strike is to cause disruption, bring all airport operations to a halt and create huge damage to the South African economy," Ramasia said in a statement on Sunday.

- Embattled airline -
The CEO added that SAA could not "afford to pay any salary increases" and reiterated the 5.9 percent rise offer.   "The company has repeatedly communicated the precarious financial position of the company," Ramasia said.      More than 300 SAA flights have been grounded as a result of the open-ended strike.   International flights started slowly resuming on Sunday, while regional and domestic flights remain grounded.   "We hope all our customers understand that the cancellations have been beyond our control," Ramasia said.   South Africa is struggling to get its state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma.   SAA -- one of Africa's biggest airlines -- is deep in debt and has not posted a profit since 2011, despite several government bailouts.   Finance Minister Tito boweni announced in February that the government would reimburse the company's 9.2 billion rand ($620 million) debt over the next three years.   Ramasia said discussions with unions would resume once the airline had considered "options on the way forward".
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 13:10:01 +0100 (MET)
By Holly ROBERTSON, Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel De Cartert in Hillville

Sydney, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - Bushfires raging across eastern Australia singed Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday, with firefighters scrambling planes and helicopters to douse a built-up neighbourhood with water and red retardant.   Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought.   Although the bushfire season is in its infancy, scientists predict it to be one of Australia's toughest ever, with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.

Twin blazes in the north shore suburb of Turramurra -- around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the centre of Australia's largest city -- tore through a eucalypt forest park and sparked spot fires in homes, before eventually being brought under control.   As night fell, authorities said they were bringing another "clearly suspicious" blaze in a national park in the city's southern suburbs under control.    Throughout the day, more than 300 bushfires burned up and down Australia's east coast, fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland that has brought some of the most dangerous conditions the country has seen.

In Turramurra, gardens smouldered, thick smoke hung heavy in the air and cars, houses and roads were caked in raspberry-red retardant as if hit by a giant paintball.   "It was the embers that floated up that actually went across and set off spot fires in the front yards" resident Nigel Lush told AFP, adding that one roof had been set alight.   Another resident, Julia Gretton-Roberts, said the blaze spread shockingly quickly.   "Next thing I know the fire was opposite our house and it was massive and the police came and grabbed our kids and took them away," she said.   "My daughter is pretty freaked out."   Firefighter Andrew Connon told AFP "a number of homes were threatened but it was contained by the aerial bombing".

- 'Catastrophic conditions' -
From early morning thousands of firefighters spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions.   They were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines and trapping residents who had not already evacuated.   New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said so far only a dozen buildings had been damaged Tuesday and a handful non-life-threatening injuries were reported, but the crisis was far from over.

Firefighters will be "working on these fires for days and weeks given the enormity of the firegrounds," he said.    Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes.   "The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert.   "Complacency kills," he added.   Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced for the affected area and Rally Australia -- due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend -- was cancelled.   The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.

- 'We'll fight it first' -
In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens.   Like many, his family -- including his mother nursing a broken leg -- have packed their bags, but have resisted leaving their house and everything they own.    "We'll fight it first," he told AFP, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."

In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre.   Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog.    "The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told AFP. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."

Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge".    The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave late can be fatal.   Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 10:03:07 +0100 (MET)

Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - An Australian tourist who fly-kicked a motorcyclist and assaulted a man in his own home during a drunken rampage was jailed for four months on Tuesday.   The ruling comes after Nicholas Carr's antics were caught in a viral video that saw him carry out a campaign of destruction in Seminyak, a popular tourist area on the Indonesian holiday island.   "The defendant Nicholas Carr is found guilty and is sentenced to four months" in jail, presiding judge Soebandi, who goes by one name, told the Denpasar District Court.    A lawyer for Carr, charged with assault and property damage, said the 26-year-old would not appeal the ruling.    He is expected to be released next month because of time already served.   In August, Carr ran barefoot on to a street and shouted expletives before the apprentice builder slammed into the bonnet of a moving car and then fly-kicked an unsuspecting motorcycle rider.

The biker, who was thrown from the moving scooter, sustained minor injuries -- later the pair embraced during a court hearing as Carr apologised to the victim.   Carr also shattered a convenience store's glass door before stealing a motorcycle.   Later, he broke into a house where he assaulted the sleeping homeowner, leaving him with injuries, police said earlier.    He was eventually caught by locals and police and taken to hospital.    Pictures that circulated on social media showed at the time showed Carr bloodied and bruised, and trussed with hosepipe and rope.   Shortly after his arrest, Carr apologised and admitted drinking more than 10 small bottles of vodka as well as other alcohol.

After a string of embarrassing incidents by tourists, Bali officials recently warned that boorish visitors may be kicked off the island, which attracts millions annually to its palm-fringed beaches, colourful nightlife and ancient temples.   Australian professional rugby league player David Fifita returned home this week after he was briefly arrested in Bali for assaulting a nightclub security guard.   Several days after Carr's arrest, a Czech couple who were slammed for disrespecting a Balinese temple took part in a ritual purification ceremony.
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 16:19:54 +0100 (MET)

Lyon, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - An unusually strong earthquake hit south-eastern France on Monday, injuring four people, one of them seriously, authorities said.   A physicist at a geophysics institute the IPGP said that quakes of this strength are rare in that region, but warned of possible aftershocks and said people should leave fragile buildings.   The quake, with a magnitude of 5.4, was felt in a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar which are about 150 kilometres (93 miles) apart, the national seismological office said.   "I was leaning against the oven in my mother's bakery when I felt the tremor," said Victoria Brielle, a resident in Privas, some 25 kilometres from the quake's epicentre.   "A customer said her sideboard had moved and all her crockery was broken,"  she said.

Another resident in the area, Didier Levy, who lives in a 15th century castle, told AFP that "chandeliers were still trembling" several minutes after the quake.   Levy, who said his dog starting barking even before humans felt the tremors, added: "I have never experienced anything like it, I could feel the trembling even though these wall are one metre thick."   One person was seriously hurt when some scaffolding collapsed, the regional prefect's office said.   Three other people in the neighbouring Ardeche region were slightly injured.

Quakes in this region are rarely higher than Magnitude 5, said Mustapha Meghraoui of the IPGP's office in Strasbourg.   "We can say that this is a rare one," he added. But he said there might be an aftershock of around 4.5.   "If people are in a fragile house, they would be better leaving it" for something more robust for a while, he said.   The scale of the damage suggested the quake happened at a depth of between five and 10 kilometres, he added. But they were working on a more accurate reading.
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 13:19:54 +0100 (MET)

Goma, DR Congo, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - A local radio station that has been involved in the fight against Ebola in eastern DR Congo said Monday it was closing down after one of its broadcasters was murdered.   Joel Musavuli, head of Lwemba radio in Mambasa in Ituri province, told AFP that the station had been targeted by armed groups hostile to the campaign to roll back the Ebola epidemic.

"Each of us have received threats since last month. We have now decided to stop broadcasting, Musavuli said, adding that he himself had escaped two kidnap attempts.   "We are victims of our commitment to the awareness campaign about the spread of Ebola virus disease. We don't know why the militiamen are targeting us."   Nearly 2,200 people have died since the notorious haemorrhagic disease erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2018, according to the latest official figures.

The fight against the outbreak has been hampered by local fears and superstititions, exploited by militia groups that are rampant in the remote region.   Several health workers have been killed and media that have supported the campaign have received threats.

Several radio stations in the Mambasa area say they have stopped broadcasting anti-Ebola messages because of intimidation.   On November 2, Lwemba broadcaster Papy Mahamba was killed at his home by unidentified men. His wife was injured and their house set ablaze.    The station said the authorities had failed to take action against the threats. It said it would resume broadcasts after "the state has restored authority in the area".