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By Barnaby CHESTERMAN
Stanley, Falkland Islands, Oct 30, 2019 (AFP) - Waddling up the beach in single file, their heads held high with an almost self-important demeanor, king penguins are a major draw in the Falkland Islands' tourism industry. Their fluffy brown chicks are nearly fearless of humans, meaning tourists at Volunteer Point, a peninsula on East Falkland Island, might get almost close enough to touch one. "We're the furthest location north in the world that you can see king penguins," said Tony Heathman, a former sheep farmer who has spent the last 16 years taking tour groups to Volunteer Point, where a thousand pairs of the islands' signature species go to breed. "We get lots and lots of people who... love to come here and get as close to the king penguins as they possibly can," the 70-year-old told AFP.
Kings are just one of five penguin species in the Falklands, alongside the wacky-looking rockhoppers which have yellow tassels sprouting from the side of their heads, gentoos, macaronis and the burrowing magellanics. The Falklands have incredibly rich biodiversity, including more than 25 species of whales and dolphins, but it is the guaranteed ability to get up close with penguins that makes it a particularly enticing destination. Tourism is a growing industry in the Falklands despite their remote location in the South Atlantic some 480 kilometers (300 miles) off Argentina and occasional political and economic hostility from Buenos Aires.
In 2018, there was a 6.3 percent increase in tourist arrivals and a 29.4 percent surge in tourist expenditure to almost £8.8 million ($11.3 million). "One of the key attractions for us was the king penguins at Volunteer Point, so we saw plenty of those," said Flavia Tang, 29, from London, who came for a week with her partner. Volunteer Point is one of the islands' most popular destinations, accessible from the capital Stanley by a three-hour ride in a four-wheel drive vehicle, including 11 miles of bumpy, boggy, off-road track. The peninsula is also home to gentoos and magellanic penguins -- known locally as jackasses because of their braying-like call -- as well as oystercatchers, South American terns and ruddy-headed geese.
- Like a Hitchcock film -
Another of the Falklands' stunning locations for wildlife watching is Kidney Island, where rockhoppers use their claws and beaks to help them get to the top of cliffs where they will mate. In order to see the birds, visitors must trek a half hour through tall, three-meter (10-foot) tussac grass while avoiding ground bird nests. But a bird called the sooty shearwater is what makes the island truly unique. "Kidney Island is home to 140,000 breeding pairs of sooty shearwaters that are just rafting off the coast here ready to come in," Denise Blake, the Falklands government's environmental officer, told AFP during a visit to the outlying island. "So as night falls you really see them swooping in over the heads a bit like the Hitchcock movie where all the birds start circling in: It's incredible for that."
While many nature-lovers head to places such as Antarctica and South Georgia, an island in the South Atlantic, Sally Ellis, the manager at International Tours and Travel, feels the Falklands are a better option. "Antarctica and South Georgia are nothing compared to the variety and accessibility of wildlife in the Falkland Islands and it costs about a quarter," she said, adding that there was nearly a "guarantee" to see whatever wildlife is desired. Beyond birds the endangered sei whale is found off the coast of the Falklands while the distinctive black and white Commerson's dolphins swim near Yorke Bay and Gypsy Cove.
- 'Leap of faith' -
In addition to nature watching, adventure tourism is also growing on the islands, where enterprising locals are branching into the industry. Tom and Jane Chater recently launched a business offering helicopter trips and tours. The married couple is hoping to attract some of the 60,000 people a year who arrive in the Falklands from cruise ships by offering the chance to explore the islands from their four-seater Robinson R-44 helicopter. "It's been a very busy and exciting time for us," said Tom Chater, 43. "It's something we thought about for a long time," added 46-year-old Jane. "It's a leap of faith but we're keen to see how it works out."
WASHINGTON, Nov 25, 2013 (AFP) - A powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck in the south Atlantic ocean 314 kilometers (195 miles) southeast of Stanley, the main city on the Falkland Islands, the US Geological Survey said early Monday. The underwater quake struck at 0627 GMT at a depth of 10 kilometers in the lightly populated area, the USGS said. The epicenter was also 877 kilometers east of Ushuaia, Argentina, the USGS said. There were no initial reports of damage or casualties. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a bulletin stating that, despite the power of the quake, "a destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist." The Tsunami Warning Center however did say that there was a "small possibility of a local or regional tsunami" that could affect coastlines "located usually no more than a few hundred kilometers from the earthquake epicenter." The USGS initially said that it was a magnitude 6.6 earthquake, but later revised the quake's strength.
LONDON, Jan 12, 2013 (AFP) - British-American owned cruise firm P&O on Saturday announced it would not be stopping at three Argentinian ports due to the continuing row over the Falkland Islands. "As a British cruise company we cannot allow ourselves to be the subject of any political dispute or put our customers and crew into any situation where their enjoyment may be compromised," said a spokesman for the company. "With this in mind, we have had to take the difficult decision to remove all Argentinian ports of call from the itinerary." Its Arcadia and Adonia vessels will now not dock in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn or Ushuaia during their round-the-world cruises.
Argentinian port officials have previously turned away liners that have been to the Falklands. President Cristina Kirchner said earlier this month that Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Falklands by Britain in "a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism" and demanded they be handed over to Argentina. British Prime Minister David Cameron replied that the 3,000 residents of the Falklands had a strong desire to remain British and would have a chance to express their views in a referendum on their political status to be held in March. The islanders are expected to vote strongly in favour of continued union with Britain.
Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, prompting Britain's then prime minister Margaret Thatcher to send a naval taskforce to successfully reclaim the islands in a war that claimed the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentinian soldiers. British defence officials have prepared plans for dealing with aggressive action by Argentina towards the disputed islands, according to a report on the Sunday Telegraph website. A senior defence source told the paper: "Britain needs to be in a situation to respond very quickly to a whole series of threats -- that is why we have contingency plans. Our posture has not changed but neither are we complacent."
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 27, 2012 (AFP) - Two British cruise ships that visited the Falkland Islands were refused entry to an Argentine port on Monday, amid tension over the disputed archipelago. The Adonia, owned by P&O cruises, and the Princess Cruises vessel Star Princess were both blocked from entering Ushuaia in southern Argentina after both ships stopped at the Falklands on Saturday. "We are very concerned to hear the Adonia and Star Princess have been refused access to the port of Ushuaia," a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said in London. "There can be no justification for interference in free and legitimate commerce. "British diplomats in Argentina are urgently seeking to clarify the circumstances surrounding this incident, and we are in contact with the company concerned." Tensions are running high between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands, which London controls but Buenos Aires claims, ahead of the 30th anniversary in April of the start of the war between the two nations over the South Atlantic islands.
Argentina has also reacted angrily to the deployment of Prince William to the Falklands as part of his job as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot, and to a planned fact-finding trip by British lawmakers next month. The Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego said they "applied the law" in denying port access to the Carnival Corporation ships the Star Princess and the Adonia. "The Governor of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands, Fabiana Rios, decided not to allow the docking in the port of Ushuaia (3,200 km south of Buenos Aires)" of the two ships, Tierra del Fuego authorities said in a statement. "We've never had a ship stopped from coming into an Argentine port before," Julie Benson, spokeswoman for Carnival affiliate Princess Cruises, told AFP.
Carnival UK, which owns both P&O and Princess Cruises, said in a statement the Adonia was now sailing towards Punta Arenas in Chile, its next port of call on an 87-night tour of South America. The Star Princess was on a 14-night South America cruise which started in Rio de Janeiro on February 18. The Falklands, located off the southern coast of Argentina, have been under British control since 1833. A brief 74-day war in 1982 cost the lives of 649 Argentine troops, 255 British troops and three Falkland Islanders, with Britain retaining control. The United Nations has called on Britain to start talk on decolonization, but London has refused to do so.
WASHINGTON, Jan 5, 2010 (AFP) - A major 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck the southern Atlantic ocean early Tuesday east of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, a sparsely populated British territory, a US monitor said.
The quake struck at 3:55 am (04:55 GMT) in waters 685 kilometers (425 miles) east of Bristol Island, part of an chain inhabited mainly by scientists on a series of bases, the US Geological Survey reported. The earthquake, about 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) east of the Falkland Islands, occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles) according to USGS.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued an alert stating there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami, but warned "there is the small possibility of a local or regional tsunami that could affect coasts" near the epicenter.
World Travel News Headlines
Sydney, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - The death toll from New Zealand's White Island volcano eruption rose to six late Tuesday, after an injured person died in an Auckland hospital, police said. "Police can confirm a further person has died following the eruption on Whakaari/White Island, bringing the official toll to six," a police statement said. Eight more people who remain missing are presumed dead after the volcano erupted Monday.
By Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel de Carteret in Gosford
Sydney, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - Toxic haze blanketed Sydney Tuesday triggering a chorus of smoke alarms to ring across the city and forcing school children inside, as "severe" weather conditions fuelled deadly bush blazes along Australia's east coast. Fire engines raced office-to-office in the city centre with sirens blaring, as inland bushfires poured smoke laden with toxic particles into commercial buildings. Emergency services responded to an "unprecedented" 500 automatic call-outs inside a few hours according to New South Wales Fire and Rescue's Roger Mentha.
A regional fire headquarters miles from the nearest blazes was itself evacuated while throngs of mask-wearing commuters choked their way through thick acrid air and the organisers of a harbour yacht race declared it was unsafe to proceed. "The smoke from all the fires is just so severe here on the harbour that you just can't see anything, so it's just too dangerous," said spokeswoman Di Pearson of an event that normally foreshadows the famed Sydney-Hobart yacht race. "The vision is just so poor." Some of the city's commuter ferries were also cancelled "due to thick smoke" and school kids were kept inside at breaktime and sent home early as pollution levels soared far above "hazardous" levels.
For weeks the east of the country has been smothered in smoke as drought and climate-fuelled bushfires have burned. But the scale of the problem on Tuesday shocked even hardened residents. Bruce Baker -- an 82-year-old who lives in Gosford, north of Sydney -- said he was skipping his daily morning walk because of the smoke. "This is the worst it's been, for sure," he told AFP. "It dries your throat. Even if you're not asthmatic, you feel it." Authorities recommended that the vulnerable cease outdoor activity altogether and that everyone stay inside as much as possible, although one couple braved the toxic air to get married on the waterfront in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge shrouded in smog.
A cricket match between New South Wales and Queensland also went ahead, despite a barely visible ball. Tuesday had been expected to bring strong winds and high temperatures that made for "severe conditions where embers can be blown ahead of the fire into suburbs and threaten properties." But New South Wales Rural Fire Service said "deteriorating fire conditions have been delayed by a thick blanket of smoke" over the east of the state. As the day developed there were nearly 100 bushfire incidents in the state of New South Wales alone and dozens more in Queensland. Total fire bans were put in place across much of the east of the country and in large parts of western Australia. Temperatures in some inland areas eased past 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).
- The 'big dry' -
To the northwest of Sydney, several fires already burning for weeks have combined to create a "megafire" that has already destroyed 319,000 hectares (788,000 acres) of land, mostly inside national parks. Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- who for weeks has not commented on the smoke haze -- defended his government's handling of the fires and said there were no plans to professionalise the countryside's largely volunteer force. "Our policy is sensible when it comes to addressing and taking action on climate change. Our actions on climate change are getting the results they're intended to get," he said. Morrison's conservative coalition has been criticised by former fire chiefs for failing to heed warnings about climate change. The crisis has been propelled by a prolonged drought that has made vegetation tinder dry.
The Bureau of Meteorology has reported that Australia experienced its driest November on record this year. The "big dry" has left farmers desperate and small towns facing the prospect of running out of water completely. A swathe of the east of the country has seen "rainfall deficiencies" since early 2017 -- almost three years. Many dams in New South Wales are empty and almost all are well below capacity. Firefighters south of Brisbane recently reported 1,000 litres of water were stolen from tanks at their station. Amid the shortage, Tuesday also saw the toughest water restrictions in a decade being introduced for Sydney -- with curbs on everything from hosepipe use to washing cars.
By Allison JACKSON
Sao Paulo, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - Gripping the deadly snake behind its jaws, Fabiola de Souza massages its venom glands to squeeze out drops that will save lives around Brazil where thousands of people are bitten every year. De Souza and her colleagues at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo harvest the toxin from hundreds of snakes kept in captivity to produce antivenom. It is distributed by the health ministry to medical facilities across the country.
Dozens of poisonous snake species, including the jararaca, thrive in Brazil's hot and humid climate. Nearly 29,000 people were bitten in 2018 and more than 100 died, official figures show. States with the highest rates of snakebite were in the vast and remote Amazon basin where it can take hours to reach a hospital stocked with antivenom. Venom is extracted from each snake once a month in a delicate and potentially dangerous process.
Using a hooked stick, de Souza carefully lifts one of the slithering creatures out of its plastic box and maneuvers it into a drum of carbon dioxide. Within minutes the reptile is asleep. "It's less stress for the animal," de Souza explains. The snake is then placed on a stainless steel bench in the room where the temperature hovers around 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit). De Souza has a few minutes to safely extract venom before the snake begins to stir. "It's important to have fear because when people have fear they are careful," she says.
- Antivenom 'crisis' -
The snakes are fed a diet of rats and mice that are raised at the leafy institute and killed before being served up once a month. After milking the snake, de Souza records its weight and length before placing it back in its container. The antivenom is made by injecting small amounts of the poison into horses -- kept by Butantan on a farm -- to trigger an immune response that produces toxin-attacking antibodies.
Blood is later extracted from the hoofed animals and the antibodies harvested to create a serum that will be administered to snakebite victims who might otherwise die. Butantan project manager Fan Hui Wen, a Brazilian, says the institute currently makes all of the country's antivenom -- around 250,000 10-15 millilitre vials per year.
Brazil also donates small quantities of antivenom to several countries in Latin America. There are now plans to sell the life-saving serum abroad to help relieve a global shortage, particularly in Africa. About 5.4 million people are estimated to be bitten by snakes every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Between 81,000 and 138,000 die, while many more suffer amputations and other permanent disabilities as a result of the toxin. To cut the number of deaths and injuries, WHO unveiled a plan earlier this year that includes boosting production of quality antivenoms. Brazil is part of the strategy. It could begin to export antivenom as early as next year, Wen says. "There is interest for Butantan to also supply other countries due to the global crisis of antivenom production," she says.
Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - New Zealand, struck by a deadly volcanic eruption Monday, lies in a zone where Earth's tectonic plates collide, making it a hotspot for earthquakes and volcanic activity. In one of its worst natural disasters, a huge mass of volcanic debris from the eruption of Mount Ruapehu triggered a mudslide in 1953 that washed away a bridge and caused a passenger train to plunge into a river with the loss of 151 lives. After Monday's eruption on New Zealand's White Island, here is a recap of some of the deadliest volcanic eruptions around the world in the past 25 years.
- 2018: Indonesia -
In December the Anak Krakatoa volcano, a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, erupts and a section of its crater collapses, sliding into the ocean and generating a tsunami. More than 420 people are killed and 7,200 wounded.
- 2018: Guatemala -
The June eruption of the Fuego volcano, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the capital, unleashes a torrent of mud and ash that wipes the village of San Miguel Los Lotes from the map. More than 200 people are killed.
- 2014: Japan -
The sudden eruption in September of Mount Ontake, in the central Nagano region, kills more than 60 people in Japan's worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years. The mountain is packed with hikers at the time. In 1991 an eruption of the southwestern Unzen volcano kills 43.
- 2014: Indonesia -
At least 16 people are killed on the island of Sumatra in February by a spectacular eruption of Mount Sinabung, which had lain dormant for 400 years before roaring back to life five months earlier. In 2016 villages are scorched and farmland devastated after another eruption kills seven.
- 2010: Indonesia -
Indonesia's most active volcano, Mount Merapi on Java island, starts a series of explosions in October, eventually killing more than 320 people. An 1930 eruption of the volcano killed 1,300 people and one in 1994 claimed more than 60 lives.
- 2002: DR Congo -
The eruption in July of Mount Nyiragongo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo destroys the centre of Goma town, along with several residential areas, and kills more than 100 people.
- 1997: Montserrat -
The capital of the small British colony, Plymouth, is wiped off the map and 20 are killed or left missing in avalanches of hot rock and ash clouds when its volcano erupts in June.
- 1995: The Philippines -
At least 70 are killed and another 30 missing after the crater of the Parker volcano in the south of the island of Mindanao collapses. Five years earlier the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, 80 kilometres north of the capital Manila, kills more than 800 people.
- Worst ever -
The explosion of Indonesia's Krakatoa volcano in 1883 is considered the worst ever seen. The eruption sent a jet of ash, stones and smoke shooting more than 20 kilometres (12 miles) into the sky, plunging the region into darkness, and sparking a huge tsunami that was felt around the world. The disaster killed more than 36,000 people.
The most famous eruption in history is that of Mount Vesuvius in modern-day Italy in 79 AD, which destroyed the towns of Herculaneum, Stabiae and Pompeii, wiping out an estimated 10 percent of the population of the three cities.
There were more human cases than animal ones in that outbreak, prompting Mod.AS to comment: "Unfortunately, during the recent South Sudan RVF event, as in most -- if not all -- previous RVF events in other African countries, humans served as sentinels. Improved surveillance in animals is desperately needed in Africa, to allow timely measures applied, predominantly preventive vaccination, before the development of a full-blown epizootic involving secondary infection in humans." Intensified surveillance is needed in South Sudan in those localities where the affected man had been prior to his return to Uganda.
A map showing the location of Edmonton can be found at
<https://goo.gl/maps/Rfq6XC2vvwi19ypb6>. - ProMED Mod.ML]
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Over 635,000 Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host community will be vaccinated against cholera in a 3-week-long campaign beginning today at the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and nearby areas, to protect vulnerable population against the deadly disease amidst increasing number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD).
The Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaign will be implemented in the refugee camps from 8-14 December to reach 139,888 Rohingya aged 1 year and less than 5 years. In the host community, the campaign will take place from 8-31 December and aims to reach any person older than 1 year (495,197). In total, 635,085 people are expected to be reached.
Led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners, the campaign aims to reach people who missed some or all previous cholera vaccination opportunities. The campaign, including operational costs, is funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“We want to equip these populations with more protection against diarrheal diseases. Despite the progresses made to ensure access to quality water and sanitation, such diseases remain an issue of concern: approximately 80% of host community living near the camps have not been targeted in previous OCV campaigns and are still vulnerable”, says Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative in Bangladesh.
Earlier rounds of cholera vaccination, which have taken place since the beginning of the emergency response in 2017, have helped prevent outbreaks of the disease. To this date, over 1 million people were vaccinated against cholera.
Heavy rain has led to rivers bursting their banks, forcing the closure of shops and restaurants
Streets in the South Island tourist towns of Wanaka and Queenstown were slowly going under water on Friday, after Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu burst their banks earlier in the week, flooding businesses and sewerage systems.
Water and large debris closed the main street of Wanaka, a popular spot with Instagrammers thanks to its famous tree that appears to have grown out of the lake. On Friday businesses were sandbagging as heavy rain continued to fall.
Sewerage systems in the town were also at risk of contaminating the lake, with the Queenstown Lakes District council taking the precautionary measure of shutting down the sewer connection to a handful of premises.
Wanaka residents were told to be on “high alert” with heavy rain predicted all weekend.
The streets of the usually bustling tourist town were largely empty, and the popular cafes and restaurants on the lake shore were closed.