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Tokyo, Aug 23, 2017 (AFP) - Guam's number two politican Wednesday rolled out the welcome mat to tourists, promising his sun-kissed tropical island is safe -- despite North Korea's threat to launch missiles toward the Pacific US territory. Lieutenant Governor Raymond Tenorio made the comments in Tokyo where he was joined by Guam's tourism boss Jon Nathan Denight, amid fears that Pyongyang's sabre-rattling will hammer the key tourism industry.
Last year, Japanese tourists made up about half of the 1.5 million visitors to the island, which is about a four-hour flight from Tokyo. "We're one of the most protected and safe islands you'll find in the world," Tenorio told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. He added there was a big US military presence on Guam, a strategic outpost in the Pacific with its own missile defence system.
Added Denight: "Guam's brand image was built as a very safe and family-friendly destination. I want to reassure people of Japan that there has been no change and Guam is safe for travel." The unusual appeal to tourists comes several weeks after Pyongyang said it was considering firing a salvo of missiles toward the island -- prompting an angry reaction from US President Donald Trump.
Unlike Trump, however, Guam's 162,000-odd residents seem to be taking it all in stride, including Tenorio. "By and large, 99 percent of our population just go about their lives every single day. Things are normal on Guam," he said. "I have to admit sometimes it's really hard to do my job in my office. If you look outside...(from) where I'm sitting at my desk many times you'll see dolphins chasing the fish."
Hagatna, Guam, Aug 11, 2017 (AFP) - Tourism-dependent Guam is looking to cash in on its new-found fame as a North Korean missile target, tapping an unlikely promotional opportunity to attract visitors to the idyllic island and prove that all publicity is good publicity. Pyongyang's threats to launch four missile strikes near the US territory has stirred global curiosity in the remote Pacific destination, with it trending heavily on search engines as social media users wondered, "what is Guam?"
Although Guam hosts two US military installations and 6,000 US soldiers, making it the target of North Korea's wrath, tourism authorities are keen to dispel any impression of danger to the tranquil island and its secluded beaches. "The circumstances are unfortunate but this is a good opportunity for us to educate the world about Guam and our culture, about where we are, and who we are," said Josh Tyquiengco, marketing director at Guam Visitors Bureau, the official agency for the island.
"Guam is more than a military base. We are a safe family destination. We reassure potential visitors that we continue to be a safe... place to visit," Tyquiengco told AFP. Despite North Korea's threats to prepare plans within days that would surround Guam with "enveloping fire", fears of a potential attack have not deterred tourists from visiting Guam, he said. "We heard about a few booking cancellations from South Korea, but it's too minimal to affect the industry," he said.
Governor Eddie Calvo, in a briefing late Friday, said any attack on Guam "would be met with overwhelming force", pointing out that the biggest threat facing the island was the looming typhoon season. "With that, everybody should conduct their lives like business as usual. It's the weekend. Go out, have a good time, enjoy the beaches tomorrow and live your lives. "At this point, there are thousands of tourists coming in on a daily basis... from Japan, (South) Korea, Taiwan and China and other areas. It is our belief that they should enjoy themselves here."
As aircraft after aircraft -- packed with tourists -- landed Friday at Guam's international airport, the latest visitors to the island appeared untroubled by the prospect of missile strikes. Sun Doojin, who arrived with her husband and two-year-old daughter on a flight from Seoul, responded with an emphatic "no" when asked if she was concerned about an attack during her visit.
- 'A hidden gem' -
The Guam Daily Post, in an editorial, said the spotlight on the territory offered an opportunity to show the world why an island of 162,000 people draws more than 1.5 million tourists a year. "The beach waters are crystal clear, beaches aren't overrun, and nature hiking trails are very accessible. "The different cultures that are showcased on the island through food make Guam a hidden gem, a tropical vacation getaway but with the amenities and comforts of some of the small cities stateside."
Guam's history of earthquakes and typhoons mean its infrastructure is built to robust standards and authorities insist that the island is prepared for any emergency, including a North Korean strike. Homeland Security spokeswoman Jenna Gaminde told the Guam Daily News that in the event of an attack, residents would be immediately notified by sirens from the All-Hazards Alert Warning System located throughout the island. "If you hear the sirens, tune into local media -- radio, print, television -- for further instructions," she said.
Pyongyang has said it would take less than 18 minutes for a missile to cross the 3,400-kilometre (2,100-mile) distance to the US territory. In addition to the US military bases, Guam is also equipped with the sophisticated THAAD weapons system which is capable of destroying intermediate-range missiles in the final phase of flight.
Officials, however, have sought to brush off fears and say there has been no change in the threat level for now. "I don't think there's anything to worry about. No missile is going to land on Guam," said Carl Peterson, who serves on the Guam Chamber of Commerce's armed forces committee. "We've got defense mechanisms in place... they have the ability to seek out the missiles with kinetic energy and destroy it."
Miami, June 8, 2017 (AFP) - Five percent of women in the US territories who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant had fetus or babies with defects, including microcephaly, government health data said Thursday. The report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention covered the US territories of Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands and Puerto Rico. The report is the first based on data from the US territories and the largest study of its kind to date.
CDC experts said the findings are consistent with previous findings about Zika cases in the mainland United States. "Women in the US territories and elsewhere who have continued exposure to mosquitoes carrying Zika are at risk of infection," said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat. "We must remain vigilant and committed to preventing new Zika infections." The rate of birth defects was slightly higher -- eight percent, or one in 12 -- in women whose infections were confirmed early in the pregnancy, during the first trimester, said the report.
The findings were based on the cases of 2,549 women with possible Zika virus infection who completed their pregnancies. Among these women, 1,508 had confirmed Zika virus infection from January 1, 2016 to April 25, 2017. Over 120 pregnancies resulted in Zika-associated birth defects, including infants born with unusually small heads, an irreversible condition known as microcephaly. Other complications in babies included seizures and problems with movement, coordination, eating and near constant crying.
Zika can be spread by the bite of infected mosquito or via sexual contact. Pregnant women are urged to avoid areas where Zika is spreading. Since Zika erupted on a large scale in mid-2015, more than 1.5 million people have been infected, mostly in Brazil and other countries in South America. Some 70 countries have been impacted. Zika may lead to an itchy rash and although it is dangerous for pregnant women and their fetuses, it often causes no symptoms in adults. In November 2016, the World Health Organization announced that the Zika virus outbreak no longer poses a world public health emergency, though it warned the epidemic remains a challenge.
[Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. A map of the island can be found at <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/guam.gif>.
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.