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Mongolia

Mongolia US Consular Information Sheet
November 21, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Mongolia is a vast country of mountains, lakes, deserts and grasslands approximately the size of Alaska.
It peacefully abandoned its communist system in 199
and has been successfully making the transition to a parliamentary democracy.
Economic reforms continue, although the country’s development will depend on considerable infrastructure investment, particularly in the mining, energy, transportation, and communication sectors.
Travelers to Mongolia should be aware that shortcomings in these areas might have an impact on travel plans.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Mongolia for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport is required for American visitors.
No visa is required for Americans visiting for fewer than 90 days; however, visitors planning to stay in Mongolia for more than 30 days are required to register with the Office of Immigration, Naturalization and Foreign Citizens in Ulaanbaatar within the first seven days of arrival.
American visitors who fail to register and who stay longer than 30 days, even for reasons beyond their control, will be stopped at departure, temporarily denied exit, and fined.
It is recommended that visitors who will be in Mongolia beyond 30 days register with the Office of
Immigration, Naturalization and Foreign Citizens within the first seven days of their arrival.

Americans planning to work or study in Mongolia should apply for a visa at a Mongolian embassy or consulate outside of Mongolia.
Failure to do so may result in authorities denying registration, levying a fine, and requiring that the visitor leave the country.
Travelers arriving or departing Mongolia through China or Russia should be aware of Chinese and Russian visa regulations (transiting twice will require a double- or multiple-entry visa) and note that some land-entry points have varying days and hours of operation. Many small land border posts do not operate on a fixed schedule.
Travelers need to check with immigration authorities to make certain the post they intend to use will be open when they want to enter. Travelers planning travel to Russia should get visas prior to arriving in Mongolia, because they are difficult to obtain at the Russian Embassy in Mongolia. For more information on these requirements, see the Country Specific Information for Russia and China.

Travelers without Mongolian visas are subject to an exit tax payable either in U.S. dollars or Mongolian Tugrugs upon departure.
American citizen visitors to Mongolia do not require a visa if they stay less than 30 days and no fee is payable if they depart within the 30 day period.
If they stay longer without having registered with immigration, a penalty fee will be assessed at time of departure.
Travelers should inquire whether the exit tax is included with the price of the airline ticket at the time of purchase. In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.
These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present.
Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Visit the Embassy of Mongolia web site at http://www.mongolianembassy.us for the most current visa information.
Travelers can also contact the Embassy of Mongolia at 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC
20007, telephone (202) 333-7117 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:
There have been no significant acts of terrorism or extremism in Mongolia. There are no regions of instability in the country.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all protests, including political protests, and street demonstrations that occur occasionally in Ulaanbaatar, as the demonstrations may become violent.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

CRIME:
Over the past few years there has been a significant rise in street crime in Mongolia, particularly in Ulaanbaatar, the capital.
Violent crime, particularly aggravated assault, is increasing, and it is not advisable to walk alone through the city after dark.
The most common crimes against foreigners are pick pocketing and bag snatching.
There are reports of organized groups operating in open areas, usually after dark, who surround, grab, and choke an individual in order to search the victim’s pockets.
Thieves have also sliced victims’ clothing in attempts to reach wallets, cell phones and other valuables.
U.S. citizens who detect pick pocket attempts should not confront the thieves, as they may become violent.
Caution is advised when using public transportation and in crowded public areas, such as open-air markets, the Central Post Office and the Gandan Monastery.
Crime rises sharply before, during and after the Naadam Summer Festival in July and throughout the summer tourist season, as well as during and after Tsagaan Sar, the Winter Festival, in January or February.

Travelers should be extremely cautious at these specific locations:
Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar: tourists arriving at and departing from this airport are frequently targeted for robbery and pick pocketing by organized groups.
The State Department Store:
tourists are targeted by organized pick pocket gangs at the entries/exits/elevators and the area surrounding the store.
Naran Tuul Covered Market:
Organized criminal groups look for and target foreigners for robbery and pick pocketing.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.
The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
American victims of crime in Mongolia should be prepared to hire their own translators and lawyers if they intend to pursue a criminal complaint against a Mongolian.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Mongolia are 102 to contact the police department and 103 for a medical emergency.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Mongolia are very limited and do not meet most Western standards, especially for emergency health care requirements.
Many brand-name Western medicines are unavailable.
Ulaanbaatar, the capital, has the majority of medical facilities inside the country; outside of Ulaanbaatar, medical facilities and treatment are extremely limited or non-existent.
Specialized emergency care for infants and the elderly is not available.
Infectious diseases, such as plague, meningococcal meningitis, and tuberculosis, are present at various times of the year. Sanitation in some restaurants is inadequate, particularly outside of Ulaanbaatar.
Stomach illnesses are frequent.
Bottled water and other routine precautions are advisable.

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
A June 2005 medical evacuation from Ulaanbaatar to Seoul, Korea, cost the patient $87,000.
Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate payment in cash for health services.
Medical evacuation companies will not initiate an evacuation without a fee guarantee beforehand and in full.
Please see Medical Information for Americans traveling abroad.

Local hospitals generally do not contact the Embassy about ill or injured Americans in their care; hospitalized American citizens who need Consular assistance from the Embassy should ask the doctor or hospital to contact the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.
For more information, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, which has a list of medical facilities available to foreigners (also available on the U.S. Embassy web site at http://mongolia.usembassy.gov/) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s international traveler’s hotline (see below).
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Mongolia.

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 Mongolia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Ulaanbaatar can be extremely difficult due to poorly maintained streets, malfunctioning traffic lights, inadequate street lighting, a shortage of traffic signs, and undisciplined pedestrians.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles on the roads in recent years, but the knowledge and skills of the driving population have not kept pace with the growth in the number of automobiles on the streets. There are many metered taxis in Ulaanbaatar.
There are a few car rental companies, but safety and maintenance standards are uncertain, and rental vehicles should be utilized with caution.
Cars with drivers can be obtained from local tourist companies.
Public transportation within the capital is extensive, cheap, and generally reliable, but it is also extremely crowded (see Information on Crime above), with the result that pickpockets often victimize foreigners.
For specific information concerning Mongolian drivers permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Mongolia at: 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC
20007, telephone (202) 333-7117.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of Mongolia’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.mongolianembassy.us/default.php.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mongolia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Mongolia’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.

The U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. government personnel from using the domestic services of Mongolian International Air Transport (MIAT) for official travel because of uncertainties regarding service and maintenance schedules, aircraft certification and insurance status.
This prohibition does not extend to MIAT’s international flights or to the domestic flights of other carriers.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars are accepted at some hotels and may be converted to dollars or Tugrugs at several banks.
Credit cards can be used at a variety of hotels, restaurants, and shops in Ulaanbaatar.
Outside of the capital, travelers should have cash.
Cash advances against credit cards are available at some commercial banks such as Trade and Development Bank, Golomt Bank, Khan Bank, and Xac Bank.
International bank wire transfers are also possible.
There are a handful of VISA and Maestro/Cirrus ATM machines in Ulaanbaatar, but they do not always function and are not reliable.
ATM machines do not exist outside the capital.

U.S. consular offiers may not always receive timely notification of the detention or arrest of a U.S. citizen, particularly outside of Ulaanbaatar.
American citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, evidence of identity and citizenship are readily available.
Severe fuel shortages and problems with central heating and electrical systems may cause seriously reduced heating levels and power outages in Ulaanbaatar and other cities during the winter.
Smaller towns in the countryside may have no heat or electricity at all.
The Embassy advises all American residents in Mongolia to be prepared to depart if there is a complete energy failure.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

Mongolian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of items such as firearms, ammunition, and antiquities.
Import of firearms or ammunition requires prior approval from the Government of Mongolia.
Export of antiquities requires a special customs clearance certificate issued by authorized antique shops at the time of purchase. For additional information contact the Embassy of Mongolia at: 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC
20007, telephone: (202) 333-7117.
Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Mongolia’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mongolia 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 Mongolia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Mongolia.
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: at Micro Region 11, Big Ring Road, Ulaanbaatar.
The telephone number is (976) 11-329-095, the Consular Section fax number is (976) 11-353-788, and the Embassy’s web site is http://mongolia.usembassy.gov/.
The Consular Section can be emailed directly at cons@usembassy.mn.
The Consular Section is open for American Citizens Services Monday and Thursday from 1-3 p.m., except on U.S. and Mongolian holidays.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Mongolia dated September 22, 2008 to update the sections on Safety and Security, and Aviation Safety Oversight.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 6 May 2019 17:00:57 +0200

Ulaanbaatar, May 6, 2019 (AFP) - A Mongolian couple has died of the bubonic plague after eating raw marmot kidney, triggering a quarantine that left tourists stranded in a remote region for days, officials said Monday.

The ethnic Kazakh couple died on May 1 in Mongolia's westernmost province of Bayan-Ulgii, which borders Russia and China.   "The two dead were local people," said local governor Aipiin Gilimkhaan. "There were no cases reported after them."   A six-day quarantine was declared on residents in the region, preventing nine tourists from Russia, Germany and Switzerland from leaving.   "We are all fine. No one is ill," said a German tourist named Teresa, who did not want to give her last name.

Sebastian Pique, a 24-year-old American Peace Corps volunteer who has lived in the region for two years, said he and the tourists were invited to the governor's office on Friday to be informed about the situation.    "After the quarantine (was announced) not many people, even locals, were in the streets for fear of catching the disease," Pique told AFP.   The quarantine was expected to be lifted late Monday after no other cases of the plague were reported.   Authorities have warned people against eating raw marmot meat because it can carry Yersinia pestis, the plague germ.

At least one person dies of the plague every year in Mongolia, mostly due to consuming such meat, according to the National Center for Zoonotic Disease.   Some people ignore the warnings as they believe that consuming the innards of the large rodent is good for their health.   The Black Death wiped out millions of people in the Middle Ages but cases are now very rare.    Its most common form is bubonic, which is spread by fleas and causes swelling of the lymph node. The more virulent form is pneumonic plague, which can be transmitted between humans through coughing.
Date: Fri 3 May 2019
Source: Mirror [edited]

A married couple has died, leaving their 4 children orphaned after an outbreak of the bubonic plague, which sparked plane panic.

The man, 38, named only as Citizen T, and his pregnant wife, 37, are thought to have fallen ill after hunting and eating contaminated marmot, a large species of squirrel, in Mongolia. The man died on 27 Apr [2019], and the woman died 3 days later, reports the Siberian Times.

The highly contagious bacterial disease is spread by fleas living on wild rodents. It has sparked fears of an outbreak, and urgent measures and precautions have been put in place to stop the infection spreading. Around 158 people have been put under intensive medical supervision after coming into contact directly or indirectly with the couple.

There were dramatic scenes when a flight from Bayan, Ulgii and Khovd in Mongolia -- the area where the couple fell ill -- was met by workers in white anti-contamination suits as [the plane] landed in the country's capital of Ulaanbaatar. Eleven passengers from the west of the country were held at the airport and sent immediately for hospital checks. Others were examined in a special facility at the airport. Paramedics in anti-contamination boarded the flight as soon as it landed.

Some frontier checkpoints with Russia are reported to have been closed, leading to foreign tourists being stranded in Mongolia.

Dr N. Tsogbadrakh, director of National Centre for Zoonotic Dermatology and Medicine, said, "Despite the fact that eating marmots is banned, Citizen T hunted marmot. He ate the meat and gave it to his wife, and they died because the plague affected his stomach. Four children are orphaned."

Bubonic plague is believed to be the cause of the Black Death that spread through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century, killing an estimated 50 million people.

The plague is a bacterial disease that is spread by fleas living on wild rodents such as marmots. The disease can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time, according to the World Health Organisation.  [Byline: Will Stewart and Amber Hicks]
========================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Bayan-Olgiy Aymag, Bayan-Olgiy, Mongolia:
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 02:55:29 +0100
By Khaliun Bayartsogt

Bornuur, Mongolia, March 15, 2019 (AFP) - In the world's coldest capital, many burn coal and plastic just to survive temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees -- but warmth comes at a price: deadly pollution makes Ulaanbataar's air too toxic for children to breathe, leaving parents little choice but to evacuate them to the countryside.   This exodus is a stark warning of the future for urban areas in much of Asia, where scenes of citizens in anti-pollution masks against a backdrop of brown skies are becoming routine, rather than apocalyptic.   Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted cities on the planet, alongside New Delhi, Dhaka, Kabul, and Beijing. It regularly exceeds World Health Organisation recommendations for air quality even as experts warn of disastrous consequences, particularly for children, including stunted development, chronic illness, and in some cases death.

Erdene-Bat Naranchimeg watched helplessly as her daughter Amina battled illness virtually from birth, her immune system handicapped by the smog-choked air in Mongolia's capital.   "We would constantly be in and out of the hospital," Naranchimeg told AFP, adding that Amina contracted pneumonia twice at the age of two, requiring several rounds of antibiotics.   This is not a unique case in a city where winter temperatures plunge towards uninhabitable, particularly in the districts that rural workers moved to in search of a better life.   Here row upon row of the traditional tents -- known as gers -- are warmed by coal, or any other flammable material available. The resulting thick black smoke shoots out in plumes, blanketing surrounding areas in a film of smog that makes visibility so poor it can be hard to see even a few metres ahead.   Hospitals are packed and young children are vulnerable, common colds can quickly escalate into life-threatening illness.

- Birth defects -
The situation was so bad that doctors told Naranchimeg the only solution was to send her little girl to the clean air of the countryside.   Now aged five, Amina is thriving. She lives with her grandparents in Bornuur Sum, a village 135 kilometres away from the capital.   "She hasn't been sick since she started living here," said Naranchimeg, who makes the three-hour round trip to see Amina every week.   "It was very difficult in the first few months," she said. "We used to cry when we talked on the phone."   But like many parents in Ulaanbaatar, she felt the move was the only way to protect her child.

The levels of PM2.5 -- tiny and harmful particles -- in Ulaanbaatar reached 3,320 in January, 133 times what the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers safe.   The effects are terrible for adults but children are even more at risk, in part because they breathe faster, taking in more air and pollutants.   As they are smaller, children are also closer to the ground, where some pollutants concentrate, and their still-developing lungs, brains, and other key organs are more vulnerable to damage.   Effects to prolonged exposure range from persistent infections and asthma to slowed lung and brain development.   The risks apply in utero, too, because gases and fine particles can enter a mother's bloodstream and placenta, causing miscarriage, birth defects and low birth weights, which can also affect a child for the rest of their lives.   Researchers are now investigating whether pollution, like exposure to tobacco smoke, has health effects that could even be passed down to the next generation.

- 'Terribly afraid' -
Buyan-Ulzii Badamkhand and her husband need to stay in capital for work, but they have decided to send their two-year-old son Temuulen more than 1,000 kilometres away.   The 35-year-old mother-of-three struggled with the decision, even moving from one ger district to another in the hope her son's health would improve.   But successive bouts of illness, including bronchitis that lasted a whole year, finally convinced her to send Temuulen to his grandparents.   Hours after he arrived, she called her mother-in-law to discuss her son's medicines.   "But my mother-in-law asked me 'does he still need medicine? He isn't coughing anymore," she said.   "I tell myself that it doesn't matter that I miss him and who raises him, as long as he is healthy, I am content."   Respiratory problems are the most obvious effect of air pollution, but research suggests dirty air can also put children at greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.   And the WHO links it to leukaemia and behavioural disorders.   When air pollution peaks in winter, Ulaanbaatar's playgrounds empty and those who are able to are increasingly travelling abroad to wait out the smog.

In desperation, Luvsangombo Chinchuluun, a civil society activist, borrowed money to take her granddaughter to Thailand for all of January.   "We can't let her play outside (in Ulaanbaatar) because of the air pollution, so we decided to leave," she said.   The persistent smog has caused tensions in the city, with those living in wealthier areas blaming the ger residents for the pollution and even calling for the tent districts to be cleared.   But the ger residents say coal is all they can afford.   "People come to the capital because they need sustainable income," said Dorjdagva Adiyasuren, a 54-year-old mother of six.   "It's not their fault," she added.    In a bid to tackle the problem, the local government banned domestic migration in 2017, and a ban on burning coal comes into force from May.   But it is unclear whether the moves will be enough to make a difference.   For Naranchimeg, the problems are serious enough to make her consider whether she wants more children.    She explained: "Now, I am terribly afraid of to give birth again. It is risky to carry a child and what will happen to the child after it is born in this amount of pollution?"
Date: Tue 19 Feb 2019
Source: AFP [edited]

Mongolian authorities have temporarily closed all KFC restaurants in the country after more than 200 customers suffered food poisoning symptoms, and dozens were hospitalized.

The 1st cases emerged earlier this month [February 2019], with 16 people showing symptoms of food poisoning, including diarrhoea, vomiting and high fever after eating at the fried chicken franchise. Ulaanbaatar's Metropolitan Professional Inspection Department said 247 similar cases have been reported, and 42 people have been hospitalized.

The department decided to shut down the country's 11 KFC restaurants, all based in the capital, while it investigates what happened.

A preliminary investigation found that 35 employees at a restaurant were not thoroughly vetted to handle food, with most of them having blank medical examination reports, which is illegal. The restaurant also lacked internal hygiene management.

A bacterium known as _Klebsiella_ spp was detected in water at the restaurant. Traces of _E. coli_ were also found in a soda machine, and 4 people contracted _Shigella, -- which causes diarrhoea and fever -- after coming into contact with KFC staff.
=========================
[The aetiology is not directly stated, but if contacts of the cluster have been diagnosed with shigellosis, the primary illness may well be the same.

Ulaanbaatar, formerly anglicized as Ulan Bator (literally "Red Hero"), is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. The city is not part of any aimag (province) (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulaanbaatar>). - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Ulan Bator, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia:
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2019 11:40:36 +0100

Ulaanbaatar, Feb 19, 2019 (AFP) - Mongolian authorities have temporarily closed all KFC restaurants in the country after more than 200 customers suffered food poisoning symptoms and dozens were hospitalised.   The first cases emerged earlier this month, with 16 people showing symptoms of food poisoning, including diarrhoea, vomiting and high fever after eating at the fried chicken franchise.   Ulaanbaatar's Metropolitan Professional Inspection Department said 247 similar cases have been reported and 42 people have been hospitalised.   The department decided to shut down the country's 11 KFC restaurants -- all based in the capital -- while it investigates what happened.

A preliminary investigation found that 35 employees at a restaurant were not thoroughly vetted to handle food, with most of them having blank medical examination reports, which is illegal. The restaurant also lacked internal hygiene management.   A strong bacteria known as Klebsiella spp was detected in water at the restaurant. Traces of E-coli were also found in a soda machine, and four people contracted the Shigella germ -- which causes diarrhoea and fever -- after coming into contact with KFC staff.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2019 18:45:39 +0200 (METDST)

Manila, Oct 16, 2019 (AFP) - A child was killed in a strong 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the southern Philippines on Wednesday, a local mayor said, as houses collapsed, power was knocked out and a shopping mall burst into flames.   Residents evacuated homes and buildings across the Mindanao region including a mall that caught fire in the city of General Santos shortly after the quake struck in the evening, officials said.   The child died in a house collapse in the town of Datu Paglas, while four residents of nearby Tulunan town were injured when at least two other houses fell down, Tulunan Mayor Reuel Limbungan told AFP.   "The child was crushed by a collapsed house wall" and pronounced dead in hospital, Limbungan said, adding that he had visited the medical facility and spoken to its director.

Rescue and local officials said there were no immediate reports of deaths elsewhere in Mindanao, and rescue official Anthony Allada told local television that 20 people were treated for injuries in the town of Magsaysay, near the epicentre.   Three other people were hurt in the town of M'lang, added its vice-mayor, Joselito Pinol.   The quake was 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) deep and was followed by at least two aftershocks, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).   "It was the most powerful earthquake I have ever experienced," Sara Duterte, mayor of the largest Mindanao city of Davao, and daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, told local television.

- Falling debris -
The Philippines is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.   An elderly man was treated for injuries after being struck by a falling object during the evacuation of a Davao mall, local TV reported.   Jerome Barranco, civil defence officer for the region, said several people were also injured in the city of Kidapawan "as a result of falling debris".   In General Santos, television footage showed firemen battling a blaze that engulfed the three-storey Gaisano shopping mall.   It was not known if there were still people inside the building, which was evacuated as the quake struck.   The blaze was still raging more than three hours later despite the efforts of nearly 100 firemen, fire officer Redentor Batulan told AFP.

Coastal residents of Davao fled their homes in fear of a tsunami, but rescue workers were trying to convince them to return as no warning was issued, city civil defence chief Rodrigo Bustillo told local television.   "Our volunteers are out to calm the people and tell them there is no tsunami," Bustillo added.   Chief Philippine government seismologist Renato Solidum said there was no risk of a tsunami because the quake occurred inland, but he advised residents to check their homes for possible damage.   "We ran out of the police station, and we also let the inmates at the municipal jail out," patrolwoman Celina Sarte told AFP by telephone from the town of Bansalan.   She said the 10 prisoners were put in handcuffs outside moments later.
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2019 20:35:37 +0200 (METDST)

Addis Ababa, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Rescue workers on Tuesday used excavators to dig out bodies after a landslide in southern Ethiopia washed away homes and killed more than 20 people, a local official said.    The landslide in the remote district of Konta occurred Sunday following 10 hours of heavy rains, said the official, Takele Tesfu.   "There are 22 people dead and we have only been able to dig up 17 using manpower and machine power," Takele told AFP.   "So far, we cannot get the others, so tomorrow we will continue to dig."     He said the victims included nine women and six children.

While the district -- located in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region -- sees landslides with some regularity, Takele said this was the deadliest he could remember.    "The area where this occurred is very mountainous, and this means the landslide was very dangerous," he said.    Ethiopia is nearing the end of its rainy season, but security forces are nonetheless relocating some families for fear that more rain in the coming days could lead to similar disasters, Takele said.
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2019 10:00:23 +0200 (METDST)

New Delhi, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - New Delhi banned the use of diesel generators on Tuesday as pollution levels in the Indian capital exceeded safe limits by more than four times.   Every winter, New Delhi is enveloped in a noxious blanket of smog of car fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from stubble burning at farms outside the megacity of 20 million people.   The ban on generators is part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that entered into force on Tuesday.   Other measures that will come into effect as smog levels rise, particularly following the Diwali festival in late October, include banning trucks and setting up a "war room".

From November 4-15, a road-rationing scheme will come into force, meaning cars with odd and even plates would be allowed on alternate days in that period.   "We will hand out anti-pollution masks to schoolchildren next week but the date is yet to be decided," the official told AFP.   Indian authorities have also sought to reduce the burning of stubble by farmers in areas surrounding Delhi.   According to government data, concentrations of particles measuring less than 2.5 microns across -- which can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood -- hit 108 icrograms per cubic metre on Tuesday.   This was more than four times the recommended World Health Organization safe daily maximum of 25. In previous years, the level has regularly exceeded 400.   Last year, a UN report found 14 of the world's 15 most polluted cities were in India, with one US study saying it kills a million people prematurely every year.
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:50:21 +0200 (METDST)
By Kyoko HASEGAWA

Tokyo, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Rescuers in Japan were working around the clock Tuesday in an increasingly desperate search for survivors of a powerful weekend typhoon that killed nearly 70 people and caused widespread destruction.   Hagibis slammed into Japan on Saturday night, unleashing fierce winds and unprecedented rain that triggered landslides and caused dozens of rivers to burst their banks.   By Tuesday afternoon, local media put the toll at nearly 70, with around a dozen people missing. The government's tally was lower, but it said it was still updating information.   Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no plan to slow rescue operations, with around 110,000 police, coast guard, firefighters and military troops involved.   "Currently in damaged areas rescue work and searches for the missing are continuing around the clock," Abe told parliament.   "Where rivers flooded, work is ongoing to fix spots where banks broke, and water is being pumped out where floods occurred," he added.   The prime minister's office said more than 3,000 people have been rescued in the wake of the disaster, which affected 36 of the country's 47 prefectures.   The defence ministry has called up several hundred reserve troops in addition to active duty soldiers for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

- Rain prompts new warnings -
Government officials warned that more rain was expected throughout the day Tuesday in several parts of the country affected by the typhoon.   "We ask people not to drop their guard and to remain fully alert," chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. told reporters.   Hagibis crashed into land packing gusts up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, but it was the storm's heavy rain that caused the most damage.   At least 176 rivers burst their banks, including in central Nagano, where a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods and submerging bullet trains in a depot up to their windows.   Deaths were reported across many prefectures and included a man whose apartment was flooded, a municipal worker whose car was caught in rising waters and at least seven crew aboard a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo bay on Saturday night.   By Tuesday morning, some 34,000 households were still without power, and 133,000 homes had no water.   Tens of thousands of people spent Monday night in government shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.   "My frightened daughter can't stop shaking. We want to go home quickly," Rie Nishioka, 39, told Kyodo News agency in Miyagi prefecture.

- Government pledges aid -
The government pledged financial support to affected regions without specifying how much aid it would set aside.   "Support for the victims of the disaster is an urgent task," Abe said.   "There are concerns that the impact on daily life and economic activities may be long-lasting."   Another area affected by the storm was Fukushima, where several bags containing soil and plants collected during nuclear decontamination efforts were washed away.   "Ten bags out of 2,667 were swept into a river during the typhoon, but six of them were recovered yesterday," environment ministry official Keisuke Takagi told AFP, adding that the remaining four bags had been found and would be collected soon.   "Residents must be worried about the environment, but there are no reports that the bags were broken, so there will be nothing to worry about once they have been recovered safely," he said.   Hagibis caused transport chaos over a holiday weekend in Japan, grounding flights and halting train services.   By Tuesday, things were largely back to normal, though some flights were cancelled and train services partially disrupted where tracks or train stock were damaged by the storm.   The typhoon also caused disruption to sporting events, delaying Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and forcing Rugby World Cup organisers to cancel three matches.   A crunch fixture pitting the hosts against Scotland went ahead on Sunday night, with Japan winning its first-ever quarter final spot.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 17:55:47 +0200 (METDST)

Harare, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Striking Zimbabwe doctors on Monday defied a court order to return to work, saying a pay rise offered by the government failed to meet everyday costs.   Doctors remained home for a 43rd consecutive day, striking for better pay after their salaries were eroded by the country's spiralling inflation.   Zimbabwe's labour court ruled the action "unlawful" on Friday and ordered the medics back to their wards within 48 hours.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) announced Sunday it would appeal to the Supreme Court.    "We noted the court order but unfortunately we don't have the means by which to comply," said ZHDA spokesman Masimba Ndoro on Monday.   "We remain incapacitated... There is nothing we can do when we don't have the means to go to work and to meet our basic needs," he told AFP.   The doctors say the value of their pay shrank 15-fold over the past year -- a legacy of hyperinflation caused by economic mismanagement under ex-president Robert Mugabe.   His successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has so far failed to redress the situation.    Fuel prices have increased by more than 400 percent since the start of the year, and the ZHDA said that doctors had to use their savings just to show up to hospital each morning.

Negotiations with the government have been deadlocked since the ZHDA rejected a 60-percent salary rise offer.   With pay slips worth less than the equivalent of $100 (91 euros) in some cases, they are demanding doctors' salaries be pegged to the US dollar and have appealed to international bodies to supplement their wages.   "While doctors would want nothing more than to return to work in service of their patients, they continue to be incapacitated and lack the resources to comply with the Labour Court judgement," the ZHDA said in a statement on Sunday.   Nurses joined in the action last week.   "We have reduced the number of days we are coming to work initially to three days a week now we are down to two days," Zimbabwe Nurses Association spokesman Enoch Dongo told AFP.   "If the issue of salaries is not urgently addressed we will soon have a situation where nurses will no longer be able to come to work," he said, adding that nurses were "taking turns" in coming to hospital.      Rural teachers also embarked on strike action on Monday with a stay-at-home protest "against underpayment".   "We urge the government to respect our right to engage in job actions and peacefully protest demanding a living wage," the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe posted on Twitter.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 16:33:26 +0200 (METDST)
By Daniel BOSQUE

Barcelona, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - "I feel fury and a sense of powerlessness," said Joan Guich, a 19-year-old student protesting in Barcelona after Spain's Supreme Court jailed nine Catalan leaders jailed over a failed independence bid.   "They have been convicted for an ideology which I agree with."   Within minutes of the ruling demonstrators had poured onto the streets of the Catalan capital, waving flags and blocking traffic over the conviction of the separatist leaders who organised a 2017 referendum banned by Madrid.   "We have to mobilise and stick up for them ... in a way that has an impact, closing airports, stations, but always avoiding violence," Guich said. "Or at least, it won't be us that provokes it."

Workers rallied outside their offices, university students walked out of classes and regional lawmakers demonstrated inside Catalonia's parliament, where most of the defendants had held a senior role.   "Today is going to be historic, you can feel it in the atmosphere. Serious things are happening, we can't stay home," said Oscar Quiles, a 47-year-old real estate entrepreneur.   News of the verdict reached him as he arrived at the office and he immediately called his mother to join him at a protest in Plaza Cataluna in the centre of Barcelona.   By noon the square was packed with thousands of demonstrators, many waving yellow, red and blue Catalan separatist flags or banners reading "We would do it again" and "Freedom for political prisoners".   The protesters then set off walking towards Barcelona's airport, Spain's second busiest, in the hope of blocking it, just as pro-democracy activists have done recently in Hong Kong.

- 'Weeks of mobilisation' -
Tension gripped Barcelona on Monday morning ahead of the ruling, with a heavy police presence outside the courts, the airport and the city's main train station, as a helicopter flew overhead.    Democratic Tsunami, a group advocating more active forms of civil disobedience, had urged demonstrators to hit the streets as soon as the verdicts were announced.   "Tomorrow everyone ready! When the verdict is out, the response will be immediate," said the group in a message to its roughly 150,000 followers on mobile messaging service Telegram.   Juli Cuellar, a 44-year-old office worker, said he believed the verdict was politically motivated.    "Now all we have left is a life of civil and institutional disobedience," he told AFP, predicting "weeks of mobilisation".   The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, the region's two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, have also called supporters to attend an evening rally. They have organised some of the largest separatist protests in recent years.   Several more protests are scheduled over the next few days across Catalonia, as well as a general strike on Friday.

- 'Felt like crying' -
Democratic Tsunami, the group that called the gathering in Plaza Cataluna, only emerged in recent weeks. It says it does not depend on Catalan separatist parties or civil associations for support.   Its leaders remain unknown, keeping in touch with each other through encrypted messaging apps such as Wire.   But supporters tend to be kept in the dark until the last minute.   "We don't know exactly what we have to do," said Arnau Font, a 22-year-old shop assistant who took the week off to protest.   "We have to get involved. Right now I feel really powerless in light of the verdicts," he told AFP.    "When I found out, I felt like crying."   The uncertainty was over a few minutes later when a Telegram message arrived urging everyone to "go to the airport", a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) walk from the city centre.    "The time has come to make our voice felt around the world. The goal: stop the activity of Barcelona's airport," it said.   Spain's airport operator Aena said no flights were disrupted, but many passengers got stuck in traffic jams leading to the airport.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:09:03 +0200 (METDST)

Frankfurt am Main, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - German cabin crew union UFO urged members Monday to walk off their jobs at airline giant Lufthansa on October 20, although the carrier contests its right to represent workers.   "We call on all cabin crew... not to show up to work" between six and eleven am (0400 to 0900 GMT) at Germany's two busiest hubs Frankfurt and Munich, Ufo chairman Daniel Flohr said in a video message to staff.   At least five of the Lufthansa group's airlines -- Lufthansa, Eurowings, Germanwings, Cityline and Sunexpress -- would be hit by strikes for higher pay in the coming weeks, Flohr added.

Lufthansa told AFP it would "maintain its entire timetable", calling UFO's call to strike "illegal".   Bosses at the airline group believe UFO may no longer have the legal right to speak for workers and have challenged its status in court.   Internal disputes at the union have cost it members and support among cabin crew, some of whom have now turned to other representative organisations.   Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Monday called UFO a "half-dead" outfit.   "UFO is battling for its life," agreed business daily Handelsblatt.   "With its far-reaching call for strikes, it wants to show members it remains capable of acting and is representing cabin crew interests."   Lufthansa could also contest before a court whether UFO has the right to initiate a strike -- potentially leaving the worker representatives on the hook for any resulting costs.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:08:10 +0200 (METDST)

Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases.   Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September.   "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.

Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June.   The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.

Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines.   Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic.   The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.

The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated.   A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.   The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it.   According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:25:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN

Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts.   Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding.   "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday.   "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.

But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides.   "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.   In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify.   "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP.   "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."

- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information.   The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said.   Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member.   While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.

A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said.   In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor.   As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding.   Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.

- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages.   The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.   "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK.   "I feel lucky I'm still alive."   The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.

By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.   The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches.   But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster.   "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2019 23:31:57 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday.   "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC.    It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added.   DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic.   "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added.   "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri."   DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.   The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said.   More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018. 

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.   But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola.   In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate.    Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."