December 19, 2008
The Republic of Suriname is a developing nation located on the northern coast of South America. Tourist facilities are widely available in the capital city of
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, valid visa, and, if traveling by air, return ticket are required for travel to Suriname. There is a processing fee for business and tourist visas, and visas must be obtained before arrival in Suriname. A business visa requires a letter from the sponsoring company detailing the reason for the visit. There is an airport departure charge and a terminal fee, normally included in the price of airfare. Travelers arriving from Guyana, French Guiana, and Brazil are required to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Suriname, 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 460, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 244-7488, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Consulate of Suriname in Miami, 7235 NW 19th Street, Suite A, Miami, Fl 33126, telephone (305) 593-2697.
Visit the Embassy of Suriname web site at www.surinameembassy.org for the most current visa information.
Important information for foreigners who have the intention of staying longer than three months:
s of October 1, 2008, persons who intend to stay longer than three months in Suriname must apply for an Authorization for Temporary Stay (MVK) before travel to Suriname. The above implies that foreigners who need a visa (with the exception of foreigners of Surinamese origin) who have traveled to Suriname on a tourist or business visa will not be able to apply for residence during their stay in Suriname.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Demonstrations do occur, primarily in the capital or second cities, and are usually peaceful, but American citizens traveling to or residing in Suriname should take common-sense precautions and avoid large gatherings or other events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. Travelers proceeding to the interior may encounter difficulties due to limited government authority. Limited transportation and communications may hamper the ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist in an emergency situation.
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 United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States 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.
Criminal activity throughout the country is on the rise and foreigners, including Americans, may be viewed as targets of opportunity. Burglary, armed robbery, and violent crime occur with some frequency in Paramaribo and in outlying areas. Pick-pocketing and robbery are increasingly common in the major business and shopping districts of the capital. Visitors should avoid wearing expensive or flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of money in public.
There have been several reports of criminal incidents in the vicinity of the major tourist hotels and night walks outside the immediate vicinity of the hotels are therefore to be avoided.
Visitors should avoid the Palm Garden area (“Palmentuin” in Dutch) after dark, as there is no police presence and it is commonly the site of criminal activity.
Theft from vehicles is infrequent, but it does occur, especially in areas near the business district. Drivers are cautioned not to leave packages and other belongings in plain view in their vehicles. There have been reports of carjackings within Paramaribo, particularly in residential areas. When driving, car windows should be closed and doors locked. The use of public minibuses is discouraged, due to widespread unsafe driving and poor maintenance.
Travel to the interior is usually trouble-free, but there have been reports of tourists being robbed. Police presence outside Paramaribo is minimal, and banditry and lawlessness are occasionally of concern in the cities of Albina and Moengo and the district of Brokopondo, as well as along the East-West Highway between Paramaribo and Albina and the Afobakka Highway in the district of Para. There have been reports of attempted and actual carjackings committed by gangs of men along the East-West Highway. Travelers proceeding to the interior are advised to make use of well-established tour companies for a safer experience.
The emergency number 115 is used for police, fire, and rescue and normally does not provide English-language services.
Fire and rescue services provide a relatively timely response, but police response, especially during nighttime hours, is a rarity for all but the most serious of crimes.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
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 are 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care, including emergency medical care, is limited and does not meet U.S. standards. There is one public emergency room in Paramaribo with only a small ambulance fleet providing emergency transport with limited first response capabilities. The emergency room has no neurosurgeon, and other medical specialists may not always be available. As a rule, hospital facilities are not air-conditioned, although private rooms with individual air-conditioning are available at extra cost and on a space-available basis. Emergency medical care outside Paramaribo is limited and is virtually non-existent in the interior of the country.
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
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 Suriname is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic moves on the left in Suriname; left-hand-drive cars are allowed on the road. Excessive speed, unpredictable movements by vehicles, and motorcyclists/bicycles, unusual right of way patterns, poorly maintained roads, and a lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Surinamese roads. As of January 2007, seatbelts are required for all passengers of automobiles, and drivers must use a hands-free device if using a mobile phone while driving. Visitors are encouraged to use automobiles equipped with seat belts and to avoid the use of motorcycles or scooters. An international driver's license is necessary to rent a car.
The major roads in Paramaribo are usually paved, but not always well maintained. Large potholes are common on city streets, especially during the rainy seasons, which last from approximately mid-November to January, and from April to July (rainy seasons can differ from year to year by as much as six weeks). Roads are often not marked with traffic lines. Many main thoroughfares do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycle traffic to share the same space.
The East-West Highway, a paved road that stretches from Nieuw Nickerie in the west to Albina in the east, runs through extensive agriculture areas; it is not uncommon to encounter slow-moving farm traffic or animals on the road. Travelers should exercise caution when driving to and from Nieuw Nickerie at night due to poor lighting and sharp road turns without adequate warning signs.
There are few service stations along the road, and western style rest stops are non-existent.
The road is not always well maintained, and during the rainy season, large, sometimes impassable, sink holes develop along the road.
Police recommend that travelers check with the police station in Albina for the latest safety information regarding travel between Paramaribo and Albina.
Roads in the interior are sporadically maintained dirt roads that pass through rugged, sparsely populated rain forest. Some roads are passable for sedans in the dry season, but they deteriorate rapidly during the rainy season. Interior roads are not lit, nor are there service stations or emergency call boxes. Bridges in the interior are in various states of repair. Travelers are advised to consult with local sources, including The Foundation for Nature Conservation in Suriname, or STINASU, at telephone (597) 421-683 or 476-579, or with their hotels regarding interior road conditions before proceeding.
For specific information concerning Suriname driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Embassy of Suriname in Washington, D.C., or the Consulate of Suriname in Miami.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.suriname-tourism.org/cms/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Suriname’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Suriname’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
Credit cards are not widely accepted outside the major hotels and upscale restaurants. Travelers should contact their intended hotel or tour company to confirm that credit cards are accepted. Currently, only one bank, Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT), has Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) accepting foreign ATM cards. In order to withdraw money from the ATM machines of other banks, you must have a local Surinamese bank account and ATM card. Visitors can exchange currency at banks, hotels, and official exchange houses, which are called “cambios.” Exchanging money outside these locations is illegal and can be dangerous. Telephone service within Suriname can be problematic, especially during periods of heavy rains. Please see our Customs Information.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Surinamese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Suriname 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.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans residing or traveling in Suriname 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 Suriname.
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 Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat 129, telephone (011) (597) 472-900, web site http://suriname.usembassy.gov. The Consular Section hours of operation for routine American citizen services are Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:00 to 10:00 AM, or by appointment, except on American and Surinamese holidays. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance on evenings, weekends, and holidays may contact an Embassy duty officer by cell phone at (011) (597) 088-08302. The U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo also provides consular services for French Guiana.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Suriname dated April 11, 2008, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, and Registration/Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
[This case would suggest local transmission of yellow fever in Suriname which isn't surprising given the on-going outbreak in Brazil. This case would also suggest travelers to the area consider getting vaccinated for yellow fever prior to entering the country. One wonders if perhaps the local wildlife may be acting as a reservoir as well based on the outbreaks seen in monkeys in Brazil. - ProMED Mod.JH]
A Dutch traveller returning from Suriname in early March 2017, presented with fever and severe acute liver injury. Yellow fever was diagnosed by (q)RT-PCR and sequencing. During hospital stay, the patient’s condition deteriorated and she developed hepatic encephalopathy requiring transfer to the intensive care. Although yellow fever has not been reported in the last four decades in Suriname, vaccination is recommended by the World Health Organization for visitors to this country.
Yellow fever virus (YFV) is known to be enzootic in South America, causing periodic outbreaks of disease in monkeys and humans in some countries. In Brazil, there has been an outbreak of yellow fever ongoing since December 2016 with 1,500 cases as at 9 March [1,2]. Here we report an imported case of human infection with YFV in a traveller returning from Suriname, on the north-eastern coast of South America, from where the last case of yellow fever was reported 45 years ago.
In March 2017, a Dutch Caucasian female in her late 20s from the Netherlands was referred to the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands because of high fever and signs of severe acute liver injury after returning from a two-week stay in Suriname. She had no co-morbidities apart from obesity (body mass index around 40 kg/m2, norm: 18.5–25 kg/m2). During her visit she stayed in the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo, and she made several daytrips by boat and car, of which two in the tropical rainforest (Figure).
She recalled having been bitten by mosquitoes during her hike at Brownsberg, a nature resort in the rainforest with wildlife. Before her travel, she did not visit a travel clinic and did not receive yellow fever vaccination. On day 12 of her visit in Suriname, she experienced mild muscle pain, headache and nausea and she developed a high-grade fever. She returned to the Netherlands on day 15 and visited the emergency department of a secondary care centre, from where she was referred to our University hospital. At physical examination she was not icteric. Except for a temperature of 39.9 °C, vital parameters were normal. The results of the remaining physical examination were unremarkable. Laboratory testing revealed leukopenia (leukocytes 0.9x109/L, norm: 4.0–10.0x109/L) and massive liver injury (aspartate aminotransferase 5,787 U/L, norm: <31 U/L; alanine aminotransferase 4,910 U/L, norm: <34 U/L), with mildly elevated bilirubin levels (total bilirubin 20 µmol/L, norm: <17 µmol/L). Liver synthesis was impaired as revealed by increased clotting times (activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT): 49s, norm: 23–33s; prothrombin time (PT): 26.6s, norm: 9.0–12.0s) and reduced antithrombin (49%, norm: 80–120%). Fibrinogen was diminished suggestive of diffuse intravascular coagulation. Renal function was normal apart from severe albuminuria (up to 22.6 g/24h, norm: 0g/24h). Malaria, viral hepatitis (A, B, C, E, Epstein Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus), dengue, chikungunya and Zika were ruled out (Table). Diagnostic tests to exclude leptospirosis performed on day 6 post onset of symptoms (dps 6) were inconclusive (Table) and a convalescent serum was going to be tested at the time of publication. Because of the combination of fever, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, liver injury and travel history, yellow fever was included in the differential diagnosis. Real-time reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) was positive for YFV in serum taken on dps 3. On dps 7 the patient’s condition deteriorated due to hepatic encephalopathy (ammonia 149 µmol/L, norm: 15–45 µmol/L). Cerebral oedema and bleeding was ruled out by computed tomography (CT)-scan. The patient was transferred to the intensive care unit for close observation of vital parameters. Vitamin K was administered. Hepatic encephalopathy was treated with rifaximin and lactulose. Ceftriaxone (2g per day intravenously) was given for 7 days as antibiotic prophylaxis. Consequently, possible leptospirosis was also treated. Her neurological condition stabilised on dps 10 together with the coagulation parameters. On dps 13 the patient was transferred back to the ward.
a Performed on day 5 post onset of symptoms (dps 5).
b ELISA (in-house ELISA Dutch Leptospirosis Reference Center) performed on dps 6 showed IgM 1:80 (cut-off positive IgM ≥1:160). IgM results were negative on dps 3 and dps 7 using Leptocheck-WB (Zephyr Biomedicals, Goa, India).
qRT-PCR and/or pan-flavivirus RT-PCR on blood samples on dps 3 did not detect chikungunya virus (CHIKV), dengue virus (DENV), or Zika virus (ZIKV) (Table) [3,4]. In four consecutive samples of dps 3–6, YFV-RNA was detected (Figure) [4-6], with increasing Ct values (from 23 to 31 from dps 3 to dps 5  and 39 on dps 6 ). Sequencing of a 176 bp pan-flavivirus hemi-nested RT-PCR product, targeting part of the NS5 genomic region confirmed YFV infection . The sequence was deposited in the GenBank database under the following accession number: KY774973.
On dps 3, indirect immunofluorescence assays (IFA) was negative for IgM and IgG against YFV (Flavivirus Mosaic, Euroimmun AG, Luebeck, Germany). A convalescent sample of dps 6 was clearly positive for YFV IgM (titre 1:10, Figure), with non-reactive IgG. This anti-YFV IgM response on dps 6 is in line with literature stating that IgM antibodies usually appear during the first week of illness. Neutralising IgG antibodies are likely to appear towards the end of the first week after onset of illness and will be tested for in convalescent serum .
YFV is a mosquito-borne virus in the genus Flavivirus, family Flaviviridae, related to DENV, ZIKV, tick-borne encephalitis virus and West Nile virus. YFV is maintained in a sylvatic cycle between non-human primates and so-called ‘jungle’-mosquitoes (Hemagogus and Sabethes spp. in South America) . Sporadic infection of humans with sylvatic YFV can occur when unprotected humans are exposed while entering the habitats where the viruses circulate. Subsequent introduction of a viraemic human case to urban areas with high population densities and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can initiate an urban transmission cycle . YFV is endemic in (sub)tropical areas of South America and Africa. The risk for YFV infection in South America is the highest in tropical regions and during the rainy season (January–May) when mosquito population densities peak . In 2011, Suriname was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of 14 South American countries at risk for YFV transmission based on current or historic reports of yellow fever, plus the presence of competent mosquito vectors and animal reservoirs .
Since December 2016, an outbreak of sylvatic YFV is ongoing in Brazil; as at 9 March 2017, there were 371 confirmed and 966 suspected human cases, while a total of 968 epizootics in non-human primates have been reported, of which 386 were confirmed . So far, there has been no evidence for a change from sylvatic to an urban transmission cycle . In addition, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru have reported suspected and confirmed yellow fever cases in 2017 .
A subclinical infection with YFV is believed to occur in most infected people. In symptomatic cases, symptoms of general malaise occur after an incubation period of 3–6 days (range 2–9 days), followed by remission of the disease in the majority of patients. However, 15-25% of symptomatic persons develop a complicated course of illness, in which symptoms recur after 24–48 hours, with a reported mortality of 20-60% [7,12]. This phase is characterised by fever, abdominal symptoms, severe hepatic dysfunction and jaundice, multi-organ failure and haemorrhagic diathesis. As no specific antiviral treatment is currently available, treatment consists of supportive care [7,12].
Although Suriname is considered to be endemic for YFV, no human cases have been officially reported since 1971 . With a population of ca 570,000 people, Suriname has a YFV vaccination coverage of 80–85% in infants . Although WHO recommends vaccination for travellers to countries with risk of YFV transmission like Suriname, sporadic cases of imported yellow fever in returning travellers have been reported for example in Europe, the United States and Asia [15-17], with three reported cases related to the ongoing YFV outbreaks in South America in European travellers since 2016 [18,19]. The establishment of ongoing YFV circulation in Suriname extends the current YFV activity in South America to five countries . However, despite the presence of competent Ae. albopictus mosquitoes in France  and Ae. aegypti in Madeira, the risk for YFV transmission in Europe is currently considered to be very low due to the lack of vector activity . An effective, safe live-attenuated YFV vaccine is available for people aged ≥ 9 months and offers lifelong immunity . Vaccination is advised by the WHO for all travellers to Suriname, for the coastal area as well as the inlands . With regard to yellow fever, pre-travel health advice should take into account destination, duration of travel, season and the likelihood of exposure to mosquitoes (in rural areas, forests versus urban areas), and potential contraindications for vaccination with a live-attenuated vaccine.
The multi-country YFV activity might reflect current, wide-spread ecological conditions that favour elevated YFV transmissibility among wildlife and spill-over to humans. Thorough sequence analysis of currently circulating strains in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Suriname should provide insight whether the human cases in these countries are epidemiologically linked or represent multiple, independent spill-over events without extensive ongoing community transmission. Because of its potential public health impact, our case of yellow fever was notified to the WHO and the European Union Early Warning and Response System on 9 March 2017, according to the international health regulations .
Clinicians in non-endemic countries should be aware of yellow fever in travellers presenting with fever, jaundice and/or haemorrhage returning from South America including Suriname. This case report illustrates the importance of maintaining awareness of the need for YFV vaccination, even for countries with risk of YFV transmission that have not reported cases for decades.
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/37>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
[It would not be surprising if Zika virus has arrived in Suriname, since 2 other countries in northern South America -- adjacent Brazil and somewhat more distant Colombia -- have reported ongoing cases. The report does not indicate if these 2 cases are locally acquired or are imported cases of Zika virus infection. Sending samples to an outside international reference laboratory is prudent in situations when a new pathogen appears. The AZP laboratory should welcome confirmation of their test results.
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/37>. - ProMED Mod.TY]
World Travel News Headlines
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.
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.
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."
By Robbie COREY-BOULET
Addis Ababa, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - A palace that once housed Ethiopia's emperors and also served as a torture site under the communist Derg regime is to open to the public in a controversial government tourism project. The palace compound in Addis Ababa, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government has rebranded "Unity Park", was formally launched Thursday and will be open from Friday. Abiy's office said on Twitter Thursday that the project "symbolises our ability to come together".
But critics have dismissed it as vanity project for Abiy that could prove divisive. Backed by the United Arab Emirates, the project cost more than $160 million (145 million euros), Ethiopian officials told reporters at a briefing earlier this week. Built in the late 1800s by Emperor Menelik II, who founded Addis Ababa, the palace was the residence of Ethiopia's rulers for more than a century. Abiy himself does not live there, and it has seen little activity in recent years. Abiy's advisers say he has taken a keen interest in transforming the palace into a tourist attraction since coming to power in April 2018 -- visiting the site every day in recent weeks to monitor progress.
The government's "Home-Grown Economic Reform" agenda, unveiled last month, describes tourism as a primary engine of potential job creation. On Thursday, government officials and the diplomatic corps toured the expansive site before attending a banquet that was expected to draw five regional heads of state and other dignitaries. The restored rooms feature items like Menelik's sword and a life-size wax replica of former Emperor Haile Selassie, who lived at the palace and was then etained there after the Derg overthrew him in 1974.
The site also includes a sculpture garden with installations representing Ethiopia's nine regions, and a zoo is expected to open by the end of the year. Aklilu Fikresilassie, an Ethiopian employee of the United Nations who attended the launch Thursday, said he was "really fascinated" to set foot inside a place that had been closed to the public his entire life. "For us it's like a government house, so now when you enter that palace it tells you that we are getting somehow closer to our leaders," he said.
But not everyone is convinced the palace will succeed in bringing Ethiopians together. In a country grappling with ethnic divisions, some worry that the palace could alienate ethnic Oromos who contend that their ancestors were forced off their land when Addis Ababa was built. Journalist and former political prisoner Eskinder Nega said the renovations were undertaken "without consultation from the public", which he called "a huge mistake." "This is all about heritage, about preserving heritage. The people should have had a say in it," he said. "Like everything else this was decided from the top and implemented only by the decision of the prime minister."
Hanoi, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Selfie-snapping tourists railed against the closure of Hanoi's 'train street' on Thursday after police blocked off the Instragram-famous tracks for safety reasons. The narrow railway corridor in central Hanoi has become a hotspot among visitors seeking the perfect holiday snap on the tracks -- often dodging trains that rumble through daily. But Hanoi authorities said this week they would block people from the tracks to avoid accidents, and police on Thursday erected barricades to keep out disappointed visitors. "I'm very frustrated because today I can't go in and take a picture," Malaysian tourist Mustaza bin Mustapha told AFP, vowing to come back later.
Dozens of other tourists were turned away, though some managed to get onto still-open sections of the railway, moving out of the way as an afternoon train chugged past. Built by former colonial rulers, the railway once shipped goods and people across France's former Indochina colony and remains in use today by communist Vietnam's state-run railway company. The stretch of the tracks was once known as a rough part of town, occupied by drug users and squatters until their recent discovery by camera-wielding holidaymakers who have splashed images of the area across social media.
Cafe owners complained that business would be hurt thanks to the new regulations, and that tourists always moved out of the way for oncoming trains. "There has never been any regretful accidents here," said Le Tuan Anh, who runs a cafe from his home along the tracks. "Compared to traffic density elsewhere in the city, this is much safer," he said, referring to Hanoi's chaotic, motorbike-clogged streets. New signs were installed in the area Thursday, warning passersby not to take photos or videos in the "dangerous area", much to the chagrin of British tourist Harriet Hayes. "People come from all over the world to Hanoi just to see the train go past," she told AFP. "It's such a shame that we come and have been told that we have to leave."
By Holly ROBERTSON
Sydney, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Large numbers of tourists are rushing to scale Uluru -- also known as Ayers Rock -- ahead of a looming ban on climbing a site sacred to indigenous Australians. Photographs of hundreds of people clambering up the giant red monolith have provoked a social media backlash, with critics lashing as "ignorant" those going against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu. "A mass of morally and ethically bankrupt people," indigenous woman Laura McBride tweeted alongside an image showing a queue of people snaking up the side of Uluru. "One even hiking a toddler up, teaching the next generation how to be ignorant." "Imagine rushing to climb Uluru before it closes just so you could brag about disrespecting the oldest living culture in the world," tweeted National Indigenous Television journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber, who called the scenes "embarrassing".
Officials say the ban, which comes into effect on October 26, is intended to show respect for cultural practices, protect the site from further environmental damage and to ensure visitors' safety. More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year. Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said. More recent figures are not available but Tourism Central Australia CEO Stephen Schwer said there had been a "significant jump" in the number of people visiting in recent weeks, with the period leading up to the ban coinciding in part with school holidays. "Its been very busy, particularly down in the national park precinct itself," he told AFP. "We've had quite an issue with accommodation availability, because there's a lot of people want to climb Uluru before it closes. It's been a busier than normal holiday period." Japanese visitors and Australians on driving holidays were most likely to want to scale Uluru, Schwer said, though he urged them not to do so.
Australian tourist Belinda Moore, 33, drove to Uluru from her home in central Queensland state to ascend the rock, an experience she said she "absolutely loved". "It's always been something to tick off the bucket list and when we heard it was closing, we knew it was now or never," she told AFP. Moore said she did not think her climb was disrespectful to traditional owners as she was not Aboriginal. "It may be for their own people, because it's their sacred site," she said. "I'm pretty sad that they're closing it, but it's still amazing just to see it. I would still recommend it." The climb will be permanently closed as of October 26, the anniversary of ownership being handed back to the Anangu people.
Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, with their connection to the site dating back tens of thousands of years. Though visitor numbers were expected to decline once the ban was in place, Schwer said local tourism operators were "not particularly concerned" as it would return the area to normality. "People need to remember that in central Australia we're a very interconnected community," he said. "The people who are requesting the climb closure are our friends and colleagues. "We're just looking forward to being able to have the climb consigned to the annals of history."
Kinshasa, Oct 9, 2019 (AFP) - Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rains hit the capital Kinshasa, flooding several neighbourhoods. a local official said. The bodies were found between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Five people were killed in the capital's Selembao municipality where around 30 houses collapsed, local mayor Augustin Mankesi told Top Congo radio station. One woman died in the Pelende district after she was electrocuted, he added. "Our community is stricken," Mankesi added, calling on the Congolese authorities for help. Fatal floods and rains are frequent in Kinshasa. In January last year 48 people were killed in landslides, floods and after houses collapsed, according to authorities. Residents told AFP the road from the sea port district of Matadi to the Kinshasa turnoff has been closed due to erosion caused by the rain. The passage is Kinshasa's main supply route for imported goods and also serves as an exit point for exports.
By Margioni BERMÚDEZ
Caracas, Oct 8, 2019 (AFP) - The small waiting room at the home of self-styled healer "Brother Guayanes" in Caracas' rundown Petare district fills up quickly with patients -- business has never been better. With Venezuela's chronic medicine shortages and hyperinflation, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine to treat common ailments in the crisis-wracked South American country. "We go to the hospital and there's nothing there. They don't have medicines, or they're too expensive, what are we to do?" said Rosa Saez, 77, who has come to get treatment for a painful arm. Carlos Rosales -- he uses the more ceremonious "Brother Guayanes" for his business -- is finishing up a "spiritual intervention" on a patient in what passes for his surgery. The patient lies, eyes closed, on a cot as, in a series of swishes and clicks, the healer waves five pairs of scissors one after another over his prone body. The healer says he performs 200 such interventions a week in a dim, candle-lit room that features two camp beds and an array of plaster statues that Rosales says represent "spiritual entities". A regular visitor to the spiritual center, Saez says she has faith in Rosales' methods: "He healed my kidneys."
- Natural healing -
All across Venezuela, but particularly in poor areas like Petare, patients cannot hope to afford the price of medicines that due to the economic crisis, have become exceedingly rare. Venezuela's pharmacists' federation say pharmacies and hospitals have on average only about 20 percent of the medicine stock needed. Rosales' clinic is muggy with the smell of tobacco. A crucifix suspended from a chain around his neck, he practices a seeming mixture of smoke-blowing shamanism, plant-based medicine and mainstream religion. Posters hung near the entrance remind clients to arrive with a candle and tobacco and "Don't forget that payment is in cash". Much like a general practitioner, Rosales spends time consulting with his patients, examining them with a stethoscope, before offering a diagnosis. Often he prescribes potions based on plants and fruit, such as pineapple and a type of local squash known as chayote. "We know medicines are necessary," he says. "I'm not against medicine, but my medicine is botany."
- Plants replace drugs -
At her stall in a downtown Caracas market, 72-year-old Lilia Reyes says she has seen her trade in medicinal plants flourish. "I can't keep up with the demand," she said at her stall, bathed in the aroma of camomile, one of the 150 plants she sells. Careless consumption of some herbs can be deadly, warns Grismery Morillo. A doctor at a Caracas public hospital, she says she has seen many cases of acute liver failure in people who have eaten certain roots. According to Venezuela's opposition parties, some 300,000 chronically ill people are in danger of dying from the shortages of medicines.
But despite the risks, people like Carmen Teresa say they have no alternative. In the kitchen of her restaurant which closed down three years ago as the economic crisis took hold, the 58-year-old Colombian prepares an infusion of fig leaves to treat "diabetic neuropathy". The painkillers needed for the condition are "too expensive" and prices are going up due to hyperinflation, so she is cutting back on the pills and supplementing her treatment with herbal infusions. She needs at least four tablets a day to keep her diabetes at bay. Her mother, bedridden since breaking a leg a year ago, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and needs five pills a day for hypertension. "I'm still taking my pills, but I reduced the dose," says Teresa, who is also replacing cholesterol pills with lemon juice.
Riyadh, Oct 6, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time. The tourism authority said in a statement published on Twitter that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.
In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married. "This is no longer required for tourists," the statement said. Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy. The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era. Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations. On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated "public decency", including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.
By Giovanna FLEITAS
Petorca, Chile, Oct 5, 2019 (AFP) - For Erick Hurtado, the worst thing about the drought that has devastated his family farm in Chile is the dead animals. "Going out and seeing the animals dead on the ground is so horrible," Hurtado says as he gazes across the dusty paddocks of his farm in Petorca, near the coastal city of Valparaiso.
Farmers are counting the cost of one of the driest austral winters in six decades, which has destroyed crops and left tens of thousands of farm animals dead in the fields of central Chile. Hurtado's farm, owned by his grandfather, has lost half its 60 head of cattle. So far, 106,000 animals have died due to lack of water and fodder, mostly goats, cattle and sheep, according to the agriculture ministry. President Sebastian Pinera, who last month announced a $5 billion plan to improve water distribution, this week set up a crisis group of government agencies to tackle the water crisis, which he said had become "more extensive and more intense."
In Colina, north of the capital Santiago, the drought has been hard on small farmers. Scrawny cattle pick at sprigs of strawy grass on pastures that have turned to dust. Cows, goats and horses roam hungry on hills have turned to a dry muddy brown. "The drought has been disastrous for us," said Sandra Aguilar. Her family owned about a hundred head of cattle. Today, only half survive thanks to a trickle of water provided by a neighbor who still has some reserves. "The situation is complicated," said Javier Maldonado, governor of the province of Chacabuco, where several agricultural areas have been hit particularly hard by the drought. "We have to be realistic, climate change is here to stay," he said.
- Water shortages -
Dominga Mondaca points out the deep fissures that run through the garden behind her house in the village of La Ligua near Valparaiso. The garden used to be full of strawberries and citrus trees; now it's cracked earth. "We have had many years with little water. But the last year, it didn't rain at all," said the 73-year-old, one of more than 600,000 people the government is supplying by tanker trucks as part of emergency measures. She says she has had to give up raising chickens, in order to keep what little water she and her husband receive for their own consumption, washing and cleaning. Whatever is left, she uses to sprinkle on herbs in a small kitchen garden. The agriculture ministry says 37,000 family farms need assistance in the central Chile.
- Thirsty avocados? -
In Petorca, some rivers have run dry, and the landscape has been left parched, but lush avocado and citrus plantations are nevertheless thriving. Locals in Petorca say the real, long-term problem is the mismanagement of water resources. "There is an excess of monoculture plantations that consume all the water," said Diego Soto of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA) told AFP. Avocados need a lot of water to grow, said Soto. "An avocado tree needs 600 liters of water per week, whereas humans consume 50 liters a day, or 350 liters a week," he said. Producers refute these figures and say the real problem is a lack of infrastructure to store water, both above and below ground. "The avocado is not a crop that needs more water," insisted Francisco Contardo, chairman of the local producers' committee. Avocados are a key export for Chile, mostly to the US and China, but drought has reduced exports by 25 percent.
- Less snow -
For many though, the changes being wrought by climate change are overwhelmingly obvious. Snow in the highlands of central Chile was relatively scarce this year. Scientists predict an average decrease of between five and 10 percent snowfall every 10 years in almost the entire Andes mountains, one of the country's main sources of water. "The central zone of Chile is highly dependent on the summer melt season, its snow and glaciers, which means that if the snow cover is reduced, there is also a reduction in the availability of water resources," said Paul Cordero, climate change expert at the University of Santiago. Weak snowfall forced the country's main ski resorts to use artificial snow machines much earlier and more often this season than in previous years. "Chile has been living as if it were a country with an abundance of water," said Pinera. "Climate change and global warming have changed this situation probably forever."