News Watch

Indonesia’s two disasters

• A magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck off of western Sumatra, Indonesia, on Oct. 25, causing a 10-foot-high tsunami that killed more than 431 people on Pagai Selatan and Pagai Utara, two of the Mentawai Islands. At press time, 88 others were missing.

The quake occurred upon the same undersea fault line that caused the devastating tsunami in December 2004. Any tsunami generated there would strike the Mentawis in just a few minutes.

• On the island of Java, Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano, began erupting again on Oct. 26 with lava and ash. At press time, 38 people had been killed by hot gas, ash and debris. More than 8,000 people living within a 10-kilomter radius were evacuated.

Typhoon Megi

With winds gusting up to 160 miles per hour, Typhoon Megi hit the Philippines on Oct. 18, killing 28 people, destroying 31,000 thousand homes in the northeast region of the island Luzon and damaging 100,000 more.

As Megi passed through Taiwan on Oct. 20-22, its torrential rains caused flooding and landslides that left 14 dead and 23 missing. Over 47 inches of rain fell in the northeast regions.

Weakened, on Oct. 23 the storm made landfall in southeast China, an already drenched region. More than 300,000 people were evacuated from high-flood-risk areas.

Sudan dangers

Travel anywhere in Sudan is potentially dangerous, warns the Department of State, which has received information on terrorist threats against US and European interests there. Westerners have been victims of kidnappings, carjackings and armed robberies. Armed militias have instigated sporadic violence and attacked locations in southern Sudan. Land travel at night should be avoided.

Travel in the Darfur region is particularly dangerous, as clashes continue between Sudanese government forces and armed militias. The risk of kidnapping is high.

Risks in Nigeria

The US Department of State continues to warn of the risks of travel to Nigeria. Violent crime remains a problem throughout the country, including crime by persons in uniform. Twenty-one foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria in 2010.

Since March, five improvised explosive devices have been detonated in the Niger Delta region.

In September, over 150 members of the Boko Haram extremist religious sect escaped from prison in northeast Bauchi and Borno states, some of whom are believed to be participating in attacks in other parts of the country. On Oct. 1, two car bombs were detonated in downtown Abuja during Independence Day celebrations, killing 10.

Avoid Lebanon

The Department of State continues to urge avoiding all travel to Lebanon. US citizens have been the targets of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat continues.

While Lebanon enjoys periods of relative calm, public demonstrations occur frequently and may become violent. Demonstrators sometimes block the primary road between Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Access to borders and seaports also can be interrupted with no warning.

On Aug. 24 a disagreement over a parking space in the Burj Abi Haidar neighborhood of Beirut escalated into a gun battle, with three killed. On Aug. 3 an exchange of gunfire between Lebanese and Israeli forces near Aadeisseh resulted in four deaths.

Rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel continue to occur, most recently in October 2009. These frequently provoke a military response from Israel.

Land mines and unexploded ordnance pose dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River. Travel by US citizens to Palestinian camps should be avoided.

Terrorists in Yemen

The Department of State warns that terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), are active in Yemen. AQAP claimed responsibility for a Sept. 25 attack in Sana’a during which two gunmen fired on a bus with Yemeni security agents, wounding 10.

British motorcades in Sanaa were attacked on Oct. 6 and April 26. There have been other terrorist incidents.

On May 24, two US tourists and their Yemeni driver and translator were kidnapped near Sana’a.

Karachi killings

A series of political and ethnic killings in Karachi, Pakistan, in October left more than 70 people dead, many who worked for the Awami National Party. A market in Shersah and residences in Baloch and Pathan were attacked by gunmen.

The violence was sparked by clashes over the election held on Oct. 18 for an assembly seat left vacant after a member was assassinated in August.

Quito police on protest

Members of the police and armed services occupied barracks and the National Assembly building in Quito and set up roadblocks throughout Ecuador in protest of austerity measures passed by the assembly on Sept. 29. On Sept. 30, 300 air force personnel and soldiers closed the international airport in Quito for several hours.

President Correa called the protests a “coup attempt” and declared a state of emergency for three days, during which the governments of Peru and Colombia closed their borders with Ecuador as a “show of support” for Correa’s government. Forty-plus police were detained for questioning.

Rio roadblock robberies

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 19 police battalion leaders were fired after more than 10 robberies were committed during the first week of October by gunmen who set up roadblocks on city streets. No serious injuries were linked to the robberies, but drivers were removed from their cars and robbed and some of the cars were stolen.

At press time, over 30 mass robberies (including roadblock-type crimes) had occurred in Rio in 2010.

France labor strikes

Multiple protests in France over the government’s plans to raise the retirement age to 62 brought travel to a standstill for several days in late October.

Work stopped at oil terminals in ports and at fuel refineries, preventing deliveries to gas stations and practically halting traffic in multiple cities. There were strikes by subway workers and air traffic controllers throughout the month. Train service was disrupted or reduced.

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay and Arc de Triomphe all closed on Oct. 2 when about 500,000 people throughout the country clogged the streets in protest marches.

The legislation was passed on Oct. 26 and many strikes ended, but further protests by labor unions were planned.

Protests in Europe

In Athens, Greece, the Acropolis was shut down on Oct. 13-14 when Ministry of Culture workers blocked the entrance to protest the austerity-policy cuts by the Greek government. Riot police used tear gas to disperse crowds. A 24-hour strike by civil servants on Oct. 7 caused dozens of flights to be canceled.

In Finland, a walkout by aircraft maintenance crews on Oct. 25-26 resulted in the cancellation of 35 flights.

Other protests and strikes occurred in Belgium, Romania, Italy and Spain, and labor unions called for more protests.

Harassment in Iran

Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States, thus US citizens there may be subject to harassment or arrest. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and prosecution.

Some areas where minority religious and ethnic groups reside, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Kurdish northwest of the country and areas near the Iraqi border, remain unsafe.

Afghanistan dangerous

The Department of State reminds travelers that all areas of Afghanistan are unsafe due to military combat operations, land mines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Cholera in Haiti

An outbreak of cholera in Haiti, the first there in over 100 years, was confirmed in October. Most of the 5,000 cases were in the Artibonite Departmente (50 miles north of Port-au-Prince). At press time, the disease had claimed 330 lives.

The January earthquake and recent hurricanes were cited as causes of the water contamination and poor sanitation that led to the outbreak.

— Current warnings —

As ITN went to press, the State Department had travel warnings on 31 destinations: Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Mexico, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Afghanistan, Israel/West Bank/Gaza, Mali, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Chad, Haiti, Guinea, Nepal, Burundi, Niger, Georgia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Philippines, Algeria, Kenya, Colombia, Central African Republic, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

For details, call the State Department at 202/647-5225 or visit http://

For health news, call the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention at 800/232-4636 or visit… or visit the World Health Organization website at