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Phuket Gazette World News: Tsunami devastation; Pompeii mafia; SA gang rape victim dies; Syrian rebels advance; Greeks fight for food

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Phuket Gazette World News: Tsunami devastation; Pompeii mafia; SA gang rape victim dies; Syrian rebels advance; Greeks fight for food | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Tsunami kills 7, destroys hundreds of houses in the Solomon Islands
Phuket Gazette / Wires
PHUKET: The major earthquake that struck near the Solomon Islands yesterday, triggered a tsunami that destroyed entire villages and claimed the lives of at least seven people, officials confirmed today.

The 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck at 12:12pm local time.

The violent tremors were widely felt across nearby islands, where computer models suggest more than 14,000 people may have felt “very strong” to “severe” shaking. Another 26,000 people on islands near the epicenter may have experienced light to strong shaking, seismologists said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for nearby countries within six minutes of the earthquake, although many residents on nearby islands already fled to higher grounds when they felt the tremors. The tsunami warning included the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna.

Most people were able to flee inland or to higher ground before the tsunami arrived, destroying hundreds of houses and sweeping fishing boats out to sea. “Our staff in Temotu province felt the quake and within five minutes there were a number of wave surges which flooded the runway there,” said Andrew Catford of humanitarian agency World Vision.

Jared Berends, who is the operations director for World Vision in the Solomon Islands, said it believes several villages were severely impacted by the tsunami. “World Vision is working to confirm the extent of damage and understand the immediate humanitarian needs,” he said.

The Solomon Times Online said seven people were confirmed to have been killed while an unknown number of others remain missing. It said at least 376 houses were destroyed, including 200 houses in Nea village alone and 100 houses in Venga village.

World Vision staff said Lata’s local airport and four surrounding villages with a total population of around 800 people were flooded by the tsunami. “I am currently walking through one community and I’m knee-deep in water,” said Jeremiah Tabua, World Vision’s emergency response coordinator in the Solomon Islands. “I can see a number of houses that have been swept away by the surge.”

The United Nations (UN) Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said the tsunami may have seriously affected more than 5,000 people. But a number of remote areas had still not been heard from on early Thursday morning, and it is likely they received no warning.

“This latest disaster event underlines the vulnerability of all these small low-lying islands to sea level rise,” said Jerry Velasquez of UNISDR. “Many islands such as Vanuatu and Kiribati are already suffering from recurrent flooding. More action needs to be taken at the international level to increase their capacities to deal with what is now seen as inevitable.”

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said a buoy observed a tsunami wave with a height of 1 meter (3.4 feet) above tide level near Lata Wharf in the Solomon Islands, but the waves which impacted land are likely to have been larger. Witnesses said the tsunami traveled up to 500 meters (546 yard) inland in some areas.

Tsunami waves were also observed in the city of Luganville in Vanuatu, where the government urged local residents to evacuate coastal areas and move to higher grounds. “Tsunami was observed in Luganville but was non-destructive,” the government said in a brief statement.

Tsunami watches were also issued for a number of other countries in the wider region, including New Zealand, American Samoa, Samoa, Australia, Indonesia, Guam, and Belau. Tsunami sirens were set off in New Zealand and people in coastal areas were being told to stay off beaches and out of the sea.

The Solomon Islands are on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. The Solomon Islands arc as a whole experiences a very high level of earthquake activity, and many tremors of magnitude 7 and larger have been recorded since the early decades of the twentieth century.

On April 2, 2007, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck close to the New Georgia Islands of the Solomon Islands. It unleashed a regional tsunami, killing 52 people and destroying more than 300 homes, schools and a hospital at Sasamunga. Two people were killed as a result of landslides, which were triggered by the earthquake.

Tunisian government dissolved after critic’s killing causes fury
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Tunisia’s ruling Islamists dissolved the government and promised rapid elections in a bid to restore calm after the killing of an opposition leader sparked the biggest street protests since the revolution two years ago.

The prime minister’s announcement late on Wednesday that an interim cabinet of technocrats would replace his Islamist-led coalition came at the end of a day which had begun with the gunning down of Chokri Belaid, a left-wing lawyer with a modest political following but who spoke for many who fear religious radicals are stifling freedoms won in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings.

During the day, protesters battled police in the streets of the capital and other cities, including Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Jasmine Revolution that toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

In Tunis, the crowd set fire to the headquarters of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party which won the most seats in an legislative election 16 months ago.

Calls for a general strike on Thursday could bring more trouble though Belaid’s family said his funeral, another possible flashpoint, might not be held until Friday.

Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali of Ennahda spoke on television on Wednesday evening to declare that weeks of talks among the various political parties on reshaping the government had failed and that he would replace his entire cabinet with non-partisan technocrats until elections could be held as soon as possible.

It followed weeks of deadlock in the three-party coalition. The small, secular Congress for the Republic, whose leader Moncef Marzouki has served as Tunisia’s president, threatened to withdraw unless Ennahda replaced some of its ministers.

Wednesday’s events, in which the Interior Ministry said one police officer was killed, appeared to have moved Jebali, who will stay on as premier, to take action.

“After the failure of negotiations between parties on a cabinet reshuffle, I have decided to form a small technocrat government,” he said.

“The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution,” he said earlier.

South African 17-year-old dies of gang rape injuries
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A 17-year-old South African girl has died of injuries received in a gang rape at the weekend, provoking rare cries of outrage on Wednesday in a country with a high level of sexual violence.

In an echo of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus in December, the Cape Town-based Cape Argus newspaper said the victim was sliced open from her stomach to her geni

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Transport

Travelling from the UK? Here’s some details on restrictions….

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Travelling from the UK? Here’s some details on restrictions…. | Thaiger
Stock photo of London Heathrow Airport via Flickr

As the summer holiday is just around the corner, many in the UK are wondering if and how they will travel abroad during the Covid pandemic. Despite it being against the law to travel abroad for holiday and leisure in the UK, those who need to travel may want to know what requirements certain countries have in order to enter.

Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Indonesia, are some of the popular places that travellers need to visit, and here we have the latest updates on requirements from those nations.

Australia

After locking down borders early, Australia has spent most of last year living a more normal life than those in the UK have, seeing significantly fewer Covid infections and deaths. But part of why they have been more successful is due to the tough travel measures that are still in place. The country currently is closed to outsiders, except for Australian citizens, permanent residents, or those with an exemption.

If travellers do fall into those categories, they must undergo a 14 day mandatory quarantine on arrival at a designated facility, like a hotel. And, even if you are inside Australia wanting to depart, the strict guidelines apply to those leaving the country as well. Only those with an exemption are able to leave Australia and there has been no indication as to when the country will relax the rules for coming and going. Experts do say that the country may not return to pre-pandemic levels of free travelling until 2024.

New Zealand

New Zealand is another country that has succeeded in tackling the pandemic early on, as most residents are living quite normally. Again, the strict guidelines that were in place are still ongoing as the country is closed to almost all arrivals. Those who are allowed in, must present evidence of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departing their country of residence.

But, good news is coming later this month as NZ will enter a travel bubble with Australia, allowing its people to travel between the 2 nations without needing to undergo a quarantine.

Thailand

Thailand was also considered to be succesful in combatting the Covid virus, until a 2nd and 3rd wave rocked the country, with experts saying it could be the worst yet to come. As the nation is planning to reopen fully in October, with an even earlier opening in July for its tourist-laden island of Phuket, arrivals still must undergo quarantines of up to 10 days. The quarantine time period depends on where you are entering in the country, as well as whether or not you have been fully inoculated against the Covid virus.

Other restrictions include where you are coming from prior to entering the country, as certain nations with Covid variants may still be required to undergo the full length of the original 14 day quarantine, or could be denied entry altogether.

Indonesia

Since the beginning of this year, all non-Indonesian travellers are currently banned from entering the country, with only a few exemptions in place. Any travellers allowed to enter must provide evidence of a negative Covid test and follow mandatory quarantine arrangements once landing.

The country is currently administering China’s Sinovac vaccine, which has faced criticism over its low effectiveness rates. But, Indonesia has lost 75% of its tourism in 2020, a figure that its government is surely to tackle in the near future.

SOURCE: MyLondon.news

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

US pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after “rare and severe” blood clots

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US pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after “rare and severe” blood clots | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Health officials in the United States have decided to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine while they investigate a number of cases of “rare and severe” blood clots. According to a CNN report, a 45 year old woman has died and another patient is in critical condition. In total, there were 6 blood clot incidents, out of more than 6.8 million vaccine doses administered. All of the cases involved female patients between the ages of 18 and 48, with symptoms developing between 6 to 13 days after inoculation.

Speaking to CNN, Dr Carlos del Rio from Emory University School of Medicine says that such side-effects are extremely rare, pointing out that they’re more likely to be observed outside clinical trials, due to the larger number of people involved.

“It’s a very rare event. You’re talking about 1 per million, and when you give millions of doses of vaccines, you will see events like this that you couldn’t see in the clinical trial just because you didn’t have millions of people enrolled.”

He adds that blood clotting may be occurring for the same reason seen with the AstraZeneca vaccine, given that both jabs are adenovirus vector vaccines. The other vaccines in use in the US – Pfizer and Moderna – are mRNA vaccines.

Peter Marks from the US Food and Drug Administration agrees that there appear to be similarities between the incidents of blood clots reported with both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.

“The AstraZeneca is a chimpanzee adenoviral vector vaccine. The Janssen is a human adenoviral vector vaccine. We can’t make some broad statement yet, but obviously they are from the same general class of viral vectors. We don’t have a definitive cause, but the probable cause that we believe may be involved here – that we can speculate – is a similar mechanism that may be going on with the other adenoviral vector vaccine. That is that this is an immune response that occurs very, very rarely after some people receive the vaccine and that immune response leads to activation of the platelets and these extremely rare blood clots.”

Janssen is the vaccine arm of Johnson & Johnson. Yesterday, the manufacturer issued a statement confirming a decision to delay the European rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine. The statement goes on to say that anyone who has already received the jab and experiences a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within 3 weeks of being inoculated should see a doctor. However, it adds that such side effects are extremely rare.

Last month, the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine became the third jab to be approved for emergency use in Thailand.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia

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WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia | Thaiger
Stock photo via World Bank Blogs

Despite vaccines being rolled out, the WHO is warning that the Covid-19 pandemic has reached a “critical level” in South Asia as infections keep rising. The virus has already taken 2.9 million lives, infecting 136 million worldwide and the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, says the “trajectory of this pandemic is growing…exponentially.”

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic when we have proven control measures. We are at a critical point of the pandemic right now.”

The US is still the country with the most amount of infections, but India has recently taken the number 2 spot over Brazil, reporting 168,000 new cases in 1 day. India’s total amount of infections is now at 13.5 million, edging Brazil’s 13.48 million into the number 3 spot.

But a race among nations for Covid infections is not what the WHO – or anyone for that matter – is wanting. 28 year old Rohit, a waiter in Mumbai, seems to say that the race won’t end if people continue to not listen to safety protocols.

“The solution is for everyone to stay home for two months and end this (pandemic) once and for all. But the public doesn’t listen. Nobody follows the rules in the restaurant… If we tell customers to wear masks, they are rude and disrespectful to us.”

Ignoring the social – distancing rules has experts up in arms as they warn that huge, mass gatherings are what we all thought they were: a super spreader event for Covid-19.

But the Indian government appears desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s nationwide March shutdown which saw some of the world’s toughest measures causing misery all around. Thus, the balance between managing a country’s overall health and financial situation is a tedious one.

Bangladesh has chosen health, for now, as it is shuttering both international and domestic airports from tomorrow. Its population of 160 million people, will be sealed off from the rest of the world.

And, in Thailand, a 3rd wave has hit, making plans for a full reopening by October, seem to be in vain. Social distancing and mass gatherings are, again, to blame, as entertainment venues sparked the recent spread. As normally tourism-heavy destinations, like the Andaman island of Phuket, are rapidly inoculating its residents to prepare for a July reopening, the new wave has dampened hopes of reviving the economy.

For now, the efforts to contain the Covid pandemic have been futile worldwide, but history has a habit of repeating itself, especially when safety protocols fall on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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