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Phuket Media Watch: Asian regional round-up

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Explosions at Myanmar warehouse kill at least 15
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

At least 15 people were killed on early yesterday morning when a fire caused a series of explosions at a government-owned warehouse in the former Myanmar (Burma) capital of Yangon, officials said. Dozens more were injured.

The fire broke out at around 2 a.m. Phuket time in Mingalataungnyunt township at a chemical storage warehouse which is part of the Ministry of Commerce, causing at least three large explosions as firefighters were attempting to get the fire under control. Police said at least 15 people were killed, including five firefighters, while 81 others were injured.

The fire quickly spread to nearby homes, causing them to collapse, according to Mizzima, a Burmese news organization in exile. Residents in the region told the news organization that the explosions were very loud and woke up many people.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but Myanmar has been hit by a series of bombings in recent years. On November 14, a total of 10 people were killed and 27 others were injured when a bomb exploded at an orphanage in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. Several other bombs exploded in other parts of the city, causing no additional casualties.

Eight Indonesian fishermen reported missing off West Sumatra
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Eight fishermen were reported missing on Tuesday after their fishing boat was hit by a strong storm off the western Indonesian coast of Sumatra, officials said on yesterday.

A group of sixteen fishermen had left on early Tuesday morning at around dawn to go fishing in the Pariaman waters, off the province of West Sumatra, when their boat was caught up in a strong storm.

Secretary of the Pariaman Natural Disaster Mitigation Body (BPBD), Kardinal, told the Antara news agency that eight of the fishermen were rescued safely, but the others remain missing.

Emergency personnel as well as local residents have continued their search efforts in the the Pariaman waters, as well as as in nearby islets where they were believed to have been stranded. However, high waves and harsh weather have further challenged the search and rescue operations.

Kardinal noted that the provincial administration had previously issued a warning that extreme weather would last until January 31, hoping that fishermen would take extra precaution when going out into the waters.

Volcanic mudflow kills three in eastern Indonesia
Phuket Gazette / News Wires
At least three people were killed on late Tuesday evening when mudflows streaming from Mount Gamalama in eastern Indonesia hit several nearby villages, officials said on yesterday.

The flood of volcanic material hit several villages which are situated on the slopes of the volcano, which is located on the island of Ternate in the Maluku Islands, off the west coast of Halmahera. Provincial spokesman Andi Arief told the Jakarta Post that the floods destroyed several houses in Tubo and Tofure villages.

Andi said the flooding also hit the Togorara and Marikurubu rivers, destroying several houses along the riverbanks. “Initial data cited that three people died, while many other residents were evacuated to a school building and the former North Maluku governor’s office,” he added.

Mt. Gamalama last erupted on December 4, spewing ash up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) high and resulting in the evacuation of thousands of people living in the region. Tuesday’s flooding was the result of heavy rains which washed the volcanic debris down.

In addition to the fatalities, who were aged 50, 10 and 5, one person has been reported missing and is believed to have been killed. Two other people were being treated at Chasan Boesoerie hospital for various injuries.

As a result of the incident, the alert level at the volcano has been raised to level 3, the second highest. The country’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) uses a warning system with four levels of alerts, with level 1 being the lowest and level 4 being the highest.

Ternate is dominated by the volcanic Mount Gamalama (1715 m). The volcano erupts regularly, covering the island with volcanic dust. Major past eruptions of Gamalama include 1673, when a large, but undetermined number of people were killed, and 1772, when about twenty inhabitants died. The largest recent eruption of Gamalama was in September 1980, when 30,000 of the islands 56,000 residents were forced to temporarily flee to nearby Tidore.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

No vaccine, no flight – Qantas will require international travellers to be vaccinated

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No vaccine, no flight – Qantas will require international travellers to be vaccinated | The Thaiger

Qantas, Australia’s national airline, is announcing a new requirement that all international travellers will need to have a vaccination against Covid-19 in a move that could become the norm for the world’s airline industry. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the Australian flag carrier would implement the measure once a coronavirus vaccine was made available to the public.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.”

“Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see what happens with Covid-19 in the market but certainly, for international visitors coming out (to Australia) and people leaving the country, we think that is a necessity.”

Joyce says the new rule is likely to become a standard practice by all airlines worldwide as many governments are now working to introduce electronic vaccination passports. Vaccination requirements are already widely used around the world for those wishing to enter certain countries, with many countries wanting travellers show they have been inoculated against yellow fever if they are coming from regions where that disease could be acquired.

The International Air Transport Association has also announced it is in the “final stages” of developing a digital health pass that it says can be used to record Covid-19 tests or vaccinations and will “support the safe reopening of borders.”

“We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation.”

Australia’s borders have been closed since March to help stop the spread of the virus, which has taken the lives of more than 1 million people worldwide. The country has even limited its own citizens arrivals from abroad by implementing a weekly quota that has left thousands stranded overseas. Qantas has grounded more than 200 planes and let go 8,500 staff members as it attempts to offset a US 1.9 billion loss.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Malaysia

Technical issues force Singapore aircraft to land on Malaysian highway – VIDEO

Maya Taylor

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Technical issues force Singapore aircraft to land on Malaysian highway – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Twitter

A single-engine prop plane from Singapore has been forced to make an emergency landing on a Malaysian highway due to technical difficulties. A report in Coconuts says the aircraft touched down on the hard shoulder of a highway in Johor, as cars sped past. The 2 pilots on board are believed to be in stable condition.

Chester Voo, CEO of Malaysia’s aviation authority, says an investigation has been launched to determine what went wrong with the plane, which has now been removed.

“Search and rescue teams have completed all required tasks. The investigation will be conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Transport, Malaysia.”

It’s understood the plane left Seletar Airport in Singapore and was flying to Melaka when the pilots contacted Air Traffic Control at Johor, requesting permission to land at Senai International Airport, due to technical problems. However, Voo says the aircraft did not make it to the airport before it had to land on the highway.

Meanwhile, Thomas Ong from Premier Aero Singapore, who provide services at Seletar Airport, says his company provided immigration assistance to one of the pilots prior to departure, but doesn’t know what happened to cause the emergency landing.

“We only assisted Dr Yang in immigration formalities with the Seletar Airport Authority for his arrival and departure.”

SOURCE: Coconuts

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Singapore – Hong Kong travel bubble delayed due to Covid rise in HK

Maya Taylor

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Singapore – Hong Kong travel bubble delayed due to Covid rise in HK | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash

Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to delay their travel bubble plans as Hong Kong experiences a jump in Covid-19 cases. Although case numbers in both cities are nowhere near as serious as what’s currently being seen in places like Europe and the US, officials are erring on the side of caution and postponing the plan by at least 2 weeks.

The travel pact would have allowed people to travel between both cities without having to endure mandatory quarantine, but authorities on both sides had agreed it would be postponed if either location reported more than 5 new local cases in a rolling 7 day average. The Bangkok Post reports that travel between both cities remains possible, but quarantine is still a requirement in both places.

Mungo Paterson, a British national who lives in Hong Kong and had booked a ticket to Singapore for December 7, says the reinstatement of the quarantine requirement is the biggest problem.

“That is the main deterrent, I have no interest in sitting in a hotel room for 2 weeks – it’s not healthy. I was excited when they announced it, I thought ‘here we go’. I’m now holding off confirming until Dec 2. I think there’s a 50-50 chance the flight will happen.”

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung says the rise in cases in Hong Kong shows that any attempted travel arrangement will not be plain sailing.

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs.”

The strict border controls seen in Asia appear to have helped countries here suppress the virus better than elsewhere in the world, but the controls have come at a significant cost, crippling tourism and the aviation sector. Rico Merkert from the University of Sydney’s business school says that, without international traffic, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will continue to struggle, even when the travel bubble between their 2 hubs does begin.

“Even if the Hong Kong-Singapore corridor opens, the boost to the 2 aviation hubs will be limited. Singapore Airlines and Cathay will continue to struggle because they can’t funnel onto the route those travellers who would normally arrive from Europe and the US. Without that feeder traffic, those bubbles will at best be limited to the local population. International travel is going to remain a tricky affair.”

October traffic for both carriers has plummeted compared to the same period last year, with Cathay carrying just 38,541 passengers, down 98.6% on 2019 figures. Singapore Airlines has experienced a similar slump, with October numbers down 98.2% on last year’s, at 35,500.

Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation says at this stage, the implementation of a travel bubble is mostly symbolic, adding that the aviation sector will take years to fully recover.

“Bubbles provide a little bit of incremental additional international traffic in the interim period until the pandemic ends. A full recovery in air traffic will still take a few years, even with a vaccine, though bubbles will help get the process moving.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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