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World News: Australia braces for wildfire day

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World News: Australia braces for wildfire day | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Australia braces for “catastrophic” wildfire day
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Australia was bracing today for days of “catastrophic” fire and heat wave conditions, with fires already burning in five states and as a search continued for people missing after devastating wildfires in the island state of Tasmania.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured fire-ravaged Tasmanian townships and promised emergency aid for survivors, who told of a “fireball” that engulfed communities across the thinly-populated state on Friday and Saturday.

“The trees just exploded,” local man Ashley Zanol told Australian radio, recounting a wall of flames that surrounded his truck as he carted water to assist fire crews in the hard-hit township of Murdunna, largely levelled in the inferno.

Tasmanian police said around 100 people feared missing in bushfires had been accounted for and there had so far been no deaths as authorities combed through still-smouldering ruins of homes and vehicles, while evacuating local people and tourists.

Bushfires were ablaze in five of Australia’s six states, with 90 fires in the most populous state New South Wales, and in mountain forests around the national capital Canberra.

Severe fire conditions were forecast for Tuesday, replicating those of 2009, when “Black Saturday” wildfires in Victoria state killed 173 people and caused $4.4 billion worth of damage.

A record heat wave, which began in Western Australia on December 27 and lasted eight days, was the fiercest in more than 80 years in that state and has spread east across the nation, making it the widest-ranging heat wave in more than a decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Tomorrow will bring the highest “catastrophic” bushfire temperature conditions, said fire officials, under which people are advised to flee if fire threatens, as the blaze is likely to be too fierce for fire crews to easily extinguish.

“Any fire that burns under the predicted conditions – 40 degree (Celsius) temperatures below 10 percent humidity, winds gusting over 70 kilometres an hour – those conditions are by any measure horrendous,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers.

In the Australian capital Canberra, hit by a firestorm in 2003 that destroyed hundreds of homes, authorities said they were expecting the worst conditions in the decade since, with a fifth day of searing temperatures and strong winds.

“With those winds it boosts up the fire danger significantly,” the city’s deputy fire chief Michael Joyce said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Lumbini Airport aim to bring Buddhist Thais to Nepal

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Lumbini Airport aim to bring Buddhist Thais to Nepal | Thaiger
PHOTO: Lumbini, The Birth Place Of Gautam Buddha

Nepal is hoping to attract Buddhist pilgrims from Thailand to the birthplace of Lord Buddha with the opening of the Lumbini Airport scheduled later this year. The area is an important Buddhist site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nepalese officials hope to attract Buddhist Thai travellers on sacred pilgrimage trips.

The Nepal Tourism Board recently met with the Royal Thai Embassy Kathmandu for discussions on how to grow tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic finally subsides. The meeting took place in Kathmandu with the chief executive of the tourism board reaching out to Thai officials on ways to create cooperation and increase travel between the two countries. The tourism board is focusing on holiday packages to Nepal for the Thai market aimed at not just Buddhist pilgrims but also trekkers, hikers, mountain climbers and other outdoor activity enthusiasts.

Tourism accounts for about 3% of Nepal’s gross domestic product since the country opened its borders to foreign travellers in 1951. Before Covid-19 took hold of the world, about half of the 70,000 travellers from Thailand to Nepal were Buddhist pilgrims while the other half were outdoor adventure tourists. About 25,000 of those travellers visited the time monasteries in Lumbini in 2019.

The Thai government and Nepalese government plan to work in tandem on marketing plans aimed at people who love the mountainous scenery and Buddhist pilgrims alike. They hope to strengthen ties between Nepal and Thailand and work closely with the tourism authority of Thailand to help bring awareness and run promotional programs directly in Thailand.

The chief executive of the NTB conveyed a thankfulness to Thailand for building Buddhist monasteries which inspire Thai pilgrims to visit Nepal. The ambassador to Thailand also suggested promoting new tourism activities like scenic helicopter journeys to Namche and visits to less famous Nepalese natural sites and attractions like Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Chandragiri, Chitwan, and Gokyo Lake.

The new international airport, scheduled to open soon in Lumbini, will allow much easier travel, with direct flights from Thailand to Nepal. It is set to open within the next 6 months with the hopes of international flight routes scheduled from Thailand and around Asia.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland

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Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland | Thaiger
PHOTO: Beware of fake Covid-19 vaccines.

A wave of fake Pfizer vaccines have been seized in Mexico and Poland where counterfeiting Covid-19 jabs has become a big business. The US pharmaceutical company confirms that the jabs that have been collected were not authentic and were selling on the black market for up to US $1,000 per vaccine. A Pfizer spokesperson said that they’re aware that anonymous online selling makes it easy to commit fraud and to pedal counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines and that this problem is growing as people are desperate for vaccination and to finally reach an end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In Mexico, at least 80 people were injected with these fake Covid-19 jabs according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Mexican officials said that they identified the counterfeit vaccines by checking the fake serial numbers and expiration dates. While the vaccines do not appear to be harmful in any way, they also definitely do not offer any protection against Covid-19. The jabs were found stored in beer coolers and some were identified to contain nothing more than distilled water.

The World Health Organization issued a warning last month that these fake Pfizer vaccines have been found in Mexico and may still be circulating. In Neuvo Leon, a northern Mexican state, Mexican authorities first identified bogus jabs being sold on the black market in February. Pfizer had tested these vaccines and confirmed they were not real Covid-19 jabs.

Mexico is also looking at a recent arrival of 6000 vaccines purportedly of the Russian Sputnik vaccine. This shipment was seized on a private plane en route to Honduras last month.

The shortage of availability of authentic vaccines in many parts of the world has led to a rise in counterfeit production and scams. Last month an army medic was accused of selling fake vaccines to Thai soldiers. As supply and production slowly increase this problem may lessen, but while production is not meeting demand there is a window of opportunity for scammers. Fake vaccines in China had been reportedly circulating since September.

Meanwhile in Poland officials confiscated counterfeit vaccines filled with a substance that’s used in anti-wrinkle cream and beauty products. Polish police seized a box labelled as the Pfizer vaccine from a man’s apartment. Pfizer easily identified the counterfeit product because they use different vials than what the company uses for its Covid-19 jab. In fact, the police also found identical vials from anti-wrinkle treatment products in the man’s apartment. Fortunately, it looked like nobody had received a fake injection yet. The man was arrested and charged with fraud.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World and Wall Street Journal

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Thai chef pleads for justice after child kills her cat in New York park

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Thai chef pleads for justice after child kills her cat in New York park | Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / Ponzucoolcat

A Thai-born chef, who now lives in New York, has launched a social media campaign calling for justice for her pet cat after the feline was attacked and killed by a child. Suchanan “Rung” Aksornnan says she was walking her cats, Ponzu and Kimchi, along with her dog, Tofu, and parakeet, Mango, in a Brooklyn park, when a boy ran towards her and grabbed Ponzu’s leash with such force that the cat, who suffers with a heart condition, flew into the air before hitting the ground. The boy then proceeded to drag the cat several metres, with the animal later dying of his injuries.

It’s understood Suchanan confronted the boy and his family but received no apology. The child’s family, understood to be Puerto Rican nationals, have defended the boy, saying Suchanan shouldn’t have been walking her cat in a public place. The confrontation became physical, with Suchanan slapped in the face, strangled, and kicked, according to the Coconuts report. Her boyfriend’s nose was also broken before passers-by came to their rescue.

Police have now arrested a 42 year old woman named as Evelyn Serrano, who has been charged with assault. Suchanan says she too has visited the police station to provide additional information and the Thai consulate has been in touch to offer assistance. Meanwhile, news of the cat’s death has gone viral on social media, with #justiceforponzo trending on Instagram, where Ponzu had over 38,000 followers.

Suchanan owns an Asian-fusion restaurant in Brooklyn. She was born in Chiang Mai and moved to the US with her family at the age of 15.

SOURCE: Coconuts

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