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Industry weathers apocalypse of storm, quake and war

September 11, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

An extraordinary spate of apparently unrelated calamities around the world is making some places riskier than usual. It has prompted the Australian Government to issue an unprecedented number of travel advisories warning of potential hazards.

It’s worth remembering that most of these events affect only a small part of the world’s surface and last briefly. If travellers were over-anxious they’d never go anywhere.

Even so, current advisories cover:


Hurricane Irma, “a potentially catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane with sustained winds up to 295 km/h” has slammed into the US and Caribbean, affecting countries ranging from Cuba to Haiti and the Dominican Republic (both share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola), Puerto Rico, other Caribbean destinations and the US state of Florida.

Florida is evacuating millions of people. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises: “A State of Emergency has been declared in Florida to prepare emergency services. Expect high winds, heavy rain and storm surges. Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. Disruptions to essential services may occur.” It advises travellers to contact their airline or tour operator to check if tourist services have been affected.

Irma is now a huge tropical storm moving very slowly, at about walking pace. Thousands  of flights in the area have been cancelled and over 100,000 cruise passengers have had their holidays disrupted.  The three big Florida-based cruise lines – Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line – have altered or delayed about 25 sailings at last count. It’s only a couple of weeks since Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and devastated Houston, stranding four cruise ships in the Gulf of Mexico after the Port of Galveston closed.

Meanwhile, another hurricane, Hurricane Katia, rolled in from the Gulf of Mexico and hit the Mexican state of Veracruz, prompting a DFAT warning on Friday of “extreme weather conditions” in central Mexico (which has just been hit by an earthquake) including Mexico City, and a warning for Jamaica.

A third enormous hurricane is Hurricane José , nearing Category 5 status and threatening islands already hit by Hurricane Irma. 


A “magnitude 8 plus” earthquake, the biggest this century, has just struck off the southern coast of Mexico, leaving behind shattered buildings, triggering tsunamis and killing at least 90 people. DFAT issued tsunami warnings for Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Chile. On Mexico, DFAT warned: “Power and telecommunications systems may be affected in some areas. The Mexican Civil Protection authority has warned of the risk of landslides in mountainous areas.”


Major floods have hit parts of Texas, and to a lesser extent Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

In Italy, heavy rain has caused flooding in some regions, including Lazio, Umbria, Tuscany and Campania, particularly the city of Livorno and Rome. “Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities,” says a DFAT advisory issued yesterday.

Elsewhere, last month’s heavy rainfall has caused flooding in low-lying areas throughout northern, eastern and southern Bangladesh, disrupting road travel and train services and triggering a DFAT warning. For India, DFAT warns of flooding in Mumbai and along the west coast of the states of Maharashtra and Goa.

About 40 million people in South Asia are struggling to cope after massive floods devastated the region. Entire villages across Bangladesh, India and Nepal remain submerged since the floods began in mid-August. Authorities have described it as the region’s worst flood in 40 years, ABC News reported. The worst hit regions include Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states in northern India, the Terai region in southern Nepal, and Kurigram and Chimari districts in northern Bangladesh.


The alarmingly warlike standoff between North Korea and the US over North Korea’s building and testing of long-range missiles and nuclear bombs has prompted a DFAT warning: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) [North Korea] continues to conduct nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests, further aggravating the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. Further provocations by the DPRK or reactions by other countries cannot be ruled out.”

DFAT advises Australians to defer non-essential travel to North Korea, reconsider their need to visit the country and choose a less risky destination. “If you decide to travel, stay as short a time as possible, eliminate unnecessary activities, and review your security arrangements.”

DFAT also warns Australians in South Korea (the Republic of Korea, ROK) and Japan to monitor developments closely “due to the risk that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little warning”.

In Myanmar, the army and militant Buddhists are battling the Rohingya Muslim minority and forcing many to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. This is happening in Rakhine State, which is not a tourist destination, but DFAT advises: “on 5 September 2017, Myanmar authorities warned of plans by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army to carry out terrorist attacks in major cities in Myanmar to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly”.

The United National General Assembly (72nd Regular Session) will convene at UN Headquarters tomorrow (Tuesday 12 September 2017). DFAT advises travellers in Myanmar to be alert to possible threats and to exercise a high degree of caution overall.

The African state of Burkina Faso is increasingly dangerous. DFAT: “Due to the high threat of terrorism and kidnapping in Burkina Faso, exercise heightened caution in public venues including, but not limited to, cafés, restaurants, shopping centres, schools and hotels. Reconsider your need to travel to Burkina Faso overall.

“Militant groups in the region have shown the capacity to conduct attacks in Burkina Faso, including extremists from neighbouring countries.

“On 13 August 2017, there was a terrorist attack on the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in downtown Ouagadougou, which resulted in a number of fatalities.”

Burkina Faso


Few Australians visit Burkina Faso. Many more travel to Kenya, where earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled the results of the 8 August presidential election null and void. A new election is to be held within 60 days. DFAT says: “Political rallies and protests may occur across the nation following the ruling. Avoid political rallies and protests as they could quickly turn violent.  Exercise a high degree of caution in Kenya overall. Higher levels apply in some parts of the country.”


An outbreak of cannibalism in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province came to light a week ago when a man walked into a police station, handed over several body parts and said he was “tired of eating human flesh”. Police investigating reports of cannibal feasts subsequently raided a witchdoctor’s house and found eight human ears cooking in a stew pot.

Several men have been charged with murder and cannibalism. While the case is disturbing, DFAT has determined it is not a threat to tourists, so has not updated its advisory for South Africa. The level remains at “exercise a high degree of caution”.


Written by Peter Needham

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