The rioting that beset London over the weekend has expanded far beyond the capital. New problem areas have been reported in London, as well as in Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and other cities. For a map showing the location of the riots across England see this article in The Telegraph online. For the Guardian Live News Blog on the riots, see this link.
16,000 police will be on the streets of London tonight. It has been reported that the city’s jails are already full and that those arrested are being taken to jails in outlying locations.
It is our recommendation that tourists avoid London or consider postponing their trip if they have not yet departed for England. If you are already in the country and you cannot avoid the areas of rioting, pay attention to local media for up-to-date information on local circumstances and avoid the streets at night. While some think the riots in London and the rest of the country may be on the wane, we do not see any credible indications that this is so. If you are determined to be in England this week, it will likely be risky and we recommend that you change your itinerary for safety’s sake.
In London, Saturday night’s riots in Tottenham were followed on Sunday by more riots across the city. While most of the new rioting was limited in size and labelled “copycat”, it has spread across London, even to the area of Oxford Circus in central London. See this article from Sky News and this one from CNN for more details. It is possible these “pockets” of rioting will continue, so check the local news if you are traveling in London or other areas of England.
Terrorism has struck Oslo, Norway. It has been reported by several sources that a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was exploded outside of a main government office in the heart of Oslo. A second bomb was confirmed, but the location has not been revealed. In addition, a youth camp on Utoya Island, approximately 25 miles outside of Oslo, was attacked by a gun carrying individual disguised as a police officer. At last report nearly 90 fatalities and hundreds of injuries have resulted from the combined actions.
Central Oslo has been evacuated and is closed to the public until further notice. The authorities are examining the possibility that there may be additional explosive devices in the area or, possibly in the surrounding areas. It appears that this attack was staged by a Norwegian citizen with right-wing beliefs.
Travelers are advised to avoid Oslo over the next few weeks, as the clean-up and ongoing investigation of this incident will likely make tourism around the Capital difficult, if not untenable.
The Guardian has reported that the United Kingdom Border Agency has informed airlines to expect delays this Thursday due to a strike by UK-based airport immigration officials. It is expected that the work action may cause havoc at airports across the UK. Travelers are advised to avoid flying into or out of the UK this Thursday, if possible.
The strike is one of the continuing actions in the UK and elsewhere in Europe that are responses to national governments reducing the benefits associated with retirement, health and other systems and public services. It appears that the 2011 vacation season in the UK and Europe will be one of the most strike-prone ever.
The U.S. Department of State issued the following Travel Alert on June 9, 2011:
This Travel Alert updates the Travel Alert for Japan dated May 16, 2011. This Travel Alert expires on August 15, 2011.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
While the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to land areas which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.
Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to destinations within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this zone should evacuate or shelter in place.
On May 16, the U.S. Government updated its recommendation for the principal transport routes between Tokyo and Sendai that run through the 50-mile evacuation zone. These transport routes are currently open to public use. The U.S. Government believes the health and safety risks associated with using these transport routes are low, and that it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the Tohoku Shinkansen railway and Tohoku Expressway to transit through the area. This guidance is based on measurements taken by U.S. Government scientists; more information may be found at the Department of Energy website, http://blog.energy.gov/content/situation-japan/. This updated guidance on the main railway and expressway routes corresponds to that issued by Japanese authorities.
The U.S. Government also advises that ships operating near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant should follow the U.S. Coast Guardâ€™s recommendations. Information may be found at the U.S. Coast Guardâ€™s website: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/
Risk of Aftershocks
Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude can be expected to continue for more than a year. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. See the Embassy Website for detailed information on earthquake safety:
American Citizen Services
U.S. citizens in Japan are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulates. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy/Consulates to contact them in case of emergency.
For the latest U.S. Government information on the situation in Japan, please visit the Embassy website at http://japan.usembassy.gov. Updated information on travel and security in Japan may also be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1 -202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Japan, as well as the Worldwide Caution.
For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of either the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the U.S. Consulates in Japan listed below:
U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
After Hours: 03-3224-5000
The U.S. Embassy serves U.S. citizens in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.
Osaka-Kobe: 11-5, Nishitenma 2-chome, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543; Tel: 06- 6315-5912, Fax: 06-6315-5914; serving Americans in Osaka, Tel: 06-6315-5912, Fax: 06- 6315-5914; serving U.S. citizens in Osaka, Aichi, Ehime, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Shimane, Shiga, Tokushima, Tottori, Toyama, and Wakayama prefectures.
Nagoya: Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagano, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001; Tel (052) 581-4501, Fax: (052) 581-3190; providing emergency consular services only (including death and arrest cases) for Americans living in Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures.
Fukuoka: 5-26, Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052; Tel: 092-751-9331, Fax: 092-713-9222; serving U.S. citizens in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi prefectures.
Sapporo: Kita 1-jo, Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821; Tel: 011- 641-1115, Fax: 011-643-1283; serving U.S. citizens in Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.
Naha: 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa 901-2104; Phone: 098.876.4211, Fax: 098.876.4243, DSN: 645-7323; serving U.S. citizens in Okinawa and the Amami Oshima Island group
According to CNN sprouts grown and packaged in Germany are likely to be the source of the deadly E.coli outbreak in that country. Fatalities have reached 22 and the number of infected has exceeded 2,300 spread across 9 countries in Europe and several other countries outside of Europe.
Our recommendation is to add sprouts to the “avoid” list of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce when traveling in Germany – at least until the authorities issue a final determination on the source of the infections.
On Friday, protestors took over the headquarters building of the Greek Finance Ministry in Athens in response to the austerity cuts in the budget of the government of Greece (more privatization, higher taxes, lower benefits, etc.). See this article from the Belfast Telegraph for details on the takeover of the Finance Building. In a related story appearing on Euronews it was revealed that the government of Greece had agreed to make even deeper austerity cuts in order to bring its deficit into line with the requirements of the loan bailout that will be required to keep the country’s financial house from collapsing. Unfortunately, the Greek people are unwilling to accept these mandatory cuts and we expect a summer filled with strikes and demonstrations in Athens and across Greece.
Travelers planning to visit Greece should avoid demonstrations, as these may become more violent as the summer progresses. Strikes are, also, a difficult issue because they may effect the country’s transportation network. Our recommendation is to keep you eye on the local news and be prepared to alter you schedule if a strike does happen to occur.
An E.coli outbreak in Germany continues to wreak havoc, as the number of infected has reached thousands and the fatalities have reached at least 18. See this article from Bloomberg Businessweek for more details.
It appears that this is a new strain (or variation) of E.coli that has not been seen before and may be the precursor to other outbreaks of this sort. See this article from the Belfast Telegraph for more details. The mutation appears to cause kidney failure and death in some and kidney damage in others infected with the bacteria
Public health authorities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are currently suggesting that people in these areas avoid eating uncooked salad greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. Vegetable washing is highly recommended before consuming any other vegetables and hand washing is a must before food preparation.
The geographical origin of the the problem remains unclear, but to this point it appears that the infection is centered in northern Germany, especially around Hamburg. Although cucumbers from Spain were initially singled out as a potential source of the bacteria, it is now clear that cucumbers from Spain were not the source of the health problem.
We recommend that travelers to Germany should avoid consuming salad, cucumbers and tomatoes. At present nine other countries in Europe are on alert and have recommended avoiding these vegetables. At this time, all of those infected with the bacteria appear to have been infected as the result of consuming salad, cucumber or fresh tomatoes in meals prepared in northern Germany.
Note, there is a possibility that the bacteria was introduced to the produce during packing, shipping or preparation. The types of vegetables in question have been shipped from Germany to other countries, so you might want to consider avoiding salad, tomatoes and cucumbers anywhere in Europe during this crisis. Check with local authorities on the recommendations for the areas in which you will be traveling, as conditions related to infections like E.coli can change with alarming speed.
Ash from the erupting Grimsvotn Volcano in Iceland may cause problems in the air space over the United Kingdom by the end of the week. See this article from the BBC for details.
If you are planning on flying to Scotland or England later this week, check with your airlines to see if the flights might be delayed or cancelled. Depending on upper atmosphere wind patterns, the Icelandic volcano may cause problems for air traffic in Europe during the eruption cycle.
On May 11, 2011 a deadly earthquake rocked Lorca in Murcia Province, Spain. Read this earthquake report from the BBC for more details. At least 10 people lost their lives in the earthquake. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid reported that buildings and other infrastructure were severely damaged in both Lorca and Totana in southeastern Spain.
Although the earthquake was not particularly strong, its origin was shallow and the quake occurred close to the surface, which increased its potential for damage. In addition, many of the historic buildings in Murcia, and Spain in general, were constructed before the development of the types of safety features required by modern building codes for construction in earthquake prone regions. It is often the case that these types of buildings are particularly dangerous to be in or near during earthquakes.
Travelers intending to visit this area of Spain should check with local news sources before initiating travel.