Turkey will hold parliamentary elections on June 12 and the Kurdistan Workers party’s (PPK) separatist insurgency is thought to be trying to influence the outcome of the electoral process. On Thursday a small bomb was exploded in an Istanbul location near a police barracks and a shopping mall, injuring eight. No fatalities resulted. See this article in TodaysZaman for more details .
Today, a percussion bomb was exploded near a military barracks in the city of Diyabakir in southeastern Turkey, with no casualties resulting. See this story from Reuters for the details.
Spain continues to experience unrest due to joblessness with demonstrations occurring in most large cities. See this article in Yahoo News for more details. We note that the demonstrations in Spain have not been violent.
Meanwhile in Greece, police pepper-sprayed demonstration doctors (see this article from the AP in the Miami Herald ) who are rallying against the deep cuts to the medical and social systems in Turkey that have resulted from the country’s current economic problem (see this article in Yahoo News for a review of the recent austerity discussions being held by the government.
It seems as if the countries of Europe have experienced more demonstrations in 2011, including more violent demonstrations than have occurred in the last few years. Those planning to vacation in Europe this summer should read the local news for their travel destination and ask hotel staff in the towns and villages where they plan to stay about pending demonstrations. Avoid the areas where demonstrations are planned, perhaps taking a trip out of the city on that day.
The periods surrounding elections in countries experiencing financial or political crises are often marked with demonstration or, in in more extreme cases, by internal terrorism. If a city is a known hotbox for demonstrations, we recommend avoiding it while the crises lasts or the contested election is being held. If you cannot do that, then be sure that you are aware of local conditions, avoid crowds and avoid participating in political discussions about the problems in your destination.
Travel is inherently dangerous. You could be injured or killed driving to your the local grocery store near your home. International travel is no exception in terms of exposure to possible dangers. All travelers need to evaluate the safety of travel for themselves, based on their values and beliefs. Searching the international news on your destination is a good way to begin that evaluation.
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.
On May 16, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs replaced the Travel Alert for Japan that it issued after the recent devastating earthquake with updated recommendations. The text of the Alert can be found herel.
The main changes in the Alert deal with updated recommendations for the safe use of the “…Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway through the 50-mile evacuation area. Using the same analysis we would use in a similar situation in the United States, the U.S. Government believes it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the railway and expressway for transit through the area. Other portions of this Travel Alert remain unchanged from the Alert published on April 14. This Travel Alert expires on July 15, 2011.”
In respect to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Alert notes “The assessment of technical and subject matter experts across United States Government agencies is that while the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone, and particularly to Tokyo, Nagoya (Aichi Prefecture), Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture), nearby U.S. military facilities, and the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Gunma, Iwate, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, and Yamanashi, and those portions of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures 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.” See the complete text of the report for additional details.”
In regards to aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake, the Alert contained this information “Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Tokyo and areas to the northeast continue to experience strong aftershocks related to the March 11 earthquake. 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: http://japan.usembassy.gov.”
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh will embark on a historic four-day visit of Ireland this week and will be in Dublin tomorrow. While many citizens of Ireland welcome the British monarch, the visit is not popular with the dissident republican groups who want Britain out of Ireland.
The security for this event will be massive and ordinary tourists may want to avoid anywhere the Royal Couple will be traveling in Ireland over the remainder of this week.
See this article in the U.K.’s Independent for more details.
The U. S. State Department has issued a Worldwide Travel Alert based on the potential for terrorists to react to the death of Osama Bin Laden, as the result of what is described in the document as “…recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.”
Partial text of the report includes this extended quote:
“The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. This Travel Alert expires August 1, 2011.
U.S. Embassy operations in affected areas will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation. U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.”
You can find the full text of the document here at the website of the U.S. State Department.
In addition, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration issued this statement on its website regarding airport security following the death of Osama bin Laden:
May 2, 2011
“TSA continually evaluates the latest threats and screening measures which are implemented based on the latest intelligence. As always, passengers may notice a variety of security measures at U.S. airports to include the use of physical bag checks, random gate screening, explosives detection technology, canine teams and behavior detection officers. We ask the traveling public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.”
Note that the State Department Travel warning will be in effect until the end of August. The TSA announcement, as is usual, did not mention a specific term, but was used to inform the traveling public that they may experience additional security during the future months.