Britons rush home from France to beat new quarantine rules

By Alistair Smout and Tangi Salaün

LONDON/CALAIS, France (Reuters) – British travelers rushed home from summer holidays in France on Friday, booking planes, trains, boats and even private jets to get home before a 14-day quarantine comes into force in response to rising coronavirus infections there.

The government announced late on Thursday that it would impose a quarantine from 0300 GMT on Saturday on arrivals from France, giving an estimated 160,000 UK holidaymakers there just over 24 hours to get home or face self-isolation on return.

The sudden rule change dealt a fresh blow to tourists, airlines and tour operators. The pandemic has left many travel groups cash-strapped and fighting for survival.

Many British tourists headed towards the French port of Calais hoping to catch a ferry or a shuttle train home in time.

“We’ve changed our plans when we heard the news last night. We decided to head back home a day early to miss the quarantine,” one British woman at a service station on the motorway to Calais said after her week in southern France.

Queues of cars built up in Calais through Friday afternoon. Ferry companies were adding extra crossings to help more people get home, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, head of the Port of Calais, told Reuters.

PrivateFly, a British-based jet provider, said it had seen three times the normal number of enquiries and bookings.

The new quarantine rules apply to France, the second-most popular holiday destination for Britons, as well as to the Netherlands and the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Spain, Britons’ favorite holiday destination, came under British government quarantine rules on July 26.

“We’ve also had a number of enquiries from clients booked to travel to these destinations in the coming weeks to change their travel plans in order to avoid quarantine zones,” PrivateFly CEO Adam Twidell said.

France warned it would reciprocate, dealing a further blow to airlines’ hopes of an August recovery given they may have to cancel yet more flights.

Airline and travel shares tumbled. British Airways-owner IAG was down 6% and easyJet, which said it would operate its full schedule for the coming days, fell 7%.

TIGHTENING QUARANTINE

When Europe first went into lockdown in March, Britain was criticized for not restricting arrivals from abroad. But since June, it has introduced strict quarantine rules for arrivals from countries with infection rates above a certain level.

This contrasts with an easing of rules at home, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the gradual reopening of the economy to resume, weeks after pausing it.

Transport minister Grant Shapps said the government needed to balance the need to open the economy and to contain the virus. The UK recorded 1,441 COVID-19 cases, the highest daily tally since June 14, official data showed on Friday.

Shapps told BBC Radio he sympathized with travelers but that they should not be entirely surprised, given the fluid situation around the pandemic.

“Where we see countries breach a certain level of cases … then we have no real choice but to act,” he told Sky News.

Airlines UK, an industry body representing BA, easyJet and Ryanair, called on Britain to implement more targeted quarantines on the regions with the highest infection rates and to bring in a testing regime.

An EU study showed that imported cases of COVID typically only account for a small share of infections when a pandemic is at its peak, but are more significant once a country has the disease under control.

(Writing by Sarah Young; Additional reporting by Kate Holton; David Milliken and Richard Lough; Editing by Nick Macfie, Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry)

U.S. towns fear ‘devastation’ as coronavirus keeps tourists home

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It’s late spring when Traverse City, Michigan should be planning its annual cherry festival, and the sounds of young racehorses should fill the air in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Small towns across America rely on summer tourism to stay solvent the rest of the year. But the coronavirus pandemic has chased visitors away, leaving residents and businesses unsure they can survive.

“Normally in May, we’d be in full swing,” said Sean Mackey, co-owner of the Magic Shuttle Bus in Traverse City that drives visitors to weddings and wineries.

“We would have all buses on the road, tours every single day of the week,” he said.

Instead, the company did no business over Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer, as wineries were off-limits to bus tours and groups of more than 10 people were banned.

The beginning of summer in states like Michigan, which have strict social distancing guidelines in place, contrasted sharply with crowds flocking to beaches in locations like South Carolina and New Jersey easing coronavirus-related restrictions.

The death toll in the United States from the novel coronavirus has topped 100,000, according to a Reuters tally.

Every U.S. state has phased reopenings underway, but the plans typically forbid large gatherings and limit restaurant and bar capacities that will sink some businesses, owners say.

In Maine, “already a number of businesses have closed down, and they’re not going to open up again,” said Jean Ginn Marvin, owner of the coastal Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport.

“The thing about seasonal businesses is they hold on by their fingernails anyway,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We were just about to open our doors and have a little cash flow again, and that didn’t happen.”

In the tiny Michigan tourist town of Lake Ann, where Mackey lives, “you have a party store, a little library, an ice cream parlor, a brewery and a post office and that’s it. You blink and you miss it.”

In the depths of uncertainty about the pandemic is the possibility of closing down altogether and hoping for better times ahead, Mackey said – almost like a year-long hibernation.

“If things got really bad, (businesses might) just close up for the season and try to put the bills on hold and open up going full swing next year,” he said.

Without the summer business, entire towns will suffer, residents said.

“When those businesses fold, what goes with them is the guy who plays the piano in the lobby and those teenagers that go there for their first job,” said Marvin. “So those kids aren’t going to have money for college.”

UNCERTAIN PLANS

The quiet is unsettling in upstate New York’s Saratoga Springs, where its historic track would normally be busy with young thoroughbreds in training, said Marianne Barker, who opened her gift store Impressions of Saratoga 42 years ago.

“That usually brings a pretty big influx of people. We’re not seeing that,” she said.

Summer plans for the Saratoga Race Course remain uncertain – one proposal calls for races without spectators – while another huge tourist draw, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, just canceled its summer season.

“Both of those combined will … completely cut down on tourist-related activities,” said Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan. “We are a tourism-dependent economy.”

The two venues draw some 1.5 million people each summer, according to industry figures.

Plunging tax revenues will leave the city up to $16 million short this year, Madigan said, and without federal aid, “it’s going to be devastation, not just here but everywhere.”

Saratoga Spring is looking at short-term borrowing of about $6 million, Madigan added, but as a one-time boost.

“We can’t just keep borrowing our way out of this,” she said. “I think local governments are your next big wave of layoffs.”

Layoffs in the United States hit a record high of 11.4 million in March, the nation’s worst job shortage since the Great Depression.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $3 trillion relief measure, dubbed the Heroes Act, with provisions aimed at helping state and local governments.

The relief bill has been criticized as a “liberal wish list” by Republicans who vowed to block it in the Senate, and President Donald Trump has promised to veto it.

As places like Saratoga Springs deplete their savings, “2021 looks even bleaker,” Madigan said.

“I don’t know when we’re ever going to get back to a situation where we see revenues like they were pre-COVID. How comfortable are people going to feel going out?” she said.

Hopefully soon, said Michigan State Sen. Ed McBroom, a Republican whose district includes the rural, tourist-reliant Upper Peninsula, among the state’s first regions to reopen.

“There’s going to be people who are afraid until they see other people out and about,” he said in a phone interview.

“So if other folks get out and about and nothing bad happens, then I think suddenly things could really pick up in a hurry.”

Tourism accounts for seven in 10 jobs in the Upper Peninsula’s northernmost Keweenaw County which juts into Lake Superior, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

In Maine, some hospitality and retail industry groups have asked the governor to relax plans for a required 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors; dozens of other small businesses responded with a letter in support of the quarantine.

A similar split is evident in Michigan, said Tom Nemacheck, who heads the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association.

“Those are the two camps that we’re keeping an eye on,” he said.

“The businesses that are so desperate that they want visitors no matter what because they’re going bankrupt, and then … some of the other people in the community are nervous about getting visitors.”

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Zoe Tabary. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Australia ‘open for business’ as cool change eases bushfire threat

By Kate Lamb

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia urged foreign tourists on Tuesday to put aside concerns about raging bushfires after the United States downgraded a travel warning, even as thick smoke disrupted preparations for the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.

Australia is experiencing one of its worst bushfire seasons on record, with fires burning since September and claiming the lives of 28 people, destroying more than 2,500 homes and razing forests and farmland the size of Bulgaria.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the U.S. move to scale back its travel warning and said Australia was “very much open for business”, amid concerns the fires would damage the tourism industry and the broader economy.

The United States last week warned citizens to exercise increased caution when traveling to Australia due to the fire risks, putting it on the same Level Two advisory as protest-wracked Hong Kong.

In its latest update, the State Department revised the advisory to Level One meaning “exercise normal precautions”, however it maintained a Level Two warning for fire-hit areas including the central tablelands of New South Wales state and southeastern Victoria state.

Australia’s tourism industry accounts for more than 3% of the country’s A$1.95 trillion ($1.4 trillion) annual economic output. Americans are among the top visitors.

Victoria’s state capital Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city and a major tourist drawcard, was blanketed in hazardous smoke on Tuesday although cooler weather had eased the fire danger.

The city’s air quality dropped to the “worst in the world” overnight as cooler temperatures brought particles in the air close to the ground, a senior state health official said. Residents were advised to stay indoors, bring pets inside and keep windows closed.

In Melbourne, a tennis player collapsed in a coughing fit and retired from Australian Open qualifying as organizers faced a storm of criticism for plowing ahead with matches despite the hazardous air quality.

The bushfires have affected a number of elite sporting competitions over the Australian summer including soccer, rugby league and cricket, and poor air quality has raised fears for players’ health at tennis’s first Grand Slam of the year.

The fires have also created an ecological disaster for native species including koalas and rock wallabies.

PERSISTENT THREAT

Despite cooler weather this week, officials warned that bushfire threat was far from over.

At least 145 fires continued to burn across Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) states although widespread rainfall is forecast for fire-hit areas on the east coast from Wednesday.

About 18 bushfires were yet to be contained in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, while in Victoria authorities upgraded warnings to show one fire burning at an “emergency level” and seven fires at the ‘Watch and Act’ category, one level below emergency status.

Morrison’s conservative government has faced domestic and international criticism for its handling of the fire threat and its response to climate change.

Climate scientists warned that Australia’s fires were a harbinger of what was to come for the rest of the world as the planet warmed due to human activity.

“Temperature conditions in Australia are extreme at the moment but they are what we expect to happen on average in a world of three degrees of global warming,” said Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts Research at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Centre.

“It brings it home to you what climate change means.”

(GRAPHIC: Sizing up Australia’s bushfires – https://graphics.reuters.com/AUSTRALIA-BUSHFIRES-SCALE/0100B4VK2PN/index.html)

(Reporting by Kate Lamb; Additional reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Tremors worsen on New Zealand volcano island, prevent recovery of bodies

Tremors worsen on New Zealand volcano island, prevent recovery of bodies
By Charlotte Greenfield

WHAKATANE, New Zealand (Reuters) – Increasing tremors on a volcanic island in New Zealand on Wednesday heightened the risk of another massive eruption, preventing the recovery of bodies two days after an eruption engulfed dozens of tourists in steam and hot ash.

Six people were killed in Monday’s explosion at White Island, which lies some 50 km (30 miles) off the mainland, with another nine officially listed as missing, and 30 injured.

Australian Gavin Dallow, 53, and his stepdaughter Zoe Hosking, 15, were the latest victims to be identified on Wednesday.

“Our hearts break at the loss of Zoe at such a young age,” the Dallow family said in an emailed statement. “We mourn the loss of Gavin and Zoe.”

And the death toll could rise with 29 people in intensive care in several hospitals around the country.

Twenty seven people have horrific burns to 30% or more of their body and 22 are also on airway support due to the severity of their burns, said medical authorities.

“We anticipate we will require an additional 1.2 million square centimeters of skin for the ongoing needs of the patients,” Counties Manukau Chief Medical Officer, Dr Peter Watson, said at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

“The nature of the burns suffered is complicated by the gases and chemicals in the eruption. This has necessitated more rapid treatment of these burns than is the case for thermal-only burns,” said Watson.

Surgical teams were engaged in around-the-clock treatment.

“This is just the start of a very long process that for some patients will last several months,” he said.

The Australian government said it expected to transfer up to 10 injured citizens from New Zealand starting in the next 24 hours, if medical staff approve them for travel.

 

TOO RISKY TO RECOVER BODIES

Authorities monitoring the uninhabited island said conditions were worsening and there was now a 40-60% chance of a massive eruption similar to Monday in the next 24 hours.

“In summary, yesterday there was a high risk of an eruption. Today there is an even higher risk of an eruption. And the parameters are worsening at the moment,” Graham Leonard, a senior volcanologist at GNS Science, told a news conference in Wellington.

A plume of smoke could still be seen coming from the island.

“I’ve spoken to many of those involved in the operation and they are very, very eager to get back there, they want to bring people’s loved ones home,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an interview with Reuters in Wellington.

Aerial surveillance has detected no signs of life on the island, where at least one tour group was captured on automated webcams in the crater just a minute before the eruption.

GRAPHIC: Volcano map of New Zealand – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEW%20ZEALAND-VOLCANO/0100B4PY2EJ/New-Zealand-Volcano-Map.jpg

Police said the safety of recovery teams was the priority and are awaiting advice from experts on when they could access the island. That has prompted some criticism authorities are being too cautious.

“We cannot put other people in jeopardy to go out there until we’re absolutely certain that the island is actually safe,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Bruce Bird told a media conference in Whakatane, the town that is an access point for tourist trips to the island.

There were 47 people on White Island at the time of the eruption. Twenty-four of those were from Australia, nine from the United States, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and Britain and one from Malaysia.

A mother and daughter were the first Australians to be named as victims, media said on Wednesday. Brisbane woman Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, had been confirmed dead, family friend John Mickel told Sky News.

The death toll from Monday’s eruption rose to six after one victim died in hospital on Tuesday.

Daily tours bring more than 10,000 visitors to the privately owned island every year, marketed as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano”.

GeoNet raised the alert level for the volcano in November because of an increase in volcanic activity. The alert level was increased further after the eruption, and remains elevated.

 

(Additional reporting by Praveen Menon, Jane Wardell and John Mair in Wellington; Editing by Peter Cooney, Sam Holmes and Michael Perry)

Questions mount over tours to deadly New Zealand volcano

By Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon

WHAKATANE/WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Tourists caught in the deadly blast at New Zealand’s White Island were there despite a recent increase in volcanic activity, although experts said precise predictions on eruptions were all but impossible.

Five people were killed, eight are still missing and more than 30 were injured when the White Island volcano, one of the most active in New Zealand, erupted in a steam and gas explosion on Monday. Many of the visitors were on a day tour from a cruise trip in a nearby port.

Geological hazard tracker GeoNet raised its alert level for the island near the middle of a six-point scale in mid-November because of an increase in volcanic activity. But tour companies were not required to keep their dozens of customers that day away from the volcano, operators and agencies say.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the government would investigate the incident.

“I have to say that I’m very surprised to hear there were visitors there today, because scientists seem to have been well aware that White Island was entering a phase of heightened activity,” said Drexel University volcanologist Loÿc Vanderkluysen. “I’ve been to White Island before, but I don’t think I would have been comfortable being there today.”

Local tourism authorities market White Island, or ‘Whakaari’, as it is known in the Maori language, as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano”.

The volcano attracts volcanologists and thrill-seekers from around the world to walk across the island’s wild landscape, which features active geothermal steam vents and bubbling mud pools.

The privately owned island runs daily tours, and more than 10,000 people to visit every year.

“The eruption was unfortunate but not completely unexpected,” said Jessica Johnson, lecturer in Geophysics at the University of East Anglia in the UK. “The most that the scientists can do is continue to monitor the volcano and issue information when it is available.”

The regional government monitors the volcano’s activity through GeoNet and other agencies. Tour operators, which must have government permits to take people to the island, can shut down access based on that data, tour companies said.

“The safety instructions, the discussion before you go, makes it very clear to you that this is an active volcano, there are risks, when you get handed over gas masks, so the tour companies go to great lengths to make sure people do understand exactly what this is,” said Anne Tolley, local leader and parliament member from the East Coast.

Experts said it was difficult to predict exactly when a volcano would erupt. New Zealand uses a scale of 0-5 to rank volcano eruption risk, with 0 being no activity and 5 being a large eruption. On Monday, White Island was level 2.

Although there are signs scientists can watch for, they are more of an indicator of risk rather than predictive tools, said Toshitsugu Fujii, Head of the Mount Fuji Research Institute in Yamanashi, Japan.

“With a steam explosion it can be hard to see the signals until right before it happens,” Fujii said. “It seems that the volcano was getting more active and they raised the alert level, so they were paying attention. But you can’t tell, even so, if it’ll erupt today, next week or next month.”

Paul Quinn, chairman of Ngāti Awa Holdings, which owns White Island Tours, told Radio New Zealand that the alert levels over the last few weeks did not meet the company’s threshold for stopping operations.

He did not say what specific criteria the company considered, but said that at level 3 it would “liaise more directly” with the government about whether to continue tours.

 

LIVE VOLCANO

Ardern acknowledged that tourism on White Island had been going on safely for decades.

“It has been a live volcano throughout that time and at various time has been level 2 but it is a very unpredictable volcano,” she said.

There are dozens of volcanoes across New Zealand. The country’s largest city, Auckland, sits on a volcanic field made up of about 50 volcanic cones and craters that have erupted over the past 250,000 years. Some get daily tours.

Mount Ruapehu on the central North Island has erupted several times in recent years but is still a major tourist attraction, with ski resorts on its slopes.

Injuries and deaths are rare for volcano tourism anywhere, data show. White Island’s last eruption was in 2016, but no one was affected. A volcano on the Italian tourism island of Stromboli killed one person when it erupted in July.

When Japan’s Mount Ontake erupted in a steam explosion September 2014, the peak was packed with hikers out on a weekend to admire autumn foliage. 63 were killed, the highest toll for an eruption in 90 years. Japan constantly monitors 50 peaks.

Tristan Vine, a Whakatane businessman, told Reuters that New Zealand’s volcano tours are a big draw and that many businesses in the town rely on them.

“There’s obviously plenty of other things to be done but White Island is built on the foundation of that. So it’s quite critical for the town,” Vine said.

Graphic: Volcanoes in New Zealand (https://graphics.reuters.com/NEW%20ZEALAND-VOLCANO/0100B4PY2EJ/New-Zealand-Volcano-Map.jpg)

(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies in Tokyo. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Spitting volcano keeps search parties off New Zealand island, death toll rises to six

By Charlotte Greenfield

WHAKATANE, New Zealand (Reuters) – Fearing a volcano could erupt again, search parties were unable to set foot on New Zealand’s White Island for eight people still missing on Tuesday, as police raised the death toll to six from the eruption a day earlier.

Police doubted whether any more survivors would be found. They said the latest victim died in hospital, having been among more than 30 people injured in the eruption on the uninhabited island, a popular sightseeing excursion for tourists.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said reconnaissance flights showed no signs of life on the ash covered island, as eyewitnesses detailed the horrific burns suffered by those caught up in Monday’s eruption.

“The scale of this tragedy is devastating,” Ardern said in parliament. “To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your grief and sorrow and we are devastated.”

Police said 47 people were on White Island at the time of the eruption.

Twenty-four came from Australia, nine from the United States, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and the Britain and one from Malaysia.

“I would strongly suggest that there is no one that has survived on the island,” police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said of the eight people still missing.

Most of the injured had suffered greater than 71% body surface burns, said Peter Watson, the government’s chief medical officer, warning that some might not survive.

Burn units across the South Pacific nation of 4.5 million are full to capacity, he added.

Relatives of missing tour guide Tipene Maangi held onto hopes that the 23-year-old man had survived, unsure whether he was among those in hospital.

“We are all standing strong, standing together, holding the fort together, and like I said in prayer with faith… we are just staying strong for one another until we actually know for sure,” said his aunt Ronnie.

Police said an investigation into the deaths on White Island had been launched but clarified it was not a criminal investigation.

New Zealand’s geological hazards agency GeoNet raised the alert level for the volcano in November because of an increase in volcanic activity. The volcano’s last fatal eruption was in 1914, when it killed 12 sulphur miners.

Yet, daily tours bring more than 10,000 visitors to the privately owned island every year, marketed as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano”.

“I have to say that I’m very surprised to hear there were visitors there today, because scientists seem to have been well aware that White Island was entering a phase of heightened activity,” said Drexel University volcanologist Loÿc Vanderkluysen.

“I’ve been to White Island before, but I don’t think I would have been comfortable being there today.”

A crater rim camera owned and operated by GeoNet showed one group of people walking away from the rim inside the crater just a minute before the explosion.

“It’s now clear that there were two groups on the island – those who were able to be evacuated and those who were close to the eruption,” Ardern said at a morning news conference in Whakatane, a town on the mainland’s east coast, about 50 km (30 miles) from White Island.

INCREDIBLY BRAVE

Later, in parliament, she paid tribute to the pilots of four helicopters that landed on White Island in the aftermath of the eruption.

“In their immediate efforts to get people off the island, those pilots made an incredibly brave decision under extremely dangerous circumstances,” Ardern said.

Since then, rescuers have been unable to access the island, which is covered in gray ash. GNS Science, New Zealand’s geoscience agency, warned there was a 50/50 chance of another eruption in the coming 24 hours, as the volcano vent continued to emit “steam and mud jetting.”

The Buttle family have owned the island for over 80 years, and a spokesman said they were devastated by the tragic event.

“We wish to thank everyone involved in the rescue effort, including the first responders, medical personnel and the locals who helped evacuate people from the island,” Peter Buttle said. “Their efforts have been both courageous and extraordinary.”

Royal Caribbean confirmed several passengers on its 16-deck cruise liner, Ovation of the Seas, were on a day trip to the island but did not provide further information.

Janet Urey, 61, a nurse from Richmond, Virginia, said her son Matthew, 36, and his wife, Janet, 32, were cruise passengers injured in the eruption while on their honeymoon.

“The phone rang at midnight. Then I heard a voicemail come on. It was my son. He said, ‘Mom … this is not a joke. A volcano erupted while we were on the island. We’re at the hospital with severe burns.'”

Urey said she was frustrated by the lack of information from the cruise ship he was on and from authorities.

“I have not heard a word from the cruise people,” she said.

A New Zealand man, Geoff Hopkins, whose tour group was just leaving the island at the time of the eruption, said he helped pull critically injured survivors into a boat.

Hopkins, 50, who was given the tour as a birthday gift, said many of the survivors had run into the sea to escape the eruption.

“People were in shorts and T-shirts so there was a lot of exposed skin that was massively burnt,” he told the NZ Herald newspaper.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said three Australians were feared to be among the confirmed fatalities, with 13 among the injured.

A website managed by the New Zealand Red Cross listed 17 Australians as missing though some could be among those in hospital.

Malaysia’s high commission in New Zealand said one Malaysian was among the dead, while Britain’s high commissioner to New Zealand confirmed two British women were among the injured.

Russell Clark, an intensive care paramedic with a helicopter team, said the early scenes were overwhelming.

“Everything was just blanketed in ash,” he told Reuters. “It was quite an overwhelming feeling.”

‘Whakaari’, as it is known in the Maori language, is New Zealand’s most-active cone volcano, built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years, according to GeoNet.

(GRAPHIC – Volcanic Eruption in New Zealand – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEW%20ZEALAND-VOLCANO/0100B4PR2DX/nzl-volcano.jpg)

(GRAPHIC – Volcano map of New Zealand – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEW%20ZEALAND-VOLCANO/0100B4PY2EJ/New-Zealand-Volcano-Map.jpg)

(GRAPHIC – Volcanic alerts for White Island since 1995 – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEW%20ZEALAND-VOLCANO/0100B4Q22ES/New-Zealand-Volcano-Alerts.jpg)

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Whakatane and Praveen Menon in Wellington, additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Jane Wardell and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Gerry Doyle & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Canadian police descend on tiny Manitoba hamlet as teen murder suspects spotted

Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) continue their search for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, two teenage fugitives wanted in the murders of three people, near Gillam, Manitoba, Canada July 28, 2019. Manitoba RCMP/Handout via REUTERS

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian police descended on a tiny hamlet in northern Manitoba on Sunday after a reported sighting of two teenage fugitives wanted in the murders of three people, including American and Australian tourists.

The days-long manhunt for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, which has crossed half the country, shifted to the area of York Landing, Manitoba, about 3,000 km (1,865 miles) from the crime scenes in British Columbia.

“Multiple resources are being sent to York Landing, Manitoba, to investigate a tip that the two suspects are possibly in, or near, the community,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Twitter. ” … despite reports, there’s no-one in custody at this time.”

The pair were originally reported as missing on July 19 but were later described as suspects in the killing of American Chynna Deese, 24, and her boyfriend, Australian Lucas Fowler, 23. Police charged the fugitives last week with the second-degree murder of Leonard Dyck, 64, a Vancouver botany professor. ]

Police had concentrated their search in recent days in the harsh terrain in the Gillam, Manitoba, area, more than 1,000 km (620 miles) north of Winnipeg, deploying drones, dogs and military help before shifting focus to York Landing on Sunday.

An official there said there had been sightings of the pair around the community’s landfill.

Chief Leroy Constant of York Factory Cree Nation said heavy winds were limiting police helicopters and drones.

“We are urging everyone to remain indoors with windows and doors locked. Patrols of the community will be done on a 24-hour basis,” he said in a statement.

(Writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by Paul Tait)

Don’t take this North Korea guidebook with you, warns publisher

The North Korea Petit Fute touristic guide book is displayed during an interview with Reuters in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

By John Irish and Noemie Olive

PARIS (Reuters) – A French publisher has produced a rare guide to North Korea, highlighting its history, cultural wealth and beautiful landscapes but advising tourists not to take the politically sensitive book with them.

Tourism is one of the few remaining reliable sources of foreign income for North Korea after the U.N. imposed sanctions targeting 90 percent of its $3 billion annual exports including commodities, textiles and seafood.

Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Tensions over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles spiked on the Korean peninsula last year and there were fears of a U.S. military response to North Korea’s threat to develop a weapon capable of hitting the United States.

“There are a lot of people that are interested in this country be it for nuclear and military reasons, but also economically so … it’s important to provide information,” said Dominique Auzias, president of the Petit Fute, which publishes some 800 guides.

“As it’s a country that’s closed and forbidden everybody dreams of going there,” he said.

Some 400 French tourists visit the country each year with trips costing about 2,000 euros ($2,267).

The reclusive communist state has no official diplomatic relations with France.

Talks in June last year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provided a detente even if in recent weeks tensions have once again flared.

North Korean authorities would probably confiscate the printed edition given some of the material, Auzias said.

“You don’t go for adventure, but to discover,” he said.

The guide, which took three years to put together, touches little on where to stay or eat because accessing the country as a tourist can only be done through specific travel agents who determine what visitors see.

In some cases, however, they respond to requests and Auzias said the guide helps people decide what they would like to see.

It makes clear it is imperative to stick to the country’s strict rules or face dire consequences as American student Otto Warmbier did in 2016 when he was sentenced to 15 years of forced labor for trying to steal a propaganda poster in his hotel.

He was returned to the United States in a coma 17 months later, and died shortly after. A coroner said he died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

“The first time I went 10-12 years ago I was proud because I was one of the rare French citizens to get in … but my second moment of happiness was about three weeks later when I left because it was suffocating and mind-boggling,” Auzias said.

(Reporting by John Irish and Noemeie Olive; Editing by Bate Felix and Alexandra Hudson)

Bees besiege Times Square street, drawing swarm of tourists

A swarm of bees land on a hot dog cart in Times Square in New York City, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It was a case of hold the honey, double the mustard in Times Square at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Police shut part of 43rd Street near Seventh Avenue after a thick swarm of bees gathered atop a blue and yellow umbrella over a hotdog cart in an area of Manhattan already buzzing with swarms of pedestrians, tourists and traffic.

A police officer who keeps bees himself, arrived at the scene in Times Square, known as “The Crossroads of the World,” at 2:30 p.m. (EST), wearing a mesh-hooded beekeeper suit. He deployed a vacuum cleaner-like device to collect the bees unharmed, said New York Police Detective Sophia Mason.

People react to a swarm of bees in Times Square in New York City, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

People react to a swarm of bees in Times Square in New York City, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The scene drew crowds of tourists taking photographs.

“It took about 45 minutes to suck them up,” Mason said. “They are at an undisclosed location. They will rehive them.”

No one was injured in the incident, Mason said.

“The bees just wanted some hot dogs,” she added.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Chris Reese)

Rains pile misery on India’s flooded Kerala state as toll rises to 164

A man rescues a drowning man from a flooded area after the opening of Idamalayr, Cheruthoni and Mullaperiyar dam shutters following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Kochi, India August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

By Sivaram Venkitasubramanian and Gopakumar Warrier

KOCHI/BENGALURU, India (Reuters) – The worst floods in a century in the Indian state of Kerala have killed 164 people and forced more than 200,000 into relief camps, officials said on Friday, with more misery expected as heavy rain pushed water levels higher.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to visit the southwest state later on Friday and its chief minister said he was hoping the military could step up help for the rescue effort, which is already using dozens of helicopters and hundreds of boats.

“I spoke to the defense minister this morning and asked for more helicopters,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told a news conference in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, adding that he planned to send 11 more helicopters to the worst-hit places.

“In some areas, airlifting is the only option … thousands are still marooned,” said Vijayan.

The floods began nine days ago and Vijayan said 164 people had been killed – some in landslides – with about 223,000 people forced into 1,568 relief camps.

A Reuters witness on board a relief helicopter in Chengannur town in the south of the state said people stranded on roof tops were seen waving desperately at navy aircraft.

“The town looked like an island dotted with houses and cars submerged in muddy flood waters and downed coconut trees,” said the witness.

People wait for aid on the roof of their house at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

People wait for aid on the roof of their house at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Two navy helicopters circled as people on roofs of flooded homes waved clothing to call for help.

The helicopters dropped food and water in metal baskets and airlifted at least four people, including a three-year-old child, from roofs, the witness said.

Elsewhere, a man with a cast on his leg was seen lying on the roof of a church as he awaited rescue.

Anil Vasudevan, the head of the Kerala health disaster response wing, said his department had geared up to handle the needs of victims.

“We’ve deployed adequate doctors and staff and provided all essential medicines in the relief camps, where the evacuees will be housed,” he said.

But a big worry was what happens after the flood waters fall. People going home will be susceptible to water-borne diseases, he said.

“We are making elaborate arrangements to deal with that,” he said.

PLANES, TRAINS DISRUPTED

Kerala is a major destination for both domestic and foreign tourists.

The airport in its main commercial city of Kochi has been flooded it has suspended operations until Aug. 26 with flights being diverted to two other airports in the state. Rail and road traffic has also been disrupted in many places.

“Water levels continue to overflow on track and surpassing danger level of bridges at different places,” Southern Railway said in a statement, adding it had canceled more than a dozen trains passing through Kerala.

The office of the chief minister said heavy rain was falling in some places on Friday. More showers are expected over the weekend.

Modi said on Twitter that he would travel to Kerala “to take stock of the unfortunate situation”.

An aerial view shows partially submerged houses at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

An aerial view shows partially submerged houses at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Kerala has been hit with 37 percent more rainfall than normal since the beginning of this monsoon, the Meteorological Department said.

Some plantations have also been inundated. The state is a major producer of rubber, tea, coffee and spices such as black pepper and cardamom.

“It’s very scary. I can still see people on their roofs waiting to be rescued,” said George Valy, a rubber dealer in Kottayam town.

(Reporting by Sivaram Venkitasubramanian in Kochi and Gopakumar Warrier in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jose Devasia in Kochi and Swati Bhat and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Writing by Euan Rocha and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Robert Birsel)