Travel News

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Third time lucky?

Although Hurricane Frances eventually weakened into a tropical storm, the travel industry in Florida has suffered tremendously due to closed hotels, cancelled flights and evacuated theme parks. It is predicted that the hurricane will cost US airlines 35 to 40 million dollars and is thought to have hit American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways hardest. However, Marriott International, which had 23 hotels in its chain closed during the weekend, said that despite the Florida closures, hotels as far away as Alabama and Georgia were very busy.

Now the Sunshine State is bracing itself for more trouble with a third hurricane seemingly on its way. Travelling at 260 kilometres per hour, Hurricane Ivan has already blasted its way through the Caribbean islands and Cuba and, on the day we went to press, was due to hit Florida, New Orleans and Louisiana. Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, told residents of the hurricane-weary state to take the necessary precautions, prepare for the impact and listen to authorities as evacuation orders go into effect. Bush ended his speech with a warning: “This is a Category Five storm. Trust me, it is a powerful, powerful force of nature that you shouldn’t be messing with.” Only three Category Five hurricanes have hit the United States since 1900. Most recent was Hurricane Andrew, which pounded the South Florida coast in 1992, killing 23 people and causing about 26 billion dollars worth of damage.

EasyJet success

According to easyJet’s spokesperson, Filipa João, the low-cost airline transported around two million passengers in August, a rise of 24 per cent compared to August last year. “It has been estimated that the airline occupancy rate is 88.6 per cent throughout the year, a 19 per cent increase in passengers compared to last year. August was a good month for easyJet, with load factors up marginally, despite the late UK bank holiday pushing demand for return journeys into September. Yet again, easyJet carried more passengers in Europe than British Airways during the month,” said easyJet Chief Executive, Ray Webster. EasyJet currently operates in 52 European airports and flies an estimated 24 million passengers a year. The airline currently flies from Faro to Bristol, East Midlands, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick.

New warnings

Nepal – A curfew has been in place since September 1 in response to Nepalese hostages being killed by Islamic militants in Iraq. Although the situation has calmed, travellers are advised to check with government travel advisers before going to Kathmandu.

Russia –The country has been on high alert since the crashes of two passenger jets in late August, the suicide bomber in Moscow also in late August and the hostage taking in a school in Beslan at the beginning of this month. Travellers are warned to be aware of the situation and are strongly advised against travel in Chechnya, Dagestan and neighbouring Ingushetia. Military clashes, kidnapping of aid workers and foreigners, violent crimes and muggings are prevalent.

Bangladesh – The opposition Awami League (AL) has called a series of protest rallies in response to grenade attacks at an AL rally on August 21. The protests will culminate in a mass rally in Dhaka on September 29. Travellers should remain aware of the situation and avoid protests and demonstrations. In addition, it is currently monsoon season in Bangladesh and flooding around the country is causing chaos. Travel delays can be expected in some areas. Check with government travel advisers before departure.

China – It has been reported that at least 161 people have been killed, 8,900 injured, over 3,000 people left homeless and dozens missing in south-western China, due to recent torrential rains. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, an alert was ordered and navigation halted as flood crests passed through the Three Gorges Dam along the flood-swollen Yangtze River. Travellers are advised to avoid the area.

Ongoing warnings

All travellers are advised to avoid the following countries until further notice.

Afghanistan • Algeria •Angola •Burundi •Central African Republic •Colombia •Cote d’Ivoire •Democratic Republic of Congo •Haiti •Iraq •Israel & the Palestinian Territories •Liberia •Myanmar •Nepal • Republic of Congo • Serbia & Montenegro • Sierra Leone • Somalia • Sudan.

Disease outbreaks

Hepatitis E – From May 22 until August 27, there was a total of 3,753 cases and 55 deaths of Hepatitis E registered in Sudan.

Avian influenza – According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there has been a fatal case of influenza A H5 infection in Vietnam. The victim is thought to have been a child. According to WHO, a total of 39 human cases have been reported in Vietnam and Thailand, and, of these, 28 have been fatal.

Rabies – Health authorities in France have notified WHO of a recent case of rabies in a dog with multiple opportunities to transmit the disease to humans and other animals. WHO is issuing this alert to assist French authorities in tracing persons and their animals known or thought to have been in contact with the infected dog during the period when virus transmission is possible.