Gov’t of Australia warns its citizens against polio outbreak in PH

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2019   •   433

The Australian National flag is seen flaming on the paddock in Melbourne, Australia, 25 March 2010. EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL

MANILA, Philippines – The Australian government on Tuesday (September 24) issued a travel advisory to its citizens warning them against the health risks of polio virus.

Australians are also advised to make sure they get polio vaccine to keep protected from the disease.

“The Philippines Department of Health has reported a polio outbreak. Make sure you’re vaccinated against polio,” the Australian government said in its latest travel advisory posted on its official website, Smartraveller.

“We haven’t changed the level of our advice ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ in the Philippines. Higher levels apply in the southern parts of the country,” the advisory concluded.

Australia bushfires cover Sydney with dense blanket of smoke

Jeck Deocampo   •   December 6, 2019

New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Fire and Rescue NSW crews work to protect a property in Kulnura as the Three Mile fire approaches Mangrove Mountain, Australia, 6 December 2019. EFE-EPA/DAN HIMBRECHTS

SYDNEY, Australia – More than 100 fires are raging along Australia’s east coast, several of them on the outskirts of Sydney, which on Friday was covered in a thick layer of smoke that led to the cancellation of several sporting events planned over the weekend.

Many of the inhabitants of the Australian metropolis, the most populous city in the country, came out of their homes wearing masks to protect themselves from the pollution.

Users shared hundreds of photos showing different parts of the city with a sky tinged with intense orange smoke under #sydneysmoke.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull posted a photo on Instagram taken from an airplane showing Sydney covered with a haze of smoke and blamed the climate crisis for the ferocity of the fires raging in the country since early November.

“The reality of climate change – hotter and drier means more fires. We have to accelerate the move to zero-emission energy. It will mean a safer planet for our children and more affordable energy,” he said.

In the state of New South Wales, 46 fires are out of control, including six under the “watch and act” alert, which is issued when public safety is at risk, the state’s Rural Fire Service said.

RFS said at least 684 homes have been destroyed by fires that are spreading throughout the state and approaching large urban areas, including west Sydney.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned in a press conference of the harsh conditions firefighters will face during the fire season, which is not expected to end until March.

“Between now and February we can expect below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures for this time of year, which, unfortunately, just signals increased fire danger, increased fire activity, particularly across a terribly drought-stricken landscape,” he added.

Further north, dozen of hotspots affect the neighboring Queensland, where firefighters have ordered evacuations in several locations.

The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although the blazes are generally recorded in the austral summer (between the months of December to March).

In recent years, bushfires in Australia – a country that is this year battling a severe drought – have increased in intensity, with many experts linking it to the effects of climate change.

The worst fires in the Oceanic country in recent decades occurred in early February 2009 in the state of Victoria, leaving 173 people dead and 414 injured, as well burning an area of 4,500 sq km (1,737 sq miles). EFE-EPA

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Australia urged to avoid Great Barrier Reef’s possible ‘in danger’ status

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019

(FILE) Tropical fish swim along the edges of a coral reef off Great Keppel Island, Queensland, Australia, 25 November 2016. EPA/DAN PELED AUSTRALIA

Sydney, Australia – Environmental organizations on Friday urged the Australian government to prevent the United Nations cultural agency from including the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, on the World Heritage endangered list.

“Australia has a unique opportunity to show global leadership on reef protection,” Richard Lecks, World Wildlife Fund-Australia’s head of Oceans and Sustainable Development, said in a statement.

The appeal came two days before the deadline for the Australian government to submit a progress report of the plan it created in 2015 to protect the reef after United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) considered listing the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger.”

Next year, UNESCO’s world heritage committee will review the Great Barrier Reef, which has undergone two mass bleaching episodes of its corals in 2016 and 2017 due to warmer water temperatures, among other factors.

In August, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority downgraded its outlook for the corals’ health from “poor” to “very poor” and said the target set by the government’s Reef 2050 plan to improve water quality had not been achieved.

“The Australian government’s own experts have identified climate change as the leading threat to the Reef,” said Imogen Zethoven, the director of strategy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

The activists urged the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is an advocate for the coal industry, one of the main drivers of the country’s economy, to adopt several measures, including reducing emissions and pursuing a transition to renewable energy.

The 2,300-kilometer-long (1,430 miles) Great Barrier Reef, home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of mollusks, began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of water warming and increased acidity caused by more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. EFE-EPA

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Volunteer firefighter accused of starting several fires in Australia

Robie de Guzman   •   November 27, 2019

Sydney, Australia – A 19-year-old volunteer firefighter appeared before a court in Australia on Wednesday accused of lighting and contributing to the spread of several of the fires ravaging the eastern coast of the Oceanic country – which is suffering from one of the worst wildfire seasons in decades – instead of extinguishing them.

The police in the state of New South Wales accused Blake William Banner of starting seven bushfires in the Bega Valley, 421 kilometers (around 262 miles) south of Sydney.

The police said in a statement that the young man, who appeared before a court in Bega, was seen on Tuesday inside a van near the Bega river. The area was ablaze soon after his sighting.

The state fire department’s commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, said that the suspect had been suspended, and termed his alleged acts of arson as “the ultimate betrayal of our own members, and of the broader community.”

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen firefighters going above and beyond in difficult and dangerous conditions,” said Fitzsimmons, adding that their members would be “rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many.”

New South Wales, with some 130 active blazes, has been the state worst hit by the wave of bushfires devastating Australia’s east coast, a situation aggravated by one of the worst droughts in decades.

Since July 1, fires in this state have killed six people and charred some 1.3 million hectares of land, besides causing the deaths of more than 1,000 koalas and thousands of farm animals.

The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although the blazes are generally recorded in the austral summer (between the months of December to March). EFE-EPA

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