Massive fire engulfs factory in Rouen, France

Robie de Guzman   •   September 26, 2019   •   279

A large fire broke out in the early hours of Thursday (September 26) at a French factory in the northern port city of Rouen, local authorities said.

Authorities added there were no reported victims at this stage.

The fire at the factory of Lubrizol – a company that makes specialty chemicals – had started around 0240 local time (0040 GMT).

Video shared with Reuters showed the emergency services arriving at scene of the blaze at the factory.

Other videos on social media showed thick plume of smoke seen from miles away from the site.

Around 130 firefighters were currently tackling the blaze at the site, and a security cordon had been put in place. (Reuters)

(Production: Nur-Azna Sanusi)

Eiffel Tower closed as France braces for major strikes

UNTV News   •   January 9, 2020

Paris – The Eiffel Tower will remain closed Thursday as France braces for a fourth consecutive day of major cross-sector strikes against pension reforms.

Teachers, health workers, lawyers and railway personnel are participating in a strike called by unions to demand the total withdrawal of a pensions reform bill which was announced in December.

Transport will continue to be affected by strike action with both the national railway network (SNCF) and the transport in the Paris region offering reduced services.

This will be the 36th day of strike action affecting the transport sector, the longest in history.

The SNCF expects traffic to be very disrupted with more than half of train services cut, as well as the Paris subway.

The French Civil Aviation Authority also warned of disruptions and delays and urged companies to cancel a third of their flights to or from Toulouse (southern France).

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower will be closed on Thursday, according to the company that manages the monument, as some of its workers have joined the strike.

From the first day of action on 5 December, when between 800,000 people (according to the Ministry of Interior) and 1.8 million workers (according to the unions) flooded the streets of France to demand the government to reverse a pension reform bill.

According to a survey published on Sunday by Le Journal du Dimanche, more than half of the population (55%) want the government to withdraw the reform.

However, rejection of the strikes has also grown, the effects of which can be seen in the rail and metropolitan transport sector of Paris.

Thursday’s industrial action is the first mobilization of the year and will serve as a test to verify the support behind the protests after strikes on 10 and 17 December failed to raise the same level of support as the first one.

Trade unions have called for “the withdrawal of the reform project and the opening of constructive negotiations to improve the current regime”.

But the clash over pension reforms has seen one of President Emmanuel Macron’s key policies to transform the labour market come under fire.

Macron has led on several labour reforms in an attempt to create a more flexible market reminiscent of Nordic models, but his move to streamline the complex pensions system under one points-based model has triggered the largest unrest of his presidency.

The largest union in the country, the reformist French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT), has opposed setting the retirement age of 64 but has backed the move to create a universal system to replace the current one which has 42 different pension plans in place.

The Government is still negotiating with unions until the reform goes to the Council of Ministers on 24 January.

So far, some concessions have been made such as an earlier retirement for professions deemed dangerous, a revaluation of teachers’ salaries, a delay in the implementation of the plan in the railway sector and for the dancers of the Paris Opera, which since 5 December has been forced to cancel more than 60 representations. EFE-EPA

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Embassy cautions Filipinos in Paris against massive strikes, street crimes

Marje Pelayo   •   January 7, 2020

The Philippine Embassy in Paris has issued an advisory to warn Filipinos visiting and living in France particularly in the capital city.

Tensions continue as angry transport workers launch massive protests against the government crippling major transportation across Paris.

Announcements of massive strikes on January 9 and 10 have reached the Embassy thus it advised the Filipino community there to be aware of the situation and prepare for alternative means to go to work as travel disruptions are again expected.

If possible, avoid the areas where the rallies are being held, according to the Embassy.

Also, Filipinos are urged to monitor updates on the transport strikes through the Embassy’s official Facebook page (#PhinFrance).

Meanwhile, Embassy officials also expressed concern over the growing number of Filipinos being victimized by burglars and thieves particularly tourists.

Paris ranked 14th among the countries in the world with moderate to high index of crimes in the past three years, according to the 2019 Crime Rate Index published by research website Numbeo.com.

This has prompted the Embassy to remind Filipinos travelling and living particularly in the capital city to be extra vigilant and alert at all times.

The Philippine Embassy in Paris can be reached through its 24/7 hotline numbers +33620592515 or through its official social media accounts #PHinFrance.

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Iraqis defy tear gas, upcoming curfew as protests stretch on

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

 Iraqi protesters react after police fired tear gas at them during a protest at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 28 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MURTAJA LATEEF

Thousands of people in Baghdad continued their protests at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Monday (October 28), defying a curfew scheduled to be imposed from midnight until 6am (2100GMT to 0300 GMT).

Protesters took to the streets for a fourth day, despite having endured bloody clashes over the weekend and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

At least 74 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26) as demonstrators clashed with security forces and militia groups in the second wave of this month’s protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.

More than 200 people have been killed in October so far.

Iraqi security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from the prime minister and joined anti-government protests.

A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday (October 27) that anyone disrupting work or school days would be severely punished.

Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shi’te heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. (Reuters)

READ: DFA cautions Filipinos against travel to Iraq

(Production: Haider Kadhim, Mohammed Al-Ramahi, Mohammed Katfan, Hannah Ellison)

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