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Safety Updates

South Africa Water Crisis

February 12, 2018

‘Day Zero’ sounds like something from a dooms day movie, but unfortunately it’s being used as the term for the day Cape Town and surrounding areas run out of water. Cape Town is projected to be the first major city to run out of water. “After three years of unprecedented drought, the city of Cape Town has less than 90 days’ worth of water in its reservoirs.” (TIME) 

‘Day Zero’ is tentatively anticipated to occur on May 11, 2018, forcing authorities to ask residents to drastically cut down on their daily use. The government of South Africa is hopeful ‘Day Zero’ won’t come to fruition, but have put a plan in place just in case. Taps will be turned off before the dams run completely dry and the city will set up 200 collection points where residents can receive six gallons of water daily. These collection points will be under army and police supervision in order to maintain order. (USA Today) 

Currently, the city has capped the household water usage to 13.2 gallons per person, per day (to put it into perspective, the average American uses 88 gallons of water per day). For most homes, this means showers under 2 minutes, no watering gardens or washing cars, refraining from flushing the toilet unless absolutely necessary, recycling bath water and limiting dishwasher/washing machine use. (TIME) Residents who use beyond the 23 gallons (per person, per day) will be fined or have devices installed on their property that limit water supply.  

While the implications for short-term travelers are currently minimal, the implementation of Day Zero protocols would result in considerable disruption. Water rationing is likely to impact the availability of viable accommodation options, and cause operational disruption as some businesses are forced to close. Critical services, including hospitals and the central business district, will continue to be supplied by the municipality. It’s unclear how long water rationing will last, but alternative water sources are expected to become operational between February and August. (International SOS)

South African authorities approved plans to build a desalination plant to turn salty sea water into potable water. In December, construction began on the V&A Waterfront. By the end of February, the plant will feed two million liters of water into municipal networks. (Brand South Africa) “A temporary desalination plant is due to start producing 2000 cubic meters of water a day (going up to 7000 in phase 2) starting in March.” (The South African) 

In other areas of the city, crews are drilling boreholes to extract water for hospitals in case ‘Day Zero’ is declared. The drilling for Groote Schuur Hospital took place in the Table Mountain National Park area and only 7 liters per second were yielded. In order to adequately water secure the facility, an additional yield of 2.8 liters per second is required. 

Rain on Friday, 10 February, had many people set out buckets and anything that collect the rainfall. Even though the rain fall was minimal, the welcomed rain was a small relief for the drought stricken city.  Most are looking forward to the area’s rainy season, which begins in May and typically brings an average of seven to nine rainy days per month until September.   

Travel Advice

  • Follow water restriction  guidelines from the authorities and your accommodation provider. 
  • Your accommodation may have stored drinking water for you – otherwise keep 1.32-2.65 gallons (five-ten liters) available per four people per day.  
  • Any water for drinking should be stored in clean, sealed containers, in a cool place, clearly labelled as drinking water.
  • Limit water usage as much as possible, especially during peak usage times.
  • Avoid any protests or demonstrations and leave the area at the first sign of a crowd gathering.


Worldwide Travel Alert: Trump Jerusalem Announcement

December 6, 2017, 6:00 am
On 06 December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also announced plans to relocate the US Embassy there, a move expected to inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace. The State Department has been ordered to begin preparations to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but it is reported the embassy will remain in Tel Aviv for the time being as it is estimated it will take years before a new embassy can open in Jerusalem. (CNN)

The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a notice on 05 December advising U.S. government employees and their families that they are not permitted to travel in Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice; American citizens are encouraged to follow these restrictions as well. Protests are likely to take place outside U.S. diplomatic installations or institutions, including the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem

The announcement is likely to generate demonstrations worldwide, primarily located in the Middle East and North Africa, including Israel, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. In the coming days, individuals should anticipate and avoid demonstrations/protests against the announcement. Demonstrations may take place near U.S. embassies or consulates, in public squares, in known flashpoint areas, and/or near places of worship – to include outside of mosques on 08 December following Friday prayers. Any such demonstrations have the potential to devolve into violence and should be avoided due to the credible risk of unrest.

Scheduled Demonstrations
Israel
There are widespread calls for demonstrations in Jerusalem, especially in and around Old City, beginning 6 December. A protest is scheduled for 7 December at 12.00 (local time) at Manara Square in Ramallah (West Bank). Additionally, ‘days of rage' protests are planned in the West Bank from 6-8 December. Protesters are likely to burn tires, block roads and throw projectiles such as Molotov cocktails or stones at Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) personnel, who are liable to respond with tear gas, rubber bullet or live ammunition. Key areas in the West Bank include Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, H2 area and Shuhada Street in Hebron and along Route 60, the main road connecting Jerusalem with Nablus and Hebron.

Middle East and North Africa
A demonstration is planned for 6 December at 20.30 (local time) outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul (Istanbul province, Turkey). Protests have also been called in Jordan, where issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have previously sparked unrest. Officials from several countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, have condemned this decision, warning that such a move could not only spark unrest across the region, but also impede efforts to reach a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Travel Advice

  • Defer all non-essential travel in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank, to include Bethlehem and Jericho, until at least 9 December.
  • Leave an area at the first sign that protesters and/or security force personnel are gathering and move to a secure location, such as your university, local office, or accommodation/residence, until the situation has stabilized. Do not go to embassies or consulates during periods of unrest, as those areas are typically at greater risk.
  • Reconfirm the status of routes and checkpoints before setting out. Make contingency plans for potential spontaneous closures and delays, including at key access routes or main checkpoints.
  • Anticipate a heightened security presence and follow all directives issued by the authorities.
  • Register with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), or country-equivalent if not a U.S. citizen, and enroll in email alerts from International SOS.
  • Keep phones charged and with you, and be prepared to respond to an emergency communication from the institution. Keep family, friends, and loved ones updated with how you are doing.
  • Call International SOS for security advice, medical referrals, or other emergency assistance anytime 24/7 at +1-215-942-8059 (collect calls accepted).


December Festive Season (Western Europe)
November 27, 2017, 6:00 am
Individuals traveling in Western Europe from 27 November 2017 to 02 January 2018 should expect heightened security, particularly at large public gatherings. It is important to exercise heightened vigilance due to continued threats by extremist groups. Transport hubs, crowded entertainment venues, including shopping malls and Christmas markets, and religious sites can be "attractive targets" to individuals or groups wanting to cause panic and harm. Several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain have announced reinforced security measures in public places through the end of the year.

The U.S. Department of State and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office have issued travel alerts and warnings for the heightened risk of attacks during the Christmas and New Year period, as evidenced by a fatal truck-ramming attack in December 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Pro-Islamic State media groups have called for attacks during this year's holiday celebrations, specifically threatening Vatican City, where patrols have been increased.

Specific security measures include the construction of concrete blocks or traffic bollards (disguised as festive decorations) at the entrance and exit of Christmas markets, increased armed and plain-clothes police patrols and random stop-and-search tactics. There is also potential for an increase in security operations and associated arrests in the run up to and during festive season related to the security forces' continued efforts to mitigate this threat. While the security presence will be visible, it is important to remember that these measures are put into place to help protect and keep people safe while they partake in the festivities of the season.

Travel Advice

Maintain high levels of vigilance and, when possible, minimize time spent in the vicinity of potential “attractive targets” such as transport hubs, religious sites and crowded entertainment venues, including shopping centers and Christmas markets.
Report any suspicious activity or behavior to the local authorities immediately.
Expect heightened security across major urban centers during the festive season. Follow directives issued by the authorities at all times.
Maintain flexible itineraries as security operations or alerts may cause short-notice disruption in transport networks. Monitor local media and International SOS alerts for information on short-term disruption and confirm your itinerary with your transportation provider (airlines, trains, etc.).
Monitor the U.S. Embassy or Consulate alerts for your destination country/city.
Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times. Respond to any communication from the university and notify loved ones of your wellbeing.
Avoid all protests and demonstrations. Leave the area quickly and calmly if a crowd begins to form.As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at +1-215-942-8478




New airline security measures for flights bound for the U.S.

October 25, 2017, 7:00 am

Beginning Thursday, October 26, 2017, new security measures will be put in place for an U.S. bound flights. Incoming flights will have to comply with government-imposed security measures, which has the potential to cause delays for passengers. These new security measures can include short interviews of passengers at check-in or at the gate.

These new measures are said to affect 325,000 airline passengers on 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the U.S. (on 180 different airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries). (Reuters) When the electronics ban was ended in July, the current administration said new security measures for domestic flights would begin being rolled out at airports across the country; this includes removing electronics larger than a cell phone from carry-on items. Certain security measures are to be imposed on a case by case basis if airlines and airports do not increase security.

Lufthansa’s Swiss airline is asking for passengers to check in at least 90 minutes before departure. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is expected to suspend the in-town check-in and self bag-drop services for passengers on direct flights to the U.S. Singapore Airlines Ltd will include inspections of personal electronics as well as security questioning during check-in and boarding. (Reuters)

For more information:

Reuters
The Points Guy
USA Today

Travel Advice

Arrive at the airport early. The standard for international flights is two hours, but it advised to check with your airline as some are asking for passengers to arrive three hours before departure.
Verify with your airlines the procedures for check-in and security clearances.
Be prepared for lines and extended passenger processing times.


China’s Communist Party Congress and Internet Censorship


October 13, 2017, 7:00 am - China’s top officials with gather in Beijing 18 – 31 October for the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  New members of the country’s most important decision-making body—the Politburo Standing Committee—will be announced, including a possible candidate to replace party leader Xi Jinping in 2022 (At the last gathering in November 2012, Xi Jinping established himself as China’s leader).  

Prior the party congress, security agents have started one of the most severe crackdowns in decades, which has a number of activists leaving Beijing for the duration of the summit, and moderate activists have been told not to give interviews to foreign journalists. (The Guardian). During China’s National Party Congress, censorship is typically heightened.

Internet Censorship

In a directive issued summer 2017, the state-controlled association that polices China’s digital media sector set out 68 categories of material that should be censored. The new restrictions — which expanded and updated a set of prohibitions issued five years ago — reflect an ambitious effort by President Xi Jinping’s government to impose discipline and rein in the web.  (NY Times) 

On September 7, the Cyber Administration of China published a new set of regulations for “internet group information service management” that went into effect on October 8. The rules emphasize the responsibility of managers and service providers to enforce official content restrictions and report violators to “the relevant authorities.”  With these restrictions, there is the potential for large numbers of ordinary internet users and website owners to face targeted censorship, arrest, and criminal prosecution that sets this year’s preparations apart from past congresses. The legal, technological, and administrative tools at the CCP’s disposal in 2017 are significantly more powerful than in 2012, the year of the last leadership rotation. These tools will survive long after the event concludes. (FreedomHouse)

Travelers who use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and/or Gmail will need to seek alternative ways of communicating while in China. In late September 2017, users in mainland China reported disruptions in the popular communication app, WhatsApp. Other websites and social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other foreign media have been blocked for a number of years in China. The WhatsApp disruptions and subsequent blockage is believed to be pre-emptive ahead of the party congress. (South China Morning Post)

Also ahead of the CCP, Airbnb has removed listings in Beijing due to “external circumstances” throughout the month of October. Other short-term rentals via local services (i.e. Xiaozhu.com and Tujia.com) are unavailable during the same time period. (Straits Times)

Travel Advice
  • Allow time for important journeys around central Beijing, particularly around the Great Hall of the People.
  • While copies of residence permits and the identification and visa page of passports should be accepted in most cases, carrying original personal identification papers (always accepted) will expedite passage through security checkpoints. A card in Chinese characters, not Romanized form, is helpful.
  • Members flying to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) should contact the airport directly or consult its website to confirm schedules before setting out due to potential for delays during the party congress.
  • Skype currently works. WeChat will not be restricted, but it is forbidden to type sensitive words.
  • Avoid sensitive topics of discussion, including human rights, democratization, Tibet, Taiwan, minority rights and religious freedom. Avoid any protests as a standard precaution. Do not take photographs of demonstrators or officials.

Cuba Travel Warning


The Department of State warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba.  Over the past several months, numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks. These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks. Affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.The Governments of the United States and Cuba have not yet identified the responsible party, but the Government of Cuba is responsible for taking all appropriate steps to prevent attacks on our diplomatic personnel and U.S. citizens in Cuba. Because our personnel's safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba. Attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens. On September 29, the Department ordered the departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees and their family members to protect the safety of our personnel.

Due to the drawdown in staff, the U.S. Embassy in Havana has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens. The Embassy will provide only emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of emergency assistance should contact the Embassy by telephone at +(53)(7) 839-4100 or the Department of State at 1-202-501-4444. U.S. citizens should not attempt to go to the U.S. Embassy as it suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Irma.

Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their travel agency and hotel staff.

For further information:

https://cu.usembassy.gov/security-message-u-s-citizens-hotel-restrictions-havana/

Visit the Embassy Havana website for the latest messages to U.S. citizens and other information related to Embassy operations.   

See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Cuba.

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest security updates and make it easier for the nearest U.S. Embassy to locate you in an emergency.   

Follow the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Twitter @USEmbCuba and Facebook and the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.




Mexico Earthquakes

September 20, 2017

In the past two weeks Mexico has experienced two large earthquakes. Late Thursday, 07 September 2017, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the coast of Chiapas. The earthquake caused more than 90 deaths and severe damage to buildings (homes, business, hospitals, etc.) within many areas. (New York Times)

On Tuesday, 19 September 2017, Mexico City was remembering the 1985 8.0M earthquake that tragically killed over 5,000 people. Many buildings throughout the city conducted earthquake drills and were preparing people for what to do in the event of an earthquake.

At approximately 13.15 (local time) a shallow, magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck with the epicenter in the state of Puebla near the town of Raboso (approximately 75 miles southeast of Mexico City). Sadly, early reports indicate over 217 people have been killed, with many more injured. Structural damage in Mexico City and other affected areas include collapsed buildings, damage to gas, water and electric infrastructure, and disruption to roads. Initially the Benito Juarez International airport (MEX) serving, Mexico City, suspended all flights, diverting many travelers to other airports within Mexico. The airport resumed operations roughly 16 hours afterwards. 

News Sources
BBC
CNN
New York Times

Current Travel Advice
  • Aftershocks of varying magnitudes could pose a risk to life and property and cause further damage to already weakened structures; do not re-enter or access damaged structures.
  • Expect damage and disruption in earthquake-affected areas; follow all official directives.
  • Localized travel disruption is possible. Liaise with local contacts and reconfirm status of routes before setting out.
Prior planning in earthquake-prone areas will go a long way to mitigate risks. The key is to stay informed and have a readiness plan in mind.

Earthquake Safety Tips:
  • If you are planning a trip to an area known to have major earthquakes, have an earthquake readiness plan.
  • Locate a place in each room of the house that you can go to in case of an earthquake. It should be a spot where nothing is likely to fall on you.
  • Pay attention to signs at your universities or places of work that indicate what to do in the event of an earthquake.
  • Consider keeping a supply of canned food, an up-to-date first aid kit, 3 gallons (11.4 liters) of water per person, dust masks and goggles, and a working battery-operated radio and flashlights.
  • Have emergency supplies in stock.
  • Know how to turn off your gas and water mains (if applicable).
If Shaking Begins:
  • Drop down; take cover under a desk or table and hold on.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and it's safe to exit.
  • Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you; including mirrors and pictures hanging on walls.
  • Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, the fire alarms and sprinklers can go off during a quake.
  • If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
  • If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place. Stay in the car until the shaking stops.
After the Earthquake:
  • Check for injuries; attend to injuries if needed. Depending on the extent of your injuries, call local emergency services or International SOS.
  • Check for damage. If your building is badly damaged you should leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional. Check with local authorities for a safe shelter.
  • If you smell or hear a gas leak, alert individuals around you and get outside. Report the leak to the fire department/emergency services personnel. Do not use any electrical appliances because a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
  • If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation, you should vacate the area and call local authorities immediately.
  • Monitor emails as UT Austin tracks natural disasters and will reach out to those in affected regions. Respond as soon as possible if required. Communicate with those who know you are traveling; communication is key in an emergency situation.
  • Contact your loved ones to let them know you are ok.

South Korea, Japan, China, South Pacific, and the Travel Ban to North Korea
September 2, 2017, 7:00 am

As you are likely aware, North Korea’s state-run news agency on 9 August said that the military was examining plans to strike areas around Guam (US) with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles. The threat was allegedly made in reaction to maneuvers on 8 August by US B-1B bombers and Japanese and South Korean aircraft over the Korean peninsula; the bombers flew from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The North Korean threat also coincided with a statement from US president Donald Trump threatening that North Korea would ‘face fire and fury like the world has never seen’. While the developments portend escalating tensions, travel to South Korea and Guam can continue. Members should continue to defer travel to North Korea.

On 29 August, North Korea launched a ballistic missile from near the capital of Pyongyang. The missile flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the Pacific. Air raid warnings were sounded in northern Japan and people were asked to seek shelter. Japan did not intercept the missile and the government has stated that it assessed that the missile was not a threat to Japanese territory.

South Korea
The significant impact of any military confrontation means that individuals should maintain escalation plans. Many locations within South Korea have fallout shelters and other places that are safer in the event of a military escalation.
  • Download the AFN 360 app that is available for smart phones. All AFN stations in Korea can be listened to real-time via smartphone or on a computer with internet connection. During any crises or contingency, listeners will be able to get up to the minutes information.
  • From your computer, access, www.afnpacific.net, click on the AFN 360 link, and choose a desired stream from the menu. 
  • On a mobile device, download the AFN Pacific Mobile App for iPhone or Android devices. For Apple products, go to the app store and search for AFN Pacific; for Android, go to Google Play and search for AFN Pacific. 
  • Download the ROK Ministry of Public Safety and Security "Emergency Ready" app for smartphones and tablets. The app is free and allows users to make emergency 119 calls quickly, locate the nearest emergency shelters, etc. 
For more information, please see the U.S. Embassy Seoul.

Japan and US territories in the region, including Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (US)
The security environment in Japan, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands is linked to tensions on the Korean peninsula.
  • Japan's National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has an Android and iPhone app called "Safety Tips" that sends disaster alerts in multiple languages. For more information visit the JNTO website. 
  • If you have a smartphone with a contract to a local Japanese mobile provider, you may already be able to  receive safety alerts as a text message. Check with your local provider, as this typically requires a unique email address associated with your mobile account. (U.S. Embassy Tokyo) 
Guam Homeland Security, Office of Civil Defense created a fact sheet in preparation for an imminent missile threat. (Please note, while threats have been made, it is unknown at this time if the threat is imminent). Some tips from the fact sheet include:
  • Build an emergency supply kit to have on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • Make a list of potential concrete shelters near the home, workplace, or school.
  • Listen for official information and follow instructions provided by emergency response personnel.
  • Stay where you are, even if separated from family or friends. Inside is the safest place for all people in the impacted area.
  • Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours, unless otherwise told by authorities.
Please see the Guam Homeland Security website for the complete Fact Sheet: In Case of Emergency. The link is not accessible on the Google Chrome web browser. 

China
China has increased security along its border with North Korea. The military carried out live-fire drills in March, April, June and July and has allegedly been reinforcing defensive infrastructure along its border with North Korea. However, such actions are confined to remote areas immediately along the frontier, where access for foreigners is already limited.

Fallout Shelters 
South Korea has nearly 19,000 fallout shelters throughout the country, including many for public use. According to authorities, 3,300 of those shelters are in Seoul; this is thought to accommodate those living in the city. The shelters were built during the Korean War and do not protect from nuclear or biological weapons, but can be effective to protect people from bombs and missiles. In South Korea, most are in subway stations, parking garages, or basements. These are marked with specific signs. 

In Tokyo, there are an unknown number of fallout shelters from World War II, but  according to Japanese officials, they are not open to the public and there is not a plan to restore the shelters for public use. 

U.S. Travel Ban to North Korea
The US government on 2 August announced plans to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea from 1 September 2017. The ban is likely to be in effect for a year. While journalists and aid workers are exempt from the ban, all other citizens are advised to leave the country before 1 September. The ban was imposed for safety reasons amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea.

Travel Advice
  • Defer all travel to North Korea; the government has previously restricted the mobility of foreigners in the country (including detaining individual travelers) during periods of heightened diplomatic tensions. There are also extremely limited legal and diplomatic avenues of recourse for foreigners and their national government in the event of any dispute or detention by the authorities. 
  • Monitor news and other alerts (from credible sources) to remain apprised of related developments.
  • If the situation escalates, and you are planning travel to one of these countries, research the closest shelter in the vicinity of you accommodations. Ask your host institution for more information on where to find a shelter.


Page quick link: http://studyabroad.utsa.edu/?go=SafetyUpdates