ASIA China (Security threat level – 3): On 23 November...
Puerto Rico (Security threat level – 2): At 0854 local time (1254 UTC) on 11 January 2020, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck approximately 15 mi (25 km) south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and about 15 km (60 mi) southwest of the capital San Juan. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the quake occurred at an estimated depth of nearly 10 km (5 mi). Moderate to strong shaking was felt across the island — particularly in Ponce — and as far north as Barceloneta and San Juan. Authorities have not reported on any injuries or casualties nor did they issue a tsunami warning. Nonetheless, the quake triggered at least one landslide near Peñuelas and caused damage to several structures in the impact area, including in Ponce, Guánica, Guayanilla and Yauco. The quake did not cause notable damage or disrupt normal activities in the capital city, nor at San Juan’s Luis Muñoz International Marín International Airport (TJSJ/SJU).
The 11 January quake was the second major aftershock to occur following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck near the same area on 7 January, killing one person and injuring at least nine others. Thus far, the quakes have destroyed more than 500 structures, while authorities have deemed hundreds more at risk of collapse since a period of seismic activity began on the island on 28 December 2019. Tens of thousands of people remain without power and more than 2,000 people are displaced from their homes as relief efforts are underway.
Philippines (Security threat level – 4): Intermittent disruptions occurred at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (RPLL/MNL) on 13 January 2020, due to an ash plume generated by Taal Volcano — located approximately 100 km (60 mi) south of Manila — on southern Luzon Island. On the previous day, airport authorities diverted several international flights to nearby airports, such as Clark International Airport (RPLC/CRK), while grounding all other departure and arrival flights. Despite the partial resumption of operations, travelers have been advised to coordinate with their respective airlines to determine if their particular flight has been affected. In addition, schools and businesses throughout Cavite province — located northwest of Taal Volcano — and parts of Metro Manila will remain closed on 14 January as a precaution.
On the afternoon of 12 January the Taal Volcano experienced a steam-driven eruption. Philippine officials raised the volcano’s alert status from Level 1 to Level 4, the second highest on a five-tier scale, indicating that a hazardous explosive eruption is expected within hours to days. In addition, officials advised nearby communities — including Agoncillo, Balete, Laurel and Talisay — to evacuate the area as a precautionary measure. The volcano has not yet exploded or released pyroclastic flow, which is a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter. Nonetheless, the steam eruption released a plume of smoke approximately 15 km (10 mi) into the air and conditions continue to deteriorate. The situation remains volatile and those in the vicinity of the volcano are advised to keep informed of local developments and announcements from authorities. Local and federal officials have deployed to the area to assist in evacuating residents and coordinating disaster relief efforts in the impact area.
France (Security threat level – 3): Trade unions entered the 40th consecutive day of their nationwide strikes against a proposed pension reform of 13 January 2020. National rail operator Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) announced that 80% of long-distance TGV trains are currently operating, while suburban Transilien trains and Transport express regional (TER) trains are both operating at 70% capacity. In Paris, all lines along the Paris Metro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) are operating at reduced levels throughout the day; however, all lines are expected to operate during rush hour. Additionally, air traffic controllers have called for further strikes from 1900 local time (1800 UTC) on 13 January though 0630 local time on 17 January. While minimum services have been guaranteed during the strike, travelers should contact their airlines to check the status of their flights.
On 11 January protests took place in multiple cities — including in Lyon, Nantes and Paris — during which violence erupted between protesters and police officers. In Paris, clashes broke out near Place de la République after tens of thousands of people gathered for an anti-pension reform march. Police officers fired several rounds of tear gas and used baton charges to disperse protesters, who were vandalizing businesses and lighting garbage cans on fire. Authorities arrested at least 19 people. Elsewhere, police officers fired tear gas in the cities of Lyon and Nantes to disperse “yellow vest” protesters, who had gathered for rallies in the city centers. There were no reports of significant injuries or arrests occurring at any of the demonstrations in Lyon and Nantes. Union leaders have called for further large-scale demonstrations for 14-16 January.
Italy (Security threat level – 3): Italian air traffic controllers employed by state-owned ENAV are expected to observe a nationwide strike over labor rights on 14 January 2020. The strike action is expected to last from 1300-1700 local time (1200-1600 UTC) and Eurocontrol has warned that assistance to overflights will not be provided during the strike period. Workers have also called for strikes from 1300-1700 local time at the Brindisi Area Control Center, Rome Area Control Center, Alghero-Fertilia Airport (LIEA/AHO), Bari Karol Wojtyla Airport (LIBD/BRI), Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (LIPE/BLQ), Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (LICC/CTA), Rome’s Ciampino-G. B. Pastine International Airport (LIRA/CIA), Lamezia Terme International Airport (LICA/SUF), Ronchi dei Legionari’s Trieste-Friuli Venezia Giulia Airport (LIPQ/TRS), Orio al Serio International Airport (LIME/BGY), Venice Marco Polo Airport (LIPZ/VCE) and Verona Villafranca Airport (LIPX/VRN). Additionally, a 24-hour strike is scheduled to begin at 0000 local time on 14 January at Marche Airport (LIPY/AOI) near Ancona, Perugia San Francesco d’Assisi-Umbria International Airport (LIRZ/PEG) and Pescara Abruzzo Airport (LIBP/PSR), but airport officials have guaranteed services from 0700-1000 local time and 1800-2100 local time. Alitalia Airlines has also canceled at least 140 flights in preparation for the strike. Travelers should contact their respective airlines to check the status of their flights.
Oman (Security threat level – 2): On 11 January 2020, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al Said was sworn into office, following the death of longstanding Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said on 10 January. Following his swearing-in ceremony, the newly crowned sultan announced that he would continue his predecessor’s international policy of non-interference and cooperation in international affairs, signaling continuity with former Sultan Qaboos’ administration.
Earlier on 10 January, in the immediate aftermath of Qaboos’ death, reports suggested that security forces had deployed throughout Muscat as a precaution in the event of potential unrest; however, no unrest occurred. Regardless of the relatively smooth transition, the domestic situation in Oman remains fragile while the political situation in the country transitions and normalizes. Qaboos was the longest-serving leader in the Middle East — serving for almost 50 years — and the founder of the modern Omani state.
“Event: The Embassy has received reports of roadblocks, protesters, and heavy police presence between the Bambeto and Hamdallaye and Gbessia (airport) traffic circles and portions of T1 and T2 roads. There are reports of pop up barricades constructed by youths in Kipe near Kapporo rails.
“U.S. government personnel have been instructed to avoid those areas.
“As always, there is the possibility that sporadic pop up protest activity may occur in Conakry at any given time. Typical locations for protest activity often include, but are not limited to, Rue le Prince from the Cosa intersection, to the Bambeto traffic circle, to the Hamdallaye traffic circle. When violence occurs during these protests, it often takes the form of blocked traffic, burned tires in the streets, and rocks and debris thrown at passing vehicles.”
“On 8 January Al Shabab released a public statement ‘Kenya Must Take Heed’; this states Al Shabab intent to attack tourists, including those on safari trips. It also references government institutions and military installations as potential attack targets.
“On 5 January 2020 Al Shabaab conducted an attack on a military airstrip in Lamu County, killing 3 US personnel. Travellers to Lamu Island and Manda Island should be particularly vigilant given the close proximity of these islands to the Lamu County mainland. Due to the threat of terrorism, if you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island you should do so by air to Lamu Airport (a civilian airport on Manda Island), and not by road. The only commercial option for air travel to or from Lamu Island and Manda Island is through Lamu Airport.”