Mt Merapi erupts Urgent bid for Ebola vaccine in DR Congo
JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities ordered people living near a volcano to leave their homes yesterday and a major city closed its airport after the 5 500m peak sent steam and ash into the sky.
The Mount Merapi volcano on densely populated Java island is one of the most active in Indonesia. Eruptions in 2010 killed more than 350 people.
A disaster mitigation agency told residents living within a 5km radius of the mountain to move to shelters.
The airport in Yogyakarta, the nearest big city to the volcano, shut because of the ash, aviation agency Airnav said.
The alert status on Merapi had not been raised. – Reuters/ African News Agency (ANA) GENEVA: The World Health Organisation said it hoped to send an experimental Ebola vaccine to try out on an outbreak in a remote area of Congo to prevent it spreading, particularly to the provincial capital of 1 million people.
Congo reported the outbreak on Tuesday, with 32 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease since April 4, including 18 deaths.
A new suspected case was reported on Friday.
The WHO is moving quickly, having been criticised for bungling its response to a 2014-2016 outbreak that killed more than 11 300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“We are very concerned and planning for all scenarios,” said Peter Salama, the WHO’S deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response.
The outbreak area is 15 hours by motorbike from the closest town and has “dire” infrastructure, Salama said, so the WHO wants to send in 20-40 experts by helicopter this weekend and then clear an airstrip for more supplies.
“This is going to be tough and it’s going to be costly to stamp out this outbreak,” he said. The immediate risk was to the provincial capital, Mbandaka, with about 1 million inhabitants, but Congo’s nine neighbours have also been put on high alert in case the disease crossed a border, especially by river to the Republic of Congo or Central African Republic.
Normally a remote setting would reduce the chance of the disease spreading. But already there are three separate locations covering 60km or more, and some of the victims were health-care workers, potentially “an amplification factor” for outbreaks, Salama said.
The local culture, with traditional healers and communal burials where there was close contact with the deceased, could cause “super-spreading” of Ebola, which kills up to 90% of sufferers, he said.
Salama said he hoped to get approval within days to use a vaccine developed by Merck in 2016. Although highly effective, it is still experimental, has not been licensed, and must be kept at -60°C to -80°C.
It required intensive contact tracing, which Salama said could take a week or two.
Salama said the WHO hoped to have a mobile laboratory operational at the weekend, and both the WHO and the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres already had a team on the ground – Reuters/african News Agency (ANA) ANKARA: A member of Iran’s clerical elite said yesterday Europeans could not be trusted, after President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would remain in a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers even after the US pulled out.
US president Donald Trump declared on Tuesday that Washington was leaving the deal under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme, saying it was one-sided and he would reimpose sanctions on Iran lifted as part of the accord.
“America cannot do a damn thing. They have always been after the toppling of Iran’s regime and this exit is in line with that aim,” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in a televised address to worshippers at Tehran University.
State TV aired footage of demonstrators shouting slogans against the US and Israel at rallies in Tehran and other cities and towns nationwide after Friday prayers.
They chanted, “Mr Trump, you cannot do a damn thing” and “We fight. We die. We don’t surrender” in streets festooned with anti-us and anti-israeli banners and posters.
Both hardline conservatives and relative moderates in the Islamic Republic’s leadership condemned Trump’s hawkish approach to Iran, with frustration growing among ordinary Iranians at the prospect of economic hardships as the result of new sanctions.
“These European signatories (to the deal) also cannot be trusted… Iran’s enemies cannot be trusted,” Khatami said, as hardline protesters urged the government not to “repeat the same mistake” by re-entering negotiations.
Germany, France and Britain have reaffirmed their commitment to the deal but, in a bid to bring Washington back into it, want talks to be held with Rouhani’s government in a broader format covering Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its role in Middle Eastern conflicts, including in Syria and Yemen.
Rouhani and his ministers have sought to reassure Iranians that their oil-reliant economy can withstand a return to pressures sure to follow Trump’s rejection of the deal clinched under his predecessor, Barack Obama, after years of negotiations.
Iran’s economy has continued to struggle despite easing of sanctions from early 2016.
In December, Iranians staged nationwide demonstrations over poor living standards, calling on Rouhani and Shia clerical leaders to step down.
A Kremlin aide disclosed that Russian president Vladimir Putin will meet Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi on Monday to discuss the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Yuri Ushakov, the aide, added that Moscow was working closely with Tehran to prevent it from leaving the deal, seen as vital for global stability.
The pragmatist Rouhani championed the nuclear deal as the way to end Iran’s international isolation, so if it falls apart he could face a career-threatening backlash.
It could leave Iran’s hardliners, including the elite Revolutionary Guards, unchallenged at home and enable greater Iranian assertiveness abroad that inflames tensions in the Middle East.
Hardliners are placing their faith in Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on major matters of state. – Reuters/african News Agency (ANA)