Displaying items by tag: Europe

Minister for health Stephen Donnelly said that the government will continue to lift Covid-19 restrictions ‘as quickly as possible’. There would still be public health advice for situations where infection rates are higher. When asked if he thought that all restrictions on indoor capacity limits would be lifted before Christmas, he said, ‘Yes, I do. The road to freedom lies ahead, but things may still get worse before they get better. What we want to do is to provide real certainty for people. It’s been a brutal year and a half’, he added. The government is currently working on a roadmap on the lifting of all restrictions, which will be published next week.

Published in Europe
Thursday, 19 August 2021 21:38

France: new wildfires - thousands evacuated

Strong winds and hot weather are making it difficult to quell two fires in Aude and Vaucluse, causing the evacuation of 130 people. 300+ hectares have been burnt, in new breakouts injuring 132 firefighters. Forest fires covering 210 hectares have hit the south of France as a 7,000-hectare blaze near Saint-Tropez continues. People have died and others are missing in the blazes. On 17 August a fire restarted overnight in Beaumes-de-Venise, fanned by strong winds. Over 1,000 firefighters tackled a blaze in Var, where a man died in his house. A woman is reported missing after calling her family while surrounded by fire. Blazes have erupted in Bizanet and Narbonne, with 70-80kph wind gusts threatening more outbreaks.

Published in Europe

Andalusia in Spain attracts foreigners flocking to beautiful beaches, and migrants flocking to harvest fruit and vegetables. While holidaymakers stay at expensive apartments, hundreds of fruit-pickers live in poverty-stricken, plastic shantytowns. ‘People come and say they are going to save us,’ says Ayoub. ‘They take our picture, but nothing changes. Nothing is ever going to change.’ 600 immigrants live in hovels, dust alleys are strewn with garbage, a dried-up riverbed is the toilet, and electricity is stolen from overhead lines. Ayoub works in hot greenhouses sprawling for miles, unseen by tourists enjoying long lunches, blissfully unaware of the harsh reality behind their salads.

Published in Europe
Thursday, 19 August 2021 21:32

Malta: not tackling climate change

Organisations have hit out against the government for ‘cosmetic projects and PR stunts rather than tackling climate change. Policy-makers waste ‘precious time’ by repeatedly missing targets on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy production, and waste management that is damaging Malta’s quality of life. This will continue for future generations if activities continue such as private car over-dependency, over-construction that causes ‘urban heat island effect’, using unsustainable materials, and not addressing water scarcity and food security, while making no real commitment to halt biodiversity loss.

Published in Europe
Thursday, 12 August 2021 21:49

Bosnia: pray for revival

Over 50% of Bosnians are Muslim. Muslims visit Christian neighbours at Christmas, and vice versa during Ramadan. It is difficult to differentiate between Muslims and Orthodox Christian women as both wear headscarves. People’s faith is more noticeable during religious months. Pray for a revival of prayer in the local church, and that Christians will come together and lift honest cries to God. May prayer become a unifying factor among local churches. Pray against timidity keeping believers from sharing Jesus with their friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers. Pray that believers will seek opportunities to love and share with Bosnians, Serbs, Croats and others from the Balkans. Ask that every believer will be equipped to make disciples who make disciples, and that they will live by God’s Spirit.

Published in Europe
Thursday, 12 August 2021 21:39

Latvia: state of emergency at Belarus border

Latvia has declared a state of emergency at its Belarus border, authorising border guards, armed forces and police to use physical force to return migrants to the country from which they came. Latvia, like neighbouring Lithuania, has faced an influx of mostly Iraqi migrants in the past few months from Belarus. Their borders are also the EU's external border. The state of emergency will run until 10 November and will enable the armed forces and the state police to assist the border guards. Lithuania is also erecting a four-metre metal fence topped with razor wire on its Belarus border, saying it is impossible to protect their borders. Tensions have been strained between Belarus and European nations since a disputed election last year returned President Alexander Lukashenko to power despite mass protests against his regime.

Published in Europe

‘We’re waging a battle of the titans! - and the hardest is still to come,’ said the Greek deputy minister for civil protection. Wildfires in Athens suburbs mean that residents must shut windows against thick smoke containing harmful particles. Over 150 houses were destroyed by a fire that surrounded a monastery and twelve villages on the island of Evia, one of over 100 blazes in the country. The mayor of Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, pleaded for help as flames threatened the site. Three monks from St David Monastery refused to leave. ‘We’re suffocating due to the smoke’, said one monk, describing flames 100 to 130 feet high surrounding them. Police will force them to evacuate if their lives are in danger. Villagers gathered on a beach to be evacuated on boats. Firefighters, helicopters and water-bombing planes were fighting the blazes. Blazes have also broken out in Turkey, Italy, Israel, Spain, North Macedonia and Albania: see

Published in Europe
Thursday, 05 August 2021 21:46

Portugal: drug trafficking

A 79-year-old Spanish woman has been arrested in Portugal over suspicions of leading a drug ring. The 78-year-old woman, who was heading a smuggling group, was arrested in Vila Real, in northern Portugal, along with two other Spaniards, aged 26 and 60, as part of an operation carried out by Spanish and Portuguese police. They were bringing in cocaine through Portuguese ports using a legal company importing coral from the Dominican Republic. The woman was the head of the group as well as the manager and owner of the front company. The group was a wholesaler for other traffickers who then sold the cocaine on the black market in southern Spain.

Published in Europe
Friday, 30 July 2021 10:17

Germany: explosion at chemical site

Two people are dead, five are missing, 31 injured and five in intensive care after an explosion at a German chemical site. The blast in Leverkusen had been declared an ‘extreme threat’ after sending a large black cloud rising into the air. Emergency services took three hours to extinguish the fire at the Chempark site. Police asked nearby residents to remain in their homes and keep windows and doors shut. Playgrounds in nearby neighbourhoods were closed and residents told to rinse fruit and vegetables from their gardens before eating them. Chempark ‘s chief said, ‘Hopes of finding the missing alive are fading. Solvents were burned during the incident, and we do not know precisely what substances were released. We are examining this with authorities, taking samples.’ The explosion was at a rubbish incineration plant of the chemical park. The smoke cloud is moving toward the towns of Burscheid and Leichlingen.

Published in Europe
Friday, 30 July 2021 10:14

Greece: wildfire out of control

Several areas north of Athens were evacuated on 27 July as an out-of-control wildfire swept through a hillside forest threatening homes near Athens. Winds have dropped now but on 29 July the battle against wildfires continued throughout the night. 180 firefighters, eight ground units, 48 tenders, 2 helicopters and 2 aircraft are fighting the fire. Local municipalities have also deployed water tankers and construction machinery. On the first day of the blaze, six houses were burnt down and residents in eleven villages were told to evacuate their homes for precautionary reasons. At the time of writing four out of 13 regions are at ‘very high risk’ of fire according to the wildfire hazard map. 

Published in Europe