US expands China health alert amid illness reports

US State Department issued an expanded health alert for all of China. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 June 2018
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US expands China health alert amid illness reports

  • US diplomats based in the country had experienced a mysterious malady that resembles a brain injury
  • The US government said that it had brought a group of people from that consulate back to the United States for further evaluation of their symptoms

BEIJING: The US State Department on Friday issued an expanded health alert for all of China amid reports some US diplomats based in the country had experienced a mysterious malady that resembles a brain injury and has already affected US personnel in Cuba.
A previous statement in May only mentioned the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou as the location for the health alert, though it was sent to US citizens throughout the country.
The State Department had confirmed earlier that one US employee assigned to the consulate in Guangzhou had “suffered a medical incident,” and that it had deployed a team to screen employees and family members there.
On Wednesday the US government said that it had brought a group of people from that consulate back to the United States for further evaluation of their symptoms, and reiterated that it was offering screening to anyone at the US embassy in Beijing or other consulates in China who requested it.
The United States also operates consulates in the mainland Chinese cities of Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.
The updated statement, sent by email, changed the location of the health alert to “countrywide” from Guangzhou.
It warned of “unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena,” and said symptoms of the ailment included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, as well as difficulty sleeping.
China has said that it thoroughly investigated the initial case reported by the United States and found no reasons or clues to explain it.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday that as far as she was aware the Chinese government had not had any formal communication with US officials on any new cases.
China’s state-run Global Times tabloid called the situation at the consulate “very strange.”
“Practically all Chinese people do not believe that this country’s official organizations would carry out such sonic attacks against US diplomats. This does not fit with China’s basic concept and principles of diplomacy, and is inconceivable,” the Global Times said in an editorial.
It also said people found it hard to believe that another foreign country could carry out such an attack in China, escape China’s monitoring, and leave no trace.
Last year, 24 US government employees and family members in Cuba displayed the symptoms, which were similar to those related to concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, according to the State Department.
The illnesses among the American diplomats stationed in Havana heightened tension between the old Cold War foes.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement on Tuesday saying the department established a task force last month “to direct a multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents.”


Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

In this file photo taken on July 7, 2014 children wait in line during a food distribution by the Word Food Programme (WFP) at a school in Bangui. (AFP)
Updated 37 min 43 sec ago
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Two thirds of African cities face ‘extreme climate risk’

  • The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations

PARIS: Rapid population growth and poor infrastructure have put two out of three cities in Africa at “extreme risk” of the threats posed by climate change, according to a new analysis released Wednesday.
With UN figures showing 86 of the world’s 100 fastest-growing cities are in Africa, experts warned nearly half of the continent’s GDP was exposed to the perils posed by our warming planet.
The findings were laid out in the 2018 Climate Vulnerability Index which calculates an overall risk figure from more than 50 separate data sources, including state-of-the-art climate models, socio-economic factors and demographic trends.
It found Bangui in the Central African Republic, Liberia’s capital Monrovia and the Congolese city of Mbuji-Mayi to be the three most at-risk cities.
Eight African cities featured in the index’s top 10.
“It’s really assessing the ability to withstand climate-related shocks and this is what makes African economies stand out as at risk compared to the rest of the world,” said Niall Smith, an environment analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, which compiled the index.
The British-based risk consultancy also singled out DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa as being of particular concern for investors.
Currently home to 13.2 million people, the city regularly experiences weather events such as cyclones and flooding, which will cause greater disruption as the population swells to 26.7 million by 2035.
“Urban population growth at this projected rate will, without doubt, intensify the city’s alarming risk profile,” they said.
“Africa’s megacities already face issues like lack of clean water, sanitation and shelter.”
The study found that as much as 47 percent of Africa’s GDP — an amount totalling close to $1.4 trillion (1.24 tn euros) — to be at “extreme risk” from climate change by 2023, significantly higher as a percentage than any other continent.
“By no means are we saying don’t invest in these locations,” Richard Hewston, principal climate change and environmental analyst at Verisk told AFP.
“But climate risk should be one of the elements you consider. There’s a huge opportunity for investors and we would say that you need to go in with your eyes open by doing due diligence beforehand.”

The data also showed that some of the most populous cities on Earth — including Delhi, Mumbai, Mexico City and Karachi — were all at “high-risk” of damage to their economies and populations due to climate change.
Scientists in May released the findings of a study suggesting that prompt global action to tackle climate change could save the world economy $20 tn by the end of the century.
But in many nations domestic political concerns still trump climate action.
Hewston gave New York as an example of a city with the technical know-how and political will to invest in climate defenses after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“But if you’re looking for other cities, say in Africa, or Dhaka or Mumbai, they also have competing aspects they look to fund so things like climate resilience don’t always top the list,” he said.
Verisk found that British cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast were the three cities best prepared to manage the impact of climate change.