At least 9 dead as heavy rain hits France, Italy, Greece

A man walks past a car moved by the force of flood water after storms in Kineta village, about 68 kilometers west of Athens. (AP Photo)
Updated 26 November 2019

At least 9 dead as heavy rain hits France, Italy, Greece

  • The administration for France’s Var region said four people died, including a couple in their 70s from the perfume capital of Grasse whose car got submerged
  • The worst flooding in Greece occurred at the seaside resort of Kineta, where mudslides came from a nearby forest fire-damaged hillside

PARIS: At least nine people have died after heavy rain slammed the Riviera coasts of France and Italy, trapping travelers in their cars, and caused flooding in parts of Greece.
Some roads remained closed Monday on the French Riviera, and rivers were still rising in Italy after the weekend flooding.
The administration for France’s Var region said four people died, including a couple in their 70s from the perfume capital of Grasse whose car got submerged. Another died after a French rescue boat sank in the Mediterranean and another was found dead in a car.
In Greece, the bodies of the two men believed to be tourists were recovered late Sunday and early Monday near the port of Antirio, 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of Athens after a sailboat they were using was caught in the severe weather.
Another two women died when storms hit the country’s eastern Aegean Sea islands late Monday, state ERT TV said. One died when her basement room on Rhodes flooded, while the other drowned on the island of Kos when she went for a swim in stormy seas.
And in northern Italy, a woman was found dead after the Bomida river swept away her car. Rescuers are also searching for possible victims after a landslide caused the collapse of a stretch of an elevated highway near the flooded city of Savona.
Firefighter commander Emanuele Gizzi told SKY TG24 Monday that “we still don’t have the certainty that there is absolutely no one” missing.
Drivers who witnessed the collapse were able to stop in time. There were no reports of witnesses seeing vehicles fall with the roadway, but the search continued as a precaution.
The collapse of the raised highway, just 15 months after a deadly bridge collapse in Genoa, has raised concerns anew about the safety of Italy’s highways, a large part of which are viaducts traversing mountainous terrain.
Meanwhile, the level of the Ticino River in the Lombard city of Pavia was continuing to rise, flooding streets by about 15 centimeters and forcing some residents to evacuate.
In France, rivers started receding slowly but many families who evacuated still couldn’t return home. Authorities worked to restore electricity and clear roads of fallen trees and mud.
In Greece, hundreds of homes were flooded following an overnight storm that affected areas west of Athens.
Torrential rain and mudslides caused the closure of the highway linking the Greek capital to the western port city of Patras.
The worst flooding occurred at the seaside resort of Kineta, where mudslides came from a nearby forest fire-damaged hillside. Several dozen people trapped in their cars and in flooded homes were rescued by the Fire Service.


Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

Updated 19 min 59 sec ago

Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

  • The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday
  • The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines

JAKARTA: Indonesia is stepping up efforts to find a COVID-19 vaccine by launching human trials of a potentially effective drug amid criticism of its lacklustre handling of the pandemic and concerns about its plummeting economy.

The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday and is being conducted by the Padjadjaran University School of Medicine at six locations in Bandung, West Java province, where the university and the state-owned pharma company are based.

“The first day of the trial went well, with 20 volunteers in each of the six locations injected with the potential vaccine. We have no complaints so far, and we are preparing the second injection batch on Aug 14,” Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma, told Arab News on Wednesday.

He added that the six-month trial would require the participation of 1,620 volunteers who were “in good health and had not tested positive” for the disease.

Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, is among the volunteers who have signed up for the trial.

The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines.

“The potential vaccine had gone through three trials; the pre-clinical, the clinical trial first phase and the second phase in China,” Bio Farma CEO Honesti Basyir said in a statement.

According to Basyir, Sinovac is one of the few institutions that have progressed to the third phase of the clinical trial from among hundreds of research institutions around the world that are developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Oxford Business Group’s COVID-10 Economic Impact Assessment, there are more than 150 different vaccines that international researchers are working on. However, only 26 have reached the human trial stage so far.

Once the trials are concluded, Bio Farma will register the vaccine with the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency so that it can begin mass-production of the drug.

“We have prepared a production facility for the COVID-19 vaccine with a maximum capacity of 100 million dosages, and by the end of December this year we will have an increased production capacity to produce an additional 150 million dosages,” Basyir said.

President Joko Widodo oversaw the first injections to the batch of volunteers in one of the six locations and also toured Bio Farma’s production facility. 

“We hope this clinical trial would conclude in six months and so we can start producing the vaccine in January and vaccinate our people soon,” Widodo said.

State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir, who is also the head of the COVID-19 mitigation and national economic recovery committee, said that Bio Farma was a well-established vaccine producer whose products were halal-compliant and used in 150 countries, including in the Middle East.

The collaboration with Sinovac is one of three vaccine-development projects that Indonesia is engaging in with foreign parties as it grapples with a surge in infections. At the same time, social restrictions and economic activities were eased. The other two projects are with South Korea’s Genexine and Norway’s Coalition for Epidemic, Preparedness and Innovation.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 130,718 infections with 1,942 new cases, 85,798 recoveries and 5,903 deaths, although experts suggest that the numbers could be higher due to the country’s low testing capacity.

Cases also surged in the capital Jakarta with workplaces emerging as the new infection clusters after thousands of employees returned to work recently.