Australia (Security threat level - 2): As of 10 December 2019, at least 83 wildfires continue to burn along Australia’s eastern coastline, leading to hazardous air quality conditions in the capital Sydney and the surrounding areas. The air quality index (AQI) has reached levels 12 times worse than the “hazardous” level in some parts of Sydney. Reports indicate that the haze which has engulfed the city caused fire alarms to activate, triggering building evacuations, and led to severe respiratory issues for residents. Daycare centers and schools have refrained from allowing their students outdoors. In addition, the smoke has constricted visibility, forcing the suspension of all ferry services and boat rides in the city. However, flight operations to and from Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport (YSSY/SYD) have not been affected thus far.
France (Security threat level - 3): As of 10 December 2019, French workers continue to observe their strike over proposed pension reforms for a sixth consecutive day. Services are significantly disrupted throughout the country as workers across most public service sectors, including aviation, bus, education and rail, continue to strike. National rail operator Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) and Paris public transport provider Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) continue to warn of significantly reduced services for buses, trams and trains, similar to the situation on 9 December. SNCF officials warned that approximately 85% of trains, including high speed TGV trains, were canceled throughout the day. Eurostar has also warned of significantly reduced services for travel between Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the U.K. through at least 12 December. The French aviation authority Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) asked airlines to reduce services by 20% for the day, which is expected to most significantly affect airports in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Paris and Toulouse. Air France has canceled 25% of its domestic flights and 10% of its short-haul flights. Transportation disruptions are expected to continue throughout the week, as RATP workers have extended their strike through 13 December.
Additionally, union leaders have organized demonstrations that will take place across the country on 10 December. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate in the demonstrations, but the turnout is expected to be low in comparison to the approximately 800,000 protesters who turned out on 5 December. The largest demonstration is occurring in Paris, where protesters have gathered at Place Denfert-Rochereau and plan to march through Avenue de Villars, Boulevard des Invalides, Boulevard du Montparnasse, Place Pablo Picasso and Boulevard Raspail. Demonstrations also took place in the cities of Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse. Authorities have implemented heightened security measures in Paris due to the increased risk of violence perpetrated by black bloc protesters, including closing down shops along protest routes until the evening hours, conducting precautionary checks on people and increasing police officer presence along protest routes. Travelers in France should avoid all areas where large gatherings are taking place due to the probability of violence at ongoing protests.
Iceland (Security threat level - 1): Severe winter weather is expected to cause significant disruptions across Iceland from 10-11 December 2019. The Icelandic Met Office issued a red alert -- the highest level of alert on a three-tier warning system -- in the northeastern parts of the country due to wind gusts of up to 115 kph (70 mph) and blizzard conditions. Government officials closed all roads into Reykjavik for a 24-hour period, including the connection to Keflavik International Airport (BIKF/KEF), beginning at 1200 local time/UTC on 10 December. Most domestic flights were canceled after 1000 local time and most international departures, including those operated by easyJet, Icelandair, Norwegian Air and Transavia, scheduled in the afternoon hours have also been canceled. Officials have warned travelers against undertaking ground travel during the storm.
Madagascar (Security threat level - 3): According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), as of 0900 UTC on 10 December 2019, Tropical Storm Belna was located in the Mozambique Channel, approximately 645 km (400 mi) northeast of Europa Island. At that time, the storm was moving southward at a speed of 17 kph (11 mph) with maximum sustained winds of 111 kph and gusts of up to 139 kph. Belna made landfall as a Category 2 storm on Madagascar’s northwestern coast near Soalala on 9 December. The storm caused significant damage across the Boeny region, displacing more than 1,400 local residents. At least nine people were killed and dozens more are missing as authorities continue rescue and relief efforts in the affected areas. Belna is forecast to turn over southwestern Madagascar, potentially affecting the Melaky and Menabe regions and bringing heavy rainfall before gradually dissipating by 11 December.
Nigeria (Security threat level - 5): On 9 December 2019, Nigerian police officers arrested two suspects in connection with a fatal armed robbery that occurred on the evening of 8 December in Lagos’ upscale Ikoyi area. The robbery targeted the residence of a managing director for Maersk, a Denmark-based international shipping company. The assailants are both reported to have been employed at the compound, a situation that facilitated their entry. The Cameroonian national employed by Maersk was stabbed and suffered non-life-threatening injuries, while his spouse -- a Hungarian national -- suffered fatal stabbing wounds. Police officers are investigating the incident.
Iraq (Security threat level - 5): On 9 December 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:
“Location: Baghdad and other major cities, with the exception of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
“Event: According to reports, demonstrations are expected to increase in size starting on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. U.S. citizens may see a heavy security presence. Additionally, the Prime Minister has declared a holiday on December 10 to commemorate the anniversary of the defeat of ISIS. International Zone checkpoints are expected to be closed and traffic disruptions likely.”
To read the full text of the warning, please click here
Analyst Comment: As of 1530 local time (1330 UTC) on 10 December 2019, anti-government protesters are gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, and Iraqi military forces are deployed around the perimeter of the square in order to protect demonstrators. Thus far, there have been no reports of violence, but travelers in Iraq should monitor the situation closely and avoid Tahrir Square, as the likelihood of violence at this location remains high.
Malawi (Security threat level - 3): On 10 December 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:
“Event: Demonstrations are planned in Lilongwe today, December 10, 2019. The demonstration will begin at Lilongwe Community Ground, via Mchesi, to the Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout then on to Kenyatta Drive to Presidential Way then Chilembwe Road and end at Capital Hill. If you are outside of Lilongwe, please exercise caution, since demonstrations may erupt in other cities across the country. The U.S. Embassy is scheduled to remain open for normal operations.
“The Human Rights Defenders Coalition has called for mass demonstrations to continue until the Malawi Electoral Commission Chair, Jane Ansah, resigns. Looting and vandalism have occurred during recent demonstrations throughout Malawi’s major cities.”