What a state of affairs. The last week of 2018 featured Italian flair reaching Sydney, one Dad’s loving micromanagement and many tourists not making it back from their holiday.
Hello and welcome to the final Current Affairs Wrap for 2018. We’ve had a slew of tragedies for tourists around the world, a wonky building back home and some Christmas feels from the US.
Sadly, it’s been a tragic week for tourists around the world.
In Iceland, a jeep carrying seven British tourists was travelling across a high bridge before it lost control, slammed through the guard rails and plunged approximately nine metres on to a rocky river bank. The crash has resulted in the deaths of three of the passengers, including one child, and critical injuries to the remainder of the passengers.
Local police have told the media that the reason for the driver losing control is unknown at this stage however did note that temperatures were around freezing at the time of the accident. The bridge over Núpsvötn is the second-longest bridge in Iceland and has reportedly been the scene of a number of accidents in recent times. Local media have indicated that it’s expected to be replaced soon with a much shorter bridge in the hope of increasing safety. This year has seen eighteen people die in traffic accidents in Iceland, with half of them being foreign nationals. Last year saw the first year on record where the number of foreigner deaths in traffic accidents was larger than the number of locals who lost their lives.
To Egypt where four people have been killed when their tour bus passed an improvised explosive device as it detonated. Three of the dead are reportedly Vietnamese tourists, and the fourth a local Egyptian guide. Eleven other passengers on the bus were injured, nine of which are also believed to be Vietnamese tourists as well as the Egyptian driver of the bus.
The explosion occurred less than four kilometres from Egypt’s biggest tourist attraction, the Giza pyramids – the only surviving structure of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Egyptian interior ministry have told the media that the improvised device was hidden near a wall on Marioutiya Street, where the bus passed it in the early evening. Whilst no persons or groups have claimed responsibility as yet, it’s believed that extremists linked to Islamic State are most likely responsible.
The attack ends an almost two year period of relative quiet with no attacks against foreigners occurring during that time. Egypt’s tourist industry had been showing signs of recovery following the sharp downturn in visitors after the 2011 political uprising in the African nation.
Also on The Big Smoke
A little closer to home, two unrelated men from Perth have tragically lost their lives during family holidays to Bali this week.
Chris Taylor, on holiday to the Indonesian tourist island with his partner Ebony and their two sons, suddenly died on Thursday. A friend, Beth Parker, announced the news on Facebook and pointed friends and family to a GoFundMe page to help with repatriation costs as “Unfortunately their travel insurance won’t adequately cover accidental death or repatriation”.
Neither friends, family or authorities have released any further information on the cause of death.
Another Perth Man, 69-year-old Ashok Joshi, was swimming at a beach in Seminyak with his grandchildren just hours after arriving for a family holiday in Bali. He was caught in a strong current and dragged out to sea, and despite lifeguards reaching him and pulling him back to shore, couldn’t be saved.
Neil Prakash, the Melbourne-born man famous for becoming a recruiter for Islamic State has been stripped of his Australian citizenship by Peter Dutton and the Department of Home Affairs. Prakesh became the twelfth dual national to have their Australian citizenship revoked over associations with terrorist organisations.
Under section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act of 2007, those with Australian citizenship can be stripped of it if they hold dual citizenship with another nation and “act contrary to their allegiance to Australia”. Prakesh holds Fijian citizenship due to his father being born in Fiji which reportedly qualified him.
Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, told the media that his first priority “is and always will be the safety and security of all Australians… This government is determined to deal with foreign terrorist fighters as far from our shores as possible. Islamic State is opposed to Australia, our interests, values, democratic beliefs, rights and liberties.”
Prakash is currently in a Turkish jail facing a sentence of up to fifteen years over terrorism-related activities. The Australian Government had been seeking to extradite him but was rejected by a Turkish court earlier this year, though an appeal is pending. Whether the Australian Government will continue to push for extradition remains to be seen however it has been confirmed that he is no longer eligible for consular assistance as a result of having his citizenship revoked. His children, though, still have access to consular assistance and have the right to return to Australia as confirmed by Dutton: “If these children seek to return to Australia, authorities will carefully manage their return as they would with any children exposed to the terrible effects of violent extremism.”
What…like those who have been on Nauru for years?
Residents of Sydney’s newly-opened Opal Tower have had a less than Merry Christmas after being evacuated from their apartments on Christmas Eve after the 34-storey building moved “one millimetre to two millimetres”.
Residents reported hearing cracking sounds throughout the tower before hearing a “big bang” like something “snapped” inside the building. Roughly three thousand people were evacuated from the building with police having to break through some doors which had jammed as a result of the movement. An evacuation centre was set up in central Sydney at The Royal Hall of Industries for the residents to spend Christmas Eve.
Also on The Big Smoke
Most residents returned to the building in the following days, save 51 apartments which were deemed as unsafe. Emergency authorities assured the remaining residents and the public that the building was at no risk of collapse. A large crack was found on the tenth floor of the building, with NSW fire and rescue superintendent, Adam Dewberry, saying “the strata manager will work with the local engineers to determine what needs to be done to actually make this building safe and let the full occupancy reoccur.” Police indicated at the time that it was believed the crack was caused by an internal support wall failing.
By Thursday, Residents were told that they would again have to evacuate to allow a full investigation into the problem and to ensure the building was safe. A statement released by Icon, the builder of Opal Tower, indicated that all residents would be relocated over the next 24 hours so a “comprehensive investigation” could take place. Residents were further warned that the investigation could take as long as ten days but Icon could not guarantee when they would be permitted to return. Accommodation was being organised for all residents at nearby hotels with the builder to provide compensation to those displaced.
The NSW Government ordered an immediate inquiry to be led by the University of NSW Dean of Engineering, Mark Hoffman, and University of Newcastle Engineering Dean, John Carter. Professor Hoffman spoke to the media and described the type of crack as “a pretty rare occurrence”. He continued, “There’s clearly some very notable damage there but the issue we’re all grappling with is the cause of it. We have to inspect a lot of other parts of the building as well. The first place you’d look is at the design of the structure because it’s unique, it’s a little bit different”. One of the building’s key selling points was the sky gardens which run through the middle of the building; it’s believed that 16 concrete panels sitting across from the gardens would form a major part of the inquiry.
The majority of residents have been relocated but some are still refusing to leave. Icon have reassured everyone that the building is not at risk of collapse but their insistence that all residents leave is simply to allow easier and full access for investigators and engineers who are trying to track the source of the problem.
I’d be wanting my money back…
Wacky and wonderful
As we finish the year surrounded by tragedy and controversy, we can usually rely on Christmas to deliver us at least one news story to restore our faith in humanity.
Hal Vaughan, a 65-year old father from Mississippi, gave us a good one. Vaughan’s daughter Pierce, a flight attendant for Delta airlines in the US, found herself rostered on six flights over three days during the Christmas period.
Not wanting his daughter to be alone during her first Christmas working as a flight attendant, Vaughan booked tickets and flew as a passenger on every one of Pierce’s six flights.
Pierce had never missed a Christmas with her family, with her parents even flying out to Australia to spend it with her while she spent a gap year abroad. Despite still recovering from a broken neck after falling from a ladder back in June and only learning how to walk again in June, Hal made it through the journey.
Pierce described her father’s decision to spend Christmas with her as meaning “everything”. All the truer due to the fact that her mother had to stay home which made it the first time her parents hadn’t spent Christmas together in the entire time they had known each other. “Christmas is obviously huge for us…For my mom to sacrifice that for him to be with me was indescribable.”
Kicks you right in the feels…
That’s it from me, TBSers. Hope you’ve had a wonderful 2018 and that 2019 is even better!