Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα Italy. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων
Εμφάνιση αναρτήσεων με ετικέτα Italy. Εμφάνιση όλων των αναρτήσεων

Δευτέρα, Αυγούστου 14, 2017

Σάββατο, Φεβρουαρίου 07, 2015

Heavy snow batters northern Italy

Friday was a hard day for northern Italy, where many cities woke up covered in snow and had to cope with major traffic disruption and severe inconvenience for the population...

Freezing temperatures, heavy snows and strong winds caused icing highways, blocked rail lines and temporary closure of the Bologna airport. Authorities ordered many schools to remain closed.

"Indeed precipitations were intense in some northern regions, namely Emilia Romagna, Liguria and Piedmont," Colonel Guido Guidi, weather and climate expert of the Italian Air Force, told Xinhua.

Not only many areas were under a thick blanket of snow, but strong wings and coastal storms also added to the scourge of bad weather.

Water city Venice was flooded by tides which reached a height of 124 cm above sea level, according to local reports.

Strong winds toppled trees and made some parts of buildings and infrastructures collapse. Aid squads had to intervene and rescue dozens of people in difficulty across northern Italy.

Civil authorities warned residents in various towns to move to the highest levels of their homes and park vehicles as high as possible, after flooding claimed numerous victims in the past months.

Three elderly people in Lombardy region, of which the capital is Milan, were reported to have died on Friday after suffering heart attacks while removing snow from their homes. Five others were suddenly taken ill.

Guidi underlined, however, that the precipitation was regular.

"We are talking about snow in the winter season. Some Italian media have named this wave of bad weather as 'big snow' but if we look at 1929, when a lot of snow also came down, we can find exactly the same words on the then media reports," he noted.

"Friday's weather was the result of a pipeline of cold air coming from Siberia and the Arctic," a climatologist of the Institute of Biometeorology of the national Research Council (IBIMET-CNR), Marina Baldi, explained to Xinhua.

Baldi expected the weather to improve from Sunday, when the Azores anticyclone, a large-scale circulation of winds typically found south of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, whose effects include clearing skies, will move toward east.

She agreed with Guidi that the wave of bad weather was "not exceptional" but in line with the variability and temperatures experienced in the past, while also mentioning a certain influence of climate change on the milder winters and summer heatwaves registered over the last 10-15 years.

"For the next decades, we can expect an increase of extreme weather events and torrential rainfall within short timespans in Italy, with consequent more frequent flooding," Baldi concluded.

  Source: Xinhua - globaltimes.cn
7/2/15
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Παρασκευή, Ιανουαρίου 02, 2015

EU vows to fight new tactics by migrant smugglers

The EU vowed Jan. 2 to fight people smugglers' new tactic of abandoning "ghost ships" full of migrants off European coasts.
      
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said it was "following closely the events surrounding" the crewless Ezadeen merchant ship which had drifted toward Italy's southern shores with 450 migrants aboard before Italian sailors took control of it Friday.

      
It was the second incident in two days after the Blue Sky M ship was abandoned Wednesday by smugglers who set it on autopilot toward Italy's rocky shores with nearly 800 migrants aboard.    

"The rescues of the Blue Sky M two days ago and of the Ezadeen show that smugglers are finding new ways to enter EU territory," a commission spokesperson told AFP.        

"To prevent such events and to protect the lives of migrants, fighting smuggling will continue to be a priority under the commission's agenda for comprehensive migration in 2015," the spokesperson said.
      
Responsibility for patrolling Europe's southern shores in theory lies with Triton, a multinational operation run by the European borders agency Frontex. But in practice the Italian navy has continued to carry out most of the rescues despite officially scaling back its own Mare Nostrum operation at the end of October, after failing to persuade other EU governments to help fund it.
      
The migrant boat dramas come after a record year for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia attempting to reach Europe by sea.
      
More than 170,000 people have been rescued by Italy in the last 14 months and hundreds, possibly thousands, have perished trying to make the crossing.
      
They are almost invariably under the control of ruthless traffickers who earn thousands of dollars for every person they put to sea, mainly from lawless Libya and other departure points in North Africa.

  Agence France-Presse / hurriyetdailynews.com
2/1/15

Ezadeen: Italian coastguard rescues abandoned migrant ship

The Italian coastguard has managed to take control of a vessel carrying hundreds of migrants, which had been abandoned by its crew.
The crew left the ship in rough seas in the Mediterranean off Italy's south coast, in the second such incident in three days.
Three coastguards managed to take control of the vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Ezadeen, after landing on it by helicopter.

They will take it to an Italian port.
The cargo ship had been drifting powerless in rough seas about 40 nautical miles from Italy's southern coast with as many as 450 people on board.
  • "We know that it left from a Turkish port and was abandoned by its crew," coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini said in an interview with SkyTG24 television.
"When we hailed the ship to ask about its status, a migrant woman responded, saying: 'We are alone and we have no one to help us'."
It had been put on a collision course for the Italian coast but ran out of fuel, he said.
The nationality of the migrants is not yet known, a coastguard spokesman said, but there are women and children on board.
On Wednesday, about 900 migrants, mostly Syrian refugees, arrived in Italy after they were apparently abandoned by their ship's crew.
The coastguard also boarded that vessel and took over navigation.
[rte.ie]
2/1/15
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Δευτέρα, Δεκεμβρίου 29, 2014

Evacuation of burning Italian ferry completed (Hundreds of passengers brought to safety)

All remaining passengers on board an Italian ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea off the Greek island of Corfu have been rescued, Greek officials have said.

The blaze left seven people dead. Six bodies were recovered from the water around the stricken Norman Atlantic on Monday, a day after the body of a 62-year-old Greek man was pulled from the heaving sea.
 
A 24-hour evacuation operation that proved to be extremely difficult was concluded shortly after midday.

Many of those rescued said the fire, which broke out at dawn on Sunday, triggered panic which the crew appeared ill-prepared to deal with.
One of the first passengers rescued told reporters after arriving in the Italian port of Bari he had thought he was going to die as parts of the ferry, with 478 passengers and crew on board, became engulfed by thick smoke as it travelled from Greece to Italy.
"We did not know what to do. The staff had no idea how to get people off the boat," he said.
"The lifeboats did not work, there was only one of them in the water and none of the crew were there to help people."

Others said they stayed huddled on the vessel's upper decks, pelted by rain and hail and struggled to breathe through the thick smoke.
A passenger recalled people being awakened by "the smell of burning plastic" and that the heat from the fire felt like the floors were "boiling".

The evacuation was completed nearly 36 hours after the fire broke out on the car deck and left the huge vessel drifting dangerously in high seas off the coast of Albania.

'Mystery'
With the evacuation complete, questions are being raised as to how the fire started and why it was not contained.
Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe announced a criminal investigation which will seek to establish whether negligence contributed to the disaster.
The Italian owner of the boat, Carlo Visentini, said he would cooperate fully.
He insisted that the vessel, which was leased to Greek operator ANEK ferries, had passed a technical inspection which included its firedoors on December 19.

Al Jazeera's Simon McGregor-Wood, reporting from Italian coastal city of Brindisi, said what caused the fire remained a mystery.

"But what we do know from various sources is that the fire took hold in the car deck," he said. "There were 200 vehicles of all kinds including several tanker trucks containing olive oil, which it is expected to have contributed to the fire."
 [aljazeera.com]
29/12/14
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251 People Rescued, 227 Still on Board Norman Atlantic Ferry (Italian Navy)

251 out of more than 470 passengers of the Norman Atlantic passenger ferry, which caught fire Sunday as it was sailing from Greece to Italy, have been rescued and 267 are still on board, the Italian Navy stated Monday.
 
"251 people have been saved, 227 are still on board," the Italian Navy said on its official Twitter page.

 
The Norman Atlantic ferry, which caught ablaze in the Ionian Sea, has been taken under tow, with the fire on board partially under control, the Greek shipping ministry reported on Sunday.
The towing rope, used by the Italian ship Marietta Barretta to tow the burning Norman Atlantic ferry, has broken, the website of the Il Messaggero newspaper reported.
The government rescue team is now trying to reattach the ship to one of the four tugs, which are close to the Norman Atlantic. When the tow rope is reattached, the ferry is likely to be moved to the Italian port of Brindisi.

Earlier, the Greek Minister of National Defense Nikos Dendias reported that the Norman Atlantic angled down 7 degrees. At the same time, a representative of the ANEK company, chartering the ferry, said to the Skai Greek TV channel, that angle of the heel was not dangerous......................http://sputniknews.com/europe/20141229/1016349172.html
29/12/14
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Κυριακή, Δεκεμβρίου 28, 2014

Winds hamper burning ferry rescue off Greece (About 160 rescued)

At least one person has been killed and hundreds more remain trapped after an Italian ferry with almost 500 people on board caught fire off the Greek island of Corfu, the Italian Navy has confirmed.
About 160 people have been rescued so far, while Italian and Greek helicopter crews prepared to work through the night to airlift passengers in pairs off a burning ferry adrift in the Adriatic Sea.

The Norman Atlantic, carrying 222 vehicles, 411 passengers and 55 crew, was 44 nautical miles northwest of the island of Corfu when it sent a distress signal after a fire started in the lower deck, Greek coast guard officials said on Sunday.
Greek vessels rushed to give assistance after picking up its distress signal, the coastguard added.
The evacuation was being carried out in difficult conditions, with rescued passengers saying gale-force winds were lashing the vessel.
Seven vessels were next to the ferry to take passengers on board. Two Greek firefighting ships were on their way, while Italian and Greek aircraft circled overhead.

Bad weather
Italian navy spokesman Riccardo Rizzotto said four helicopters were already at the scene and the ship's captain had told coastguards that the ferry was now drifting towards the Albanian coast.

"The weather conditions are so bad we need an extraordinary level of support, which is effectively what is being put in place," he said.
The fire was said to have broken out in the ferry's parking bay, which can hold some 200 vehicles, the AFP news agency said.

Greek television network Mega said there were tankers holding olive oil in the bay.

Defence Minister Nikos Dendias told the channel that Italian authorities had responded to a Greek plea for assistance and had now taken charge of the rescue operation.
The Norman Atlantic had left the Greek port of Patras at 05:30am (03:30 GMT) and had been heading to the Italian port of Ancona when the fire broke out.
 [aljazeera.com]
28/12/14

Italian-flagged ferry with 466 people on board evacuated due to fire / Un ferry en feu au large de la Grèce: sauvetage en cours (VIDEO YT)

An Italian-flagged ferry with a total of 466 people on board was being evacuated on Sunday after a fire broke out in one garage off the island of Corfu in western Greece, the local Coast Guard said.

The "Norman Atlantic" was sailing from the port of Patras in western Greece to Ancona in Italy with 411 passengers, 55 crew members and 220 vehicles on board when the fire started under yet unclear circumstances.


For precaution measures authorities decided to evacuate the people to ships which were sailing nearby at about 30 nautical miles off Corfu. 

Xinhua
28/12/14
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  • Un ferry en feu au large de la Grèce: sauvetage en cours

Un incendie s'est déclaré, dimanche, sur un ferry grec avec 411 passagers et 55 membres d'équipage à son bord. Le "Norman Atlantic" avait quitté le port grec de Patras à 05h30 (03h30 GMT) dimanche matin en direction du port italien d'Ancona, et a envoyé un signal de détresse alors qu'il se trouvait à 33 miles nautiques de la petite île grecque d'Othonoi, en mer Adriatique. Le feu aurait pris dans le garage du navire, avant de se répandre rapidement.

Une opération de sauvetage est en cours pour évacuer les 466 personnes à bord, ont annoncé les garde-côtes grecs.
 [rtl.be]
28/12/14
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Δευτέρα, Νοεμβρίου 03, 2014

Minister proposes restoration of Rome's Colosseum arena floor

Italy's culture minister has backed a proposal to rebuild the floor of Rome's Colosseum, allowing visitors to stand in the arena where gladiators once fought.

In ancient times, a wooden floor covered with sand was built on top of tunnels through which animals, fighters or performers were brought into the arena. For more than a century, this underground structure has been exposed.

Italian archaeologist Daniele Manacorda suggested in July that a floor should be put back in the Colosseum.
Not only would tourists appreciate it, but the amphitheatre could again be used to stage events, Manacorda wrote in the July issue of "Archeo" archaeological journal.

"I like (the idea) very much," Culture Minister Darion Franceschini wrote on Twitter on Sunday. "All is needed is a bit of courage."

The Colosseum is currently undergoing a privately funded restoration, one of several projects in Italy meant to save its cultural landmarks from decay as money from the government dwindles.
 [buenosairesherald.com]
2/11/14

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Τρίτη, Αυγούστου 12, 2014

Big Ships Will Soon Be Banned From Venice's Historic Center

ROME (AP) — Italy has moved ahead with plans to block big cruise ships from sailing past Venice's historic center, authorizing an environmental study for an alternate route that it hopes will still satisfy the city's key tourism industry.

Cruise ships currently can pass within 300 meters (1,000 feet) of Venice's iconic St. Mark's Square, granting a stunning view to those aboard but presenting a jarring sight against the backdrop of Venice's Byzantine architecture.

Residents, activists and environmentalists have long opposed cruise ship traffic in Venice.
They balked at the decision Friday by a commission of government ministers and local officials authorizing a study into using the Contorta-Sant'Angelo canal.

The group "No Big Ships" called it the worst choice and insisted that big cruise ships must be kept out of the lagoon altogether.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/ships-banned-venice_n_5671549.html
12/8/14
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Τετάρτη, Ιουλίου 23, 2014

Wrecked Concordia finally headed for scrapyard after massive salvage operation

GIGLIO ISLAND Italy - Maneouvres began early on Wednesday to remove the rusty hulk of the Costa Concordia cruise liner from the Italian island where it struck rocks and capsized two years ago, killing 32 people.

A convoy of 14 vessels, led by the tug boat Blizzard, will start to tow the Concordia later on Wednesday to a port near Genoa in northern Italy where it is due to arrive on Sunday, before being broken up for scrap.


The once-gleaming white luxury liner sank off the holiday island of Giglio in January 2012 after sailing too close to shore. Its wreck has remained there ever since as engineers embarked on one of the largest maritime salvage operations in history.

Over the past week, salvagers have slowly lifted the 114,500-tonne ship from underwater platforms by pumping air into 30 large metal boxes, or sponsons, attached to the hull.
Franco Porcellachia, engineer in charge of the salvage, said on Tuesday that his team had done everything in their power to make sure the ship, which is around two-and-a-half times the size of the Titanic, was structurally sound.

"When we are in sight of the port of Genoa, we can declare victory," said Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italy's civil protection service, on Wednesday.

The whole salvage operation is set to cost the ship's owners Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp over 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion), its chief executive said earlier this month....................http://www.todayonline.com/world/wrecked-concordia-finally-headed-scrapyard-after-massive-salvage-operation?singlepage=true
23/7/14
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Δευτέρα, Ιουλίου 14, 2014

Costa Concordia wreck floats for first time. The Costa Concordia was rotated upright in September (video 17-9-13)

Huge 115,000 tonne cruise ship is brought to surface in the biggest salvage operation in history...

A salvage operation has successfully raised the wreck of the ill-fated Costa Concordia is set to begin more than two years after it sank off the Italian island of Giglio.

The high-risk operation on Monday raised the rusting hulk of the 114,500-tonne vessel, which will now begin its final journey to the shipyard where it was built.


The operation to salvage the 290-metre long ship's wreck was unprecedented in its scale.
"The ship is upright and is not listing either longitudinally or latitudinally. This is extremely positive," said Franco Porcellacchia, the engineer in charge of the salvage, the Reuters news agency reported.

"The most critical phase will be the first day, raising the wreck for the first time. Refloating a passenger ship this large has never been attempted before," South African Nick Sloane, who is in charge of the salvage, told AFP news agency before Monday's successful attempt.

The Costa Concordia was rotated upright in September and was sitting on an underwater platform..............................http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/07/costa-concordia-wreck-be-fully-raised-201471454732969467.html
14/7/14
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Πέμπτη, Ιουλίου 10, 2014

Commission urges Italy to ensure that water intended for human consumption is healthy and clean

European Commission, Press release, Brussels, 10 July 2014:

The European Commission is opening infringement proceedings against Italy for its failure to ensure that water intended for human consumption meets European standards. Water contamination from arsenic and fluoride is a long-standing problem in Italy, and for the Latium Region in particular. 


Under the Drinking Water Directive, Member States have to monitor and test water used for human consumption using 48 microbiological, chemical and indicator parameters. If high levels of arsenic or other pollutants are found, Member States may derogate from the thresholds established by the directive for a limited period of time, provided there is no potential danger to human health, and provided the supply for human consumption cannot be maintained by any other reasonable means. 

The Directive allows for a total of three derogations, each limited to three years. Member States may derogate twice and, in exceptional cases, they may apply to the Commission for a third derogation. Italy has now derogated three times, and no further derogations are possible.

The derogation period was intended to allow for durable solutions to be found. More than one year after the expiry of the third derogation, Italy however remains in breach of the Directive.
Derogation decisions set strict conditions to safeguard human health. Italy was asked to ensure that wholesome supplies of water were available for consumption by infants and children up to the age of three. The derogations were conditional on Italy supplying users with adequate information on how to reduce the risks associated with the consumption of the drinking water in question and, in particular, the risks associated with the consumption of water by children. Italy was also required to implement a plan of remedial actions and inform the Commission on progress achieved.

The limit value for arsenic and fluoride is still not respected in 37 water supply zones in Latium. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice to Italy, the first formal stage in infringement proceedings.

Background
The objective of the Drinking Water Directive (Directive 98/83/EC of the Council of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption - OJ L 330 of 5.12.1998, p. 32) is to protect human health from the adverse effects of any contamination of water intended for human consumption by ensuring that it is wholesome and clean.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring semi-metal element which is tasteless and odourless, and can enter drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth. Elevated levels in water can cause serious health problems, including skin damage, circulatory problems, and an increased risk of cancer.
[europa.eu]
10/7/14

Δευτέρα, Μαρτίου 24, 2014

EU unable to quit Russian gas import in near term. - CEO of Italian oil and gas company

The European Union is too dependent on natural gas imports from Russia to abandon them over the near term, chief executive of the Italian Eni energy group Paolo Scaroni said in an interview released in Financial Times on Monday.

Europe now depends on Russian gas, but if the EU and Russia achieve no compromise over Ukraine and Crimea, the EU will make giant efforts to diversify its energy sources, including shale gas production in the EU territory, more extensive liquefied gas imports and increased imports from Algeria, Libya and Norway, Scaroni believes.


Meanwhile, the prospects for the South Stream pipeline on the bed of the Black Sea where Eni holds 20% were dismal, he added.(en.itar-tass.com)

24/3/14
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Σάββατο, Ιανουαρίου 25, 2014

Chemical waste worries Cretans. -Syrian chemical weapons arsenal to be destroyed in Mediterranean waters

The World Council of Cretans last week expressed its opposition and outrage to the proposed and 'secretly planned' destruction of chemical weapons from Syria in the Mediterranean sea areas west of Crete.
The response comes as the internationally praised August deal between the USA and Russia, to destroy the Syrian chemical arsenal, failed. The chemicals were meant to be transferred outside Syria by the end of December 2013 and destroyed by June 2014.
With the December deadline already missed, discussions now suggest the possibility of chemical waste being dumped in the Mediterranean, in an area between Crete, Malta and Libya. This scenario is becoming likelier since Italy has promised to offer a port for the two Danish and Norwegian ships which will transport the lethal chemical weapons.


The president of the World Council of Cretans, Tony Tsourdalakis, told Neos Kosmos that the council condemns this decision that could have a catastrophic impact on the island.
"We condemn the decision of the respective government to dump the Syrian chemicals to the South of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. This is a catastrophic decision of huge proportions, that will not only harm sea life, but will possibly cause health and contamination issues. Most importantly, it will deter tourists from the south coastal beaches of Crete, putting a large dint in the Greek tourist industry," he told Neos Kosmos.


Mr Tsourdalakis said the council believed that responsibility for the preservation and destruction of the chemical weapons lies with the countries of production that supplied the weapons to Syria.
"Certainly this was not Greece. The World Council of Cretans - and in particular the 500 Cretan organisations globally and one million Cretans in and out of Crete - express their utmost concerns and condemn these actions. We urge the Greek government, via its role in the United Nations and in light of the fact that it has the European presidency, to request that this dangerous, criminal and unacceptable action ceases immediately."
"We unite our voice with the voice of all Greeks to stop this crime that will certainly affect the health of nearby countries and even more Greece," he said.


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has estimated that about 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, most of which are mustard gas based, will be destroyed via hydrolysis.
In the light of concerns over the environmental and health impact of the planned destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal in international waters west of Chania, intense concerns and opposition were expressed by the Medical Association of Chania.


"The procedure to be followed has not been elucidated completely and could possibly pose serious risks to the ecosystem of the region and the bordering regions, such as Chania. In particular, the reported hydrolysis process is not sufficient for complete inactivation of the derivatives of the quantities of chemical weapons of Syria to be destroyed," it was said in the statement.
The Medical Association of Chania urged the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Use of Chemical Weapons, the two organisations responsible for the destruction process of those chemicals, to adjust their schedules and to provide ultimate safety in the areas of chemical processing.

 http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/chemical-waste-worries-cretans
24/1/14
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Massive protests in Italy due to arrival of toxic cargo from Syria

MV Cape Ray
Widespread protests have started in the south of Italy due to the upcoming shipment of a toxic cargo expected to arrive by sea from Syria in 10 days.

Local residents got angry with the situation as, according to them, secrecy surrounds the whole operation and no guarantees were given by the government.

"They are telling us that the material carried is not dangerous, but in fact nobody knows what is inside those containers," said one of the protesters.



The Mayor of Gioia Tauro, Renato Bellofiore, has threatened to close the port and called for another massive protest on February 1.

An estimated 60 containers with Syria's deadliest chemicals, including mustard gas and the ingredients for the nerve agents sarin, are due to be moved from a Danish ship to a US vessel using rolling cranes without "stocking on land", according to Italian transport Minister Mario Lupi's assurances.

However, when the port was chosen as a site of a transfer of Syrian chemical weapons, Mayor Renato Belfiore announced that he and the locals would "oppose this move by all legal means".

"They are putting my life at risk. If anything happens, people will come and get me with pitchforks," he said back then.

Earlier this month, a Danish cargo ship, the Ark Futura, took a first cargo of materials from Latakia and is now back in international waters, awaiting a return to pick up the remainder.

In Italy, the chemicals will be transferred onto the US ship MV Cape Ray, which will dispose of them at sea over a period of up to three months.

The entire Syrian chemical arsenal is expected to be decommissioned by June 30 in line with the UN plan.

UN Security Council resolution 2118 was approved after a massive chemical weapon attack that killed hundreds of people near Damascus in last August.

Voice of Russia, AFP, Euronews
http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_01_25/Massive-protests-in-Italy-due-to-arrival-of-toxic-cargo-from-Syria-5608/

25/1/14
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Παρασκευή, Ιανουαρίου 17, 2014

Italian mayors want guarantees on Syrian chemical transfer

ROME - Mayors of Italian towns near the port designated as a transit site for Syria's chemical arsenal said on Friday they would protest at the decision unless they were guaranteed maximum security against any environmental or health risk.
"We want to make sure safety measures are at the maximum level and we want the government to better inform us so we can reassure our residents. If we are not better informed, then there will be protests," said Rosarno Mayor Elisabetta Tripodi.



The chemicals are being sent to Italy under an accord brokered by Russia and the United States after poison gas attacks in Syria's civil war in August that killed hundreds of people. The nerve gas agents are to be later destroyed at sea.

The Italian government has chosen Gioia Tauro, the country's biggest container port located in the southern region of Calabria, to move 560 tons of Syria's "priority A" chemicals from a Danish ship to an American one.

 jpost.com
17/1/14
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Δευτέρα, Ιανουαρίου 06, 2014

Spanish minister in Panama to end US$1.6b canal row

PANAMA CITY: A Spanish cabinet minister launched mediation efforts in Panama on Monday to resolve a US$1.6 billion dispute threatening to halt the expansion of the Central American nation's vital canal.
Public Works Minister Ana Pastor held separate meetings with Panama's president and executives of the Spanish-led consortium that has threatened to stop the project this month unless local authorities pay for the massive cost overruns.
After the two meetings, Pastor said the Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) consortium wanted to negotiate a way out of the impasse.
"The commitment of GUPC is to resolve everything within the contract and for that reason they will sit down for dialogue," she said.
"We are trying to reach an agreement that will be good for everybody," Pastor said after talks with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

Martinelli said the consortium and the Panama Canal Authority need to find a solution, even if it means going through international arbitration.
"Surely solutions will be found within the meeting. This is a project of global scope for Spain, Panama and the maritime community," he said.
Pastor met first with 16 GUPC executives, including the head of Spanish builder Sacyr, Manuel Manriquez. She will meet later with canal authority officials.
"The Spanish government will not support Sacyr with money. This is an issue between a company" and Panamanian authorities, Spain's ambassador Jesus Silva told reporters.
The construction group, which includes Impreglio of Italy, Belgium's Jan de Nul of Belgium and Constructora Urbana of Panama, warned on December 30 that it would suspend work in 21 days if authorities failed to pay for extra "unforeseen" charges.
  • The expansion project aims to make the 80-kilometre (50-mile) waterway, which handles five per cent of global maritime trade, big enough to handle new, giant cargo ships that can carry 12,000 containers.
  • Currently the canal can handle ships large enough to carry 5,000 containers.
The United States built the canal between 1904 and 1914 and had full control of the waterway until handing it over to Panama in late 1999.
The consortium began work on a third set of larger canal locks in 2009 and expects to complete construction in June 2015, already nine months over the contractual date. Work is about 70 per cent complete.
The overall cost of the project has been estimated at US$5.2 billion.
A year ago, GUPC demanded that the Panama Canal Authority pay the extra US$1.6 billion for the extra costs.
Sacyr says the extra charges are related to technical and geological matters, cement ingredients, weather conditions as well as tax, labour and financial issues.
Jose Pelaez, in charge of building the third set of locks, said Saturday that the rising price tag was partly due to problems in the regional geology that the Canal Authority had not detected.
On Sunday, the Panama Canal Authority said that the contractor's claims "have no legal standing and are not clear," and are not reason enough to halt the project.
"We're being cornered," canal administrator Jorge Quijano said, adding that Panama cannot become "hostage to a contractor."
Canal officials say there was already a four-month delay shortly after the project began caused by the reversal of a GUPC plan to use lower-quality cement.
Moreover, the consortium had "14 months before submitting their bid to closely study the components of the project" in order to submit a "solid" bid.

Οι νεκροί Έλληνες στα μακεδονικά χώματα σάς κοιτούν με οργή

«Παριστάνετε τα "καλά παιδιά" ελπίζοντας στη στήριξη του διεθνή παράγοντα για να παραμείνετε στην εξουσία», ήταν η κατηγορία πο...