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Lessons from Japan: Earthquake Survival 101

Events are moving quickly in Japan as engineers at a nuclear plant in Fukushima are trying to bring three stricken reactors under control. Tokyo is 170 miles south from Fukushima, and though prevailing winds are sweeping most of the radiation to the Pacific Ocean, residents say a feeling of anxiety pervades the capital. Aftershocks wake them up at night. Lines are long at supermarkets, where staples such as milk and rice are selling out quickly. “The streets are eerily quiet compared to the usual hustle and bustle of this massive city,” says Rachael White, an American teacher and blogger based in Tokyo. White and others, however, note that people remain calm—a reflection of Japanese fortitude.

As a traveler, the most you can do in the event of a nuclear meltdown is get as far away as possible or head for the basement. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of survival in an earthquake and/or a tsunami. Japan is located in the world’s most seismically active regions—the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes the West Coast. About 90 percent of earthquakes happen here, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And Tokyo is still bracing for the Big One that experts say is long overdue. (Friday’s massive quake occurred along the northeastern fault line, rather than the southwest fault line that affects Tokyo more directly. It last ruptured in 1854.) The second most active region stretches from the Mediterranean into northern India.

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East Coast Snow Impacts Travel Nationwide

Here's hoping you got home before Sunday night, when the season's first blizzard blanketed the northeast under several feet of snow. AOL Travel has several stories of stranded passengers and snarled airports:

Some air passengers endured nightmare delays as a blizzard dropped up to 18 inches of snow on the Northeast and travelers tried to get home from the Christmas holiday break.

Airports shut down in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. But there were storm-caused delays and canceled flights elsewhere too as carriers moved planes around to avoid the storm.

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'Stomach-Churning' Sanitary Conditions at Top Australian Hotels

A secret forensic survey revealed some five-star hotels in Melbourne, Australia have a serious hygiene problem.

Armed with swab tests and a black light, former police forensic investigator Peter Guerin scrutinized seven of Melbourne's top hotels. What he found was nauseating: mold in bathrooms, urine stained toilets, human body matter in beds, and even strains of dangerous bacteria such as E coli.

None of the hotels passed inspection. In every hotel tested, Guerin found an "unacceptable level" of potentially health-threatening microbes.

READ MORE (AND WATCH THE VIDEO)...

Rogue Wave: 1; Cruise Ship: 0

Some environmentalists say we shouldn't allow too many tourists to visit Antarctica, for fear of disrupting the ecosystem. Seems that God may agree: He sent a 30-foot wave to punish passengers on a small luxury cruise ship returning to Argentina. AOL Travel has the full story (and video):

A massive wave in the Antarctic hit a small luxury cruise ship with 160 passengers and crew onboard so badly the vessel lost one of its engines.

The all-suite Clelia II was in the Drake Passage, heading back to Argentina, when the 30-foot wave washed over the deck.

The wave wiped out the expedition ship's power and communication system and shattered windows, according to various press reports. The ship declared an emergency.

The Clelia II is being operated by Oregon-based Polar Cruises, and all the passengers onboard are American. No injuries were reported.

Another ship, the National Geographic Explorer, operated by Lindblad Expeditions, happened to be nearby and was able to offer aid, including rigging a satellite phone to the distressed ship.

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Are Red Sea Shark Attacks on the Rise?

Mentioning Jaws is de rigueur whenever a shark attack draws headlines. For this weekend's fatal incident in Egypt, however, the reference actually makes sense. Having already caught two sharks in the area of earlier (non-fatal) attacks, authorities assumed the coast was clear. Now they're worried that more attacks are in their future. AOL Travel explains:

Authorities in Egypt gave the all clear, thinking they had caught the killer shark that had severely injured four tourists in a Red Sea resort area. They were wrong. And now an elderly German woman is dead from a shark attack.
The most recent attack occurred just a day after beaches were reopened in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, popular with divers and snorkelers.
The incident is drawing comparison to the storyline of the movie "Jaws," in which the mayor makes the wrong decision in the wake of a shark attack.
The woman was swimming off Sharm el-Sheikh when the shark tore off her arm, according to Egyptian officials. Witnesses reported hearing the victim screaming. She was killed almost immediately.
"It was definitely a shark attack," says Hesham Gabar, the head of Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Water Sports.
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Celebrity Cruises Reacts Swiftly After Armed Attack in St. Kitts

St Kitts

Fresh from the Carnival Splendor mess, the cruise industry is facing yet another public relations problem after armed robbers accosted a busload of Celebrity passengers in St. Kitts. The cruise company was quick to respond. AOL Travel explains:

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines tells AOL Travel News a call at St. Kitts by the Carnival Miracle, scheduled for today, has been canceled "as a precautionary measure," while the line awaits information from tourism and law enforcement officials on the island...

The attack by the masked gunmen occurred over the weekend as passengers from the Celebrity Mercury were visiting Brimstone Hill Fortress, a popular tourist spot on bus tours of the island.

The masked robbers reportedly blocked the road with a fallen tree and then emerged from the bushes to rob those on the bus. The armed gunmen then disappeared into the woods.

No one was injured in the incident. The robbers made off with valuables including cash, jewelry and cameras. Local police are investigating.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.

What Part of 'Fasten Your Seat Belts' Don't You Understand?

Eighteen passengers on a Vietnam Airline flight from Hanoi to Paris were injured this morning when their plane encountered severe air turbulence, according to Agence France-Presse. The plane later landed safely at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and none of the injuries were thought to be serious.

But here's the interesting part: according to the story, these passengers—excuse me while I crank up the old caps lock and put the italics in gear—WEREN'T WEARING SEAT BELTS.

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With the 2010 Commonwealth Games Over, India Eyes the Olympics

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By most accounts, the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 were a success. Held every four years, the Olympics-style event brings together 71 nations, most of whom are members of the Commonwealth (née the British Commonwealth). This year, India had the honor of hosting in Delhi. And the Games were indeed a success. That is, now that they're finished -- and no one died. The leadup was nothing short of disaster.

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TSA Increases Terrorist Matching, But Security Gaps Remain

Sounds like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken a big step to keep us safer from terrorists in the sky. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that 100 percent of passengers on domestic and international flights by U.S. airlines are now being matched against government watchlists through the Secure Flight program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Previously, individual airlines were responsible for matching passenger names against terrorist watchlists.

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That’s all well and good. But here’s a remaining security gap:

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Three Kids Fly Southwest Without Parental Permission, Without I.D., Paying Cash for One-Way Tickets

How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.

The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.

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