Measles outbreak kills more than 4,000 in Congo

DAKAR, Senegal — More than 4,000 people have died in Congo this year in the world’s largest measles outbreak, the United Nations children’s agency said Wednesday.

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018.

Since January, more than 200,000 cases of measles have been reported across Congo, UNICEF said. More than 140,000 involve children under 5, who also make up nearly 90% of deaths.

“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said the UNICEF country representative, Edouard Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”

Health officials are facing many of the same challenges in the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that has killed more than 2,000 people. Multiple armed groups have been fighting over the mineral-rich land for decades and threatening residents. The insecurity has led to mistrust of authorities, including health workers.

UNICEF said health workers were rushing additional medical kits to help care for more than 110,000 people infected with the measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. More than 1.4 million children have been vaccinated this year.

The U.N. agency said Congo’s government will launch a vaccination campaign at the end of October to make sure children in every province are vaccinated.

More dead wild elephants found at waterfall; toll at 11

BANGKOK — Wildlife officials in Thailand said Tuesday they have discovered the carcasses of five more wild elephants downstream from a waterfall where the bodies of six other elephants were found last weekend.

The carcasses were discovered by a drone being used to investigate how the first six elephants plunged to their deaths at the Haew Narok — Ravine of Hell — waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in northeastern Thailand, said Sompote Maneerat, spokesman for the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

Park officials said the first group of elephants evidently died when trying to reach a dead calf. The new victims are believed to be from the same herd.

The ravines usually fill up with gushing water during the rainy season.

Sompote said that the death toll of 11 is the highest number of elephants to die in a single incident in Khao Yai. Eight elephants died at the same waterfall almost 30 years ago.

The elephant population at the park is estimated to be about 300.

Wildfires destroy up to 30 homes in eastern Australia

PERTH, Australia — About 500 firefighters were battling out-of-control wildfires in eastern Australia that have destroyed up to 30 homes.

More than 40 bushfires were burning across New South Wales state. Temperatures were cooler Wednesday after strong winds and stifling heat restricted firefighting efforts Tuesday.

More than 380 square miles have burned with the small village of Rappville, population 250, among the worst affected. About 50 people sheltered in a school overnight.NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said some people had been taken to hospitals with minor burns and breathing difficulties. The number of injures wasn’t given, and the extent of the fire damage was still to be determined.

“We’re just making sure we know what properties are damaged or lost, people are accounted for and making those areas as safe as we can so that people who haven’t lost their homes can return,” he said.

“There’s power lines still down, there’s a lot of trees falling down, so there’s a lot of work to do,” he added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a dangerous situation. “Fortunately, there’s been no loss of life, which is something always to be thankful for, but there are remaining very serious threats today,” he said.

Arson was suspected of causing the Rappville fire that started Friday night. Fire service superintendent Michael Brett said “suspicious activity” had been identified in the area.

Rain is expected across northern New South Wales on Friday.

The Associated Press

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