Portuguese gas stations run dry amid truckers strike

LISBON, Portugal — Gas stations across Portugal are running dry amid a truckers’ strike over pay and working conditions.The walkout by some 800 truckers who transport hazardous materials prompted a rush to fill tanks, leaving hundreds of gas stations closed Wednesday.Authorities have ordered the truckers to provide a minimum level of service, delivering gas to airports, hospitals and emergency services as well as 30% of average daily supplies to gas stations in the Lisbon, the capital, and Porto, the second-largest city. The government says it may demand more supplies if they are needed to avoid severe economic damage.The truckers want higher pay and shorter working hours. A meeting between employers and the truckers’ trade union broke up without agreement late Tuesday.The Associated Press read more

UN disaster teams reach 1000th deployment

18 December 2009The 16-year-old United Nations disaster response system reached its 1,000th deployment this year, with the dispatch of experts to the storm-battered Philippines. This year had a relatively low occurrence of natural disasters, with the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system having deployed teams to respond to 11 disasters in Africa, Asia and Central America.Nine of these disasters were related to floods or cyclones, including the October storms in the Philippines, while two were earthquakes, one of which triggered a tsunami in Samoa.A total of 57 people from 20 different countries took part in these UNDAC missions, managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this year.Since the system started in 1993, “UNDAC has proven to be an exceptionally professional international disaster response system, supporting governments in times of sudden-onset distress,” said Arjun Katoch, head of OCHA’s Field Coordination Support Section.Assistance from UNDAC, he said, can reach an affected nation within 24 hours of a disaster striking.Within hours of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake striking Indonesia in September, the first UNDAC team member departed for the site, with the entire group on the ground 13 hours later. Nearly two dozen countries and organizations comprising nearly 700 emergency responders worked around the clock to carry out search and rescue operations.When not responding to emergencies, UNDAC promotes disaster preparedness by analyzing national systems at no cost to governments. This year, three such missions were deployed to Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Peru. read more