Australia and Oceania

Iglesia Ni Cristo extends help to communities in Micronesia amid crisis

Eagle News — Micronesia Islands has a total of about 150 of confirmed reported cases of COVID-19 which is a small amount compared to most places. But on a small island and a condensed population, those numbers can jump quickly. During these unprecedented times, the best thing that one can do for each other, is to help one another, to come together as a community. Recently, the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) throughout the […]

Australia pounces on oil glut to build strategic reserve

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia said Wednesday it will take advantage of record low oil prices to develop a long-needed strategic oil reserve, which will be located in the United States. With global demand for oil slowing to a trickle owing to worldwide virus lockdowns, crude prices turning negative and storage facilities bursting at the seams, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said it was time to act. Australia has long had one of the lowest levels […]

New Zealand to ease virus lockdown next week

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — New Zealand will ease a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown next week after claiming success in stopping “an uncontrolled explosion” of the virus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday. “We have done what very few countries have been able to do,” Ardern said. “We have stopped a wave of devastation.” She said New Zealand would move its maximum Level Four alert to Level Three from late evening on Monday, April 27, and […]

Virus lockdown puts brakes on Vanuatu cyclone relief

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (AFP) — Vanuatu’s rigid coronavirus lockdown is hindering critical relief efforts to rebuild the island country after it was pummelled by Tropical Cyclone Harold, aid agencies said Saturday. Nearly two weeks after the deadly monster storm barrelled through the South Pacific, local media reported that newly homeless families were still sleeping in the open. Australia, New Zealand and China have rushed in emergency aid but distribution has been hampered by strict quarantine […]

Pacific clean-up after homes ‘blown to smithereens’ by superstorm

SUVA Fiji (AFP) — Tens of thousands of people remain homeless in Vanuatu a week after Tropical Cyclone Harold pummelled the impoverished Pacific nation, smashing houses and destroying crops, aid workers said Tuesday. The cyclone careened through the South Pacific last week, peaking as a Category Five superstorm that gouged a trail of destruction across the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga. With aid efforts hampered by coronavirus-related travel restrictions, World Vision said up to […]

Australia, New Zealand flatten virus curve but keep lockdowns intact

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday brushed aside calls for an easing of tough restrictions on travel and public gatherings despite their success in curbing the spread of COVID-19. The number of new coronavirus cases in the neighbouring nations has fallen dramatically in the last two weeks, raising hopes that difficult social distancing measures may be relaxed. But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was still “many weeks away” […]

Monster storm gathers strength off Tonga

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (AFP) — Tropical Cyclone Harold surged back into a scale-topping Category Five storm Thursday as it sideswiped Tonga after leaving a trail of destruction across the South Pacific. The island kingdom declared a state of emergency late Wednesday as the storm bore down, warning of destructive winds and massive sea surges. Police said early Thursday that power had been cut in parts of the country and howling winds were gathering pace amid heavy […]

Pacific’s monster storm Harold moves on to Fiji

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — A deadly Pacific cyclone bore down on Fiji Wednesday after leaving a trail of destruction in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Tropical Cyclone Harold weakened slightly overnight from a scale-topping category five to a four, but was still lashing Fiji with winds of up to 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour), forecasters said. The official NaDraki weather service said the cyclone was offshore south of Fiji’s main island Viti […]

Australian Cardinal Pell freed after winning appeal over child sex abuse

  by Holly ROBERTSON Agence France Presse BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) — Cardinal George Pell was released from prison on Tuesday, hours after Australia’s High Court quashed his conviction for child sex abuse, bringing to an abrupt end the most high-profile paedophilia case faced by the Catholic Church. The 78-year-old left Barwon Prison near Melbourne after the court overturned five counts of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s. Pell, who had steadfastly maintained his […]

Monster cyclone cuts off Vanuatu’s northern provinces

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (AFP) — A deadly Pacific cyclone cut off communication links to Vanuatu’s northern islands Tuesday, with aid officials saying they had grave concerns for residents in the remote areas. Tropical Cyclone Harold, which claimed 27 lives when it swept through the Solomon Islands last week, lashed Vanuatu’s northern provinces overnight as a scale-topping category five superstorm. Red Cross Vanuatu secretary general Jacqueline de Gaillande said the cyclone, packing winds of up to […]

Sixty Australian newspapers to stop printing

  SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Rupert Murdoch’s Australian flagship media group News Corp announced Wednesday it will stop printing around 60 regional newspapers, as the troubled sector received a fresh blow from a COVID-19 advertising downturn. News Corp said papers in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia would cease printing and move online. “We have not taken this decision lightly,” News Corp Australasia Executive Chairman Michael Miller was quoted as […]

Extreme isolation: world’s last virus-free corners hold tight

by Bernadette Carreon KOROR, Palau (AFP) — A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific may seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic — but residents on Palau say life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and […]