Death Toll from Tunisia Migrant Boat Collision Rises to 34

The bodies of sixteen migrants have been recovered after their boat collided with a Navy vessel on October 8, putting the death toll to 34.

‘‘All the bodies are of male victims and there is a teen of less than fourteen – years old”, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told local media.

The incident has caused widespread outrage in Tunisia where the families of victims protested in towns. In the southern town of Kebili, protesters set fire on a local government building last week.

Last Monday, authorities recovered eight bodies after the collision 54 km (33 miles) off the coast, while 38 were rescued. The bodies of ten other migrants were found on Saturday night.

According to testimony from survivors 90 people had been on board hoping to make their way to Italy when the navy vessel collided with their boat. Some even accused the marine unit of having premeditated the collision.

Tunisia has been praised as an example of democratic transition since the overthrowing of former president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Nevertheless, many young people lack job opportunities.

Statistics compiled by the IOM and the Italian government showed that ‘1,400 Tunisians had arrived in Lampedusa and western Sicily in September alone’, seeking better opportunities in Europe.

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Jendouba Wildfires Force Mass Evacuations

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Wildfires in Jendouba, north-western Tunisia, have forced the evacuation of 23 families overnight, officials say.

Three hundred hectares of land have now been destroyed after fires erupted on Monday, mainly in the Fernana, Ghar Dimaou and Boussalem delegations.

Some 250 firefighters and forest rangers have been deployed to tackle the flames backed by 2 water bombers and 15 fire trucks.

Jendouba additionally requested help from neighboring cities – a request immediately fulfilled by Tunis, Siliana and Manouba.

Although local authorities claim that most fires have been contained, a new fire erupted in Aïn Draham late Tuesday destroying 500 hectares of land.

All of southeast Tunisia is currently on high alert to ward off any threats. Strong wind, potentially reaching 18 km/h, is forecast throughout Wednesday.

Since June, the south of Tunisia has been affected by a wave of wildfires due to strong winds, dry conditions, and severe temperatures.

Tunisian Police Dismantle Drug trafficking Network in Menzel Temime

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Officers from the National Guard of Ben Arous with assistance from units of the National Guard of Nabeul dismantled a network of drug cultivation and trafficking in Menzel Temime, a government official said on Saturday.

The operation led to the seizure of 5 kg of cannabis herb, 20 cannabis plants, a sum of 680 dinars and an unregistered firearm.

Five people charged in the bust have been arrested and a search warrant was issued against another suspect accused of damage to others’ property.

Investigations are under way to arrest other involved people.

The suspects were placed in custody pending the completion of the investigation.

Works Start on Tunisia’s First Solar Photovoltaic Station

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The construction of a solar photovoltaic station, the first of its kind in Tunisia, has successfully started on Monday in the governorate of Tozeur.

The plant which is carried out by Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company (STEG) will start generating power in May next year, bringing 10-megawatt a year to the national grid.

Minister of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energies Héla Cheikhrouhou said the project is part of the Tunisian Solar Plan (PST) which expects that electricity from renewable energies will account for 30 percent of the country’s total power output by 2020.

Besides this project, STEG reportedly plans another solar plant that will produce 380 megawatts between 2017 and 2020.

In Tunisia, which records around 2,800 -3,000 hours of sunlight annually, the solar energy production is estimated at 35 megawatts a year.

As the energy demand increases by 11 percent every year, the government has been trying to boost the production of renewable energy from sources like sunlight, wind and geothermal heat.

Tunisia Sees Tourism Boom

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Tunisia may see a significant growth in the number of international visitors to the country, with a 30 per cent rise in arrivals during the first half of 2017, a government official said on Tuesday.

Last year tourist arrivals fell to 5.5 million, after several European tour companies and cruise operators suspended operations in the wake of the Bardo and Sousse attacks.

Lost revenues contributed to a slowdown in economic growth, pushing the Tunisian dinar to historic lows against the dollar and euro.

The Tunisian tourism market now anticipates recovery by promoting ‘cultural tourism’ and improving security around tourist sites across the country.

Tourism Ministry officials say hotel bookings for this summer have been rising, especially from Russia.

Tourism accounts for 8 percent of gross domestic product in Tunisia, with about 472.8 employees, or 13.9% percent of Tunisia’s workforce.

Tunisair Suspends All Flights Over Uniform Row

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The travel plans of hundreds of passengers have been left in turmoil after Tunisair was forced to suspend all flights  until further notice.

The move came amid ‘altercations’ between aircrew and maintenance workers over uniforms which escalated in physical clashes at Tunis Carthage airport.

Police reinforcements were sent to the airport and a crisis cell including the Minister of Transport was created in order to tackle the situation.

Tunisair later announced a gradual resumption of flights after talks with trade union representatives, but warned of further interruption until the issue is fully resolved.

The carrier also apologized to passengers, saying the decision was aimed at ‘preserving the safety of its fleet’.

According to its website, Tunisair has 29 aircraft that usually operate an average of 47 flights a day to destinations mostly in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Crocodile Stoned to Death at Tunisia Zoo

Less than a week after reports that a hippo had been beaten at an El Salvador zoo by nighttime mystery attackers, a crocodile was stoned to death by visitors at a Tunisia zoo.

Amor Ennaifer, a vet at the Belvedere zoo, said the reptile died from internal hemorrhage after being hit on the head by two large rocks.

“There are more than 150 species in the zoo. We can’t put a guard in front of each cage,” he said, “People need to be aware of the need to respect animals.”

Gruesome pictures of the attack were posted to Facebook by the municipality of Tunis, which condemned the attack as “savage behavior.”

Environment Minister Riadh Mouakher said an investigation had been opened into the incident, adding that measures to “increase the number of guards and deploy environmental police agents” are being taken.

The Belvedere Zoo has been in need of maintenance for years.

Last year, graphic images showing the zoo covered with litter caused social media outcry.

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