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Google Maps error forces lost tourists to walk 60km from bogged car in Far North Queensland



Two young men are lucky to be alive after walking for several days in the Cape York wilderness when their car became bogged after they followed Google Maps directions.

German tourists Philipp Maier and Marcel Schoene left Cairns on 4 February and headed off to travel through Cape York in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

They told Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers they had been following the directions on Google Maps on their way to Bamaga.

Google Maps told them to enter Oyala Thumotang National Park through a dirt track known as Langi Track, which leads to the old Archers Crossing.

On 6 February, their vehicle became bogged and without any phone service they became stuck.

The pair camped for about a week before attempting to walk to Archer River and then Coen, which took several days.

Maier said he and his fellow traveller had been following Google’s directions.

“In Coen, Google Maps said we should go to the national park right away, and we thought just do it because maybe the main road is closed because of a high river,” he said.

He said they drove through the national park for 50 to 60km before they became stuck.

“The roads were quite good because the weather was quite dry for the past few days and the creeks were knee-high, maybe,” Maier said.

“Where we got stuck, it looked really dry. The surface was dry, but under the surface it was really wet and muddy.”

He said their car became stuck in a hole.

“[It was] almost impossible to get out of there,” he said.

The men said they initially tried to walk to Archer River because it was closer, but when they reached the river the water was too high to cross.

Schoene said they tried to cross over the river on a fallen tree.

“We went on the fallen tree to come over the other side, then at the night we had to sleep there and it started to rain and we couldn’t go further up,” he said.

He said the pair built a shelter out of wood in the landscape.

“It wasn’t very good, it wasn’t very safe,” he said.

Maier and Schoene said they had several wildlife encounters including a crocodile and a snake, a lot of spiders, as well as several cows and wild pigs.

Maier said they mostly walked during the early mornings, stopping during the heat of the day, before continuing until late at night.

Hard decision to start walking

Schoene said the decision to leave their car was hard.

“It was a very bad feeling, very weird,” he said. “But after 10-20 kilometres, we never thought about it.”

He said they walked for about 22 hours, through rain, sleeping on the road at night and using a drone to look for nearby roads.

“We had our backpacks with us, like 12 kilos on the back, so all the important stuff we had with us,” he said.

The pair spoke with rangers after their ordeal and were unharmed but did have lessons they would take with them.

“Never trust Google Maps on your own,” Schoene said.

Maier said it was a happy ending but a difficult few days.

“It was a good experience but it was a really hard experience. I don’t want to live this week another time,” he said.

Ranger in charge Roger James said QPWS and a local mechanic helped recover the vehicle, but the situation could have been a lot worse.

“These men ended up on foot in oppressive conditions and although they had supplies and a shelter for sleeping, they are extremely lucky to be alive,” he said.

“In this case, we were quite lucky we were recovering a vehicle, not bodies, but it could have been much different.”

He said if the men had not been as young, fit, prepared and motivated, it could have ended tragically.

“These men tried crossing a river on a fallen log, endured intense heat and storms, encountered cattle, pigs, and crocodiles and had to sleep in the bush.”

He said it was not the first time tourists had been sent the wrong way through the national park by Google Maps.

“We’ve got no idea why this is happening, there aren’t even any crossings on the Archer River,” he said.

Google Maps problems

In December, a frustrated council in Western Australia erected signs warning drivers against using Google Maps after GPS-based directions repeatedly sent travellers down unsafe roads.

And in November, landowner Graham Anderson invented his own road sign to direct travellers regularly getting lost near his property at Isla, about four hours’ drive west of Bundaberg.

He discovered drivers were following Google Maps across his cattle property in search of the spectacular Isla Gorge, which had an entrance almost 20 kilometres further along the Leichhardt Highway.

– This story was first published by ABC.

Source: RNZ

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French President Emmanuel Macron lands in Nouméa amid unrest



French president Emmanuel Macron has landed in Nouméa.

The French Ambassador to the Pacific Véronique Roger-Lacan was on the flight.

“The unrest in New Caledonia is absolutely unacceptable,” Roger-Lacan told RNZ Pacific in an interview on 22 May at 12.20am (NZT).

She had just arrived back from Caracas where she represented France at this week’s UN seminar on decolonisation.

“As far as the French state is concerned, our door is open, we are welcoming everyone for dialogue, in Paris or in Nouméa. It’s up to everyone to join further dialogue,” Roger-Lacan said.

Roger-Lacan said the unrest had been provoked by very specific parts of the Caledonia establishment.

She said she made a plea for dialogue at the United Nations decolonisation seminar in light of the deadly protests in New Caledonia.

“Well, what I want to say is that the Nouméa agreement has enabled everyone in New Caledonia to have a representation in the French national assembly and in the Senate,” Roger-Lacan said.

“And it is up to all the parties, including the independentists, who have some representatives in the National Assembly and in the Senate, to use their political power to convince everyone in the National Assembly and in the parliament.

“If they don’t manage, it is [an] amazingly unacceptable way of voicing their concerns through violence.”

While the French government and anti-independence leaders maintain protest organisers are to blame for the violence, pro-independence parties say they have been holding peaceful protests for months.

They say violence was born from socio-economic disparities and France turning a deaf ear to the territorial government’s call for a controversial proposed amendment to be scrapped.

Roger-Lacan said while ‘everyone’ was saying this unrest was called for because they were not listened to by the French state, France stands ready for dialogue.

She said just because one group failed to ‘use their political power to convince the assembly and the senate’, it did not justify deadly protests.

The delegation

A long-time journalist reporting on Pacific issues says the composition of the French President’s delegation to New Caledonia will anger pro-independence leaders.

Islands Business correspondent Nic Maclellan said Macron would be accompanied by the current overseas minister Gérald Darmanin and armed forces minister Sébastien Lecornu.

“They will no doubt be welcomed by supporters of the French republic, anti-independence politicians who want to stay with France but Lecornu and Darmanin have been responsible for key decisions taken over the last three or four years that have lead to this current crisis,” Maclellan said.

President Macron has said the main objective of the trip is to resume political talks with all stakeholders and find a political solution to the crisis.

United Nations

This year Véronique Roger-Lacan represented France at the table at a seminar which took place in the lead up to the Committee in New York in June.

The right to self determination is a constitutional principle in the French constitution as much as it is in the UN Charter, Roger-Lacan explained.

The meeting she has just been at in Caracas, “prepares a draft, UN General Assembly resolution, that is being examined in the committee, which is called the C 24,” she said.

Roger-Lacan was appointed to the role of French ambassador to the Pacific in July last year.

Various groups have been calling for the United Nations to head a delegation to New Caledonia to observe the current situation.

Roger-Lacan said the New Caledonia coalition government representative and the FLNKS representative both called for a UN mission at the meeting.

“Then there were five representatives of the loyalists and they all made the case of the fact that a third referenda had in compliance with the two UN General Assembly resolutions determined the future status of New Caledonia,” she said.

As the representative of the French state, she made the case that France has always been the only administrative power to sit in the C24, “and to negotiate and cooperate,” she said.

“The United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom never did that,” Roger-Lacan said.

She also welcomed the UN, “whenever they want to visit”, she said.

“That’s the plea that I made on behalf of the French government, a plea for dialogue.”

Source: RNZ

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French-operated flight to evacuate next group of New Zealanders from New Caledonia



A French-operated flight will bring stranded New Zealanders to Brisbane, with a New Zealand Defence Force flight arranged for the travel from Brisbane to New Zealand.

The French flight is due to depart Tontouta Airport at 6pm NZ time with 49 Kiwis on board.

The flight from Brisbane to Auckland is due to arrive at Auckland International Airport at 1am NZ time.

MFAT said it was still working with French and Australian authorities on logistics.

Around 10pm last night a Defence Force flight completed the first mercy mission, landing in Auckland with 48 New Zealanders on board.

MFAT said 260 New Zealanders remain and are hoping to leave Noumea (of the 274 NZers in New Caledonia registered on Safetravel).

It is believed that in total there would have been at least 371 NZers in New Caledonia when the conflict erupted.

It has claimed six lives while millions of dollars in damages has been caused to businesses and infrastructure.

French President Emmanuel Macon is due to arrive in New Caledonia this evening.


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Russia starts exercise to simulate launch of tactical nuclear weapons



Russian forces have started the first stage of exercises ordered by President Vladimir Putin to simulate preparation for the launch of tactical nuclear weapons, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Moscow has linked the exercises to what it calls “militant statements” by Western officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron, which it said created security threats for Russia.

Nuclear analysts say the exercises are designed as a warning signal by Putin to deter the West from wading more deeply into the war in Ukraine. Western countries have provided weapons and intelligence to Kyiv but have refrained from sending troops.

The Defence Ministry said the first stage of the exercise involved Iskander and Kinzhal missiles.

It is aimed at ensuring that units and equipment are ready for “the combat use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to respond and unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials against the Russian Federation”, the ministry said.

The drills involve missile forces in Russia’s Southern Military District, which lies adjacent to Ukraine and also includes parts of Ukraine that Russia now controls.

Belarus, where Russia said last year it was deploying tactical nuclear weapons, will also be involved, the two countries have said.

Tactical, or non-strategic, nuclear weapons are less powerful than the strategic arms designed to wipe out whole enemy cities, but they nevertheless have vast destructive potential.

Some Western analysts believe non-strategic nuclear weapons have acquired greater importance in Moscow’s thinking since the start of the war in Ukraine, where its conventional forces struggled in the first two years.

In theory, the use of such a weapon could deliver a stunning shock to the West without necessarily triggering a full-blown nuclear war, though the risk of triggering a cycle of escalation would be huge.

‘Special ammunition’

Russia has about 1558 non-strategic nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists, although there is uncertainty about exact figures. They are controlled by the Russian Defence Ministry’s 12th Main Directorate, known as 12th GUMO.

The ministry said troops were practising obtaining “special ammunition” – meaning nuclear warheads – for Iskander missiles, equipping launch vehicles with them and “covertly advancing to the designated position in preparation for missile launches”.

It said aviation units were also practising the fitting of special warheads to Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and flying into designated patrol areas.

Video released by the ministry showed missiles being transported in a convoy of military vehicles and placed in position ready for firing.

“The exercises are, obviously, a signal in response to discussion of NATO countries’ troops in Ukraine. The most important features are advance announcement and visibility,” Nikolai Sokov, a former Soviet and Russian arms control official, told Reuters.

Western militaries will be watching the exercises closely and seeking to draw conclusions about how much warning time they would have if Russia deployed such weapons for real, he said.

“The involvement of 12th GUMO can produce insights into how much time the release of warheads takes, how well detectable, how much warning,” said Sokov, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.

The involvement of Kinzhal, he said, was “a new element I did not expect to see”, although there was no doubt about its capability to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.

When Putin ordered the drills this month, Russia’s Foreign Ministry linked them to comments by France’s Macron, who floated the possibility of sending European troops to fight Moscow in Ukraine, and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said Kyiv had the right to use weapons provided by London to strike targets inside Russia. It also cited the provision of long-range British, French and U.S. ATACMS missiles to Kyiv.

The Foreign Ministry said on 6 May the exercises should send a “sobering signal” to the West and its “puppets” in Ukraine.

“We hope these drills will cool the hot heads in Western capitals,” it said, adding the West should realise “the potential catastrophic consequences of the strategic risks they are generating” and stop short of direct military confrontation with Russia.

Source: Reuters and RNZ

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