UK warns travellers of Y2K woes abroad

The British government has released a report warning travellers about potential year 2000 problems in 48 countries, including the US.

Tops on the list is Ukraine, which Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FOC) advises travellers against visiting early next year if at all possible. The office is roughly the British equivalent of the US State Department.

Areas of vulnerability within Ukraine's national infrastructure include finance, banking, power, transportation, defense and social sectors.

Other trouble spots include Russia, where nuclear power plants may run into problems. For example, the FOC report states that Russia's nuclear energy industry has 3,904 information technology systems and 42% of them are date-sensitive. One possible bright spot in Russia: The deputy director in charge of Y2K at RAO UES, the electricity and distribution monopoly there, said that because Russian electricity capacity is only 70% of 1991 levels, excess capacity could help the organization meet power demands in the event any power plants suffer Y2K-related outages.

As for the US, the FOC report warns travelers about potential problems with health services such as hospitals.

The British report also revealed potentially "significant" Y2K problems with China's electricity systems, including its real-time control and communications systems.

Japan's Ministry of Health & Welfare published a list of 1,297 medical devices that could be affected by year 2000 problems, and only one -- an appliance used for radioactive treatment -- could seriously harm a patient.

However, the British report also found that only 19% of Japan's emergency hospitals and clinics had tested their medical devices as of June 30, 1999.

The US State Department was expected to announce its own year 2000-related travel advisories concerning 194 countries sometime yesterday but ran into problems posting that information to its Web site, an agency spokeswoman said.

The State Department had previously predicted potential Y2K problems with power grids in Poland and India, telephones in Italy and railroads in China.

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