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Wednesday's papers: Finns unharmed in Iraq missile strikes, dangerous cities for cyclists and 2020 passport ranking

Finnish soldiers unharmed in Iran's missile strikes in Iraq, pedestrian fatalities in Tampere and Finland's mild winter.

poliisit neuvomassa pyöräilijää
Helsinki's 'light traffic' police monitors electric scooters, bicycles and electric bikes. Image: Vesa Sundqvist / Yle

Most Finnish media carried news of missile strikes on US assets in Iraq launched overnight by Iran, with particular focus on the Finnish soldiers housed at a base in Erbil.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on the Finnish foreign ministry's confirmation that the Finns were unharmed in the strikes.

The air strikes came in response to the killing of intelligence chief Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike last week.

According to news service STT, around 80 Finnish soldiers are involved in a Nato-led training mission in the Erbil area of Kurdistan. The army said in a tweet published on Wednesday that it was monitoring the situation in Iraq.

Brigadier General Rami Saari, the Chief of Operations of the army command told HS on Tuesday that the future of the Finnish training operation is open-ended and that operations have been suspended for the time being due to the security situation.

"Our most important task at the moment is to protect our operations and the unit in Erbil," Saari said.

Nato announced on Tuesday that it would be moving some of its training troops out of Iraq or elsewhere within Iraq, according to HS.

Dangerous cities for cyclists

Finland's roads are becoming increasingly safer, and it appears that 2019 was the safest year on record with the fewest deaths ever recorded — but there are still major differences in the statistics between cities.

Tampere is the most dangerous city for cyclists and pedestrians, reports Helsingin Sanomat, while Kouvola and Lappeenranta have proven to be the safest, based on Statistics Finland's road traffic accident data.

Tampere, Helsinki and Oulu have the highest number of fatal accidents in cycling or pedestrian traffic — seven pedestrians or cyclists in each of these cities died between the beginning of 2017 and November last year, the report said.

No pedestrians or cyclists died in traffic accidents in Kouvola and Lappeenranta during the same period.

Statistic Finland’s data analyst Mika Sutela who works at the Police Traffic Safety Center, highlighted the high percentage of fatal accidents in Tampere.

Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities accounted for 78 percent of all road traffic deaths in Tampere between 2017 and 2019, according to the report. In Turku the corresponding figure was 55 percent, in Helsinki and Joensuu 50 percent.

Sutela said in the report that a number of factors can affect these figures, ranging from urban planning projects, the sizes of downtown areas and the number of intersections. The report speculated that construction work on the upcoming Tampere tramway which started in 2017 could be a reason for the spike in accidents.

According to the Finnish Road Safety Council, safety, an average of 23 cyclists and 26 pedestrians have died each year in Finland in recent years. Overall, the number of road deaths has decreased over the last decade — a total of 379 people died in road traffic in Finland in 2003, compared to 237 in 2018 and, according to preliminary data, 204 in 2019.

Finland however has failed to meet its road safety target of halving the number of road deaths and serious injuries by 2020 compared to 2010 levels, the report stated.

Snow-free winter to continue

The mild and ‘snowless’ winter in southern Finland will continue well into February, reports tabloid Ilta Sanomat.

Meteorologist Juha Jantunen from the Finnish Meteorological Institute has tweeted forecasts from the European Center for Medium-Range Forecasts which reveal that the month of January will be 3-6 or even 6-10 degrees warmer than usual.

The report stated that shorter-term forecasts also paint a similar picture expecting the weather to remain mild. Wednesday is expected to be particularly warm — temperatures in southwestern Finland may reach 8-10 degrees celsius.

Meanwhile snowfall in northern Finland was above average, according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute which said that the 'snow line' runs from Central Ostrobothnia to Pirkanmaa, Päijät-Häme, South Savo and the northern parts of South Karelia, while the west coast and the south are snow-free.

The ‘Black Christmas’ however made for a safer holiday season than usual according to a report by rural paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus. The paper stated that the Automobile and Touring Club of Finland (ATCF), a nationwide association for private motoring in Finland, received roughly one quarter fewer calls for roadside assistance from members compared to last year's holiday season, thanks to the warmer weather.

ATCF’s holiday service ‘Operation Snowflake’ which has volunteers helping drivers across the country during Christmas was on duty for the 51st consecutive year.

Finland’s passport ranking

Tabloid Iltalehti reported that Finland shares fourth place with Italy in the latest Henley Passport Index which ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of countries their holders can enter without a visa.

Japan's passport was listed as the world's most useful travel document with visa-free access to 191 countries, followed by Singapore and South Korea at 190 and 189 countries respectively.

Finnish passport holders can travel to 188 countries without a visa. The passport has dropped two places from the 2019 ranking where it shared the second place with Germany and South Korea.

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