Nepal | July 04, 2020

Philippine volcano alert lowered, thousands return home

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Share Now:

MANILA, PHILIPPINE: Philippine authorities on Sunday lowered the alert level at Taal Volcano, two weeks after it began spewing ash, steam and rocks, a move that will allow many of the more than 376,000 displaced villagers to return home.

A popular tourist destination just south of Manila because of its picturesque setting in the middle of a lake, Taal erupted on Jan. 12. It caused no known deaths but delivered an early crisis this year for one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations.

“Taal volcano’s condition in the two weeks … has generally declined into less frequent volcanic earthquake activity, decelerated ground deformation … and weak steam and gas emissions at the main crater,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The government’s agency lowered the alert level from 4 to 3, which means there’s a “decreased tendency toward a hazardous eruption.” The highest level-5 alert indicates a major and much more dangerous eruption.

The agency also reduced to half the danger zone where residents have to be evacuated, from the 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) radius around the volcano. Taal had last erupted 43 years ago.

“We have to be careful of Taal because of the danger it may still bring, so at the lower level, there should be heightened preparedness. People should brace for rapid evacuation,” Renato Solidum, the head of the institute, said in a televised news conference.

Mayor Daniel Reyes of Agoncillo, a town along the western shores of Taal Lake overlooking the island where the volcano lies, said he was relieved but remained concerned. Residents of Agoncillo and nearby Laurel could still not return home because of the towns’ proximity to the volcano. Thousands of villagers who used to reside and work on Volcano Island will not be allowed to return permanently, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said.

Mandanas warned returning villagers to assess the safety of their villages and houses, many of which remained blanketed by volcanic ash or had been damaged by the eruption and earthquakes.

“It’s somehow a relief but we’re still under a total lockdown,” Reyes told The Associated Press, adding all the 44,000 villagers of his town will remain in evacuation centers.

Footage showed thousands of elated villagers yelling “thank you” as they drove back in droves to their still-dusty towns and cities on board motorcycles, motorcycle taxis and some cars.

More than 376,000 people fled to safety from ash-blanketed towns and cities in hard-hit Batangas province. Nearly half of them sought accommodation in some 500 state-run emergency shelters, mostly school and government buildings. The eruption had shut Manila’s main international airport for a night due to volcanic ash, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

A thriving tourism industry in Batangas and in upland Tagaytay city, where hundreds of hotels, venues, spas and parks have benefited from its vantage view of one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, came to a halt for days.

Resort towns around Taal Lake resembled ash-covered ghost towns. Police set up barricades and checkpoints to prevent residents from sneaking back to the danger zone to check their homes, rescue pets or retrieve food, documents and belongings, sparking arguments.

The 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal is the second-most restive of about two dozen active Philippine volcanoes and precariously lies near densely populated areas. On the small island where the volcano lies, more than 5,000 villagers, many of them working as tourist guides, fled as the ground shook and the volcano belched a tall plume of dark-gray ash and steam into the sky. Hundreds of horses, cows and other animals were left behind.

The Philippine archipelago lies in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically fragile region around the ocean basin, where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 740 new cases, 823 recoveries, one death recorded on Friday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 242,247 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method and 305,629 Rapid Diagn Read More...

Nepal's Covid-19 recovery rate sees improvement in the last 7 days

KATHMANDU: Nepal has witnessed a relatively significant rise in the number of COVID-19 recovery cases in the last seven days, compared to the past weeks, adding a glimmer of hope as the nation as a whole grapples with the rapidly rising number of positive cases. In the last week alone, as many as Read More...

Responding to COVID-19’s impact on remittances

July 3, 2020 Remittances are very crucial to many low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Though these financial flows somewhat demonstrated their resilience during the global financial crisis of 2008 and the Ebola epidemic of 2014, they have been under threat in recent months by the COVI Read More...

French teenage defender Kouassi joins Bayern from PSG

BERLIN: French defender Tanguy Kouassy has joined Bayern Munich on a four-year contract from Paris St Germain, the German champions said. It is the 18-year-old Kouassi's first professional contract after three seasons at PSG's youth academy, although he has featured in the first team, making h Read More...

Sane completes move to Bayern from Manchester City

MUNICH: Leroy Sane has completed his move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich from Manchester City, the German club announced on Friday. Sane, 24, had signed a five-year deal with Bayern that would keep him at the club until 2025, the club said on their website. Financial terms of t Read More...

Locusts devour crops on 1,100 hectares

KATHMANDU, JULY 3 Desert locusts have damaged crops cultivated on 1,100 hectares of land across the country. According to the Locusts Information Centre, eight districts have reported damage caused by locusts till date. Of them, Dang is the worst hit and Palpa the least. The locusts devoure Read More...