Nicaraguans evacuate as volcano spews ash cloud

Updated 28 December 2012
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Nicaraguans evacuate as volcano spews ash cloud

CHINANDEGA, MANAGUA: Nicaragua's tallest volcano has belched an ash cloud hundreds of meters (feet) into the sky in the latest bout of sporadic activity, prompting the evacuation of nearby residents, the government said on Wednesday.
The 5,725-foot (1,745-meter) San Cristobal volcano, which sits around 85 miles (135 km) north of the capital Managua in the country's northwest, has been active in recent years, and went through a similar episode in September.
Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo called on residents who live within a 1.9-mile (3-km) radius of the volcano to leave the area. Around 300 families live near the volcano.
"We have some families who have self-evacuated. ... We ask (the people) to go to a safe place, it's just for a few days during this emergency," she said, adding it was a precautionary measure.
A billowing grayish cloud could be seen drifting sideways from the volcano's peak. The volcano also stirred in mid-2008, when it expelled gas and rumbled with a series of small eruptions.
Some 1,500 farmers living on the slopes of the San Cristobal volcano refused to leave, despite being ordered to evacuate as the volcano spewed gas, sand and ash.
"People have not evacuated because we do not want to go and leave the area abandoned," Maria Pereira told AFP.
Pereira lives in "Grecia 4," a community of about 600 people at the base of the volcano, in the Chinandega department.
She said columns of ash "bathed the trees, houses, and roads in white" and "pretty sand fell" in the morning. She said by early afternoon volcanic activity had decreased, though in the evening new columns of ash shot up.
In another community near the volcano, Bethlehem, some farmers resisted efforts of Civil Defense officials to convince them to obey the evacuation order.
Around 140 Civil Defense troops have been deployed to "persuade" farmers to move away from the danger zone, state deputy Colonel Nestor Solis told reporters.
The government issued a yellow alert on Wednesday, ordering the evacuation of 300 families living near the volcano.


Teary-eyed, hundreds search through rubble in devastated Philippines city

Updated 20 min 19 sec ago
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Teary-eyed, hundreds search through rubble in devastated Philippines city

  • Daesh militants seized parts of the Muslim city of 200,000 people in May 2017, prompting massive evacuations
  • Damage to property was estimated at $211 million after government troops fought for five months to retake the city

MARAWI, Philippines: Surrounded by the ruins of homes they fled nearly a year ago, many residents of war-torn Marawi City in the Philippines were in tears when they briefly returned this week and sifted through rubble to salvage any possessions they could find.
The Muslim-majority city of 200,000 was over-run by militants loyal to the Daesh group last May, who fought the military for five months before they were ousted. After almost daily aerial bombardments and artillery fire, large parts of the picturesque, lakeside city have been devastated.
Hundreds of residents who had fled to refugee camps or to relatives’ homes in nearby towns were briefly allowed back by authorities to the ruins of the central business district on Thursday.
Calim Ali, 50, stepped out of her vehicle to find a ruined, empty plot where her home had stood in the bustling heart of the city. The only possession she could recover was a charred weighing scale that she said her family used in their fruit and rice business.
“I brought empty sacks. I thought we would still find something, like pots, and our money box,” Ali said, while her husband searched through the thick vegetation growing in the rubble.
Ali’s family is among about 27,000 others that lived in the main battle area, straddling over 24 barangays, or municipal districts. The area has remained off limits until this month, when the military said it had cleared it of hazards like booby traps and unexploded ordnance.
No civilian was permitted to stay in the area after 3 p.m. on Thursday, and the rule will remain in place on other days when visits are permitted, officials said.
There are 20 other barangays in the city which were not affected, and 50 others which were spared heavy shelling. Families have moved back to these areas.
There seems no chance of any early return for the residents of the city center.
Most buildings are in ruins and there is no food, electricity or any sewage facilities. Authorities say the area will take years to rebuild.
Meanwhile, posters showing residents how to recognize live mortar shells, grenades, aircraft rockets and improvised explosive devices were put up on every street, to remind the people to be careful as they sifted through the ruins.
Soldiers manning the area on Thursday ordered a group of residents scouring debris to quickly leave one of the streets after they found an unexploded bomb, which they detonated.

“Hurts so much"
“I’m at a loss for words,” Aisah Riga, 54, told Reuters, wiping away tears as she and her family rummaged through debris to find anything of use from what used to be their glass and aluminum supply store.
“This is our only source of livelihood and now it’s gone. I don’t know how we will survive. I have nine children,” she said.
Sobaidah Moner, 43, was waiting for the military to let the long line of vehicles into the main battle area as she recounted the day she and her family hurriedly left the city a day after fighting broke out on May 23.
“We were not able to bring anything except for the clothes we were wearing that day. All the clothes we are wearing right now were given to us by relatives,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Like Moner, several residents who spoke to Reuters said they abandoned their belongings and only brought clothes for a few days when they sought safety in nearby towns, thinking that the gunbattle, which was not uncommon in Marawi, would soon be over.
“I thought the fighting would be over in three days. We didn’t expect this. It hurts so much,” Moner said.
Residents said they are pinning their hopes on the government’s promise to rehabilitate and rebuild the city. But the extent of damage, estimated at 11 billion pesos ($211 million) means it would take years of work to reconstruct Marawi.
“The most affected area has its own development plan which is expected to be finished by 2021,” said Felix Castro, housing assistant secretary, and field office manager of an inter-agency government task force named “Bangon Marawi (Rise Marawi).”
A Chinese-led consortium, also called Bangon Marawi, has been chosen for the reconstruction, but other bidders would be asked to compete and it will be allowed to match the best proposal, Castro said.
Rehabilitation work is scheduled to start in June, he said.
For now however, the once-bustling center of the city is lifeless.
“Before you could hear the sound of cars, and anything you wanted to buy was available. But now that we are here, there’s only silence,” said Jalil Solaiman, a 39-year-old resident.