Philippine volcano ‘fireworks’ draw tourists as residents flee

Above, lava from Mayon volcano is seen as it erupts in Legazpi City on January 15. Mayon, a near-perfect cone that also draws thousands of tourists during its periods of quiet, rises 2,460 meters above Legazpi. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Philippine volcano ‘fireworks’ draw tourists as residents flee

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines: Spectacular lava “fireworks” shooting from its crater are drawing tourists to the Philippines’ most active volcano, authorities said Tuesday as scientists warned of a potential dangerous eruption within days.
Lava spurting from Mayon volcano lit up the sky overnight Monday in what scientists said was a sign of increasing activity that prompted official calls for evacuation of areas under threat from a major eruption.
But even as thousands of residents flee, tourists are flocking to the area, some 330 kilometers southeast of Manila to watch and photograph the spectacle, Danny Garcia, a spokesman for Albay province said.
“It’s a spectacle to watch. It’s beauty and fury in one, especially at night. But it’s a natural phenomenon so we don’t know when an (explosive) eruption will happen,” Garcia added.
Mayon, a near-perfect cone that also draws thousands of tourists during its periods of quiet, rises 2,460 meters above Legazpi, a city of about 200,000 people surrounded by a largely agricultural region.
The state volcanology institute described the natural pyrotechnics as “short-duration lava fountaining,” an escalation from the slow lava flow from the crater a day earlier.
“If lava has enough gas and material, fragments will be flown up into the air, like the fountain you light up on New Year’s Eve,” Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said.
“There is more force involved when the lava would exit so it’s more intense than just the lava oozing out.”
Ash also rose two kilometers into the sky in the past 24 hours, enveloping surrounding areas in a grey carpet as more residents left their homes for safety.
About 30,000 people in and around Legazpi have fled their homes, the provincial government said on Tuesday, more than double the official count on Monday.
Local governments are tapping emergency funds and working to ensure clean water supply, officials said.
However hotels reported getting more tourist bookings while people flocked to viewing decks to watch the volcano from a distance, the provincial government said although it gave no specific figures.
The Philippines is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” of islands that were formed by volcanic activity, and is perennially under threat from 22 active volcanoes.
The most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.
Scientists said it was highly unlikely Mayon would have a similar eruption.
“It erupts quite often, and volcanoes that erupt frequently tend to have smaller eruptions than those that erupt less frequently,” David Rothery, a geosciences professor at The Open University in Britain, said.


Pakistan’s national airline to formally invite newlywed British royals to visit

Updated 22 May 2018
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Pakistan’s national airline to formally invite newlywed British royals to visit

  • Formal invitation letter will be delivered to the British High Commission, PIA spokesperson tells Arab News
  • Pakistan International Airlines hopes that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will visit the northern areas of the country, just as Princess Diana did in 1991

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will formally invite Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the newlywed British royal couple, to visit the scenic northern areas of the country, the airline’s spokesman told Arab News on Monday.
“We have prepared the official draft of the invitation that will be delivered to the British High Commission in Pakistan on Tuesday,” said Mashood Tajwar, the spokesperson of the country’s national flag carrier.
“We are offering them to visit and enjoy the beauty of the northern areas of Pakistan on behalf of our managing director,” he added, saying that the royal couple would also enjoy the warm hospitality of the people of Pakistan.
In an apparent marketing move, PIA had earlier invited the newlyweds via a Twitter message to experience the splendor of the country’s northern areas, reminding them of Princess Diana’s four-day solo trip to the region in September 1991.
The princess had visited Peshawar and Chitral where she was presented with the area’s traditional cap, adorned with a beautiful feather, and an embroidered coat.
PIA also posted a picture of her wearing Gilgit-Baltistan’s traditional dress and sitting with two local children. The airlines offered to send the royal couple one of its aircraft if they accepted the invitation.
“We watched the Royal Wedding and remembered Princess Diana and her trip to the northern areas of Pakistan, and we thought how wonderful it would be for the newlyweds to visit our northern splendors as well. So, Prince Harry and Princess Meghan, we are ready, just let us know when,” PIA tweeted.
The invitation drew mixed responses on social media.
Some people expressed their readiness to welcome the royal couple, with some saying it was a nice gesture.
But others lambasted the airline for what they thought was its poor performance. “By the time they get to Lahore, the royal couple will have their first child,” mocked one social media user.
The country’s loss-making national flag carrier is aggressively working towards rebuilding its public image. However, it has been losing around Rs45 billion ($389.3 million) per year and its accumulated losses are estimated to be about Rs316 billion.
Recently, the Economic Coordination Committee approved a Rs20 billion bailout package for PIA — the fifth of its kind in one-and-a-half years.
The government has developed a strategic business plan to improve the performance of the airlines. The plan will prioritize segregation of non-core functions from core functions, product improvement, route rationalization, and cost reduction/optimization. It will also develop HR capability and modernize its IT systems.
PIA has refurbished its fleet of 32 aircraft. It has also abandoned unprofitable routes and increased the number of flights on profitable routes such as Saudi Arabia and China.