Philippine volcano spews fountains of lava, big ash plumes

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Mayon volcano erupts for the second straight day on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 as seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines. (AP)
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Ash spews from the Mayon volcano as it continues to erupt, seen at sunrise from Legazpi City in Albay province, south of Manila on January 23, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Philippine volcano spews fountains of lava, big ash plumes

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippines’ most active volcano spewed fountains of lava and massive ash plumes overnight and Tuesday morning after authorities warned a violent eruption may be imminent.
Lava fountains reached up to 700 meters (2,300 feet) above Mount Mayon’s crater and ash plumes rose up to 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) during the night and before daybreak, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. An explosive eruption Monday was the most powerful since the volcano started acting up more than a week ago.
Disaster officials in Albay province, where Mayon lies, say more than 30,000 people are staying in evacuation centers.
Officials raised Mayon’s alert level to four on a scale of five, meaning a violent eruption is possible within hours or days. The danger zone expanded to 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the crater, affecting thousands more residents.
The eruptions have shrouded nearby villages in darkness and sent lava, rocks and debris cascading down Mayon’s slopes toward the no-entry danger zone. There have no reports of deaths and injuries. Airplanes have been ordered to stay away from the crater and ash-laden winds and several flights have been canceled.
Volcanic ash fell in about a dozen towns in coconut-growing Albay province and nearby Camarines Sur province, with visibility being heavily obscured in a few towns because of the thick gray ash fall, Jukes Nunez, an Albay provincial disaster response officer, said by telephone.
“It was like night time at noon, there was zero visibility in some areas because the ash fall was so thick,” Nunez said.
More than 30,000 ash masks and about 5,000 sacks of rice, along with medicine, water and other supplies, were being sent to evacuation centers, Office of Civil Defense regional director Claudio Yucot said.
Mayon lies about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila. With its near-perfect cone, it is popular with climbers and tourists but has erupted about 50 times in the last 500 years, sometimes violently.
In 2013, an ash eruption killed five climbers who had ventured near the summit despite warnings. Its most destructive eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried the town of Cagsawa in volcanic mud. The belfry of Cagsawa’s stone church still juts from the ground in an eerie reminder of Mayon’s fury.
The Philippines lies in the “Ring of Fire,” a line of seismic faults surrounding the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common.
In 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the northern Philippines exploded in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing about 800 people.


Retired Indian general urges caution against Pakistan strike

Updated 9 min 34 sec ago
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Retired Indian general urges caution against Pakistan strike

  • India has threatened a “crushing response” against deadly suicide bombing in Kashmir that it blamed on Pakistan
  • Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, a veteran in India's war against Kashmiri rebels, urged all sides in the conflict to take a step back
SRINAGAR, India: As India considers its response to the suicide car bombing of a paramilitary convoy in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed dozens of soldiers, a retired military commander who oversaw a much-lauded military strike against neighboring Pakistan in 2016 has urged caution.
A local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into a convoy bus on Thursday, killing 41 soldiers and injuring two dozen others in the worst attack against Indian government forces in Kashmir’s history. India blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a “crushing response.” New Delhi accuses its archrival of supporting rebels in Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.
The retired commander, Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, told The Associated Press on Saturday that while “some kind of limited (military) strike (against Pakistan) is more than likely,” he hopes for “rethinking and reconciliation” from all sides in the conflict.
The former general, who was in charge of the army’s northern command at the frontier with Pakistan in Kashmir and counterinsurgency operations, oversaw India’s “surgical strikes” in September 2016 after militants attacked a military base in the frontier town of Uri near the highly militarized Line of Control.
Nineteen Indian soldiers and three assailants were killed in that attack. India instantly blamed Pakistan for supporting the attackers, who New Delhi alleged were Pakistani nationals.
At the peak of a 2016 civilian uprising triggered by the killing of a charismatic Kashmiri rebel leader, Hooda called for all sides to take a step back from the deadly confrontation, suggesting that political initiatives be taken instead. It was a rare move by a top Indian army general in Kashmir.
Later that year when the attack on the base in Uri happened, Hooda commanded what New Delhi called “surgical strikes” against militants in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir — which India said involved the country’s special forces killing an unknown number of insurgents. Pakistan denied that the strikes ever occurred, demanding that India produce evidence to back up the claim.
Hooda has since said that the constant hype of “surgical strikes” was unwarranted.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua rejected India’s allegations about Pakistan’s involvement in the attack, saying Saturday that it was part of New Delhi’s “known rhetoric and tactics” to divert global attention from human rights violations. According to foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal, Janjua called for implementation of UN resolutions to solve the issue of Kashmir.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
A pre-recorded video circulated widely on social media showed the purported attacker, Adil Ahmed Dar, in combat clothes surrounded by guns and grenades claiming responsibility for the attack and calling for more such measures to drive India out of Kashmir.
Since 2016, soldiers from India and Pakistan have often traded fire along the frontier, blaming each other for initiating the skirmishes that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of soldiers and civilians on both sides in violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord.
Hooda said that considering the state of affairs in Kashmir, he wasn’t surprised by the bombing.
“I just hope this all leads to some introspection, some deep thinking and engagement to do everything afresh and rethink what we all should be doing to settle issues once for all,” he said.
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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.