Philippines’ Mayon volcano spreads lava almost 3 kilometers from crater

Mount Mayon has spewed lava up to 600 meters high at times Tuesday and early Wednesday and its ash plumes stretched up to 5 kilometers above the crater. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Philippines’ Mayon volcano spreads lava almost 3 kilometers from crater

LEGAZPI, Philippines: Lava fountaining regularly from the Philippines’ most active volcano has flowed up to 3 kilometers from the crater in a dazzling but increasingly dangerous eruption.
Mount Mayon has spewed lava up to 600 meters high at times Tuesday and early Wednesday and its ash plumes stretched up to 5 kilometers above the crater. Lava flows in two gullies had advanced down the volcano’s slopes more than a kilometer and pyroclastic flows — superheated gas and volcanic debris — had reached 5 kilometers from the crater in one area, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Wednesday morning.
An explosion from the crater at nightfall Tuesday was capped by one of the most massive lava displays since Mayon started erupting more than a week ago. Authorities on Monday expanded the no-go zone to 8 kilometers from the crater and have warned a violent eruption may occur in hours or days, characterized by more rumblings and pyroclastic flows that will vaporize everything in their path.
At least 56,217 people were taking shelter in 46 evacuation camps Tuesday and army troops and police were helping others leave the danger zone.
Authorities, however, struggled to prevent villagers from sneaking back to check on their homes and farms and to watch a popular cockfight in Albay’s Santo Domingo town despite the risks and police patrols and checkpoints.
In a sign of desperation, Cedric Daep, a provincial disaster response official, told a news conference that he has recommended electricity and water supplies be cut within the no-go zones to discourage residents from returning.
“If pyroclastic flows hit people, there is no chance for life,” Daep said. “Let us not violate the natural law, avoid the prohibited zone, because if you violate, the punishment is the death penalty.”
Volcanic ash has darkened the skies over nearby villages in coconut-growing Albay province, where Mayon lies.
More than 30,000 ash masks, along with food, water and medicine, have been sent to the region, but officials have warned that relief supplies may run out by mid-February if the eruption continues and new supplies don’t arrive in time.
Mayon has long been 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, which has about 22 active volcanoes, 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, covering entire towns and cities in ash and partly prompting the US government to abandon its vast air and naval bases on the main northern Luzon island.


Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

Updated 51 min 29 sec ago
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Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office says Afghanistan has not shared any evidence to support its recent allegations against Pakistan
  • Imran Khan’s idea of a soft border between Pakistan and Afghanistan may have suffered a big setback in the wake of the Ghazni attack

PESHAWAR: In the backdrop of the Taliban’s brazen assault on the southern city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the bodies of the perpetrators had arrived in Pakistan, though Islamabad maintained that Kabul had not officially shared any information or evidence in this regard.
Soon after that, the Afghan president said in a fiery speech to a jirga in Ghazni: “I have a message for Pakistan. Dead bodies (of the Taliban) have arrived in (Pakistan). Peace cannot be forcefully imposed on Afghanistan. Where did they (Taliban) come from and why are they being treated in (Pakistani) hospitals?”
But Pakistan strongly rejected reports claiming that some Taliban fighters involved in the Ghazni attack had been offered medical treatment in its hospitals.
In the absence of any official communication through regular channels established bilaterally, such reports cannot be given any credence, said Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Haq Nawaz, a senior Peshawar-based security analyst, told Arab News that the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a string of daunting challenges, such as economic revival, political stability, tackling corruption, and improving relations with his country’s immediate neighbors.
However, he added that recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up violent activities, will probably constitute a much bigger predicament for the new political administration.
He recalled that Khan had mentioned in his victory speech that he wanted a European Union-style soft border with Afghanistan, claiming that the idea had seemingly received a setback after the Ghazni attack.
“The latest bout of allegations will have a negative impact on the process of reviving good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Nawaz noted.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed “deep concern” over the recent surge in violence in Afghanistan and lamented in a statement released by the military’s media wing the loss of precious lives.
Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan was not supporting terrorist activities inside Afghanistan. He added that the allegation about the movement of injured or dead terrorists from Ghazni to Pakistan was incorrect.
However, the army chief noted that there were scores of Pakistanis working in Afghanistan, and that some of them periodically fell victim to acts of terrorism along with their Afghan brothers inside Afghanistan. “Terming such victims as terrorists is unfortunate,” he maintained.
Yet, the Afghan president sought an explanation from Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on the Ghazni attack.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. General Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga.
Bajwa said that different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hiding in their sanctuaries in Afghanistan after assuming Afghan identities, were transported to Pakistan for medical help after receiving injuries.
Nawaz said the Afghan government should share relevant evidence with Pakistan in this case, arguing that using the media or social media to deal with such serious and sensitive developments can worsen the situation.
He said it was not just a statement or allegation from an ordinary official since the claim was made by a head of state, adding that both countries should settle such teething issues through dialogue and diplomatic channels.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement: “Such reports can only be viewed as malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”