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.


Trump policies unite allies against him at European security forum

Former US Vice President Joe Biden gives a speech at the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 6 min 52 sec ago
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Trump policies unite allies against him at European security forum

  • “America will be back” once Donald Trump leaves office, Biden won a standing ovation at the Munich Security Conference

MUNICH: In 2009, then-US Vice President Joe Biden came to Munich to “press the reset button” with Russia. A decade later he came again to offer the world better relations, this time with his own country.
Promising that “America will be back” once Donald Trump leaves office, Biden won a standing ovation at the Munich Security Conference from delegates who find the president’s brusque foreign policy stance hard to like.
But their elation also exposed the weakened state of Western diplomacy in the face of Trump’s assertiveness, according to European diplomats and politicians who were present.
Biden’s successor, Mike Pence, was met with silence at a reception in the palatial Bavarian Parliament on Friday evening after he delivered his signature line: “I bring you greetings from the 45th president of the United States, President Donald Trump.”
His four-day trip to Europe succeeded only in deepening divisions with traditional allies over questions such as Iran and Venezuela and offered little hope in how to deal with threats ranging from nuclear arms to climate change, diplomats and officials said.
Misgivings about Washington’s role in the world are being felt by ordinary people as well as foreign policy specialists.
In Germany and France, half the population see US power as a threat, up sharply from 2013 and a view shared by 37 percent of Britons, the Washington-based Pew Research Center said in a report before the Munich foreign policy gathering.
Asked about European anxiety over Trump’s leadership style, a senior US official on Pence’s Air Force Two plane said the vice president’s Munich conference speech on Saturday at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof would “help give them a different perspective.”
But if the Europeans did not like the “America First” message, there was no concerted response to it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on her own after a last-minute cancelation by French President Emmanuel Macron.
That caused some to lament the failure of the West to uphold the rules-based international order that Washington itself championed in the 70 years that preceded the arrival of Trump in the White House.
“The tit-for-tat logic is unfortunately prevailing ... I think that takes us back to the question of enlightened leadership,” said Thomas Greminger, secretary general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a security and human rights watchdog.
“We need leaders again who do not believe exclusively in short-termism,” he told Reuters.
It fell to China to aid Merkel in her defense of the post-World War Two order, as the country’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke in flawless English for over 20 minutes about the virtues of open trade and global cooperation.
Pence’s message was, in fact, that the pillars of US foreign policy were being rebuilt on a different foundation: isolating Iran, containing China, bringing American troops home and requiring European powers to fall into line.
After using a speech in Warsaw on Thursday to accuse Britain, France and Germany of trying to undermine US sanctions on Iran, Pence called in Munich for the European Union to recognize Venezuelan congressional leader Juan Guaido as president over Nicolas Maduro, whom he called a dictator.
That drew an angry response from Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who said the European Union could acknowledge Guaido as interim president until new elections, in line with the Venezuelan constitution.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves LeDrian said he was mystified by US policy on Syria after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops because it would only benefit Iran, which Washington wants to be tough on.
European diplomats and officials also took issue with Pence’s insistence that EU governments stay away from Chinese telecoms companies as they build the latest generation of mobile networks, preferring first to have an internal discussion about the potential risks and US claims of Chinese espionage.
“US pressure has a tendency to make us do the opposite. US pressure is counterproductive. It’s best that they don’t try and pressure us,” a senior French diplomat said.
Whatever the threats, officials seemed to be mainly talking past each other.
Kumi Naidoo, global head of Amnesty International, said security was often defined too narrowly, failing to address the wider dangers of climate change.
“The narrative here at the Munich Security Conference is broken. They are talking about the right topics but in the wrong language. The mentality here is that security is only a national issue,” Naidoo told Reuters.