Philippine authorities brace for Taal eruption

Cows partly covered by ashes eat grass in a land nearby the erupting Taal Volcano in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Philippine authorities brace for Taal eruption

  • Alert level 4 remains in effect over the volcano, which means that a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days
  • Authorities said the total evacuation of Volcano Island, and high-risk areas within a 14-km radius of the main crater, must be enforced

MANILA: Philippine authorities are bracing for an eruption of Taal volcano, south of the capital Manila, after it began to spew lava on Monday.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said a lava fountain from the volcano was recorded less than 24 hours after it entered a period of intense unrest, blasting ash and steam up to 15,000 meters into the air on Sunday.

The Philippine Seismic Network has recorded 144 volcanic earthquakes in the Taal region since 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Alert level 4 remains in effect over the volcano, which means that a hazardous explosive eruption “is possible within hours to days.”

Phivolcs said the total evacuation of Volcano Island, and high-risk areas within a 14-km radius of the main crater, must be enforced. 

Motorists are advised to drive with extreme caution as poor to zero visibility due to ash has been reported in some affected areas. Civil aviation authorities have advised aircraft to avoid the airspace around Taal volcano.

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the worst-case scenario is that it will erupt at a scale similar to the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo that killed 800 people and rendered 200,000 homeless.

“The entire mountain collapsed during the (Pinatubo) eruption,” he added. “That’s what we’re fearing, that the eruption would cause the entire island to rise and scatter debris on the nearby areas. Hopefully this won’t happen. We can never predict the actions of this volcano.”

Lorenzana, who also heads the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said he had talked to Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum, who said there is no danger of a tsunami as Taal Lake is too small.

The NDRRMC said at least 5,458 families, or 24,508 individuals, in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite have been evacuated.

There are reports of areas in the immediate vicinity of the volcano being deserted and covered in ash, and of several houses having been destroyed.

Meanwhile, thousands of passengers remain stranded at Ninoy Aquino International Airport even as it resumed partial operations from 10 a.m. on Monday.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s office said the ash had prevented him from flying back to Manila from Davao City on Sunday.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.