Taal Volcano forces evacuation of thousands in Philippines

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People watch as Taal Volcano erupts Sunday Jan. 12, 2020, in Tagaytay, Cavite province, outside Manila, Philippines. (AP)
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People watch as the Taal volcano spews ash and smoke during an eruption in Tagaytay, Cavite province south of Manila, Philippines on Sunday. Jan. 12, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Taal Volcano forces evacuation of thousands in Philippines

  • Eruption possible within weeks as alert level raised

MANILA: Thousands of people are being evacuated from a southwestern province in the Philippines after a volcano began spewing ash plumes as high as 100 meters.

As of Sunday afternoon Taal Volcano had escalated its eruptive activity generating an eruption plume one-kilometer high accompanied by volcanic tremor and felt earthquakes in Volcano Island and villages of Agoncillo, Batangas, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), which raised the alert level to three, indicating a high level of volcanic unrest. 

The maximum alert level is five, which is a hazardous eruption in progress. 

The institute said ashfall was being showered on the southwest sector of Taal and that the volcano had shown increased steaming activity in at least five spots inside the main crater.

The largest activity was a steam-driven eruption that generated a plume approximately 100 meters high.

The institute recommended that residents and tourists should be evacuated from Taal Island, Agoncillo and Laurel due to the possible threat of searing hot flows of ash, gas and rocks that whoosh down the sides of a volcano during an eruption, and a volcanic tsunami.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Mark Timbal said residents from nine towns near the volcano were being moved to safer grounds.

Parts of the province are already experiencing a power outage, but no casualties have been reported so far.

Taal is the second most active volcano in the Philippines, with 33 recorded eruptions. The last major eruption happened on Oct. 3, 1977.

It is also considered one of the most dangerous in the world. In 1911, Taal caused one of the worst volcano disasters in history when it erupted and killed 1,334 people.

FAST FACTS

• The largest activity was a steam-driven eruption that generated a plume approximately 100 meters high.

• Residents from nine towns near the volcano were being moved to safer grounds.

Phivolcs Officer-in-charge Renato Soldium said that Taal was inside a bigger crater or basin or bowl, which is why people would have to evacuate horizontally and away from the crater.

“There is water that would be hindering the rapid evacuation and that is why people need to get out of the island as soon as possible,” he added.

Communities around the shore of Taal Lake have been advised to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lakewater disturbances related to the ongoing seismic unrest.

Phivolcs said that the volcano had maintained a moderate to high level of seismic activity since last March. Some of these earthquakes were felt with intensity levels ranging from one, scarcely perceptible, to three, weak shaking, in the surrounding villages.

These earthquakes were often accompanied by rumbling sounds, it added. Three earthquakes were recorded on Sunday and a seismic swarm was ongoing. 

Phivolcs said that raising the alert level from two to three meant there was a “magmatic intrusion”  that was likely driving the current activity. Alert level three also meant that eruption was possible within weeks.

It reminded the public that the entire island was a permanent danger zone and that entry onto the island, as well as nearby villages, was prohibited.


Military promises Pakistani doctors gear to fight virus

Updated 07 April 2020

Military promises Pakistani doctors gear to fight virus

  • Some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten
  • The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition

QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistan’s military promised Tuesday that dozens of doctors who were briefly jailed for protesting a lack of protective equipment needed to treat the growing number of coronavirus cases will get the equipment they need.
The 47 doctors protested in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, on Monday, when they were detained. They were released later the same day, according to provincial spokesman Liaquat Shahwani.
An army statement on Tuesday said the “emergency supplies of medical equipment, including PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are being dispatched to Quetta.”
However, some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten. The physicians declined to give their names, fearing reprisals.
Two doctors have died after contracting the new virus in Pakistan, which has recorded 4,004 cases and 54 deaths. Many of the cases have been traced to pilgrims returning from neighboring Iran. Pakistani authorities have imposed a countrywide lockdown until April 14.
In Iran, authorities struggling to battle the virus announced Tuesday they would expand testing to asymptomatic people, but didn’t say how many test kits they have available or provide other details.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that with active screening of such cases, there are expectations the virus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, can be brought under control by mid-May.
“With this step, we will go after people without symptoms,” said Namaki, adding this would require a large number of tests. He didn’t elaborate. The health ministry said searching for asymptomatic cases would be combined with restrictions on both city and intercity travel and quarantine.
Iran is facing the worst outbreak in the region. Iran’s state TV said Tuesday the new coronavirus has killed another 133 people, pushing the country’s death toll to 3,872 amid 62,589 confirmed cases.
The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition.
There are nearly 109,000 confirmed cases across the Middle East, with more than 4,600 fatalities.
In Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, which oversees mosques nationwide, called off all celebrations and late-evening prayer services for Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. The holiday, when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, begins April 23. Mosques and churches have already closed for prayer to curb the spread of the virus in the Arab world’s most populous country. There is also a nightly curfew but the government has resisted a harsher lockdown.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Tuesday sought to reassure the jittery public a day after officials reported 149 new infections, bringing the case count to 1,320 and 85 fatalities in the biggest single-day jump so far.
“So far, the situation is under control,” he said in televised comments. “The goal is to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic.”
The Egyptian military, at the forefront of the country’s fight against the virus, said it set up four field hospitals with more than 500 beds to help treat virus patients.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.
At a retirement home ravaged by the coronavirus in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, another resident died, the eighth so far there. Dozens of the home’s resident’s have been infected and relatives have been staging angry protests outside the premises in recent days.
Overall, more than 9,000 have been infected in Israel and 60 have died, the vast majority elderly and many in assisted living facilities.