Filipinos return home after volcano threat eases

Warning signs like earthquakes have been steadily waning since Taal burst to life two weeks ago. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Filipinos return home after volcano threat eases

  • People living in high-risk areas near the volcano were warned to be vigilant
  • Damage due to the volcanic activity has been estimated at $64 million

MANILA: Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated on Luzon island when a volcano began belching smoke were allowed to return home on Sunday after the threat level eased.

Residents in the Batangas province were evacuated after the Taal volcano began spewing clouds of thick ash and steam two weeks ago, prompting Philippine authorities to issue a “level four” warning that an eruption was possible “within hours or days.”

Authorities said the reduction in the threat level did not mean the threat of an eruption had disappeared.

People living in high-risk areas near the volcano were warned to be vigilant and to prepare for a quick evacuation if necessary.

Following the latest advice on the volcano, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said that residents evacuated from their homes could decide if they wanted to return.

The towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, both within a 7 km radius from Taal’s crater, will remain in lockdown, he said.

Mandanas added that there are still “health hazards due to ashfall, as well as the risk of physical injuries and damage to properties.”

Almost 1 million people had been evacuated, he said. About 800,000 were staying with family or friends, while the rest were housed in evacuation centers in Batangas, and in the neighboring provinces of Quezon, Cavite and Laguna.

Damage due to the volcanic activity has been estimated at $64 million.

Videos on social media showed residents in cars and on motorcycles cheering and waving as they headed home.

Authorities said measures were in place to ensure an orderly return, and appealed for cooperation from residents.

The Batangas governor also said that power and water might still be unavailable because of the shutdown.

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Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

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Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

  • Latin America sees its first confirmed case of coronavirus in Brazil
  • Two countries in Europe - Estonia and Germany - have announced on Thursday their first cases of the virus

ISLAMABAD/RIO DE JANEIRO: Pakistan on Thursday shut schools in several areas and suspended flights to and from Iran to try to stop the spread of new coronavirus, after reporting its first cases of the infection, officials said.
The South Asian nation bordering China and Iran, both of which have been hit hard by the virus, reported its first two cases on Wednesday.
Both people had recently traveled to Iran as part of large groups of pilgrims from Pakistan’s Shi’ite Muslim community. Health officials have said both were “stable.”
In Britain, the number of coronavirus infections has risen to 15 cases. Elsewhere, two countries in Europe - Estonia and Germany - have announced on Thursday their first cases of the virus.
Latin America meanwhile saw its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus spreading worldwide when Brazil’s government announced that a 61-year-old man who traveled to Italy this month had the virus.
The Brazilian man had spent two weeks in northern Italy’s Lombardy region on a work trip, where he contracted the contagious virus, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to four, the country’s health authority said on Thursday.
In the western canton of Geneva one person was tested positive for the virus while it was also confirmed in a couple in the southeastern Alpine canton of Grisons, it added.
“All three patients are isolated in the hospital. Their condition is good,” the Federal Office of Public Health said.


Brazil’s national health agency Anvisa has been working to map all contact the man had with others, and on Tuesday requested the manifest of the flight he took to investigate other possible cases.
The Health Ministry said that the man received some 30 family members at his home after returning to Sao Paulo on Feb. 21. Those people are under observation, as are with passengers from the plane.
In Sydney, Australia’s prime minister said the country considered the new coronavirus to be a pandemic Thursday, going a step beyond the WHO as he extended a travel ban on visitors from China.
Announcing a national emergency response plan to the contagion, Scott Morrison said he was considering “additional measures” for monitoring travelers arriving in the country.
“We’re effectively operating now on the basis that there is one — a pandemic,” Morrison said. “We believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us.” Australia has reported 22 infections, but none that were contracted or passed from person-to-person inside the country.
Morrison’s warning comes as he scrambles to burnish his leadership credentials after fierce criticism of his handling of the months-long bushfire crisis. His government is also embroiled in a deepening political scandal over the funneling of taxpayer money into areas his coalition targeted in last year’s election.
Meanwhile, South Korea reported 171 more cases of the new virus on Thursday, bringing its total number of infections to 1,766.