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.


Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Updated 27 February 2020

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.