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.

Related


Militants attack in Indian Kashmir as it locks down for anniversary

Updated 05 August 2020

Militants attack in Indian Kashmir as it locks down for anniversary

  • Authorities blanketed Kashmir with troops, who laid out barbed wire and set up road blacks to prevent demonstrations
  • Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it

SRINAGAR, India: Militants attacked Indian security forces with a grenade and gunfire in Kashmir on Wednesday, defying a strict security lockdown on the first anniversary of the government’s scrapping of the disputed Himalayan region’s autonomy.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, police said.
Authorities blanketed Kashmir with troops, who laid out barbed wire and set up road blacks to prevent demonstrations a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped India’s only Muslim-majority state of its special rights.
The government said the change was necessary to develop the strife-torn region and integrate it with the rest of India but it infuriated many Kashmiris and neighboring Pakistan.
Some critics saw it as part of a pattern by the Hindu-nationalist government aimed at sidelining Muslims. The government denies that.
Kashmir is claimed in full by India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. Militants have been fighting Indian rule in its part of Kashmir since 1989 in a conflict that has killed at least 50,000 dead, according to official figures.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was due to travel to the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir to mark the anniversary later on Wednesday.
He reiterated a long-standing Pakistani appeal for international intervention to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir between the nuclear-armed neighbors that has bedevilled their ties since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
“It is imperative that the international community steps in immediately and backs its words of condemnation with practical steps that will force India to reverse its present course against the Kashmiri people,” he said in a statement.
India has ruled out any outside mediation over Kashmir.
In Srinagar, a handful of members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gathered at their headquarters to unfurl an Indian flag to mark the occasion. The party had long campaigned for ending Kashmir’s special status.
Party spokesman Altaf Thakur said similar celebrations took place in all district headquarters in the territory. “It is an important and historic day for our party,” Thakur told Reuters.
Elsewhere in Srinagar, police and paramilitary troops enforced the strictest lockdown for several months, stopping public movements, including a proposed meeting of politicians.
“One year later the authorities are still too afraid to allow us to meet, much less carry out any normal political activity. This fear speaks volumes about the true situation on the ground in Kashmir,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Twitter.
Last August’s change in status in Indian Kashmir was accompanied by a communication blackout, widespread restrictions and mass detentions, including of elected leaders.
Most of those measures have been eased, although Internet speeds are still restricted. More recently, many families have been confined indoors because of coronavirus lockdowns. (Additional reporting by Sheree Sardar in ISLAMABAD; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)