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Ominous signs from Taal

January 16, 2020 - Thursday 4:01 AM by Jimmy Laking

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The one “big bang” from Taal volcano has not happened yet but Philippine authorities, and that includes President Duterte, are on their toes for the eventuality, if it happens at all.

The ominous signs are there. The volcano continued to spew ash 14 kilometers into the sky, showering villages in the towns of Talisay and San Nicolas as well as the mainland with ash. Mild earthquakes were also felt.

An estimated 40,000 people have been evacuated from the Volcano Island, where the volcano-cum-lake is located. For those who have not seen the island yet, an approximation can be made by standing over the side of the road in Mati City’s barangay Dawan overlooking the Pujada Bay. Imagine an island (with a volcano and lake inside it) more or less the size of Samal Island inside Pujada Bay and you have a rough idea on how the volcano island looks like from the vantage view in Tagaytay City.

Authorities say the ejection of ash is an indication that volcano’s eruption is eminent. And for contemporary reference, they need only look back to June 1991 when Mount Pinatubo in Zambales erupted after spewing ash for days.

When it erupted finally on June 15, 1991, it released millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere that significantly cooled the temperature worldwide over the next few years. It also killed more than 800 people and rendered 100,000 people homeless whose houses collapsed under tons of ash that also reduced wide swathes of land in Central Luzon useless for propagation for decades to come.

I recall that I was vacationing in my hometown in La Trinidad when the eruption happened and even at that distance, the sky darkened on intervals from the ashes blown by the winds northward from Zambales.

Matt Rosenberg, a professional geographer, wrote that “the events of the Pinatubo eruption began in July 1990 when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred 100 kilometers northeast of the Pinatubo region, determined to be the result of the reawakening of the volcano.”

By far, unless and until it erupts into one “big bang,” Taal’s behavior at this point in time is mild by comparison.

In contrast, Rosenberg wrote that in addition to 800 lives lost, the Pinatubo eruption incurred almost one-half of a billion dollars in property and economic damage.

“The economy of central Luzon was horribly disrupted. In 1991, the volcano destroyed 4,979 homes and damaged another 70,257. The following year 3,281 homes were destroyed and 3,137 were damaged. Damage following the Mount Pinatubo eruption was usually caused by lahars - rain-induced torrents of volcanic debris that killed people and animals and buried homes in the months after the eruption. Additionally, another Mount Pinatubo eruption in August 1992 killed 72 people.”

The United States also decided to evacuate Clark Air Base and never returned. Next, it also gave up Subic Bay Naval Station and I would like to bet my last peso that the Chinese have been looking at the possibility of taking over the void if perhaps Manila would consider.

As to Taal volcano, how I wish it would just content itself to spewing ashes then calms down to its old self. Of course, there is no stopping it if gets the notion and I could only surmise that from where he sits, President Duterte himself is bracing up to catch part of the moment when the crater finally erupts.

Not any President can brag to watching a volcano gone loco and afterwards leading the way for his people to recover and to rehabilitate. Relax, it is not something that can be stopped or avoided. It is something we have to live with as a people and as a country.

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