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Thousands of Filipinos flee as volcanic fallout hits Manila

Thousands of Filipinos flee as volcanic fallout hits Manila

2 min. 13.01.2020 From our online archive
The warnings prompted the government to shut offices and schools and to suspend financial markets trading
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Tens of thousands of people in the Philippines are being evacuated from an erupting volcano 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of the capital as some 144 earthquakes could signal "further eruptive activity."

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology kept the alert status at the second highest level, reiterating a call for total evacuation from the Taal volcano island and areas within the 14-kilometer radius.

The agency on Sunday warned that a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days", prompting the government to shut offices and schools and financial markets to suspend trading on Monday. The possibility of an imminent dangerous eruption is still there given the earthquakes, Renato Solidum who heads the volcanology agency, said at a briefing Monday.

More than 24,000 people have fled their homes since Sunday as power in towns near the volcano was cut off and some roads were closed due to ash fall, according to the disaster management agency. About 300,000 have to be evacuated, especially if eruptions in the main crater cause surrounding craters to explode, authorities said.

Manila's main airport -- which was shut since Taal volcano flared up on Sunday afternoon, suspending more than 240 flights and affecting about 60,000 passengers -- resumed partial operations before noon, according to authorities. Aircraft are still advised to avoid the airspace around the volcano as ash and ballistic fragments pose risks.

Dollar-peso non-deliverable forwards dropped across the curve on Monday, in line with regional peers. One-month contracts fell 0.3% to 50.47 pesos, heading to the lowest level in two years.

A change of wind direction means ash is blowing over municipalities not included in earlier emergency plans, swelling the number of communities affected.

The Philippines is "well prepared financially to handle any fallout and damage from this eruption", Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told Bloomberg Television. The government has set aside at least $50 million in emergency fund and can tap catastrophe financing to fund rebuilding, he said.

Lenders including Bank of the Philippine Islands and Security Bank Corp. shut branches in central and southern Luzon on Monday. Ayala Land Inc. said its two malls near Taal volcano were closed on Monday for safety checks and clearing works. SM Prime Holdings Inc., the largest Philippine shopping mall operator, shut its mall in Lemery town in Batangas.

Muntinlupa City in the capital region will continue to shut schools on Tuesday, it said.

Taal is considered the second-most active volcano in the Philippines. Located in the middle of a lake less than 10 kilometers inland of Balayan Bay on the island of Luzon, Taal has dozens of craters, according to the volcanology agency.

Ring of fire

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Battered by about 20 typhoons annually, the country also sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", subjecting it to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Between 2000 and 2016, natural disasters in the Philippines caused more than 23,000 deaths and affected 125 million people, according to the Asian Development Bank. The socioeconomic damage was about $20 billion with average annual damage estimated at $1.2 billion, it said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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