Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away

TOKYO (Reuters) -A volcano erupted in Japan on Wednesday, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows and falling rocks, but there were no reports of injuries or casualties.

Mount Aso, a tourist destination on the main southern island of Kyushu, sent plumes of ash 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high when it erupted at about 11:43 a.m. (0243 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

It raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, telling people not to approach, and warned of a risk of large falling rocks and pyroclastic flows within a radius of about 1 km (0.6 mile) around the mountain’s Nakadake crater.

Local police said there were no reports of people injured or missing as of Wednesday evening, and that 16 people who had gone hiking on the mountain earlier on the day came back safely.

Television networks broadcast images of a dark cloud of ash looming over the volcano that swiftly obscured large swathes of the mountain.

Ash falls from the 1,592-metre (5,222-foot) mountain in the prefecture of Kumamoto are expected to shower nearby towns until late afternoon, the weather agency added.

Mount Aso had a small eruption in 2019, while Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Kim Coghill)

‘All we can do is cry’ – La Palma volcano leaves trail of devastation

By Borja Suarez and Marco Trujillo

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) -Lava flowed from an erupting volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma for a fourth day on Wednesday, forcing more people to evacuate their homes and blanketing towns in ash, while residents struggled to come to terms with the destruction.

“All we can do is cry. We are a small business, we live off all these people who have lost everything,” said Lorena, 30, who works in a jewelers in the small town of Los Llanos de Aridane.

Since erupting on Sunday, lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano has destroyed at least 150 houses and forced thousands of people to flee, mostly in Los Llanos de Aridane and nearby El Paso.

Holding back tears as she swept away a thick layer of ash from the street outside her store, Nancy Ferreiro, the jewelry shop owner, said: “There are no words to explain this feeling.”

Less than 5 km (3 miles) to the south, in Todoque, forked tongues of black lava advanced slowly westward, incinerating everything in their path, including houses, schools and the banana plantations that produce the island’s biggest export.

Emergency services tried to redirect the lava towards a gorge in an effort to minimize damage but had little success.

“Faced with the column of advancing lava … nothing can be done,” regional leader Angel Victor Torres told a news conference, adding that the flow had slowed to a crawl.

Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of the Pevolca eruption taskforce, said the lava’s speed had reduced so much that it might not reach the sea.

Experts had originally predicted it would hit the Atlantic Ocean late on Monday, potentially causing explosions and sending out clouds of toxic gases. Marine authorities are keeping a two nautical mile area in the sea closed as a precaution.

Morcuende said for now there was no indication that gases released by the eruption were damaging to human health.

People from the El Paso neighborhood of Jerey were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday as the lava crept close to their homes.

About 6,000 of La Palma’s population of 80,000 have been evacuated since Sunday. Some were allowed back briefly to recover belongings.

Property portal Idealista estimated the volcano had caused around 87 million euros ($102 million) in property destruction so far.

Late on Tuesday, the Canary Islands’ volcanology institute said the scale of seismic activity within the volcano was intensifying.

Drone footage captured towers of magma bursting high into the air, spraying debris onto the flanks of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

No fatalities or injuries have been reported

(Reporting by Borja Suarez, Marco Trujillo, Nacho Doce, Emma Pinedo, Clara-Laeila Laudette and Inti Landauro; Writing by Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Congo to begin phased return of residents to volcano-hit city

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo will start a phased return of residents who fled Goma in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that destroyed thousands of homes and threatened to overrun the city, the government said on Monday.

Less than a week after the initial eruption on May 22, which only just stopped short of the city limits, some 400,000 people scrambled to leave when the government warned underground tremors could cause a new eruption, or trigger the release of toxic gases.

The tremors have since subsided, and many people have returned to Goma. About 245,000 remain displaced in nearby towns and villages, according to the latest survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The government said it would provide buses and trucks beginning on Tuesday to help people return.

But Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde told journalists that sites on the outskirts of Goma that were destroyed by the eruption could no longer be inhabited.

“We must learn from the 2002 and 2021 eruptions so that our populations are never again so close to danger,” Lukonde said.

Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, had last erupted in 2002, killing more 200 people and sending lava gushing through Goma. Last month’s eruption killed at least 31.

On Saturday, the government re-opened Goma’s airport, which is eastern Congo’s main hub for delivering aid to the strife-torn region.

People made homeless by the eruption would be temporarily rehoused and given assistance to rebuild, the government said in a statement.

(Reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale; writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Around 20,000 homeless, 40 missing in Congo volcano aftermath, says U.N.

By Djaffar Al Katanty

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – More than 20,000 people are homeless and 40 still missing in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in eastern Congo that killed dozens and continues to cause strong earthquakes in the nearby city of Goma, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Saturday’s eruption sent rivers of lava streaming down the hillside from Mount Nyiragongo, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee, but stopped 300 meters short of Goma airport, the main hub for aid operations in the east of Congo.

The ash cloud caused by the eruption has closed down airports in Goma and Bukavu, and is likely to cause respiratory diseases, the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

People who fled their homes have lost valuable possessions including motorcycles that were either consumed by the lava flow or looted, OCHA said.

More than 200 small and medium earthquakes have since caused cracks in buildings and streets in Goma, just 15 km (9 miles) from Nyiragongo. No deaths have so far been reported, but the cracks have caused panic among residents unsure if the danger has passed.

“Yesterday it was very small, here it is just opposite my house, but today it has widened,” said Susanne Bigakura, 65. “It’s scary. We fear it can collapse and our children can fall in.”

“It scares me because those who saw the 2002 eruption told us that where a crack passes, it will be catastrophic. Now, when we see a fissure after a recent eruption, I’m worried that we are in danger,” said Valentin Kikuni, a welder.

A 1.7 km (1 mile) river of lava that blocked the main road north from Goma is still too hot to be removed, OCHA said, preventing trade and aid deliveries to one of the most food insecure places in Africa.

However, some work has begun on restoring the road, according to images on the government’s Twitter feed.

(Reporting by Djaffar Al Katanty and Hereward Holland; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Kilauea volcano erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island

(Reuters) – The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island erupted on Sunday night, according to an advisory from the United States Geological Survey, followed by an earthquake that struck at the volcano’s south flank.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) recorded an earthquake of magnitude 4.4 located beneath Kīlauea Volcano’s south flank at 10:36 pm local time, according to the advisory.

The eruption was reported at the Halemaumau Crater of the Kilauea Volcano, the Hawaii county Civil Defense Agency said in a tweet early on Monday, requesting residents to stay indoors.

“Trade winds will push any embedded ash toward the Southwest. Fallout is likely in the Kau District in Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View,” the tweet added.

The eruption started with multiple fissures opening on the walls of Halemaumau crater, USGS said.

A picture from the USGS showed Kilauea’s summit illuminated by the hot lava with a plume of steam and gas bursting out of the volcano.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Derek Francis in Bengaluru, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Alaska volcano spews thick ash cloud, triggering aviation warning

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – An Alaska volcano that has been rumbling since midsummer shot ash about 5 miles (8 km) into the sky on Sunday, triggering a warning to aviators and dusting one small fishing village, officials reported.

Shishaldin Volcano, one of the most active in Alaska, kicked out a plume of ash that satellite imagery detected as high as 28,000 feet (8,535 m) above sea level, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, the joint federal-state-university office that tracks the state’s many volcanoes.

The plume stretched about 90 miles (145 km) as of midday, blowing mostly east and over the Gulf of Alaska, said the observatory.

A sprinkling of ash was reported in the tiny Aleutian village of False Pass, about 23 miles (37 km) northeast of the Shishaldin, said David Fee, the observatory’s University of Alaska Fairbanks coordinating scientist.

“Someone reported some ash on their windshield,” he said.

False Pass has a year-round population of about 40, according to state data, but draws many more people during the summer fishing season.

Also pouring out of Shishaldin’s caldera on Sunday was a stream of red-hot lava, the observatory reported.

Shishaldin has been in an on-and-off eruptive phase since July, occasionally dribbling lava down its snowy flanks and puffing ash and steam.

Most of the ash production has been relatively minor, but Sunday’s event was serious enough to warrant a “code red” warning for air traffic to avoid the area, the second such warning in the volcano’s current eruptive phase, Fee said.

“It’s a higher plume. It’s sustained. And it’s a higher concentration,” he said.

Shishaldin, about 680 miles (1,095 km) southwest of Anchorage, is the tallest mountain in the Aleutian chain, rising to 9,373 feet (2,857 m) in elevation. The upper two-thirds of the spherical peak are usually cloaked year-round in snow and ice, according to the observatory.

It is in a cluster of frequently erupting volcanoes in the eastern Aleutians. “This is the most active region in Alaska for volcanic activity,” Fee said.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Philippine residents retrieve animals, belongings amid threat of volcano eruption

By Eloisa Lopez and Karen Lema

AGONCILLO, Philippines (Reuters) – Thousands of residents under orders to evacuate from a town near the Philippine volcano Taal were allowed to briefly visit homes on Friday to rescue their animals and recover some possessions, taking advantage of what appeared to be waning activity.

Daniel Reyes, mayor of the Agoncillo town inside the danger zone of the 311 meter (1,020 feet) volcano, said he allowed around 3,000 residents to check their properties and retrieve animals, clothes and other possessions.

“If I would not let them rescue their animals, their animals would die and together with them their sources of livelihood,” Reyes told Reuters.

A long line of cars, trucks, motorcycle taxis carrying pigs, dogs, television sets, gas stoves and electric fans, were seen leaving Agoncillo, among the towns blanketed in thick layers of volcanic ash.

“Our bodies are fine, but our minds and hearts are in pain”, said resident Peding Dawis, 63, while resting after taking his cows to safer areas.

Dawis said there were 200 more pigs that needed rescuing in his neighborhood.

“It’s hard to leave our homes and livelihood behind.”

More than 40,000 residents of Agoncillo have abandoned their homes since Taal, one of the Philippines’ most active and deadliest volcanoes, began spewing massive clouds of ash, steam and gas on Sunday, Reyes said.

The majority of residents are now staying with families elsewhere, but the rest are among a total of 66,000 people sheltering in evacuation centers.

SIGNS OF CALM

Taal has shown signs of calm since Thursday and Reyes said he took advantage of this window to allow residents to collect their belongings.

“Based on what I saw outside, I thought I would be doing them more good if I let them return to their homes,” Reyes said. “The help they are getting now is only momentarily”.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said it observed “steady steam emission and infrequent weak explosions” from the volcano’s main crater, but it continued to record dozens of earthquakes in nearby towns.

The institute said on Friday the danger level posed by the volcano remained at 4 out of a possible 5, meaning “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days”.

“We do not base the alert level simply on what we see on the surface. We have to try to interpret what is happening below,” Renato Solidum, Phivolcs’ chief, told CNN Philippines.

“There are sometimes waning activity but the activity below is still continuing.”

The impact of the volcano on the $330 billion national economy has been a blip, despite canceled flights and a day of work lost on Sunday because of a heavy ashfall in the capital Manila, 70 km (45 miles) away.

But for some of the farmers growing pineapples, bananas and coffee nearby it has been a disaster.

Volcanic ash has caused an estimated 3.06 billion pesos ($60.17 million) worth of damage to crops, livestock and fish farms, based on the latest data from the agriculture department.

Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, it can be deadly. An eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.

(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Michael Perry)

Philippine volcano shows signs of calming, but danger remains

By Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine volcano that has been spewing ash for days appeared to be calming down on Thursday, but seismologists said the danger of an eruption remained high and authorities warned evacuees not to return to their homes.

Some residents took advantage of what they perceived as a lull in the activity of Taal, one of country’s most active and deadliest volcanoes, to return home even though a 14 kms (nine mile) exclusion zone remained in place.

“We are analyzing what this seeming calm of the volcano means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told reporters.

The lake inside Taal has dried up, Bornas said, which was to be expected since it began spewing lava fountains a day after it shot giant clouds of ash miles into the air on Sunday.

Phivolcs said volcanic activity had “generally waned to weak emission of steam-laden plumes”. Even so, it had recorded more than 100 tremors since Wednesday, meaning magma was still rising.

More than 53,000 residents have abandoned their homes around Taal to take shelter in evacuation centers, but thousands more are refusing to leave or have already drifted back to check on their animals and possessions.

Power has been restored in some areas in nearby Tagaytay city where business owners were cleaning away the ash and preparing to start trading again.

Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes at only 311 meters (1,020 feet) high, it can be deadly. One eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.

Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, with the most recent in 1977. The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.

(Additional reporting by Jay Ereno in Cavite; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Rumbling volcano shuts down Philippine capital

By Karen Lema and Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA (Reuters) – Schools and businesses shut across the Philippine capital on Monday as a volcano belched clouds of ash across the city and seismologists warned an eruption could happen at any time, potentially triggering a tsunami.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes around Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, which spewed ash for a second day from its crater in the middle of a lake about 70 km (45 miles) south of central Manila.

Residents living near the errupting Taal Volcano evacuate in Lemery, Batangas City, Philippines, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

“The speed of escalation of Taal’s volcanic activity caught us by surprise,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told reporters.

“We have detected magma. It’s still deep, it hasn’t reached the surface. We still can expect a hazardous eruption any time.”

Authorities warned that an eruption could send a tsunami surging across the lake.

More than 24,000 people have been evacuated from the volcanic island and the area immediately around it – normally a popular tourist spot.

“We got scared of what could happen to us, we thought the volcano was going to erupt already,” said Marilou Baldonado, 53, who left the town of Laurel with only two sets of clothes after she saw the huge ash cloud build.

Some tourists ignored the dangers and traveled to towns close to the volcano to get a better look.

Residents living near the errupting Taal Volcano evacuate in Agoncillo, Batangas City, Philippines, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience for us,” Israeli tourist Benny Borenstein told Reuters as he snapped photos of Taal from a vantage point in Tagaytay City, about 32 km away.

To the southwest of the volcano, the towns of Agoncillo and Lemery were coated by a thick layer of ash, making roads impassable.

Agoncillo’s mayor, Daniel Reyes, told DZMM radio some homes and part of a building had collapsed under the weight of the fallen ash.

In nearby Talisay Batangas, Vice Governor Mark Leviste said rain had turned ash to mud and trucks were needed to evacuate more people from remote communities.

“There is no power. Even water was cut, so we are in need of potable water,” he said. “We are in need of face masks.”

SHUT DOWN

In Manila, masks sold out quickly after residents were advised to wear them if they had to go out. Some wore handkerchiefs across their faces as they breathed air tainted by the smell of sulfur.

Streets that would normally be snarled with some of the world’s worst traffic were largely empty in the city of 13 million people.

Schools and government offices were closed on official orders. The stock exchange suspended trading and many private businesses shut for the day too.

Classes in some cities in the capital will remain suspended on Tuesday, officials said.

Lightning strike in the midst of Taal volcano explosion is seen in Lipa City, Philippines January 12, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. Cheslie Andal/via REUTERS

Flight operations at Manila’s international airport partially resumed, authorities said, after more than 500 flights were delayed or canceled on Sunday.

One flight that did land carried President Rodrigo Duterte, who was coming back from his home city of Davao in the southern Philippines. He had been unable to fly on Sunday because visibility was so low.

One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.

The island has been showing signs of restiveness since early last year.

The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.

(Additional reporting by Peter Blaza; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Stephen Coates and Andrew Heavens)

Rumbling Alaska volcano sends ash plume 5 miles into the air

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – One of Alaska’s most active volcanoes, a towering ice-covered cone in the Aleutian Islands, shot a cloud of ash more than 5 miles high on Friday, triggering a warning to aviators and putting on a show that was captured in satellite imagery.

The ash burst from Shishaldin Volcano, about 670 miles southwest of Anchorage, was part of an on-and-off, mostly low-level series of eruptions that began in July with a stream of lava from the crater at the peak of the 9,373-foot-tall mountain.

The ash plume was spotted by a pilot and was visible in satellite images captured from space. It drifted over the sea at least 75 miles southeast of the volcano, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported.

No communities were affected by ashfall or were otherwise in danger as of Friday morning, said David Fee of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, a coordinating scientist with the observatory.

“This is a remote volcano,” he said.

The National Weather Service issued an alert, and air traffic was advised to steer clear of Shishaldin, though aviators were already avoiding the volcano well before Friday because of earlier activity, Fee said.

While Friday’s cloud, the largest yet of the series, was considered moderate, conditions at Shishaldin could worsen quickly.

“Shishaldin remains at a heightened level of unrest, and explosions may occur with little warning,” the observatory warned in a public statement. Friday’s explosion lasted about an hour to 90 minutes, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Matt Haney said.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman & Kim Coghill)