Guatemalan volcano survivors grieve dead and missing loved ones

admin   •   June 7, 2018   •   4105

A police officer stumbles while running away after the Fuego volcano spew new pyroclastic flow in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla, Guatemala, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverri

After surviving the eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano, husband and wife Amilcar Ajacabon and Miriam Juarez, say they don’t want to return to their home in San Miguel de Lotes which was damaged in Sunday’s (June 2) explosion.

A thick layer of still smoldering ash and volcanic rock blanketed the tiny hamlet with only the roofs of some homes sticking out.

On Wednesday (June 6), the couple said they only survived because they ran for their lives when the Volcan de Fuego or “Volcano of Fire,” roared to life on Sunday.

“Everyone ran out yelling ‘let’s go, let’s go! It’s coming strong’ and yes, the lava was coming behind us. And thank God it stopped and that’s why we were able to get to Escuintla alive,” Juarez said.

After making it to safety in Escuintla, the couple learned five members of their family did not get out alive.

Ajacabon got permission from authorities to return to their home in order to gather some belongings, but he said the town is a cemetery and he plans to live somewhere else with his surviving family as he fears another disaster here.

Meanwhile, rescuers scoured the lava and ash ravaged landscape for a third straight day in search of survivors and victims of the eruption.

An estimated 85 people are dead and some 200 others remain missing.

Guatemala’s national disaster management agency, CONRED, said 1.7 million people have been affected by the volcanic eruption, Fuego volcano’s biggest in four decades, and over 12,000 have been evacuated. -Reuters

Mexico’s National Guard halts advance of latest wave of migrants

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020

Hundreds of Central Americans traveling as part of a migrant caravan walk on 23 January 2020 near the southeastern Mexican town of Frontera Hidalgo. EPA-EFE/Juan Manuel Blanco

Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico – Thousands of Central Americans crossed into Mexico illegally Thursday from Guatemala, taking advantage of scant monitoring of a section of the Suchiate River, the natural border between those two countries.

The migrants traveled several kilometers inside Mexico and said they planned to move in orderly fashion and formally apply for asylum, but more than 200 members of Mexico’s National Guard halted their advance on a road in Chiapas state near the Guatemala-Mexico border after an attempt at dialogue between the migrants and Mexican authorities broke down.

National Migration Institute (INM) buses arrived at that spot near the town of Frontera Hidalgo to take hundreds of detained migrants to immigration-processing centers such as the Siglo XXI station in the city of Tapachula.

Carrying the flags of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and signs with the message “We Want to Talk Directly to the President,” the migrants set out early Thursday and walked more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, to the nearby town of Frontera Hidalgo.

They said they were taking up an offer from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who last Friday offered jobs to thousands of migrants but said they would need to apply for asylum in Mexico.

The migrants also said they were looking to obtain safe-conduct passes – at least in Chiapas – and thereby avoid being targets of the National Guard, a recently formed militarized police force.

“Right now what we’re going to do is heed the call of (Lopez Obrador) … He’s promised us that they won’t touch us with an (asylum application) in hand. That’s what we’re going to do. If they touch us, I don’t know who’s lying there. But we’re going to do our part,” Honduran Jose Luis Morales told Efe Thursday.

However, tensions escalated Thursday when the migrants and some activists accompanying them confronted officials with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) and the INM and demanded they respond to some 2,000 requests for asylum made in recent days by members of their caravan.

On Monday, between 500 and 1,000 migrants – part of a caravan that originally consisted of as many as 5,000 people – ran across the Suchiate River near the Rodolfo Robles bridge.

The National Guard responded with tear gas and captured more than 400 people; the National Migration Institute said 40 other migrants opted to return to Guatemala of their own accord, while 58 others disappeared into the jungle.

The INM says that a total of 679 Honduran members of the caravan, which left that impoverished Central American country a week ago, have been deported by air or land.

That institute said Wednesday that more than 2,000 migrants had been intercepted in a single day in the southeastern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco.

On Thursday, the migrants crossed the Suchiate River at a different point to avoid being turned away by the National Guard.

Despite having crossed the river by surprise, the Central Americans had pledged on Thursday to migrate in peaceful and orderly fashion.

“We’re traveling because it’s the only way that maybe they’ll show mercy and let us travel to the north. My (preferred) destination is the United States, but if I can stay in Mexico I’ll stay because for me it’s a big advantage, since we’re supported here by all the Mexican people,” Honduran Marco Tulio Polanco told Efe.

Mexico’s equivalent of an ombudsman’s office, the National Human Rights Commission, which has come under fire for its lukewarm response to Monday’s events on the border, on Thursday issued a statement saying that its officials have been gathering up complaints and that it condemns “all acts of violence against the physical integrity of migrants.”

Unemployment, poverty and, above all, high levels of gang violence are the reasons most cited by Central Americans for leaving their native countries.

Mexico’s response to this first migrant caravan of 2020 reflects a sharp change in policy by Lopez Obrador’s administration, which had previously offered fast-track visas to migrants for humanitarian reasons and had sought to enlist the US in a development plan for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

That plan focused on boosting job opportunities in countries that have some of the highest homicide rates in the world and where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

But under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports if that country did not halt the northward movement of Central Americans, Lopez Obrador’s government agreed with the US in June 2019 on a plan to curb migration.

Last month, Mexico announced a 70 percent reduction in the number of people arriving at its border with the US and said that the INM had deported 178,960 foreigners in 2019. EFE-EPA


Authorities implement total evacuation in Talisay, Batangas

Maris Federez   •   January 13, 2020

Villagers prepare to board rescue vehicles after a volcano eruption in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines, 13 January 2020. Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate as authorities in the Philippines raised the alert due to the increased activity of the Taal volcano, located on an island near Manila. EPA/EFE MARK R. CRISTINO

MANILA, Philippines — Several government agencies have joined forces to implement total evacuation of residents in the town of Talisay in Batangas province following the explosive eruption of Taal Volcano.

Talisay Mayor Gerry Natanauan, in an interview, said 95% of the residents had already been evacuated since Sunday (Dec. 12) as thick mud covered the houses and streets of the whole town.

Others have only decided to evacuate on Monday.

Some, however, were not able to evacuate as they live in the mountains and rescue units had difficulty reaching them.

The rest, on the other hand, refused to leave their houses despite the dangers that the volcanic eruption poses.

Col. Francisco Ramos, NCR Regional Community Defense Group Commander, underscored that total evacuation is imperative as Taal Volcano is now at alert level 4.

“Ang napagsunduan ng lahat na ano muna, pakiusapan sila. Hanggang doon lang na level. Dadalhin natin kahit anong mangyari. Gawa ng hindi pa natin alam y’ong magiging susunod na sitwasyon. Para naman sa kanila ito,” he said.

The government agencies that joined forces for the total evacuation are the AFP, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Muntinlupa Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), particularly the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Wilderness Search and Rescue, and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

Ramos said that as the residents remain in the evacuation centers, the PNP and AFP personnel will provide security in the affected areas. — (from the report of Asher Cadapan, Jr.) /mbmf

Taal Volcano activity not likely to trigger The Big One —Phivolcs

Maris Federez   •   January 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) believes that Taal Volcano’s explosive eruption will not likely trigger the Big One to happen.

Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division chief Maria Antonia Bornas said that just because Taal Volcano’s current activity causes earthquakes, and is very near Metro Manila, do not mean these should be a reason for concern as it may not cause movement in the West Valley Fault.

Bornas also said there are no studies that support the possibility that the volcanic eruption can affect the movement of tectonic plates, including fault lines, such as the West Valley Fault.

“Marami rin pong hindi naniniwala na pwedeng mangyari yun for the simple reason na ang fault po, yung tectonic earthquakes is shallow. Nasa crust po yan e. nasa crust po ng mundo. Samantalanag yung pinag mumulan po ng magma ay nasa mantle – mantle po nasa ilalim pa po ng crust,” Bornas said. —(with details from Vincent Arboleda) /mbmf


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