Authorities start mass evacuation as workers
prepare to crack Mount Pinatubo crater
U.S. Water News Online
BOTOLAN, Philippines -- Thousands of people fled villages
near Mount Pinatubo as workers prepared to breach the volcano's
crater to drain a lake that could unleash mass floods on the area.
Dozens of trucks and buses took residents of Botolan, a village
about 25 miles from the volcano, to evacuation centers far from a
possible deluge of mud and water.
The crater lake rose to dangerous levels during the rainy season,
which runs from May to October. Unless some water is drained, it
could shatter the upper walls of the 4,740-foot volcano, geologists
In recent weeks, workers dug a 17-foot notch in the edge of
Pinatubo's crater. Workers used pressurized water to blast away the
remaining bit of earth, clearing the way for about 25 percent of the
lake to drain.
Worried residents trailed out of Bolotan in loaded vans, cars,
tractors and carts pulled by water buffalo. Officials said as many as
40,000 people must evacuate.
Farmer Nestor Dial, 43, loaded a buffalo drawn cart with four
goats and piles of taro root, and tied his horse to the back.
``I'm bringing all of my farm animals out of here because they
could be destroyed,'' he said.
Raymundo Punongbayan, director of the Philippine Institute for
Volcanology and Seismology, cited a ''20 percent chance of the worst
case scenario,'' in which a violent surge of water would be
unleashed, collecting mud and burying villages as it flooded down the
Such a slide could inundate Botolan within an hour and a half, he
Ideally, he said, the breaching will slowly release water from the
volcano and follow the path of the Bucao River, posing no threat to
Despite flood threats, some residents vowed to stay behind to
guard their homes and businesses.
``I cannot leave,'' said Arcie Dantik, 31, who works on a fish
pond near the Bucao River and the water's likely path. ``What if
looters strike? I don't think the water will really inundate this
place. If it will, well, there are many trees around.''
Others said they would climb onto their roofs in case of flooding.
Military ground commander Col. John Bolhayon said two helicopters
are ready to rescue villagers who refuse to leave and are stranded by
Pinatubo, about 50 miles north of Manila, erupted in 1991, killing
800 people and spewing billions of tons of debris. The eruption blew
off Pinatubo's top, leaving a hole with an area of about two square
miles at its summit. The opening has acted as a collecting pot for
In June 1998, a similar crater lake collapsed in Nicaragua's
Casita volcano under pressure from Hurricane Mitch. More than 2,000
people were killed.
Pinatubo is one of the Philippines' 22 active volcanos.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.