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Friday, April 18, 2014

Strong eruption brings ash plume over Saipan

Anatahan’s volcano displayed its fury anew after days of fluctuating seismicity, spewing out ash to 42,000 feet in the air.

The escalating volcanic activity prompted Gov. Juan N. Babauta to place Saipan and Tinian under volcanic ash advisory yesterday. Rota remained under a volcanic haze declaration.

Emergency Management Office’s Juan Takai Camacho explained that, unlike Monday and Tuesday’s hazy condition over Saipan and Tinian, yesterday’s situation worsened in that ash plume—besides volcanic gases—reached the skies over the two islands.

The Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center first reported about a possible strong eruption at past 10pm Wednesday. The center reported about increased seismicity on Anatahan and the appearance of ash cloud from the eastern side of the volcano.

“This possible ash cloud is moving toward the northeast, east and southeast. The possible ash moving toward the east and northeast is below 18,000 feet while that moving to the southeast is up to 42,000 feet,” the VAAC said.

The VAAC added that ash plume also fanned out southwesterly below an altitude of 12,000 feet.

Before noon yesterday, the VAAC reported of ash plume below 10,000 feet, which extended south-southwest of the volcano.

The EMO issued no update on its volcanic activity report, but confirmed that the volcano had a strong eruption that sent ashes to 42,000 feet.

The agency advised mariners, sea tour operators, fishermen and beach goers about the poor visibility on the coastal areas of Saipan and Tinian due to ashes. It reiterated the Department of Public Health’s advisory to for residents, especially those with respiratory illnesses, to stay indoors.

Saipan has been under hazy conditions since Tuesday, resulting in flight interruptions. On Wednesday night, an aircraft suffered engine trouble in mid-air shortly after taking off from the Saipan International Airport, prompting it to return to the tarmac for emergency landing.

The Ports Police said, though, that no one was injured in the incident.

According to the USGS, volcanic ash threatens jets and aircraft in the air, as it forms deposit in engines, restricts airflow, and clogs fuel nozzles. Minute particles of volcanic ash also contaminate aircraft’s ventilation, lubrication, hydraulic and electronic systems. They cause erosion and pitting of leading edges of windshields and landing lights, as well as erosion of compressor blades.

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