Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Libre: Volcanic eruption

Seriously now

THE Philippines and its people must be exploding in merriment over the festive hosting of and victorious campaign as the SEA Games 2019 comes to a conclusion. On the other hand, the House of Representatives of the United States this week blasted through the White House as President Donald Trump faces two articles of impeachment namely for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress.

If only to steal international media attention, a volcanic eruption in New Zealand’s White Island (325 hectares) resonated, with one UK publication, Independent, headlining, “New Zealand eruption: No survivors on White Island after volcano suddenly erupts, say police.”

The volcano, which is 170 kilometers from where I reside did not cause any tremor nor did this bring ashes, yet the somewhat misleading headline caused panic to many. The fact is that there are no residential houses nor people living on White Island. It is owned privately by the Buttle family under the Whakaari Trust.

Even though the volcano has remained active, the entity has allowed tourists, who are seeking adventure, if not are simply curious, on the island. In 2018, about 18,000 individuals visited White Island. I nearly had a chance to have a closer look of White Island a few weeks ago when my college buddy Paulino Servado, who came visiting from the Philippines, inquired at a helicopter company in Rotorua if we could get a ride. Unfortunately, it was already late in the afternoon and the staff told us that they were closed for the day.

Based on news reports, there were 47 people, including passengers from a cruise ship, who were on the island when the volcano erupted. Six people were confirmed dead, while eight remain missing and presumed dead. No Filipino was affected. Just before the eruption, it was reported that there were people walking inside the volcano’s crater.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deferred answering questions about having visitors into the island in the future, preferring to focus her attention on those affected. While health and safety are primary concerns of New Zealanders both in home and work situations, the tragic deaths in White Island beg the question on whether these were put in place. This incident is comparable to a game of Russian roulette, something bad was bound to happen, you just don’t know when.

But then it is the tendency of human beings to explore new places, to experience something different and to challenge one’s self. Even with the possibility of death, people climb Mt. Everest, surf big waves, traverse the South Pole and yes, trek to volcano craters. These are exhilarating; yet dangerous exploits. The question remains: Is it worth it?


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