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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Volcano disaster warning
Mount Pinatubo
The crater of Mount Pinatubo is filling with water
Scientists are warning that a water-filled volcano in the Philippines is about to burst.

Geologists say the crater of Mount Pinatubo, a volcano that erupted violently 10 years ago, has filled with rainwater.


Two things are for certain, the lake water level is rising and the Maraunot notch [a geological fault in the crater] will eventually be breached

Geology research team
They believe it could give way within weeks, sending an avalanche of mud on to towns and villages below.

Emergency agencies are calling for immediate action to prevent a disaster.

"Two things are for certain, the lake water level is rising and the Maraunot notch [a geological fault in the crater] will eventually be breached," said a geology research team commissioned by the British aid charity Oxfam.

Rising water

The team, led by Dr Kelvin Rodolfo from the University of Illinois, Chicago, US, and Rosalito Alonso, head of geology research at Oxfam, flew over the volcano in a helicopter in May.

Ash from the first eruption
Pinatubo erupted violently in 1991
At the time, they estimated that the water level was only eight metres (26 feet) below the lowest point of the crater rim. A month later, the level had risen another two metres (6.56 feet), according to experts from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

The geologists believe the lake that has formed in the crater could release as much as 60 million cubic metres of water (13 billion gallons).

Combined with soil, ash and volcanic debris, it could generate a huge mudslide, similar to that which occurred in Nicaragua in 1998, during Hurricane Mitch.

Tribespeople shelter during the volcanic eruption ten years ago
Tribespeople shelter during the volcanic eruption
Aid agencies estimate that about 46,000 people living in the town of Botolan could be at risk.

There are also more people living on the upper slopes of the volcano who have returned to their homes since the volcano erupted, believing the area to be safe.

Evacuation plan

Oxfam and groups such as the Pampanga Disaster Response Network are launching a campaign to inform local people.


Local and international agencies and most specifically the government must work together to fix the problem and to get contingency plans working so that people don't lose their lives unnecessarily

Matthew Grainger, Oxfam
They have sent the report to government agencies and have requested an urgent meeting.

The plan aims to set-up appropriate warning systems, identify vulnerable villages and develop evacuation plans.

Oxfam's Matthew Grainger told BBC News Online: "Now that the information is out there local and international agencies and most specifically the government must work together to fix the problem and to get contingency plans working so that people don't lose their lives unnecessarily."

See also:

24 Jul 01 | Europe
Etna threat eases
08 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Satellite snaps volcano eruption
24 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands flee Philippines volcano
12 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Java volcano rumbles on
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