Mt. Pinatubo still shadows lives 20 years on

Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:32am EDT
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By Roli Ng and Peter Blaza

CABALANTIAN VILLAGE, Philippines (Reuters Life!) - For Corazan Zawal, memories of the devastation caused by Mount Pinatubo remain etched in her mind.

The massive eruption in June 1991 sent volcanic material racing down the mountain's slopes at great speed, engulfing whole villages in its path, burying homes and killing hundreds. Thousands more were displaced.

Over 5 billion cubic meters of ash was released, reaching 34 km (21 miles) up into the atmosphere. Global temperatures dropped by 0.5 degrees C for two years after millions of tonnes of sulfur dioxide ejected in the eruption blocked sunlight and cooled the earth.

For Zawal and others in hard-hit Pampanga province, still further disasters lay ahead.

In 1995, Cabalantian was completely buried when a typhoon turned volcanic sediment into lahars, or mud flows, killing hundreds more.

"In a blink of an eye, lahar was there. My older brother smashed our walls so that we could climb up to our roof," Zawal said.

"What we saw outside was everything, even houses, being whisked away by the flood. I called on my children to see if they were safe. When some of them didn't answer, I knew they were gone."

Her four-year-old niece and one-year-old grandchild were killed when a drifting house crashed against their home.   Continued...