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Volcano scare in Biliran

Biliran is a volcanic island, but there was no reason to panic over this fact until a local official allegedly predicted a volcanic eruption here after a recent earthquake. October 28, at 6:15 a.m., an Intensity 4.4 earthquake shook the vicinity of Biliran province and nearby towns. Its epicenter was four kilometers southeast of Naval town. It was actually the second earthquake on the same day in Eastern Visayas. A few hours earlier, at 2:21 a.m., an earthquake of similar intensity shook the province of Northern Samar, with its epicenter located 59 km southeast of Catarman. The Phivolcs reported that these earthquakes were tectonic in origin. That is, they were caused by the shifting or movement of the earth’s crust. (The other cause is volcanic, triggered by the underground forces of a volcano, including eruption.) Two days later, a councilor of Naval who hosts a noon block-time radio program, allegedly claimed on air that the earthquake signaled an impending eruption of the volcano in Biliran. Feedback from radio listeners and blog exchanges in an Internet forum for Biliranons indicated that the eruption was supposed to have occurred Nov. 15 or 17. The councilor reportedly alleged that a mysterious, hermit-like old man with that dire prediction requested him to broadcast his hunch to the public. Then an aftershock shook Naval at about 7 a.m. on Oct. 31. This time, the earthquake created a climate of fear and uncertainty that spread among local people who had heard the radio broadcast. Panic reportedly gripped the residents of several upland barangays around Libtong area east of Naval near the present mouth of the only active volcano in Eastern Visayas. Some have reportedly left the area after allegedly selling their livestock and farm lots cheaply, to settle elsewhere while the perceived danger remained. Many modern Biliranons became aware of the volcano in their midst only after the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales in June 1991. In its wake, Phivolcs publicized reports that Biliran Island has the lone active volcano in Eastern Visayas.

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