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Volcano Could Drown Town

The crater of Mount Pinatubo is filling with water and scientists warn that it?s about to burst. Pinatubo erupted violently in 1991. Now the lake water level inside the crater is rising, effecting a geological fault in the crater called the Maraunot notch.

They believe it could give way at any time, sending an avalanche of mud over the 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 will eventually be breached,? according to a geology research team commissioned by the charity group Oxfam.

The team, led by Dr Kelvin Rodolfo from the University of Illinois in Chicago, and Rosalito Alonso, head of geology research at Oxfam, flew over the volcano in a helicopter in May. At the time, they estimated that the water level was only 26 feet below the lowest point of the crater rim. A month later, the level had risen another 6 ? 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 13 billion gallons of water. Combined with soil, ash and volcanic debris, it could generate a huge mudslide. Aid agencies estimate that about 46,000 people living in the town below Pinatubo could be at risk. There are also people living on the upper slopes of the volcano who have returned to their homes since the volcano last erupted, believing the area to be safe.

Oxfam and groups such as the Pampanga Disaster Response Network are making evacuation plans and are launching a campaign to inform local people about the danger. Oxfam has sent a report to government agencies and has requested an urgent meeting. Oxfam's Matthew Grainger says, ?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.?

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