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Ash Falls Around Pinatubo; Volcano’s Magma Rising With AM-US-Philippines, Bjt

June 23, 1991

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Fresh ash rained down on farms near Mount Pinatubo as tremors shook the volcano Sunday, and officials fearing landslides through river valleys urged villagers to flee.

At least 84 temblors shook the mountain late Saturday and early Sunday, scientists said. Three of the tremors were described as strong but no Richter scale readings were available.

Thousands of American troops and their families were stranded Sunday in the central city of Cebu waiting for flights to the United States. They left the Subic Bay naval base by ship to escape the devastation of Mount Pinatubo, which began erupting June 9.

At least 1,500 U.S. airmen left Subic Bay naval base Saturday for Cebu, 350 miles south of Manila, aboard the aircraft carrier Midway. But it was not known when they might leave the country.

A shortage of planes and fuel prevented some flights Saturday, forcing men, women and children and children to stay in tents pitched near Cebu’s airport, officials said. U.S. sources, however, said most of the people in tents were Filipino spouses or girlfriends who lacked entry visas to the United States.

By mid-day Saturday, 16,657 people had been evacuated from Subic Bay, said Maj. Patrice Mauck, a Marine Corps representative in Honolulu. Of those, 11,606 were flown to Guam, where 4,805 were still waiting to leave for the United States.

Two weeks of eruptions by the volcano have paralyzed two U.S. facilities, the sprawling Clark Air Base, one of the biggest overseas U.S. military bases, and Subic Bay.

Fear of renewed eruptions and landslides has accelerated the exodus from areas ravaged by eruptions and falling ash. During a 10-hour period ending Saturday afternoon, about 63 volcanic tremors were recorded, indicating magma was rising inside the volcano.

At least 268 people, including a 9-year-old American girl, have been killed in eruptions of the 4,795-foot volcano, which had been dormant for more than 600 years.

Thousands of refugees have been roaming the ash-covered cities near the volcano seeking shelter and food. Scientists said winds blowing northeast covered rich farmlands in Pampanga and Tarlac, President Corazon Aquino’s home province. The volcano spewed a cloud of steam more than four miles high, the scientists said.

Ed Wolfe of Vancouver, Wash., a member of a U.S. Geological Survey team, said Clark remained unsafe because of the threat of mudslides and volcanic debris.

″The probability is we’ve seen the biggest of the eruptions. ... But I think it’s possible that it would go on for days, weeks or months,″ Wolfe said. ″One danger is the possibility of it having an explosive eruption a little bigger that what has been going on for the last few days.″

Wolfe said preliminary studies show that last month’s eruptions were much stronger than the 1980 eruption of the Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

Public Works Secretary Jose de Jesus toured areas north of Clark on Saturday and urged residents to leave because of the threat of landslides and floods from the volcano.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, has been evacuating military dependents by ship from the Subic Bay base, 25 miles southwest of the volcano.

About 3,000 Americans left Subic Bay on Friday aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln bound for the central island of Cebu, where they will catch flights to the United States. U.S. officials said they were the last of 20,000 military dependents to leave Subic.

The naval base’s population swelled by nearly 15,000 when the Air Force evacuated troops and dependents from Clark on June 10. About 1,500 airmen remain at Clark to guard the base.

In addition to the airmen bound for Cebu on Saturday, the departure orders of some U.S. military personnel were accelerated after the eruptions began.

The evacuation is taking place only three months before the lease on Clark and Subic expires. Talks on extending the lease stalled in May over how much the United States would pay and how long the lease would last.

On Saturday, former presidential executive secretary Joker Arroyo, once the most influential figure in the Aquino government, said the bases no longer served Philippine interests and the Americans should leave.

Arroyo said the government was considering keeping the bases as a source of economic aid, which he termed an ″unprincipled approach″ to national sovereignty.

U.S. officials say they want to keep Clark despite the threat from the volcano. But the Air Force acknowledged Saturday it had exploded five tons of ″surplus munitions″ there, mostly grenades. There was no explanation why the ammunition was destroyed if the United States plans to retain the base.

In Cebu, Philippine immigration said more than 7,000 Americans had left aboard flights for the United States. U.S. officials said there was a backlog of evacuees at Cebu because of a shortage of aircraft.

U.S. officials acknowledged there was a bottleneck in Cebu because of a shortage of aircraft and aviation fuel.

The U.S. military has relied mainly on C-141s, which carry about 200 passengers each, for the three-hour flight to Guam, where the Americans are transferred to larger planes.

In addition, the government-owned Philippine petroleum company does not store enough aviation fuel in Cebu to satisfy requirements of both the Air Force and the state-run domestic airline.

Cebu Gov. Emilio Osmena said the Air Force needed 23,000 gallons of fuel a day, and tight supplies prevented several planes from leaving as scheduled Saturday.

In Delaware County, Pa., Carol Kuntz said her daughter-in-law, Teresa Showers, the wife of a Navy officer, had been stuck in a tent in Cebu since Wednesday with two small children.

″I think the Navy did a wonderful job in getting them out of there (Subic Bay), but I just want to know why they are still in a tent,″ she said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager said in Manila that planners expected a bottleneck in Cebu. He said they had no choice but to use the airfield because Manila’s airport was closed by volcanic ash.

The eruptions also closed the country’s two U.S. military airfields - Clark and the Cubi Point naval air station. Officials said Clark’s runway is under four inches of ash, and jet aircraft cannot land at Cubi.

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