CNMI UNCERTAIN IF ANATAHAN HAS RESIDENTS

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 13) - The erupting volcano on
Anatahan continued to spew out clouds of ashes as of yesterday morning,
according to the Emergency Management Office.

Gov. Juan N. Babauta and EMO geophysical seismic technician Juan
Takai Camacho flew over Anatahan yesterday via helicopter to assess the
situation and to determine whether people living on the island need to be
evacuated.

Northern Islands Mayor Valentin Taisacan said, though, that none
of the island's residents were actually on Anatahan when the volcano vented its
fury about 9pm Saturday, spewing thick clouds of ashes thousands of feet into
the air.

"They were here on Saipan. Most people came here because their
kids are attending school here," the Northern Islands mayor said. His staff,
though, is verifying the presence of listed Anatahan inhabitants on Saipan. Last
March, some Anatahan inhabitants were actually on the island.

There were conflicting reports as to the number of people living
on the island. Northern Islanders Association chief Cinta Kaipat said there are
20. Taisacan said there are about 200.

Camacho said that, as of yesterday morning, the volcano was
still emitting giant clouds of smoke "every 50 seconds to a minute." He refused
to elaborate, saying that EMO director Rudolfo Pua would release the agency's
report once it is completed.

Taisacan said that, because of the eruption, the fate of several
projects on the island-including the construction of an elementary school-could
become uncertain.

The mayor said the Public School System has plans to put up a
school on the island, as the number of students reached 60. Later this month, a
team from his office and the Division of Fish and Wildlife was earlier scheduled
to go to Anatahan to catch goats and bring them out of the island, since they
have been destroying vegetation.

"It gets us in a very bad mood. All of a sudden, it erupted.
We're not happy, but we cannot control Mother Nature's fury," he said.

He related that he learned about the eruption Sunday morning,
while he was at his house on Saipan. "I wasn't so sure about it until this
morning [yesterday] when I saw the paper. It was thick with smoke."

Taisacan said he would meet with Babauta and Pua possibly today
to discuss the situation on Anatahan and the fate of the projects.

Excluding Farallon de Mendinilla Island, Anatahan is the closest
island north of Saipan. While the U.S. military uses FDM for bombing practices,
it signified intentions to use Anatahan for military training before Saturday's
calamity.

Located some 120 kilometers from Saipan, Anatahan has a
mountainous terrain, with its peak rising at an altitude of 2,585 feet. It has
two coalescing volcanoes and is believed to have been formed due to prehistoric
volcanic activities. The weekend disaster was the first historically documented
volcanic eruption on the island, after thousands of years of dormancy.

A team from the National Science Foundation was sailing on the
Northern Islands waters when the eruption occurred. Aboard the MV Super Emerald,
the team's closest approach on Anatahan was about five miles east of the island.
The team had just installed seismic monitoring stations on the Northern
Islands-including Anatahan-in connection with a scientific experiment.

Camacho said Sunday that earthquake and tsunami might result
after the eruption, but no major geophysical movement has been detected as of
press time. He had said the EMO would continue monitoring the situation.

May 13, 2003

Saipan Tribune:
www.saipantribune.com

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