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Philippine Volcano Erupts, Forcing Evacuation of Thousands of Residents

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A lock-down is being implemented by police in three towns in the Philippines near an erupting volcano, 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of capital Manila, to prevent residents from returning home as heavy ash fall and tremors continue in the area.

More than 38,000 people are currently staying in evacuation centers due to the Taal volcano’s eruption, the disaster management agency said in a report Tuesday.

Farm damage from the eruption, including rice, corn, coffee, cacao and bananas, has reached 577.59 million pesos ($11.4 million), the Agriculture Department said. Mass fish deaths are expected in the lake surrounding the volcano because of toxic sulfur levels.

A hazardous explosive eruption remains possible within hours or days, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in its latest report Tuesday. New cracks were observed in nearby towns — a sign that magma could be rising from underground, the agency’s chief Renato Solidum said.

Lava fountains generated 800-meter dark gray, steam-laden plumes and 49 volcanic earthquakes were recorded early Tuesday, according to the agency. Taal Volcano is a tourist attraction and is among the nation’s most active volcanoes.

It’s difficult to predict how long the volcano could remain at the current heightened level of activity, said Mario Aurelio, director of the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines. Previous eruptions suggest intense activity could persist for weeks to months, he said.

“Its effect on the economy won’t be that big and there can be a fairly fast catch up when the people displaced go back and start reconstruction – that could be a catalyst. The affected area is very localized,” said Victor Abola, an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific in Manila.

Markets Reopen

Financial markets and government offices reopened in Manila on Tuesday, signaling a reprieve from ash spewed by the volcano that reached the capital. The Philippine stock exchange rose 0.2% at the close. The peso was little changed at 50.58 to the dollar.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he’s scheduled to conduct an inspection of the areas surrounding Taal on Tuesday, pledging to ensure that prices of essential commodities including face masks aren’t rising unreasonably. Vice President Leni Robredo visited the evacuation centers to provide food packets and dust masks, according to her official Twitter account.

The government has sufficient supplies for evacuees, and helicopters are on standby in case more people need to be evacuated, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

Globe Telecom Inc.’s services will be interrupted in parts of Batangas, Cavite and Laguna provinces as it cannot refuel generators in these areas because of heavy ash fall, the company said in a statement.

The Philippines — among the most disaster-prone countries in the world — is “well prepared financially to handle any fallout and damage from this eruption,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told Bloomberg Television Monday.

Between 2000 and 2016, natural disasters in the Philippines caused more than 23,000 deaths and affected 125 million people, according to the Asian Development Bank. The socioeconomic damage was about $20 billion with average annual damage estimated at $1.2 billion, it said.

Photograph: Volcanic ash covers roads and rooftops as Taal Volcano erupts on Jan. 13, 2020 in the Philippines. The Philippine Institute of of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to four out of five, warning that a hazardous eruption could take place anytime, as Manila’s international airport suspended flights and authorities began evacuating tens of thousands of people from the area. Photo taken by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images.

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Sompo International Hires Allied World’s James to Run International Insurance Business

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Sompo International Holdings Ltd., a Bermuda-based specialty property and casualty re/insurer, announced that Julian James will soon join the organization to lead the London market and international insurance platforms.

Subject to regulatory approval and after a short period of transition, James will succeed Graham Evans as the chief executive officer, London Market and International Insurance. Evans will be retiring after almost seven years with the organization and a lengthy career in the insurance industry.

James will report to Chris Gallagher, chief executive officer, Sompo International Commercial P&C.

James joins Sompo International with extensive global insurance experience that spans almost four decades. Most recently, he held several leadership positions in the London market, including president of Allied World’s Global Markets and CEO of the Allied World Managing Agency at Lloyd’s.

Before that, he was CEO of Lockton International, where he also served as chairman of the board of the International Group and CEO of the U.K.-regulated entity. In addition, he served on the council of Lloyd’s until January 2019. Currently he is a member of the Lloyds’s Market Supervision and Review Committee.

Prior to the council of Lloyd’s, James began his career in broking at Sedgwick and Marsh in 1981 before joining Lloyd’s of London in 1997, where he led the market’s international network. During this time, he was responsible for growing the Lloyd’s presence in key global markets as well as managing high-level strategic relationships with brokers around the world.

“We are delighted that Julian will be joining our team to lead the strategic expansion of our international insurance business,” commented Gallagher. “Sompo International is committed to the continued growth of our London, Bermudan and European businesses, including the recently formed European platform, SI Insurance (Europe), SA, through new products, scale and relevance to these critical markets.”

Gallagher thanked Evans for his successful contributions to Sompo International and wished him the best in his retirement.

Commenting on Evans’ retirement, John Charman, executive chairman of the board of directors, Sompo International Holdings Ltd., and chief executive officer of Overseas Insurance and Reinsurance Business, Sompo Holdings, Inc., said: “I have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing Graham Evans both personally and professionally for many years. I would like to give my sincerest thanks to him for his significant contributions not only to our company, but to the London insurance market as well.”

“As he begins his retirement, he should be proud of his accomplishments and the exceptional organization that he has played such a critical role in building for us in the U.K. and in Europe,” Charman continued. “Finally, I would also like to enthusiastically welcome Julian to our great team and congratulate him on his new position.”

“I am honored to have the opportunity to make an impact on the future of Sompo International,” James said. “The company’s strategic growth plans, particularly for the London, European and Bermuda markets, and its disciplined approach to underwriting and supporting its clients, make Sompo International a unique and well positioned market-leading organization.”

Source: Sompo International

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Massive Fire Scorches Six Row Houses in Staten Island

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A fast-moving five-alarm fire severely damaged six row houses in Staten Island on Monday, displacing more than 30 people and causing minor injuries.

John Sudnik, chief of the Fire Department of New York, said wood construction in the attics of the connected houses allowed flames to spread quickly through the roofs. Firefighters found “heavy fire” coming from one of the three-story buildings when they arrived just before 3 p.m., Sudnik said. It had spread to the adjacent homes before being brought under control two hours later.

More than 200 firefighters and other emergency workers responded to the scene, where flames licked through holes in the roofs and heavy smoke rolled across multiple row houses in the residential neighborhood.

Ten firefighters suffered various minor injuries and one civilian suffered a minor smoke inhalation injury, according to the fire department.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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New Jersey Law Bans Sale of Flavored Vaping Products

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The sale of flavored vaping products is banned in New Jersey under legislation Democratic Governor Phil Murphy signed Tuesday.

Murphy signed the measure that moved to his desk amid a nationwide scare last year over mysterious illnesses linked to vaping. The ban will take effect in April.

The flavors are meant to hook young people, who are using the products in increasing numbers, according to Murphy and the bill’s sponsors.

“This law will help to discourage our youth from taking up this dangerous habit and reduce its prevalence in our homes and schools,” Democratic Sen. Shirley Turner, one of the bill’s backers, said in a statement.

Opponents of the legislation, who crowded the statehouse when the measure passed the Democratic-led Legislature, argued that officials should better enforce the smoking age instead of barring of-age adults from buying products they enjoy using.

The smoking age in New Jersey is 21.

Massachusetts is the only other state with a statewide ban on flavors, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, though eight states have enacted emergency regulations to halt the sale of flavored vaping products. The rules face legal challenges and are in effect in only three states, according to the campaign: Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington.

Republican President Donald Trump’s administration said this month that it would move to prohibit fruit, candy, mint and dessert flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes. The federal ban, though, lets menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes remain on the market.

The New Jersey measure would bar menthol but would permit tobacco flavors. The measure also prohibits other flavors, like candy, desserts and fruit, among others.

The legislation gained steam during an outbreak that appears to have started in March. Many of the cases occurred in August and September.

CDC officials have said they had narrowed in on a culprit: a chemical compound called vitamin E acetate that has been found in the lungs of some sick patients and in the products they vaped. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent that has been added to illicit, high-inducing vaping liquids.

The law bars the sale, offer for sale and distribution of flavored vaping products, but it doesn’t prohibit possession.

A retailer that violates the prohibition faces a civil penalty of at least $500 for the first violation, at least $1,000 for a second violation, and at least than $2,000 for third and later violations.

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