12,000 flee as lava oozes from Mayon volcano

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 02:08 AM    Views : 457by:AFP, Elallyn De Vera-Ruiz, and Francis Wakefield

Camalig – Thousands fled from their homes as lava oozed out of rumbling Mayong volcano on Monday in what volcanologists described as a "quiet eruption", warning it could lead to a hazardous explosion within days.

Lava was slowly flowing out of the Mayon volcano's crater along with a spectacular 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) ash plume rising into the sky, the nation's volcanology institute said.

PALL OF GLOOM – Mayon Volcano's crater is aglow, though barely luminous through the thick clouds that engulfed the Bicol region Sunday, in this photo taken from Daraga, Albay, and obtained from a social media post of Romulo Quinto Ceneta. (Reuters)

PALL OF GLOOM – Mayon Volcano's crater is aglow, though barely luminous through the thick clouds that engulfed the Bicol region Sunday, in this photo taken from Daraga, Albay, and obtained from a social media post of Romulo Quinto Ceneta. (Reuters)

More than 12,000 people have been ordered to leave a seven-kilometer danger zone around the crater, as officials warned them of potentially destructive mudflows and toxic clouds.

In a press briefing Monday at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said the affected families are from the municipalities of Camalig, Guinobatan, and Malilipot in the province of Albay (Region V).

Forced evacuation is currently ongoing in the municipality of Daraga and the city of Legazpi in Albay province due to the lava flow coming from the volcano, she said.

The evacuation of affected residents is being conducted with the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Quiet eruption

"Technically, the volcano is erupting but the eruption is fairly quiet. It may escalate into a hazardous eruption," Paul Alanis, science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told AFP.

A hazardous or explosive eruption means a lava fountain or a spray of hot rocks and gases that could move as fast as 60 kilometers per hour, Alanis added.

Local disaster officials also warned of volcanic mudflows known as lahar.

"Because of continuous rains in past weeks, debris deposited (on) the slopes of Mayon could lead to lahar flows. If rain does not stop it could be hazardous," Claudio Yucot, head of the region's office of civil defence, told AFP.

PH's most active volcano

Mayon, a near-perfect cone that draws thousands of tourists even during minor eruptions, rises 2,460 meters (8,070 feet) above a largely agricultural region some 330 kilometers southwest of Manila.

It is considered the nation's most active volcano.

Steam-driven eruptions and rockfalls began over the weekend, and the crater began glowing on Sunday evening, in what Phivolcs said was a sign of the growth of a new lava dome.


Lava last flowed out of Mayon in 2014 when 63,000 people fled from their homes.

"We think the lava now is more fluid than in 2014. This means the flow can reach further down (the slopes) at a faster rate," Phivolcs head Renato Solidum told AFP.

"We see similarity with eruptions where the first phase of the activity started with lava flow and culminated in an explosive or hazardous part. That's what we are trying to monitor and help people avoid."

Damp cloth

In Monday's lava flow, Phivolcs advised residents to use a damp cloth over their mouths and stay indoors to avoid inhaling sulphur dioxide gas.

"If you breathe, you will feel like coughing and clearing your throat. It also stings and is painful in the eyes," Bert Recamunda, a 55-year-old engineer and Mayon watcher, told AFP after visiting Camalig town near the volcano.

Classes were suspended in parts of Albay province where Mayon is at, and some schools were used as evacuation centers.

‘Rolling thunder'

"I am afraid. The volcano rumbles like a rolling thunder," NerryBriones, 40, told AFP from a classroom in Camalig town, where she and her three children have stayed for the past two nights along with other evacuees.

DSWD on alert status

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is on heightened alert status. Currently, DSWD-Field Office in Bicol Region maintains P5,662,702.15 standby funds and stockpile of 13,352 family food packs and non-food items.

DSWD's Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau is continuously coordinating with the provincial government of Albay for the ground status updates and other significant reports on the status of displacement and assistance efforts.

"Meanwhile, we assure everyone that the Department has enough resources prepositioned for those who will be affected. We are also advising all the communities near the volcano to remain vigilant, listen to the instructions of authorities, and stay alert for the possible eruption of the Mayon so we can minimize the damage that the activity may cause," DSWD OIC Secretary Emmanuel Leyco said.

Volcanic activity

As of Monday, Phivolcs recorded two volcanic earthquakes and 141 rockfall events within the past 24 hours, following last Sunday's phreatic or steam-driven eruptions at 8:49 a.m. and 11:43 a.m.

Sulfurous odors were detected and traces of ash were reported in the municipality of Camalig, Phivolcs said.

Bright crater glow was observed however degassing at the active vents could not be observed due to thick clouds covering the summit, it pointed out.

Slight inflation

Phivolcs also noted that Mayon Volcano's precise leveling data obtained on Nov. 7 to 11, 2017 indicated slight inflation of the edifice relative to September 2017.

This is also exhibited in increased rates in the inflationary trends recorded by continuous GPS and tilt since October and November, 2017, respectively.

Many volcanoes are known to have inflated before eruptions.

Phivolcs also observed an increase in sulfur dioxide emission measuring at an average of 856 tons per day December 3, 2017.

It explained that sulfur dioxide emission tends to increase through time as magma degasses with increasing rates as it moves up from great depths beneath the volcano.

Following its increased activity, Mayon Volcano's alert level has been raised to 3, which means it is currently in a relatively high level of unrest and magma is at the crater.

Phivolcs said a hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or even days.

Danger zone

It advised the public to be vigilant and should prevent people from entering the six-kilometer permanent danger zone and the seven-kilometer extended danger zone on the southern flanks due to the danger of rockfalls, landslides and sudden explosions or dome collapse that may generate hazardous volcanic flows.

LGUs with barangays within the 6 to 8 km Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) activated their respective Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils to discuss proactive actions to be undertaken by their LGU in case the situation escalates.

Ring of Fire

The Philippines is part of a "Ring of Fire" of islands in the Pacific that were formed by volcanic activity, and has to contend with 22 active volcanoes.

Mayon has a long history of deadly eruptions.

Four foreign tourists and their local tour guide were killed when Mayon last erupted, in May 2013.


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