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Mayon hit by 2,000 tremors

By Rey M. Nasol
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 02:09:00 12/22/2009

Filed Under: Mayon, Volcanic activity, Evacuation(General)

LEGAZPI CITY?Booming and rumbling since Sunday night, Mayon volcano shook glass windows of houses and muted a popular television drama, keeping people in Albay province anxiously guessing when it would finally unleash its fury.

?I think Mayon is really going to explode,? said Noel Nocillado, a farmer living in Barangay Sua in Camalig town.

After a week of puffing out ash and sending bursts of lava trickling down its steep slopes, the 2,460-meter volcano overlooking the Gulf of Albay and this provincial capital switched into high gear on Monday with nearly 2,000 volcanic earthquakes and tremors since Sunday, state volcanologists said.

The emission of sulfur dioxide?an indication of magma rising inside the volcano?jumped to 6,000 tons per day from the normal 500, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

It also reported ?audible booming and rumbling sounds? in the eastern flank of the volcano, accompanied by intensified crater glow at night.

Lava fountains bursting from the cone-shaped volcano overnight rose 200 meters in the air, Phivolcs said.

Red-hot lava continuously flowed down along the gullies of Bonga-Buyuan facing Legazpi, Miisi in Camalig town and Lidong in Sto. Domingo town.

Scientists raised the alert level on Sunday to one step below a hazardous eruption, saying one was possible within days. The only higher level is when a major eruption is already in progress.

Hearing distance

While more than 100 rumbling sounds were heard at the Lińgon Hill Observatory Center, situated 11.5 kilometers away from the crater, ?how much more at the nearer distance?? asked resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta.

Residents of Barangays Mabalod, Maninila and Maipon in Guinobatan, Santa Misericordia in Santo Domingo, and Sua, Tumpa, Cabangan and the other areas of Camalig heard the loud rumbling from Mayon continuously on Sunday night.

At first, Edwin Iglesia, a machine shop welder, thought it was a thunderstorm he and his friend heard from his house in Barangay Travesia in Guinobatan at about 8 p.m. on Sunday. But then, they saw no lightning, he said.

The booms, Iglesia said, were repeated successively after 10 then 30 minutes, alternately followed by rumbling sounds that made glass windows vibrate and silenced the dramatic dialogue in a television telenovela.

Laguerta warned defiant residents at the no-go zones to leave their homes. A major eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows?superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes of Mayon at very high speeds, vaporizing everything in their path.

Defiant villagers

More extensive explosions of ash could drift toward nearby towns and cities.

Gov. Joey Salceda, who chairs the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC), said Mayon?s eruption was the most dangerous type of calamity in Albay, and the province had experienced difficulty moving out the remaining 6,000 residents who had refused to leave or had kept coming back to the danger zones.

?There are people who have been evacuated three times and we sigh: ?You again?? ?Salceda said. ?We?ve been playing cat and mouse with them.?

?However, due to the declaration of the alert level 4 and the very obvious rumbling sounds accompanied by continuous earthquakes, residents that were accounted for at the different evacuation sites jumped from mere 75 percent to 92 percent in the night of Sunday, barely hours after the Phivolcs elevated the alert level,? the governor said.

Task Force Mayon, which is composed of members of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police, discovered that some residents who failed to proceed to the evacuation sites were sick or disabled.

?This is why we conducted special care and assistance in moving these people who are also elderly so that they could be provided special care at their designated evacuation camps,? said Capt. Razaleigh Bansawan, the group?s spokesperson.

The PDCC expects to move out 47,285 more people and possibly 20,000 others if a hazardous eruption progresses, Bansawan added.

Evacuees

So far, the council, with the help of the task force, has already accounted for 44,394 people or 9,217 families from 30 villages at 25 different evacuation centers across the province.

The Army and the Albay Health and Emergency Management Response Team (Ahem) evacuated all the sick and disabled persons from the 6-8 km danger zones.

The evacuees may be out of harm?s way, but living in the temporary shelters has exposed them to diseases.

Hushing a crying baby in her arms, Analiza Alaurin, 29, said diseases could spread fast in the cramped rooms, mostly affecting children and infants.

?Our children are getting sick ? We are not also able to sleep and eat well anymore,? Alaurin said. With reports from Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Associated Press



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