Cyclones in July could cause lahar flow from Mayon Volcano, Salceda warns
MANILA, Philippines — Aside from a possible explosion, Mayon Volcano’s risks now include possible lahar flow as the state weather bureau expects several cyclones in July, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said on Thursday.
Salceda said in a statement that historically, Albay gets a higher amount of rainfall every July at around 155.2 millimeters (mm) compared to the 112.53 mm average for the rest of the year.
Coupled with the prediction from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) that three to four cyclones may enter the Philippine area of responsibility by July, evacuees might have to be moved out of areas where lahar could flow.
“In July, the average rainfall in Albay is 155.2 mm, when the rest of the year, it is 112.53 mm. Around 38% more rain. And, if the Pagasa projection takes place, we could see more. That compounds the risks Mayon poses,” Salceda said.
“(Heavier rainfall) could exacerbate risks in Mayon, and will force us to evacuate communities in near lahar channels, in addition to the ones already in danger zones,” he added.
According to Salceda, there is no immediate need to evacuate those who are near lahar channels but are outside the six, seven, or eight-kilometer danger zones. However, a quick evacuation might be needed if Pagasa expects heavy rain or a cyclone to pass near Bicol Region.
“Although we might not need to evacuate those near lahar channels but are outside the designated 6-, 7-, or 8-kilometer danger zones for long periods, we might need to bring them to safety when a storm is impending, or there is heavy rain,” the lawmaker noted.
“So, really what we are looking at is extended evacuation for those in danger zones, and intermittent evacuations for those in lahar channels during heavy rain. We will really need help,” he added.
Last June 17, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that around 20,000 individuals have been evacuated in Bicol Region’s Albay province due to the Mayon Volcano’s recent unrest.
The evacuations happened after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Alert Level 3 over Mayon due to an increase in rockfall incidents and possible movement of magma. No changes have been made as of posting time, although Phivolcs said earlier that they have observed a decrease in Mayon’s volcanic activities.
Salceda said that in 2020, Typhoon Rolly caused heavy lahar flow even if Mayon Volcano had ceased to be restive while it was under Alert Level 1. Guinobatan town was among the hardest-hit areas in Albay province.
Quick evacuation, the lawmaker said, would require resources from the national government — and this is why they are pleading for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s continuous assistance.
“We respectfully request President Marcos’s continued support for Albay, and we thank him for the unwavering help he has already provided us,” he said.
“The lahar channel flows through densely populated areas in some Albay towns. The lesson to learn is early evacuation. But we know, of course, that takes up resources. If the current support the National Government has extended continues, we will be able to save lives and maintain zero-casualty,” he added.
Salceda, chair of the House Committee on ways and means, said that national government help is crucial especially if Phivolcs raises Alert Level 4 over Mayon.
“When Alert Level 4 is declared, you could see 21,000 families or 78,000 individuals evacuated. That will be a logistical nightmare if we have to do it alone,” he said.
“Fortunately, President Marcos, Speaker Romualdez, and the administration, including national government agencies, have been very supportive. Continued support saves lives — and we are very thankful,” he added.
Click here for more weather related news.