‘Gentle eruption’ rocks Mayon
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—More than 30,000 people fled their homes on Wednesday as Mayon Volcano continued to send huge lava fragments down its slopes in what volcanologists called “gentle eruption.”
But the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned that a “hazardous eruption” of Mt. Mayon is possible within weeks.
Increased restiveness was recorded overnight, including 270 incidents of lava fragments and superhot boulders rolling down from Mayon’s crater
—nearly four times the number recorded the previous day.
Some reached the upper portion of a gully on the volcano’s southeastern side, indicating that the lava dome has breached that side of the crater.
The number of low-frequency volcanic earthquakes also increased.
Molten lava has accumulated at the top of the 2,460-meter volcano’s crater, creating a glow in the night sky that sparked both awe and fear among spectators.
“It’s already erupting, but not explosive,” said Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum.
“Currently, the activity is just lava coming down. If there is an explosion, all sides of the volcano are threatened,” he said.
Volcanologist Ed Laguerta said he saw huge glowing lava fragments and superhot boulders rolling down from Mayon’s crater late Tuesday from as far as 12 kilometers away.
“They are big because they can be seen from afar, and they splinter, so they could be car-size,” he added.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said 6,809 families—or 31,903 people—living within the 6- to 8-kilometer danger zone in four towns and two cities had been evacuated.
The total represented nearly all of the people targeted for evacuation, Salceda said.
He said the number was reduced after verification of the actual count of families in danger, coming up with 7,250 families or 35,779 people.
The original target was 10,555 families or 51,625 people.
“As of now we are working on 441 families (3,876 people) left to be evacuated today (Wednesday),” Salceda said.
Those evacuated came from 25 villages in the towns of Guinobatan, Malilipot, Daraga and Camalig and the cities of Tabaco and Ligao.
They lived within the 6-km permanent danger zone and the 8-km extended danger zone.
The evacuees were given shelter in 15 public elementary and high schools, one chapel and three evacuation centers built in Guinobatan, Camalig and Ligao City with assistance from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.
Salceda said the province would need an estimated P178 million for the three months the evacuees were expected to stay in the shelters
The money would be used to buy rice, fuel, livestock, medicines, water and firewood, hire emergency health workers and pay for other needs in the evacuation centers, he said.
Salceda said he had set a budget of P3 per head per day for the evacuation of carabaos, cattle, swine, poultry and dogs “so [people] would have no [excuse] for not cooperating in the evacuation.”
In the past, heads of families living within the danger zone stayed home to look after their livestock.
This time, everybody is going, with trucks from different government agencies coming to transport the evacuees.
Lack of water
In Ligao City, Adelina Patriarca, 67, an evacuee from Binatagan staying at the village elementary school said there was not enough water for everyone in the shelter.
But Edwin Oro, 69, who is staying in the same shelter, said that except for the lack of water, he saw no problem, even with the comfort rooms.
In Camalig, Magdalena Marquez, 99, the oldest evacuee who is from Quirangay village, said she was not able to sleep well on the first night because of the “cold floor” but felt she had to obey the government.
Mayor Herbie Aguas said his farming town of Santo Domingo, among the closest to the volcano, had a frightening legacy from Mayon.
The volcano nearly wiped out the municipality’s entire population in an 1897 eruption with pyroclastic flows—superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, vaporizing everything in their path.
“We are praying that it would not be the worst-case scenario,” Aguas said, adding that nearly 4,000 of the 40,000 residents in his town who live within the danger zone had started to evacuate to safer areas.
Mayon Volcano has erupted 50 times in the last 500 years, sometimes violently, endangering thousands of poor villagers who insist on living or farming in the danger zone.
Villagers living near the volcano have erected huge white crosses at the entrance of their neighborhoods, hoping these will protect them from harm.
On May 7, 2013, the volcano suddenly spewed ash, killing five climbers, including three Germans, who had ventured near the summit despite warnings of possible danger.–With a report from AP