February 24, 2018, 10:18 pm
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Mayon evacuees now 72,000

THE number of residents displaced in Albay rose to at least 72,000 yesterday as Mayon Volcano continued to spew lava that produced ash plumes several kilometers high.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, some 18,900 families (about 72,000 persons) have been evacuated from 57 barangays in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao, and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Bacacay, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo, and are housed in 57 evacuation centers, mostly schools, according to the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Last Tuesday, there were some 56,200 evacuees.

The additional evacuees were from the nine-kilometer danger zone (expanded from the original six kilometers).

Schools were shut in 17 cities and municipalities in Albay and nearby Camarines Sur which was also affected by ashfall. Some 56 flights were cancelled because of Mayon.

Mayon Volcano showed increased activity on January 13, prompting the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to raise the alert to Level 2 and to Level 3 in less than 24 hours. Mayon remains under alert Level 4 which means a hazardous eruption is imminent. Level 5, the highest, means a hazardous eruption is underway.

Volcanologist Winchell Sevilla said four lava fountaining events were observed between 12 a.m. and 6 p.m. yesterday.

The first reached 500 meters above the summit and generated up to three km of grayish ash plume as well as rockfall event towards the Mabinit and Bonga gullies. It lasted for an hour and 24 minutes, which is so far the longest lava fountaining reported since January 13.

Sevilla said three episodes of intense lava fountains, shooting like fireworks as high as 500 meters above the summit, were monitored at 6:02 a.m., 1:54 p.m., and 5:58 p.m. These events produced grayish ash columns that reached five, three, and four kilometers above the crater, respectively.

Sevilla said these lava fountaining events also generated pyroclastic density currents (PDC) or hazardous mixtures of volcanic particles and gas that flowed down the Miisi and Bonga gullies.

Sevilla said Mayon also ejected about three-kilometer high ash cloud at about 10:50 a.m. 

From 5 a.m. on Tuesday to 12 a.m. yesterday, Phivolcs also observed four lava fountaining events, three episodes of PDCs, and numerous rockfall events.

Phivolcs said the rockfall events were generated by the collapsing lava front and margins of the advancing lava flow on the Miisi gully and by shedding from the summit dome onto the Bonga gully.”

Despite the series of eruptions, Sevilla said the alert will remain at Level 4 as one of the indicators has yet to be met. He said “the eruption should be sustained, lasting for hours, and not just sporadic.”

“Right now, what we see is only sporadic eruption,” he said.

Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the agency continues to preposition relief goods for the displaced population.

She said 8,300 additional family food packs arrived on Tuesday and the social welfare department is preparing 39,000 more for transport.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said his department has ordered the release of P5 million for quick response needs and at least P7 million for augmentation of supplies.

Australia said it will provide some P31.4 million worth of humanitarian assistance to affected residents.

“We’re providing practical humanitarian support to help 30,000 people affected by Mayon Volcano -- tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans and hygiene supplies,” said Australian Ambassador a Amanda Gorely in her Twitter account.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop also announced the provision of humanitarian supplies. – With Angela Lopez de Leon, Gerard Naval, Ashzel Hachero, and Reuters
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