April 22, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Mayon spews ash; alert Level 2 raised

BY ANGELA LOPEZ DE LEON AND VICTOR REYES

THE Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) yesterday raised to Level 2 the alert at Mayon Volcano in Albay after it spewed ash during a phreatic eruption on Saturday afternoon.

Two more phreatic eruptions occurred yesterday morning.

Alert Level 2 means the volcano is in a state of unrest “probably of magmatic origin, which could lead to more phreatic eruptions or eventually to hazardous magmatic eruptions,” said Phivolcs.

Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said the volcano appeared due for another eruption as it has been displaying abnormal behavior since late last year.

At least 900 families have been subjected to mandatory evacuation before noon yesterday, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, spokesman of the Albay provincial police said, there were about 650 families or 2,235 persons evacuated from  Guinobatan, Camalig, and Anoling towns as of 4 a.m. yesterday.

NDRRMC spokeswoman Romina Marasigan said the evacuated residents are staying in four schools Camalig and Guinobatan towns, which were converted to evacuation centers.

On Saturday, Mayon spewed grayish steam and ash plume that reached 2,500 meters high in a phreatic eruption that started at 4:21 p.m. and lasted for an hour and 47 minutes.

Rumbling sounds were heard by residents of Barangay Anoling in Daraga, Albay.

Phivolcs said traces of ash were reported in Barangay Anoling; barangays Sua, Quirangay, Tumpa, Ilawod, and Salugan in Camalig town, as well as in barangays Tandarora, Maninila and Travesia in Guinobatan town.

It said Camalig residents also reported smelling sulfur.

Phivolcs said it observed a faint crater glow at 10:16 p.m. on Saturday. The event produced a grayish steam and ash plume that was not clearly visible because it was obscured by summit clouds. The odor of sulfur was again reported by nearby residents.

The first phreatic eruption yesterday occurred at 8:49 a.m. yesterday. It lasted for about five minutes and was accompanied by rumbling sounds that were heard again by residents of Barangay Anoling.

Phivolcs said the event produced a grayish steam and ash plume that was not clearly visible since it was largely obscured by summit clouds.

The agency noted that sulfurous odor was again reported by nearby residents.

About four hours later or at 11:43 a.m., Phivolcs monitored another steam-driven or phreatic explosion that lasted for 15 minutes.

Paul Alanis, science research specialist of the Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring Division, said it spewed ash that fell in Camalig town.

Since the eruption last Saturday, Phivolcs said it has recorded 78 rockfall events.

Phivolcs warned the public against entering the six-kilometer permanent danger zone at Mayon.

In case of ash fall events, it said, residents of affected areas should wear masks or cover their mouths and noses with damp clean cloth.

“Based on the seasonal wind pattern, ash fall events may most likely occur on the southwest side of the volcano,” Phivolcs said in a bulletin.

Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said those in evacuation centers may be allowed to return to their homes later in the day, unless Phivolcs raises the volcano alert level further.

He said not all residents evacuated live inside the 6-km danger zone.

“We have not reached the critical level,” he said in a radio interview. “Alert level 3 is what we considered critical, 4 is when eruption is imminent, and 5 is eruption in progress.”

Phivolcs advised civil aviation authorities to warn against flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from a sudden eruption may cause hazards to aircraft.

Mayon is the most active of 22 volcanoes in the country, having erupted at least 50 times in the last four centuries.

It last erupted in 2014, spewing lava and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

The most destructive eruption came in February 1841 when lava flows buried a town and killed more than 1,000 people. – With Reuters
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