February 25, 2018, 3:54 am
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Residents brace for long wait as Mayon rumbles on

A HUGE plume of ash billowed yesterday from the glowing peak of Mayon Volcano in Albay as more residents of surrounding areas fled and experts warned of further escalation 12 days after it started to erupt.

A cloud hovered some 8,200 feet above Mayon Volcano and orange lava fountained and flowed down from its crater as magma continued to move beneath.

Scientists recorded regular episodes of intense activity throughout the day. Tourists, residents, and media gathered at vantage points to document the drama at the country’s most impressive volcano, which last erupted in 2014.

Mayon was showing no signs of calming down soon, said Paul Alanis of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

“Right now our instruments around the volcano are measuring or detecting magma constantly coming up from below,” Alanis said. “So there’s always that danger that this may still escalate.”

Alanis also said Mayon has so far released about 18.7 million cubic meters of molten rock or lava and it is expected to double in the coming days.

“We expect Mayon to release more lava in the upcoming days since it just released a minimal volume of lava since its last long eruption in 2009,” he said. “Although the volcano also erupted in 2014, it only emitted around one million cubic meters of lava that time. This means more lava was accumulated beneath the volcano since it rested for several years.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte is planning to visit the affected communities but no date has been set.

Mayon’s unrest has displaced about 19,900 families or about 76,700 persons from 60 barangays in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Bacacay, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Wednesday’s figure was some 72,000 evacuated persons.

Government offices and schools have been closed in 17 towns and 66 flights have been cancelled in recent days. The authorities have warned residents far from the area to stay indoors to avoid heavy ash fall.

The alert remains just one notch below the highest level of 5. 

The provincial government has expanded the no-go area around the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) Mayon to a radius of 9 kilometers.

Cedric Daep, chief of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, said relief operations are proceeding smoothly, adding they have enough supplies for them.

He said some of the evacuees are sick but said they were sick before they came to the evacuation centers.

Phivolcs volcanologist Winchell Sevilla said there were six eruptions from 12 a.m. to 6 p.m. yesterday, with four corresponding to lava fountaining events.

The first explosion, monitored at 2:33 a.m., generated a lava fountain that reached up to 400 meters above the summit. It was accompanied by rumbling sound heard at Ligñon Hill in Legazpi City, Albay.

The next three episodes of intense lava fountaining were monitored at 6:11 a.m., 8:45 a.m., and 5:45 p.m. Sevilla said the fountains reached 150 meters to 300 meters high and generated grayish ash plumes that reached 500 meters to 2.5 kilometers above the crater.

He said rumbling sound was also heard at Ligñon Hill during the 6:11 a.m. event.

The two other eruptions were recorded at 11:33 a.m. and 2:28 p.m. Both explosions generated ash clouds and were accompanied by rumbling sounds. – Angela Lopez de Leon, Victor Reyes, Jocelyn Montemayor, and Reuters
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