February 23, 2018, 10:32 pm
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State of calamity declared in Albay

THE Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) yesterday said the volcanic activity of Mayon Volcano in Albay province further escalated in the past 24 hours, with glowing red lava fountains rising above its crater and hot lava flowing down along two gullies.

The Albay provincial government declared a state of calamity.

The number of evacuated residents has reached about 5,300 families or around 21,800 persons as of yesterday morning, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The evacuees are from 25 barangays in Tabaco and Ligao cities and Camalig, Guinobatan, Daraga and Malilipot towns, the NDRRMC said.

Mayon has been showing increased restiveness since Saturday. It was placed under alert level 2 early Sunday and level 3 less than 24 hours later.

Alert level 3 means the volcano is in a relatively high level of unrest as magma is at the crater and hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or even days. Level 4 means an eruption is possible “within days” while level 5 is when a hazardous eruption is under way.

Ed Villacorte, science research specialist of Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring Division, said lava fountains were observed during Mayon’s “quiet eruptions” that began at 11:45 p.m. on Monday. Three more episodes of lava fountaining were monitored at 2:25 a.m., 3:30 a.m., and 5:57 a.m. yesterday. The fountains, accompanied by rumbling sounds, shot up as high as 100 to 200 meters above the volcano’s crater.

Villacorte said a “quiet type of eruption” can be described as the “weakest or least violent eruption.”

He said a “major or most violent explosive eruption” usually happens at alert Level 5.

A “major or most violent explosive eruption” releases enormous amounts of energy and creates a lava fountain or a spray of hot rocks and gases that can rise up to 10 kilometers high with lava flowing more than 60 kilometers away from the volcano, he said.

Villacorte said lava flows towards the Miisi and Bonga gullies were observed at the same time as the fountaining occurred. The lava reached about two kilometers downslope from the summit.

“The presence of lava fountains and flows, accompanied by rumbling sounds, is an indication that the volcano is gearing up for an explosive hazardous eruption,” said Villacorte. “But the activity of the volcano can still subdued… And if this is the case, a quiet type of eruption may occur instead of the more hazardous explosions.”

Phivolcs said that from 5 a.m. Monday to 5 a.m. yesterday, Mayon’s seismic network recorded “nine episodes of tremor, four of which accompanied short-duration lava fountaining, and 75 lava collapse events, corresponding to rockfall along the front and margins of advancing lava and short pyroclastic flows downriver of Miisi gully within the PDZ (permanent danger zone).”

“Collapse events and some degassing events at the summit crater generated ash that rose to two kilometers and fell on barangays of Camalig, Guinobatan and Polangui,” it also said.

“Lava flow on the Miisi gully has presently advanced to approximately two kilometers from the crater, while shorter volume lava flows have been emplaced on the upper slopes of the Bonga gully,” it added.

The provincial government has expanded its suspension of school classes to more towns around the 2,462-meter volcano.

Class suspensions have allowed the government to use schools as temporary shelters.

The US, Britain, France, and Australia advised its citizens to stay away from the danger areas around Mayon.

The Diocese of Legazpi said it has requested local radio stations to air the “Oratio Imperata” for calamity. The Oratio Imperata is an obligatory prayer issued by the local diocese during situations of grave need or when a calamity occurs. – With Victor Reyes and Reuters
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