LEGAZPI CITY: The Albay Public Safety and Management Office (APSEMO) on Sunday expressed fear over the possibility of wild fires that may raze forests and farms at the foot of Mt. Mayon should the now-restive volcano make good its threat of a major eruption.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said what Mayon has been exhibiting since it was placed under alert warning level 3 on September 15 are indications of magmatic eruptions characterized by huge ejection of volcanic ash and super-hot pyroclastic that would flow down large crevices along its slopes to its foot.
APSEMO Chief Cedric Daep said when these burning volcanic materials reach the 3.2-kilometer distance from its summit, chances are great that it may set on fire the vast forests and coconut plantations within that mark.
In its latest Mayon Volcano Bulletin No. 21 released on Sunday morning, Phivolcs said its seismic network recorded four volcanic earthquakes and eight rockfall events during the past 24-hour observation period.
Weak-to-moderate emission of white steam plumes drifting east-northeast and north-northeast was observed while crater glow was not observed Saturday night.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at an average of 1,290 tons/day on September 19 although SO2 emission rates peaked at 2,360 tons/day on September 6.
Ground deformation data showed inflationary changes in the edifice from February, based on precise leveling surveys on the third week of August, and edifice inflation from January 2012 baselines, based on continuous tilt measurement.
Phivolcs said all these data indicate that the volcano is exhibiting relatively high unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma.
The agency recommended that the six-kilometer-radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the seven-kilometer Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southeastern flank be enforced due to the danger of rock falls, landslides and sudden explosions or dome collapse that may generate hazardous volcanic flows, it added.
Daep said the possibility of a wild fire down Mayon’s slope would not be remote in case of a major eruption.
He said such event has not taken place in the area during previous eruptions but since forest vegetation at the volcano’s lower slope and around its base has grown thick over years, a bush fire incident is not being discounted.
Daep recalled that last May, a wild fire of still undetermined origin destroyed a huge area of forest within the government-protected Mayon Volcano Natural Park.
Another fire hit the area last August 4, simultaneously with four other incidents of forest conflagration in Cagararay Island of Bacacay; Cayaban Mountain, Manito town; Barangay Putan, Tiwi; and Barangay Guadalupe, Rapu-Rapu.
Those simultaneous blazes took place after a 3,100-hectare forested area along the poblacion of Rapu-Rapu was first razed by a massive bush fire which lasted for five days and threatened the densely populated downtown of the island municipality.
These Albay forest fires, along with several others that hit its neighboring provinces of Camarines Sur and Sorsogon last month, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office here, left damages estimated at P20 million.