After lull, Mayon spews lava anew

READY TO EXPLODE? Photo from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) shows the volcano emitting smoke on Sunday. AFP PHOTO

READY TO EXPLODE? Photo from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) shows the volcano emitting smoke on Sunday. AFP PHOTO

Lava is again flowing out of Mayon Volcano, raising fears an eruption could be imminent, authorities said on Sunday.

The government has already evacuated about 63,000 people living inside a six-kilometer danger zone around the volcano, after it began to spew out white smoke and some lava last month.

Activity had appeared to quiet down but a fresh cascade —confirmed by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) also on Sunday—this time stretching further down the slopes, has prompted concerns that an eruption may soon take place.

“The first activity started on September 15 and lasted for a few days. After that, there was a lull or no summit activity, but this morning, our volcanologists spotted a lava flow,” Renato Solidum, head of Phivolcs, said in an interview with ABS-CBN television.

“What is happening now is that there is very slow movement . . . of lava flow about 350 meters in length from the summit,” he added.

Solidum warned that lava flow from Mayon was usually followed by “an explosive phase of eruption” although he could not estimate when such blasts could occur.

He explained magma inside the volcano was now rising to the summit slowly but added that it could accelerate, prompting quakes and small explosions and potentially causing a much larger eruption.

The 2,460-meter (8,070-foot) Mayon, located about 330 kilometers southwest of Manila in Albay province in the Bicol Region, has a long history of deadly eruptions.

Four foreign tourists and their local tour guide were killed when Mayon last erupted, in May 2013.

In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed when lava flows buried the town of Cagsawa.

An explosion in August 2006 did not cause direct deaths, but four months later a typhoon unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud from Mayon’s slopes that killed 1,000 people.

The head of civil defense operations around Mayon, Bernardo Alejandro, said the government had done an aerial survey of the volcano.

Mayon remains under alert “level 3” meaning a possible eruption in weeks but Alejandro said they were now assessing whether to raise this to “level 4” meaning a possible eruption in days or even hours.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd also on Sunday ordered his Cabinet men to go to Albay to assess the situation and help distribute relief goods to affected families.

Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President wants to ensure that “no one will be left behind” in the ongoing relief assistance.

Lacierda is in Albay with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd.

Executive Director Alexander Pama of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council will join officials in monitoring the situation at evacuation centers.


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