Thousands flee as Mayon threatens to erupt


LEGAZPI CITY, Albay: Gov. Joey Salceda on Tuesday ordered the evacuation of 10,000 people living near Mt. Mayon after authorities warned of a dangerous eruption.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology (Phivolcs) raised the volcano’s alert level to 3 as lava started to drip down its slopes on Monday night.

Salceda said there will be no exemption nor extension of time for the stubborn and defiant residents as the forced  evacuation in the six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone to include the expanded 7-kilometer radius.

Salceda also placed the towns of Sto. Domingo, Daraga, Ca-malig, Guinobatan, Malilipot and the three cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco under the state of calamity for the local government unit to utilize their calamity fund for disaster response.

Salceda met with local officials on Tuesday morning to map out the plans over the enforcement of force evacuation even as mo-bilities to haul evacuating residents started touring the cited locations where residents would be picked up.

Ed Laguarta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, warned disaster responders during the joint emergency of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and Salceda to be on tight watch as Mayon may erupt within days or weeks from now as the magma build up is continuously pushing towards the crater.

Laguerta said the permanent danger zone should have long been free from any human activity so as not to repeat the harrowing incident in 2003 when the absence of showing or indication of minor abnormality, Mayon Volcano suddenly erupted lunch time in 2003 that killed more than 80 farmers and children.

Laguerta recalled that then Albay Gov. Romeo Salalima and the provincial board even filed a class suit against Phivolcs for failing to detect the abnormality but volcanologists were exonerated by then President Fidel Ramos as local authorities have the duty to enforce the 24-hour no man’s land policy at the Mayon’s permanent danger zone with or without detection of the volcano abnormality.

Last month, Phivolcs put a level 2 alert on the volcano for being restive. Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum, however, allayed fear that based on their monitoring, Mayon was not ripe for eruption.

On Monday, Phivolcs registered 72 rockfalls in 24 hours and 32 quakes from the volcano.

“We have the usual residents returning to the permanent danger zone to till their farms after these people were provided permanent homes in resettlement sites following the 2003 eruption,” said Salceda quoting reports.

“I am always aiming for a zero casualty no matter what the cost is,” said Salceda even as he admitted being criticized by his political detractors for alleged over exaggeration in enforcing the province disaster program,” said Salceda. What more with the more than 10,000 people inside the no man’s land under alert level 3, Salceda added.

Salceda said all evacuation centers are ready anytime waiting for the evacuees.

President Aquino hailed Salceda during his Speech of the Nation Address last July for the zero casualty result in Albay during the July 15 Typhoon Glenda.



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