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Alert Level 3 raised over Mayon:‘ Hazardous eruption’ possible

ERUPTION LIKELY. This handout photo shows Mayon Volcano spewing white smoke as seen from Legazpi City on June 8, 2023. Hundreds of families living around Mount Mayon in central Albay province are expected to be moved to safer areas after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised a ‘hazardous eruption’ alarm. Arren Christian Ventura / AFP

Volcanologists on Thursday raised the alert level status on Mayon Volcano from a 2 to 3 due to the steady increase of rockfall and an “increased tendency towards a hazardous eruption.”

Hundreds of families living around Mount Mayon in central Albay province are expected to be moved to safer areas after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alarm that an eruption could be days or weeks away.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assured the public the government is doing the necessary preparations and watching closely the ongoing restiveness of Mayon as well as Taal volcano.

“Right now, what we are doing is preparing and moving people away from the [Mayon volcano] area so that, should the time come, I hope it doesn’t happen, but unfortunately the science tells us it seems to be heading that way because the lid or the cap on top of the lava is not so slowly rising and may erupt. This is why we are monitoring closely and preparing,” Mr. Marcos said in a media interview yesterday evening.

“We watch it very, very closely. Make sure that any of the communities that could be affected are evacuated and are given assistance while they are evacuated until the time that they can return to their homes,” he added.

Meanwhile, Taal volcano, located about 50 kilometers south of Manila, has been releasing sulfur dioxide this week, blanketing surrounding areas in volcanic smog or vog and prompting warnings for people to stay indoors.

“The DOH (Department of Health) is looking after those people [affected by volcanic smog] and we have analyzed the problem and we know where the wind is blowing,” the President said..

Since the alert level was raised from 1 to 2 on June 5, the repeated collapse of the growing summit dome of Mayon generated an increase in the number and volume of rockfall events, Phivolcs said.

Scientists recorded a total of 267 rockfall events and two volcanic earthquakes from June 5 to June 8.

The seismology agency said it observed three fast-moving avalanches of volcanic ash, rock and gases, known as pyroclastic density currents (PDCs), on Mayon’s slopes on Thursday.

There are “increased chances of lava flows and hazardous PDCs… and of potential explosive activity within weeks or even days”, the agency said, raising the alert level from 2 to 3 on a scale of 0 to 5.

“All necessary preparations are being done,” said Eugene Escobar, the Albay provincial disaster management agency’s officer-in-charge.

Rommel Negrete, an officer for the agency, said residents would be evacuated from Anoling village on the volcano’s slopes.

Phivolcs added that there were PDCs on the Bonga and Basud Gullies on Thursday, lasting four to five minutes.

Sulfur dioxide emission from Mayon Volcano remained at baseline or background levels.

Phivolcs urged residents inside the six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone to evacuate due to the danger of PDCs, lava flows, rockfalls and other volcanic hazards.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines issued another set of advisories to flight operators and issued a notice to airmen in relation to the activity in Mayon, as well as Taal and Kanlaon volcanoes.

“In light of the ongoing unrest at the Taal, Mayon, and Kanlaon volcanoes, CAAP is continuously updating its Notices to Airmen to inform and alert flying aircraft of the current alert levels and associated risks related to the volcanic activities,” said CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio.

CAAP advised the airmen to avoid flying near Mayon, which according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, erupted on Wednesday. (alert level 1) “as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosions may pose hazards to aircraft from surface up to 10,000 feet.”

Kanlaon Volcano is also on alert level 1 and “in abnormal condition,” the CAAP said.

“Possibilities of sudden and hazardous steam-driven or phreatic eruptions may pose a hazard to aircraft from the surface up to 10,000 feet,” the CAAP said.

The local government of Albay ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents inside the six-kilometer permanent danger zone after Phivolcs raised Mayon Volcano’s alert level status to 3.

Albay Gov. Edcel Lagman said classes at all levels in public and private schools within the danger zone would also be suspended. With AFP (See full story online at manilastandard.net)

Camalig town Mayor Carlos Baldo also ordered the suspension of classes in Tumpa, Quirangay, and Cabangan Elementary schools at 1 p.m.

Baldo also suspended the quarrying activities located within the permanent danger zone and the seven-kilometer extended danger zone.

The last time Mayon Volcano erupted was in January 2018, when it spewed red-hot lava and massive ash plumes that affected 56,000 residents.

Dubbed the world’s perfect volcanic cone due to its symmetry, Mayon has been a popular site for climbers and tourists alike.

The 8,070-foot volcano has generated tourism revenues and jobs in Albay, about 340 kilometers southeast of Manila.

Meanwhile, steam-rich plumes have been recorded rising two kilometers into the sky at Taal Volcano, the seismology agency said on Thursday. It has left the alert level at 1.

Earthquakes and volcanic activity are not uncommon in the Philippines due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth’s surface.

Five years ago, Mayon displaced tens of thousands of people after spewing millions of tons of ash, rocks and lava.

The most powerful explosion in recent decades was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.

It sent out an ash cloud that traveled thousands of kilometers in a matter of days and was blamed for damaging nearly two dozen aircraft. — With AFP

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