Most of 47,000 Filipinos safe from raging volcano

Dec 22, 2009 By BULLIT MARQUEZ , Associated Press Writer
Residents living within the 8-kilometer danger zone of Mayon volcano, background, are evacuated to safer grounds in Guinobatan township, Albay province, about 500 kilometers southeast of Manila Monday Dec. 21, 2009 in the Philippines. Officials said virtually all of the residents living on the foot of the country's most active volcano are now housed in evacuation centers after government volcanologists raised the five-level alert to '4' Sunday due to increasing restiveness. (AP Photo/Mike Alquinto)

(AP) -- Almost all of the 47,000 residents living on the slopes of a rumbling volcano in the central Philippines have moved to emergency shelters, and lava and earthquakes Tuesday heralded what officials say could be a major eruption.

Low clouds obscured visibility of the smoldering 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) Mayon, towering over coconut farms and rice paddies in coastal Albay province.

"Hazardous ... can happen today or in the next few days," said chief state volcanologist Renato , adding that an eruption also may not happen. "Nobody has a 100 percent accuracy."

Ash columns were seen rising during a cloud break and Solidum said his team recorded 1,266 volcanic quakes in the last 24 hours, down from nearly 2,000 the previous day. He said that while the quakes were fewer, they were larger.

The emission of sulfur dioxide - an indication of magma rising inside the - was measured at 6,530 tons per day, slightly less than 7,000 tons on Sunday, but still very high, Solidum said. The normal gas emission is 500 tons per day.

"Technically, Mayon volcano is already erupting because lava has oozed out," said Mahar Lagmay, professor of geological studies at the University of the . A bigger, explosive eruption is still possible but hard to predict, he said.

In the past week, more than 45,000 residents living in a five-mile (eight-kilometer) zone around Mayon have been transported in army trucks to school buildings and gymnasiums in and around the provincial capital of Legazpi, where they were given sleeping mats and food supplies to last them through Christmas holidays, said Jukes Nunez, a disaster management official.

Some of about 2,000 remaining farmers and their families living on the edge of the exclusion zone have already evacuated their homes three times but keep on returning to check on their livestock and vegetable farms, Nunez said.

Army troops and police were patrolling inside the danger zone to persuade the holdouts to move to a safe distance. Authorities said they were working on an evacuation center for farm animals.

Scientists have raised Mayon's alert level to one step below a hazardous eruption. The only higher level is when a major eruption is in progress. Red hot lava flows had reached three miles (five kilometers) from the crater accompanied by booming and rumbling sounds, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Experts fear a major eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows - superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path. More extensive explosions of ash could drift toward nearby towns and cities, including Legazpi, about nine miles (15 kilometers) away.

In Mayon's other eruptions in recent years, pyroclastic flows had reached up to four miles (six kilometers) from the crater.

"The probability of survival in an eruption is zero if you're in the danger area. The solution is obviously distance," Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said.

Mayon has erupted nearly 40 times over 400 years. About 30,000 people were moved during the last eruption in 2006. An eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.

The first recorded eruption was in 1616; the most destructive came in 1814, killing more than 1,200 people and burying a town in volcanic mud. The ruins of the church in Cagsawa have become a tourist attraction.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo exploded in the northern Philippines in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing about 800 people.

Explore further: Suomi NPP satellite spots birth of Tropical Cyclone Kate

4.7 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Philippine volcano gets louder, could erupt soon

Dec 21, 2009

(AP) -- Philippine troops on Monday pressed the last 3,000 villagers who have refused to heed government warnings to leave the danger zone around a volcano that experts say is ready to erupt.

Major volcanic eruption feared in Philippines

Dec 20, 2009

(AP) -- The Philippines' most active volcano could have a huge eruption within days, officials warned Sunday after detecting a drastic surge in earthquakes and eerie rumbling sounds in surrounding foothills. ...

More Filipinos leave homes as volcano spills lava

Dec 18, 2009

(AP) -- Security forces in army trucks Friday sent about 3,000 residents outside the danger zone surrounding the smoldering Mayon volcano, which looked set for a major eruption after days of shooting ash ...

Philippine volcano rumbles with fresh explosions

Dec 16, 2009

(AP) -- The Mayon volcano, which has blown its top nearly 40 times in 400 years, menaced nearby residents with small eruptions of ash and lava Wednesday as Philippine authorities moved more than 30,000 people ...

Scientist says volcanic eruption in Congo imminent

May 07, 2009

(AP) -- Scientists found evidence of intense volcanic activity - including tremors, pools of lava and plumes of smoke - at two volcanoes near a major city in eastern Congo, and said some residents had fled ...

Recommended for you

Suomi NPP satellite spots birth of Tropical Cyclone Kate

Dec 24, 2014

The tropical low pressure area previously known as System 95S organized and strengthened into Tropical Cyclone Kate on Dec. 24 and the Cocos Keeling Islands are expected to feel its effects on Dec. 25 and ...

NASA looks at some severe holiday weather from space

Dec 24, 2014

Severe weather in the form of tornadoes is not something people expect on Christmas week but a storm system on Dec. 23 brought tornadoes to Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. As the storm moved, NASA's RapidScat ...

NASA satellite spots Christmas

Dec 24, 2014

If you're looking for Christmas NASA's Aqua satellite spotted it in the Southern Indian Ocean. It's a coral atoll (a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands made up of coral) in the northern Line Islands ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.