Mayon volcano / Eruption forces thousands to flee in the Philippines

By: Thomas Brent - Posted on: January 18, 2018 | Current Affairs

The Philippines has evacuated 34,000 residents within the immediate danger zone of the volcano and have put residents living outside the radius on high alert

Lava cascades on the slopes of Mount Mayon in the Philippines, pictured in July 2006 Photo: Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

Mount Mayon – the most active volcano in the Philippines – served up a fiery spectacle on Tuesday after an eruption lit up the sky above its shadowy peak and lava tumbled down its black, ashy slopes.

As many as 34,000 people have evacuated the region since ash plumes began smoking out of the mountain’s top over the past weekend.

The lava flow from the minor eruption, which officials predict is a precursor to a much larger one, has now advanced to two kilometres away from the volcano’s crater, the Washington Post reported.

Police have set up checkpoints to prevent curious tourists from getting too close to the mountain, the AP reported. And those living within the ‘permanent danger zone’ – the six kilometre radius of the volcano – have been ordered to evacuate, while those within the eight kilometre radius have been strongly urged to leave.

Speaking on behalf of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council at a press briefing in the Philippines on Wednesday, Romina Marasigan confirmed that evacuated residents from the immediate danger zone are staying in government provided shelters.

“We want to be sure of their safety because intermittent rain showers are being experienced by the people in that region,” she said, according to Xinhua.

Officials are also advising people not to return to the sectioned off area, particularly residents who may be wanting to check on their homes, farms and livestock.

Office of Civil Defense regional director Claudio Yucot told the AP, however, that there were plans to set up evacuation areas for animals in a bid to discourage villagers from returning said danger zones.

The alert level for the volcano was raised to three, on a scale out of five, on Sunday and it has remained the same since then.

This rank, according to the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC), means there is magma present at Mount Mayon’s crater and a hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or even days.

In an interview with RT, Martin Layson, who is in Daraga, one of the regions around the volcano, described the conditions as such:

“We experienced moderate rainfall that may cause lava flows. People here are advised to be vigilant because of the rains. We can’t see the lava flow because currently the volcano is surrounded by clouds.”

Scientists have yet to detect the kind of volcanic activity that would prompt them to raise the alert level to four, Renato Solidum, who heads the volcanology institute in the Philippines, told the AP.

Increasing to four, he added, would suggest an explosive eruption could be imminent.

Solidum also said that emergency response officials may have to undertake forced evacuations should the alert level be raised from three.

Despite having erupted 50 times in the past 500 years, Mount Mayon remains to be a popular tourist destination for climbers who often go to marvel at the mountain’s near-perfect cone shape.

The biggest eruption ever recorded at the volcano occurred in 1814. At least 1,200 people were killed and the nearby town of Cagsawa was buried in volcanic mud.

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