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Philippine volcano eruption imminent, experts warn

Nearly 30,000 people have sought shelter in the various evacuation centres in Albay province, officials say

Image Credit: AP
A huge column of ash shoots up to the sky from Mt Mayon volcano yesterday, as seen from Daraga township, Legazpi city, Albay province, Philippines.
Gulf News

Manila: Ash spewed by a volcano in the Philippines turned the night into day, as Mount Mayon stepped up its activity, indicating an imminent eruption.

“Mayon Volcano in Albay Province has been exhibiting increased seismic unrest, lava fountaining and summit explosions,” experts of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolvs) announced in the afternoon on Monday.

“The Department of Science and Technology-PHIVOLCS is raising the Alert Level of Mayon Volcano from Alert 3 [increased tendency to hazardous eruption] to Alert Level 4 [hazardous eruption imminent].

As of January 18, there were 6,973 families or 26,971 persons, sheltered in the various evacuation centres in Albay.

Most of the evacuees sheltered in the evacuation centres are from the towns of Camalig and Daraga.

Governor Al Francis Bichara confirmed an eruption was imminent.

“Everyone is advised to stay indoors and wear face masks or to prepare wet towels in lieu of face masks,” Bichara said.

National officials earlier warned that volcanic ash was hazardous to health.

It consists of powder-size to sand-size particles that have been blown into the air by an erupting volcano.

Exposure to falling ash may cause a number of health problems.

Video footage and photos taken by residents and posted on the internet showed Mayon spewing increasingly dark grey ash, compared to columns of white plumes witnessed several days before.

Lava flow was also witnessed as molten rocks and mud descended the slopes of the volcano, which is located approximately 480 kilometres from Manila, the national capital.

Due to the increased activity of the volcano, the “Danger Zone” was extended to 8 kilometres radius from the summit vent.

Previously the danger zone was at six kilometres from the summit.

“The public is strongly advised to be vigilant and desist from entering this danger zone. Civil aviation authorities must also advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from eruptions can be hazardous to aircraft. DOST-PHIVOLCS maintains close monitoring of Mayon Volcano and any new development will be communicated to all concerned stakeholders,” the agency said.

Bichara said classes on all levels in the province of Albay had been suspended because of the volcanic activity.

“We have deployed disaster response teams to the areas,” Bichara said, adding that the units are equipped are trained to handle emergencies relating to the volcanic eruption.

Albay second congressional district Rep. Joey Salceda aired appeals for relief assistance and donations for the Mayon evacuees.

“We urge and appeal to kind hearted individuals and organisations to please assist our evacuees with their basic necessities so that they can go through this calamity easier, even as Albay’s DNA is resiliency - the Albayano strength of character and knack for survival that have been proven many times over, but not without support from kind individuals and humanitarian groups, as this kind of disaster normally takes longer periods of time,” Salceda said.

Mayon is the most restive of the active volcanos in the Philippines. It is marvelled at by locals and foreigners due to its beauty. However throughout history, it had caused death and misery to thousands of people.

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