Philippines Declares Calamity in Mayon Volcano Region

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Iligan City, Philippines
180117-PH-volcano-620.jpg A woman sits on a dike as lava cascades down the slopes of the Mayon volcano near Busay village in Albay province, Philippines, Jan. 16, 2018.

Philippine government officials declared a state of calamity on Wednesday as the number of people evacuating the erupting Mayon volcano swelled to more than 5,000 families.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said evacuees from villages and towns within a 7-km (4.3-mile) danger zone around the volcano, located in Albay province on Luzon island, kept pouring in and were staying in some 20 temporary shelters, including schools.

The third level of a five-step alert remains over Mayon, which means the volcano is exhibiting an increased tendency to explode in a matter of days or weeks.

“We are still on alert level 3 and very closely, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology is monitoring Mayon’s volcanic activity,” national disaster relief agency spokeswoman Mina Marasigan said.

Provincial crisis and emergency management chief Joseph Philip Lee said the state of calamity was declared to allow the release of much-needed emergency funds. The funds – U.S. $1.8 million (91.3 million pesos) – would be used for relief assistance and supplies.

The number of affected families has reached nearly 5,000 in the towns of Daraga, Guinobatan, Malilipot, and Santo Domingo and the cities of Liao and Tabaco, the Department of Social Welfare and Development reported. In addition, about 1,184 families are staying with relatives and friends.

Meanwhile, chief government volcanologist Renato Solidum told a local radio station that the volcano’s crater was showing a “nonexplosive magmatic eruption” or “lava effusion.”

“It’s nonexplosive because it does not throw out volcanic materials,” he said, adding that scientists were discussing the possibility of raising the alert level by a notch if the trend continued.

Ed Laguerta, a resident volcanologist with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said he and others were waiting for results of geodetic and geochemistry surveys to determine the “measure of gas content and earthquake strength” emanating from the volcano.

Social agency on standby

Elsewhere, social welfare officer Emmanuel Leyco said the agency was prepared to send supplies quickly should local government units in the affected municipalities run short.

“We are on active standby as we are in close coordination with local government units regarding the needs of their constituents during this period of emergency,” he said.

“We also appeal to the public to give support to all government efforts as well as to the efforts of the private sector to assist affected families and communities.”

At 2,462 meters (8,077 feet) tall and almost perfectly shaped like a cone, Mayon, in the central province of Albaya, began spewing ash, rocks and mud last weekend.

Lava has been spewing from its crater, in a spectacular scene that has attracted droves of tourists.

In 2014, at least 63,000 people were evacuated when lava flowed from the crater of Mayon. A year earlier, it erupted killing five hikers, including three Germans who strayed near its summit.

More than 70 people were killed when it erupted in 1993 while in 1841, a massive eruption buried an entire town and killed 1,200 people.


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