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Philippines Evacuates Thousands as Volatile Volcano Primes for Eruption

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato City, Philippines
2018-01-16
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Lava cascades down the slopes of the Mayon volcano, seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, Jan. 16, 2018.
Lava cascades down the slopes of the Mayon volcano, seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila, Jan. 16, 2018.
AP

More than 3,000 families have been evacuated to safety as the Philippines' most active and picturesque volcano showed signs it was priming for an eruption, volcanologists said Tuesday.

Romina Marasigan, the spokeswoman of Manila’s disaster risk reduction agency, said more than 12,000 individuals had already been evacuated from the towns of Guinobatan and Malilipot around Mayon Volcano, after the mountain continued to spew ash and lava oozed out of its crater.

“It’s very dangerous to stay within the seven-kilometer radius around the volcano,” she said.

The 2,462-meter high volcano in the central province of Albay began spewing ash, rocks and mud on the weekend. Lava had also started to spill from the crater, and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) had raised Alert Level 3.

Level 3 of a five-step alert system means that the volcano is exhibiting an increased tendency towards eruption, magma is close to the crater, and an eruption is likely within days or weeks.

In its latest advisory earlier Tuesday, Phivolcs said “lava collapse events” had characterized the volcano’s activity the past 24 hours. It said nine tremor episodes had been recorded, of which four were accompanied by “short-duration lava fountaining.”

The mountain also spewed ash that rose to two kilometers and fell on the nearly villages, according to Phivolcs, which characterized Mayon’s activity as a “relatively high level of unrest.”

It warned residents to be vigilant against lava flows, lahars and sediment-laden streams along channels that flow from the crater.

“Civil aviation authorities must also advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from any sudden eruption can be hazardous to the aircraft,” it said, noting that ash fall events could occur on the southwest side of the volcano.

In 2013, Mayon Volcano erupted, killing five hikers, including three Germans who strayed near its summit, ignoring warnings. Mayon’s most destructive eruption was in 1841, when a massive eruption buried an entire town and killed 1,200 people.

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