Philippines evacuates thousands from Mayon volcano’s danger zone

BenarNews staff
Philippines evacuates thousands from Mayon volcano’s danger zone Evacuees board a government vehicle in Darga municipality over fears that the nearby Mayon volcano could erupt, June 9, 2023.
Charism Sayat/AFP

Thousands of people living near one of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes began evacuating on Friday amid signs of an imminent “hazardous” eruption, officials said. 

More than 10,500 people within the six-kilometer (3.7-mile) permanent danger zone around the Mayon volcano were relocated to more than 100 evacuation sites as of Friday, said Edcel Greco Lagman, the governor of eastern Albay province. 

About 16,000 others could be evacuated from homes located between six and seven kilometers from the center of the zone should the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raise Mayon’s alert level, he said. 

“We have been receiving reports that the ash fall from Mayon has been intensifying, although we have not yet seen pyroclastic materials being expelled from the crater of Mount Mayon,” Lagman said in a local television report.

Pyroclastic flows contain a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Meanwhile in neighboring Indonesia, the Anak Krakatau volcano erupted on Friday, spewing a column of ash more than three kilometers (1.8 miles) into the sky, Agence France-Presse news service reported, adding there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The Philippines and Indonesia, neighboring archipelago countries, both sit on the The Philippines sits on the Pacific Ocean’s so-called “Ring of Fire” where continental plates collide causing seismic and volcanic activity.

‘No state of panic’

On Thursday, Phivolcs elevated its warning for Mayon, the 2,462-meter (8,077-foot) cone-shaped mountain, to “alert level 3” on its scale of five after detecting a growing number of rock falls and repeated collapses of the summit dome. The agency has since recorded nearly 200 events of superheated rocks falling off the volcano’s slopes.

Lagman said people in Albay quickly respond to emergency alerts and orders for preemptive mandatory evacuations. 

“They are very compliant and we made sure that their farm animals, like cows, water buffalos, pigs would be evacuated too,” he said. 

 “There is no state of panic in the province. All the other functions of the government are normally being undertaken,” Lagman said. 

Many of those evacuated are from Camalig and Guinobatan municipalities, two of the most vulnerable areas in the province.

The Mayon volcano is seen spewing white smoke from Camalig, one of the communities nearby in the eastern Philippines, June 8, 2023. [Kristin Moral handout via AFP]

On Friday, Phivolcs director Teresito Bacolcol said rock falls lasting for a few minutes occurred overnight, indicating that “there’s a continuous supply of magma to the surface, dislodging old and new portions of the lava dome. 

“The difference right now is that we don’t see high amounts of sulfur dioxide,” he told reporters, adding experts were hoping that it would follow the same pattern as in 2014, when the volcano also expelled rocks followed by a short lava flow before suddenly stopping.

“Hopefully it will not go the way of the 2018 activity,” Bacolcol said, referring to January 2018 when at least 40,000 people were forced to evacuate after Mayon spewed a column of ash about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) into the air, blanketing surrounding areas. 

Raffy Alejandro IV, spokesman for the Philippine Civil Defense Office, said the permanent danger zone around Mayon was declared off-limits. 

“We ask local officials and government agencies to review their preparedness measures and check their resources for possible deployment and distribution,” he said. 

In 2013, five hikers, including three Germans who ignored warnings and strayed near the volcano’s summit, were killed when it erupted. Mayon’s most destructive eruption was in 1841, when an entire town was buried and 1,200 people killed. 

Jeoffrey Maitem and Basilio Sepe in Manila contributed to this report.


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