By Aaron B. Recuenco and AFP
Legazpi City – Authorities here will cut the water and electricity supplies of residents living within the eight-kilometer danger zone to compel them not to go back as volcanologists said the threat of a big bang from Mayon Volcano may occur at any time.
Tuesday morning, intense lava fountains shot like fireworks up to 700 meters into the air above Mayon Volcano as showering debris turned morning skies dark and spread fear among anxious residents.
The longest lava fountaining was reported early Tuesday which lasted for about 30 minutes.
“The lava fountains reached as high as 500 to 700 meters and generated ash plumes that went as high as three kilometers above the crater,” said volcanologist Paul Alanis.
“People got scared. The kids did not understand what was happening, then suddenly it got dark and you could not see who you were with,” Danny Garcia, a spokesman for Albay province, told AFP.
The summit of the mountain was shrouded by a dense column of steam and hot rocks, creating fanciful shapes in the sky.
“The explosion looks like a cauliflower or an octopus,” Ed Laguerta, Mayon’s resident volcanologist from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told AFP.
“Hot ash ascends and since the volcano is conical, the pyroclastic flow seems to be the tentacles,” he added, referring to a mix of hot lava, ash and volcanic gas flowing down the volcano’s flanks.
Laguerta said that the historical data of the Mayon Volcano would show that very loud and destructive explosions are always possible similar to what happened during its 1984 eruption.
“What the Mayon is showing for the moment based on our instruments that we analyzed, there are no signs that we are heading toward that one but we are not discounting that possibility,” said Laguerta.
“That is why we are monitoring it on a day to day basis because there could be changes any time,” he added.
The loud explosions during the 1984 Mayon Volcano eruption had triggered strong volcanic earthquakes which were felt in Legazpi City and areas near the volcano.
Since the hazardous eruption that occurred at 12:43 p.m. Monday that prompted authorities here to hoist Alert Level 4, two more ejections of pyroclastic density current or PDC (composed of ash, gases, and lava) took place at 4 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
The ashes were swept toward the towns of Guinobatan, Polangui,Oas and Ligao City and went as far as Iriga City in the nearby province of Camarines Sur.
This was followed by degassing that shots ashes some 500 meters up from the Mayon summit and five episodes of lava fountaining between 9:37 p.m. on Monday up to 5:25 a.m. Tuesday.
Why not Alert Level 5
Despite the series of eruptions since Monday, both Laguerta and Alanis said one main indicator is absent to raise the alert level to 5.
“The eruption should be sustained for us to declare Alert Level 5. But as of now, what we see is just sporadic eruption, it is not a sustained one,” said Alanis.
Under Alert Level 5, the eruption usually last for hours. The longest lava fountaining recorded was just 30 minutes, according to Alanis.
But the danger is still there, according to Laguerta, saying that the edifice of Mayon is still swollen which means that a strong pressure is still present inside the volcano.
He said they expect more phreatomagmatco eruption (combination of water and magma), in the coming days until the edifice goes back to the normal level.
“These kind of eruptions are the reason why recommended for the extension of the danger zone to eight kilometer. These PDCs are very hot and pose danger to the people that they would hit,” said Laguerta.
As of Monday afternoon, local government units here have started implementing mandatory evacuation to those living within the eight-kilometer danger zone.
As of Tuesday morning, a total of 9,906 families or 39,250 people living within the eight kilometer extended danger zones were already moved to 28 evacuation centers provincewide.
The figure, however, does not include the more than 11,000 people evacuated in the barangays of Mabinit, Bonga, Matanag, Buyuan and Padang in Legazpi City.
Caritas Manila is appealing for donations, both in cash and in kind, for the relief and rehabilitation needs of the people in Albay affected by the eruption of Mayon Volcano.
The social action arm of the Archdiocese of Manila said donations gathered will be used for the immediate needs of thousands of evacuees. (With a report from Leslie Ann G. Aquino)