By Aaron B. Recuenco
Legazpi City – When Irene was awakened by the screams and noise of her neighbors when lava flowed in their midst Sunday night, the horrors of the 1993 explosion of Mayon volcano came to mind. Still recovering from childbirth, Irene, 23 scooped her one-month-old daughter in her arms who started to cry sensing fear. She wanted to flee. But she couldn’t and regretted her decision to go back home when they were allowed to do so after a lull in Mayon’s activity.
Her husband is in Benguet and there is no available vehicle to take them away from Barangay Matanag which is within the extended danger zone. It is so near the volcano that they could her Mayon explode.
“I just prayed that it (lava flow) would stop, that if the worst thing happened, we would already be out of here,” said Irene.
Between prayers and lullabies to hush her baby, Irene said stories about a group of farmers – 77 of them, who died near their barangay when Mayon erupted in April 1993 came to mind. The farmers were hit by pyroclastic materials and she did not want to die that way.
Maritess Abrique told Manila Bulletin she saw how one of the farmers seemingly turned into ashes after being hit by the pyroclastic flow.
“He was from another barangay. I knew him to be fat and tall but when his body was being retrieved, it was already small. It’s like he melted,” said Abrique.
The only person she knew who survived the incident was Lola Mayon from the nearby barangay of Buyuan. Lola Mayon reportedly has a scar from the incident which allegedly becomes itchy whenever the volcano is restive.
“I heard a lot of stories about her, about how painful it was to be directly hit by the ashes,” said Abrique.
This is the reason why they are implementing a forced evacuation amid the rumbling of Mayon, according to Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“It is very hot, about 1,000 degrees celsius so if you are hit with that, imagine what it could do to you,” said Daep.
The water’s boiling point is just 100 degrees celsius.
“And you cannot outrun it. That is why the best way to prevent that from happening is to implement evacuation,” said Daep.
Series of explosions
Mayon spewed giant ash plumes Monday prompting volcanologists here to raise Alert Level 4.
“It’s like there is a war above. It’s like a version of Marawi, but more dangerous. We are all very scared. We thought we will already die,” said 53-year Lorna Gaberia, from Barangay Buyuan.
The loud explosions that formed grey ash columns dumped volcanic materials towards the towns in the third district of Albaymaking Irene more terrified.
“What if those ash columns were carried by the wind towards our direction? I can’t help but think that we would also burn like those poor farmers in 1993,” said Irene.
Around 4 p.m. and after two explosions, Irene was told that a military truck was coming. But as soon as a jeepney arrived to ferry residents out of Matanag, she boarded the vehicle with her baby. They soon transferred to a military truck
“The instruction to us is to evacuate as many residents,” Army Corporal Arjay Pido told Manila Bulletin.
Irene and 20 of her neighbors finally arrived at Albay Central School at around 6 p.m.
The soldiers set up checkpoints to prevent the re-entry of local residents in the danger zone.