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Mayon spews rocks as big as cars, houses

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By Aaron B. Recuenco, AFP, and AP

‘CRIMSON PEAK’ – Red-hot lava flows down the slopes of Mayon Volcano, casting a scarlet reflection on this river in Santo Domingo, Albay, which is within the extended danger zone of nine kilometers around the volcano. (Czar Dancel)

‘CRIMSON PEAK’ – Red-hot lava flows down the slopes of Mayon Volcano, casting a scarlet reflection on this river in Santo Domingo, Albay, which is within the extended danger zone of nine kilometers around the volcano. (Czar Dancel)

Legazpi City – Rocks as big as cars and houses were seen cascading down the slopes of Mount Mayon as the volcano erupted anew for about four hours Monday night accompanied by loud thunderous sound.

Beginning 7:50 p.m. Monday, sporadic lava fountaining was visually and seismically detected and persisted until 11:06 p.m.

The lava fountains reached 200 meters high and generated ash plumes – the thickest so far – that reached 1.5 kilometers above the crater triggering significant ash fall carried by wind over Camalig and Guinobatan towns and Ligao City.

Mariton Bornas, chief of Phivolcs Volcano Eruption and Prediction Division, said an aerial inspection aboard the Philippine Air Force chopper yesterday showed most of the volcanic materials were deposited at the Miisi (Daraga town) and Bonga (Legazpi) gullies.

“We shot photos and took videos so that we would be able to analyze the volume of materials that were already ejected and deposited in the gullies,” said Bornas.

During the hazardous eruption before noon yesterday, pyroclastic materials were seen heading towards the Basud Gully in Sto. Domingo town.

50 million cubic meters expected

But the pyroclastic materials that the volcano ejected is said to be small compared to the 50 million cubic meters of volcanic materials that volcanologists expect Mayon to cough out before it calms down.

Undersecretary Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the expected 50 million cubic meterof volcanic materials is based on the computation of past eruptions.

“So we cannot really say at this point as to how long the Mayon rumbling would be,” said Solidum.

Senior volcanologist Paul Alanis, said there is still a chance the 50 million cubic materials would be spewed in a series of big explosions.

From January 13 to 25, Phivolcs estimated the volcano to have spewed about 25 million cubic meters of volcanic materials – building blocks for lahar – mammoth debris flows that could find their way into streams and rivers and mow down surrounding communities.

But this number is only 30 percent of the expected output. The figure is separate from the expected 50 million cubic meters.

Phivolcs issued its first “lahar” warningon Mayon last Saturday due to incessant rain that is usual in the region at this time of year.

No man’s land

Mayon has been belching red-hot lava fountains, huge columns of ash and molten rocks into the sky and plunging communities into darkness with falling ash since Jan. 14. It has remained at alert level four on a scale of five, indicating a more violent eruption could be imminent.

No injuries have been reported but authorities have struggled to keep people out of the danger zone 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the crater. They are worried the eruption may last months, disrupting the lives and livelihood of people in Mayon’s shadow.

Provincial leaders say disaster funds are running low and supplies like facemasks will be depleted if the eruption lasts.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a meeting with provincial officials recommended that villages in danger zones be turned into permanent “no man’s land”, a sensitive and complicated proposal that would affect tens and thousands of people living in the fertile farmlands nearby. President Duterte who was with Lorenzana during the visit Monday expressed support.

One possibility is expanding a national park around the base of the volcano, where trees could grow and become a buffer against volcanic flows endangering villages and towns.

Sanitation crisis

Evacuees haveswelled to nearly 90,000, officials said worsening a sanitation crisis in the already stretched relief camps.

Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara, said they expect evacuees to stay at the camps for at least a month.

But he warned limited local government resources were being stretched, citing the lack of toilets at the shelters, where he said an average of 200 people now took turns using one.

“We lack 1,222 toilets,” Bicharasaid, adding the ideal was one toilet for every 50 evacuee (1,800 total).

The National Disaster Risk Reductionn and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the families came from 59 barangays in the municipalities/cities of Bacacay, Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao City, Daraga, Tabaco City, Malilipot, Santo Domingo (Libog), and Legazpi City.

Of this number, about 18,291 (60,425 persons) are currently served inside the 74 designated evacuation centers while 2,282 families (11,946 persons) are served outside.

At the Bagumbayan Central School, Daisy Bron of Brgy. Buyoan, Legazpi City told Manila Bulletin some evacuees sleep in sitting position, some on chairs to make space for the children, the elderly and women. There is not even a space to walk about.

Provincial health officer Dr. Antonio Ludovice said the standard occupancy per classroom is 1:50 but most have at least 70 to 80 evacuees.

Raymond Escalante, spokesperson of DOLE –Bicol said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has approved a P30 million allocation for 10,000 families affected by the volcanic eruption. Each family, Bello said will have 1 beneficiary that will work for 10 days starting January 30 and will receive P290.00 daily wage.

The emergency employment program is under the DOLE’s TulongPangkabuhayan sa Ating Displaced Workers (TUPAD).

The DSWD also announced that the same cash for work patterned after DOLE will be implemented by the agency to help displaced families. (With reports from Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz, Francis T. Wakefield, and Niño N. Luces)

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