Mayon Volcano recharging for explosive eruption
Celso Amo, Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - September 25, 2014 - 12:00am

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Mayon Volcano is recharging as it enters another phase towards an explosive eruption similar to its strong eruption in 1984, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned yesterday.

Philvocs explained that the apparent lull in the abnormal behavior of Mayon could be an indication that the volcano is just recharging for a strong eruption.

Philvocs-Bicol chief volcanologist Ed Laguerta also said that the volcano is exhibiting the same pattern as the 1984 eruption.

“There was a lull of about two weeks before an explosive eruption,” said Laguerta in a press briefing at the Albay Provincial Security and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo).

“This might just be a calm before the storm. We must be ready and should not put our guard down,” added Laguerta, who also closely observed Mayon’s eruptions in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2009.

Mayon erupted early morning of Sept. 23, 1984. Pyroclastic flows descended on all sides of the mountain, with some reaching 14 kilometers down the periphery. More than 73,000 people fled.

In the past 24 hours, seismic network around the volcano recorded no volcanic earthquakes related to magma movement and only four rockfall events related to detached fragments from the crater wall were recorded. The sulfur dioxide emission also further dropped to 569 tons per day.

“Magma movement has stopped,” Laguerta added.

But volcanologists believe that once a volcano is primed with magma, its eruption depends on the amount of gas, silica content and obstruction in the vent. And when the vent is sealed by a dome or debris, strong pressure is built up underneath, triggering an eruption due to the accumulation of pressure.

Volcanologists have observed that the lava dome is now half-blocking Mayon’s crater.

Laguerta warned of a strong and hazardous eruption should the lava dome totally clog the mouth of Mayon.

Residents voluntarily leaving

Residents in the extended danger zone (EDZ) around Mayon are leaving their villages as disaster management officials brace for a worst-case scenario with the lava dome now half-blocking the crater.

“Probably they don’t feel comfortable anymore now that our disaster control officials are telling them to be on constant alert,” Col. Raul Farnacio, commanding officer of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade based in Albay province and head of evacuation teams, told The STAR.

Farnacio said residents in extended danger zones, who are not required for mandatory evacuation, are taking refuge in evacuation centers set up for their barangays.

The number of evacuees yesterday increased to 11,982 families or 54,677 persons, according to the latest report of Apsemo.

The additional influx of evacuees was in Guinobatan, from 2,553 families to 2,742; in Ligao City, from 818 families to 820; in Tabaco City, from 1,038 families to 1,095; and Sto. Domingo, from 843 families to 1,322.

“We really welcome this advance evacuation, so that only a few families would be evacuated once the present Alert Level 3 is raised to 4,” said Apsemo chief Cedric Daep.

“The Albay government is willing to accommodate these evacuees though this would mean additional expenses for us. What is important is to attain our goal of zero casualty,” he added.

Meanwhile, 28 out of 76 public elementary and high schools affected by the volatile activity of Mayon have resumed classes as of Tuesday, the Department of Education (DepEd) said yesterday.

DepEd said these schools are within the permanent danger zone (PDZ) and EDZ.

DepEd also said it is closely working with the local government of Albay and the United Nations Children’s Fund for the deployment of 155 tents for the 38 schools used as evacuation centers. – With Cet Dematera, Helen Flores

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