Mayon climbers meet deadly, 'living room' sized rocks
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2013 - 1:14pm

MANILA, Philippines - Rescue teams and helicopters were sent  to Mayon volcano in Albay to bring out the dead from among a group of 20 mountaineers on a trail Tuesday morning to reach the crater.

Instead of trekking for four and a half hours from its foot to enjoy the view at the summit, the hikers found themselves seeing a glimpse of what could be their death: an eruption bringing out ashes, steam, volcanic rocks and some water.

Albay provincial Governor Joey Salceda said the mountaineers--a mixed group of Filipinos and foreigners--were caught by surprise by the sudden eruption of the mountain, known for its near-perfect cone.

More than a dozen trekkers were also trapped near the crater in its first eruption since 2010.

Mayon trail leader Kenneth Jesalva said in a television interview that the five climbers who died were struck by huge rocks.

Jesalva added that he was in the group that spent the night on the picturesque mountain when the volcano rumbled back to life early in the morning and rocks "as big as a living room" came raining down on them. He rushed back to the base camp to call for help.

The explosion, described by authorities as "phreatic" or shallow as it originates only from the surface of the volcano, was recorded at 8:00 am.

Main story: 5 dead, 7 hurt in Mayon Volcano ash eruption

It was then that Twitter user and Legazpi City resident Ruffa Concepcion took photographs of the parting of clouds to give way to ash rising to 500 meters over the peak.

The photo reached over a thousand people on the microblogging network when it was caught by a local news channel's account.

By 9:00 a.m., reports of the incident reached major news organizations across the country with an initial death record of four. The toll climbed to five while seven others were hurt in an hour's time.

Photo by Twitter user Ruffa Concepcion uploaded at 8:09 on Tuesday morning.

The injured included foreigners and Filipino guides. Some were in critical condition, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chief Eduardo del Rosario said.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum Jr., meanwhile, said there was no alert up for the volcano when the mountaineers decided to explore it.

There was neither an alert level raised following the eruption nor calls for evacuation.

The recent blowup, he said, was merely a routine activity of living volcanoes, including Mayon which erupted about 40 times in the last 400 years. - With reports from Camille Diola and the Associated Press

ALBAY GOVERNOR JOEY SALCEDA KENNETH JESALVA LEGAZPI CITY MAYON MAYON VOLCANO NATIONAL DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND MANAGEMENT COUNCIL PHILIPPINE INSTITUTE OF VOLCANOLOGY AND SEISMOLOGY RUFFA CONCEPCION
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