Friday, June 16, 2006

Philippines see volcano eruption of ashes

A restive volcano in the central Philippines spewed a column of ash at least 1 km (0.6 mile) into the sky before dawn on Saturday, raising concern of an eruption in the days ahead.

There were two minor explosions of Bulusan volcano in the Bicol region, but there was no sign of laval flow, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a statement.

Ernesto Corpuz, one of the institute's chief monitoring scientists, said Bulusan's activity had been increasing and more explosions and ash falls were likely in the coming days.

"Our monitoring indicates magma is rising to the surface," said Corpuz, referring to hot molten rock inside the volcano.

However, he told reporters that the institute could not predict when a major eruption would occur, and it was for now keeping its alert level at 2 on a scale from 1 to 5.

At level 3 an explosion is considered possible, at level 4 it is seen as likely and at level 5 an eruption has occurred with lava flows or ash columns reaching 6 km (3.75 miles).

Bulusan, one of the six most active volcanoes in the Philippines, has had five ash eruptions since March.

Officials have warned residents in three towns of Sorsogon province not to venture within 4 km (2.5 miles) of the 1,559-meter (5,246-foot) volcano because of the risk of sudden explosions.

Casiguran town, on Bulusan's northern slopes, was declared under a state of calamity on Friday after ash damaged houses, crops and fish ponds and forced schools to close.

Like neighboring Indonesia, the Philippines lies in an area of the Pacific basin vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Mount Pinatubo, on Luzon island in the northern Philippines, erupted in 1991 after lying dormant for 600 years. That eruption buried dozens of villages under metric tonnes of mud and more than 800 people died, mostly from diseases in crowded evacuation camps.

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