Tuesday, August 08, 2006
If Mayon has an explosive eruption, it could threatens thousands of lives
With 80 military trucks doing the heavy lifting, the government expected to move some 34,276 people to 31 state-run shelters during the day, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz said in Manila.
Two more Army platoons joined a military force helping in the evacuation and a team of government doctors was on standby to prevent disease outbreaks in the shelters, said Cruz, also chairman of the Office of Civil Defense.
“The evacuation is ongoing. It has been going smoothly,” he added.
In Malacañang, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered P250 million released for relief operations in case Mayon Volcano erupted.
“The [money] will augment the calamity fund to boost the government’s capability to evacuate residents,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.
Volcanologists have said an explosive eruption by Mayon, one of the country’s most active volcanos, could threaten the lives of about 60,000 people. It began abnormal activity in February and started emitting lava on July 15.
Mayon has had 47 eruptions in recorded history, the latest being a mild outpouring of lava in June 2001. It buried the town of Cagsawa in the 19th century, killing an estimated 1,000 people.
Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal personally supervised the evacuation of 10,500 residents from four villages on Mayon’s lower slopes yesterday.
“We are just waiting for them to gather some of their things before we take them to the major evacuation centers,” he said, adding “some are reluctant to leave.”
“There will be no turning residents back,” Albay Gov. Fernando Gonzales said.
“Once they are evacuated, they will no longer be allowed to return home until the situation returns to normal,” he said.
Rosal said the mild lava eruptions last month “gave us ample lead time to prepare the evacuation centers”—mostly schools and other government buildings beyond the volcano’s permanent-danger zones.
They were stocked with a week’s worth of food, sleeping facilities, tap water and electricity connections, officials said.
If an explosive eruption does occur for a longer period, “we have enough funds to cover the food, water, medicine and other requirements of this evacuation and tending to the people in the evacuation centers for the next several weeks or months,” Cruz told a press conference.
He said 80 tents were on standby to serve as temporary schoolhouses for children displaced by the evacuees.
“The education department is preparing a special module for special classes to be held inside the evacuation centers,” Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz said in Manila.
“Students and teachers will be living together in evacuation centers, so it would be nice if special classes were held there,” he said.
Mayon’s environs were rocked early yesterday by six successive volcanic blasts, followed by a fountain of lava from its crater.
“This signifies that Mayon is almost ready to burst,” said Ernesto Corpus, head of the volcanology section of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
By mid-morning the peak was covered in a dark cloud of volcanic material rising several kilometers above the crater.
Television footage showed super-heated lava tumbling down the slopes, setting vegetation on fire.
The government’s seismology institute on Monday raised a five-step volcano alert over Mayon at the next-highest level of 4, meaning an eruption could occur “within days,” Corpus said.
Material thrown from the crater of the 2,460-meter mountain could threaten anyone within an 8-km radius, the institute said in an advisory.
It advised local officials in Albay to order the evacuation of 28 areas around the mountain, including parts of Legaspi city and the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Ligao, Malilipot, Santo Domingo and Tabaco.
“Areas just outside of these [places] should prepare for evacuation in the event explosive eruptions intensify,” it said.
“If a major hazardous eruption does occur either today or in the coming days, we will be recommending the appropriate extension of this danger zone possibly up to 10 km,” said Renato Solidum, the head of the volcanology institute.