Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mayon calmed down but villagers not out of danger yet

Volcanologists warned of more hazardous eruptions even though the Mayon Volcano in the eastern Philippine calmed down Wednesday after spewing deadly gas and debris since the weekend.The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said two small explosions had rocked the peak in Albay province, 330km south-east of Manila, since Tuesday.

It added that 19 volcanic earthquakes and 367 tremor episodes were monitored in the 24-hour period."These earthquakes reflect the active ascent of magma within the volcano while the high tremor count reflects continuing extrusion of hot lava," the institute said in a statement.Although the activity reflected a decrease from an institute report Monday that recorded eight explosions in a 24-hour period, the number of earthquakes had risen from 16 and tremors were up from 322.

'Pyroclastic flows'"Recent measurements of ground deformation also indicated that the volcano is slightly inflated, probably as a result of continuing magma intrusions into the cone," the institute said.Nearly 44 000 people residing around Mayon have fled to evacuation centres since last week, and authorities said they might need to stay away from their homes for up to one month.

The institute said more "pyroclastic flows", or clouds of blistering gas and debris that travel at high speed and could incinerate anything in their path, could still occur in the coming days.It appealed to residents to stay clear of the 7km danger zone around the volcano and 8km in its south-east sector.Mayon Volcano, famous for its almost perfect cone, began to spew lava on July 15 in what volcanologists called a "quiet eruption" that attracted foreign and local tourists.

The 2 472m volcano has erupted about 50 times since 1616. It last came to life in a series of eruptions in 2001, forcing about 50 000 people to evacuate but causing no casualties.Its most violent eruption was in 1814 when more than 1 200 people were killed and a town was buried in volcanic mud. An eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.

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