Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mayon let go deadly gases

Explosions of deadly gas and debris shook the Mayon volcano on Monday in the eastern Philippines as scientists warned that the volcano has entered the more dangerous phase of its eruption.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on Monday afternoon that the peak in Albay province, 330 kilometres south-east of Manila, had generated eight mild explosions during the past 24 hours.

"Sixteen volcanic earthquakes, which indicate active magma ascent into the crater, and 322 tremor episodes associated with the collapse of fragments from the advancing lava flow were also recorded during this period," it said in a bulletin.

The institute warned that more "pyroclastic flows", or clouds of blistering gas and debris that travel at high speed and could incinerate anything in their path, would occur in the following days "due to progressing explosions".

It urged residents to stay clear out of the seven-kilometre danger zone around the volcano and eight kilometres on the south-east sector.

Close to 43 000 people residing around the volcano have fled to evacuation centres since last week.

Mayon Volcano, famous for its almost perfect cone, has been acting up since February and began to spew lava on July 15 in what volcanologists called a "quiet eruption" that attracted foreign and local tourists.

The 2 472-metre 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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