Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mayon volcano finally erupted

A restive volcano in the eastern Philippines erupted on Saturday after two days of uneasy calm, ejecting ash columns several kilometres high, authorities said.Six ash explosions had occurred during the last 24 hours, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said about Mayon Volcano in Albay province, 330 kilometres south-east of Manila.

One of the explosions recorded late Friday was the largest since the volcano began belching out ashes and lava in mid July, the agency said.The Phivolcs also recorded 48 volcanic quakes "which signified lava ascent"."The sulphur dioxide emission remained high at 6 876 tons per day," the agency said.

Authorities have tightened security since Thursday and threatened to arrest stubborn residents and tourists who ignore warnings and enter prohibited areas near the volcano.President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited Saturday the nearly 40 000 people who have fled to dozens of evacuation centres amid fears of an eruption.

Mayon Volcano, famous for its almost perfect cone, has been acting up since February and began spewing 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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