Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mayon's lava destroys some farmlands

Vulcanologists in the Philippines said that lava coming from the Mayon Volcano has destroyed a total of 123 acres of farmlands at the foot of the volcano and permanently altered the terrain in at least two villages.

Ed Laguerta of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Monday the affected farmlands cannot be used by the farmers for several years and that the government should provide alternative sources of income for the displaced villagers.

He said during a press briefing, "The implication is the farm lands hit by the lava flow could no longer be used for a long time. Many of the coconut groves were also really badly burned."
Scientists also warned the volcano is gearing up for a major eruption and has entered its most dangerous phase of the eruption.

Lava flowed down from the mouth of the 2,462-meter (8,077-ft) since July 14 and has traveled some 4 miles which covered once-fertile agricultural lands under 10 to 15 meters of molten rock and debris. It will take years for the lava to cool into a hard stone cover, Laguerta said.

An estimated 60,000 villagers living near the 4-mile permanent danger zone particularly those living at the foot of the volcano have been evacuated in temporary shelters mostly schools converted as refugee centers.

Mayon is one of the most active among the 22 active volcanos in the Philippines. In 1993, 75 people were killed when it suddenly erupted. But its most violent eruption was recorded in 1814 when some 1,200 villagers where killed, most of whom sought refuge in a church that was buried by volcanic debris in the town of Cagsawa.

Only the bell tower of the church can be seen today.

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