Monday, August 07, 2006

People flee as Mayon's major eruption is near!

THOUSANDS of people were being moved out of their homes in the central Philippines today in the face of the "imminent" eruption of the rumbling Mayon volcano, officials said.

Vulcanologists previously said an explosive eruption by Mayon, one of the country's most active volcanoes, could threaten the lives of about 60,000 people.

The region was rocked early today by five successive volcanic blasts within 40 minutes, followed by a fountain of lava from Mayon's crater, Legaspi city mayor Noel Rosalhe said on local radio.
By mid-morning the peak was covered in a dark cloud of volcanic material rising thousands of metres above the crater.

The government's seismology institute today raised a five-step volcano alert over Mayon at the next highest level of 4, meaning an eruption could occur within days.

It began abnormal activity in February, and started emitting small lava flows on July 15.
Material thrown from the crater of the 2460m mountain could threaten anyone within an 8km radius, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in an advisory.

It advised local officials in the central province of 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 (villages) should prepare for evacuation in the event explosive eruptions intensify," it said.

Mayor Rosal said government vehicles were rounding up residents of the farming hamlets of Mabinit, Bonga, Matanag and Buyuan.

"We are just waiting for them to gather some of their things before we take them to the major evacuation centres," he said.

Evacuations were also underway in the other threatened villages.

Mayon has had 47 eruptions in recorded history, the latest being a mild outpouring of lava in June 2001.

The volcano with a near-perfect cone buried the town of Cagsawa in the 19th century, killing an estimated 1000 people.

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