Monday, August 07, 2006

People ordered to evacuate Mayon's area!

Tens of thousands of villagers were evacuated today from their homes on the lower slopes of Mayon volcano in the central Philippines after the authorities raised the alert level to four, meaning an eruption is "imminent".

As ash and smoke shot hundreds of metres into the air, the military deployed 80 trucks to help ferry the 34,276 people living in the five-mile-radius danger zone to 31 evacuation centres.
The defence secretary, Avelino Cruz, said the health and social welfare officials in the affected area, Albay province - 200 miles south-east of the capital Manila, were "on top of the situation".
Officials said some villagers were reluctant to leave their homes and crops but overall there appeared to be few hitches in the four-hour evacuation.

Noel Rosal, the mayor of the nearest town, Legaspi, said mild lava eruptions from the 2,462-metre-high volcano last month "gave us ample lead time to prepare the evacuation centres", mostly schools and other government buildings.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert to the second-highest level after monitoring six explosions starting at 7.08am. Ash columns rose to at least 800m above the perfect cone crater and lava cascaded down the slopes, setting vegetation alight.
Volcanologists said they detected 21 low-frequency volcanic earthquakes in the previous 24 hours.
Renato Solidum, the Phivolcs director, said: "This [raising of alert] means that Mayon is ready to burst."

He said the eruptions could develop from their currently "quiet" characteristics to "explosive". If that happened, the danger zone would be expanded by at least another mile and a half, which would prompt the evacuation of another 50,000 people.

Mayon has erupted at least 47 times in the last 400 years. The latest was a mild outpouring of lava in June 2001 and the deadliest was in 1814, when the town of Cagsawa was buried, killing 1,000 people.

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