Friday, August 22, 2008

Mt. Mayon shows signs of activity

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Bicol allayed fears of a major explosion after Mayon Volcano in Albay province spewed ash Sunday morning, following two years of inactivity.

Over the past 24 hours, volcanologists detected an explosion-type earthquake with no visual observation of ash-ejection, six low-frequency earthquakes and 12 harmonic tremors, the latest Phivolcs bulletin on Monday said.

Alex Baloloy, senior science research analyst at the Phivolcs Mayon observatory in Daraga, Albay, said the volcano had been showing "abnormal" or "increased" activity indicating the ascent of "magma" inside the volcano.

Phivolcs said steam and ash explosions may occur in the following days.

Baloloy added that precise leveling surveys conducted on Mt. Mayon's slopes showed swelling of up to 12 millimeters on its edifice.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered Monday all human activity, such as mountain climbing and farming, stopped within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone.

Salceda said that as of 2006, when Mt. Mayon last erupted, there were 1,400 farmers within the permanent danger zone.

The governor alerted municipal disaster coordinating councils to take precautionary measures to avoid any casualties should the volcano act up.

The dried-up lava front in gullies at the foot of the volcano became tourist attractions early this year. But disaster officials warned the public to keep out.

Baloloy said people should avoid gullies and lahar paths while the volcano shows abnormal behavior.

The ash column of Sunday’s explosion, which lasted for about one minute, reached an estimate of 200 meters above the summit crater before drifting east-northeast of the volcano.

Alert level No. 1 remains hoisted over the 2,462-meter-high Mt. Mayon, which is vying for a spot in the New Seven Wonders of Nature online search.

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