Philippines: Volcanic Explosionsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
MANILA, Philippines (June 24, 2001 12:00 a.m. EDT) - Officials said about 3,000 villagers evacuated their homes Sunday as a central Philippine volcano rocked with a series of explosions and lava trickled down its slopes in a warning of possible eruption.
Residents of four small villages 5 miles from the slopes of Mayon volcano fled to evacuation centers in the city of Legazpi, Mayor Imelda Roces said.
Roces said no evacuation has been ordered as volcanologists awaited further signs that the volcano, 200 miles southeast of Manila, could erupt in coming days.
Some 68,000 people were evacuated in February of last year when the 8,118-foot volcano last erupted. Emergency officials said a new eruption could force a similar number to flee.
Explosions from Mayon were audible 7.5 miles from the cone Sunday as officials met to prepared emergency shelters and evacuation plans for people near Mayon, said Cedric Dive, the local emergency coordinator.
On Saturday, volcanologists raised the alert level to 4 of a possible 5 in the area around the volcano when it spurted a 160-foot fountain of lava and puffed a column of ash two-thirds of a mile into the sky, officials said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the ash puffs and a series of strong explosions indicate possible eruption in days but current activity is still "nondestructive."
A 3.7-mile area around Mayon is permanently off limits but many residents venture into the zone at daytime to farm the lush soil.
The institute said the southeast portion of Mayon's crater showed visible signs of weakening Sunday and may give way in days, loosing lava down the slope of the volcano.
The institute, which has been watching the volcano closely since it showed renewed signs of unrest in January, said Saturday's "lava fountain" is a key sign of mounting pressure within Mayon.
Gas emissions and volcanic tremors have been high for months and the volcano has spit red hot boulders and trickled lava in recent weeks.
Mayon, a cone-shaped mountain towering above farming communities in the Bicol region, is a tourist attraction in the Philippines. Its most violent eruption occurred in 1814, killing more than 1,200 people and burying an entire town in volcanic mud.
At least 47 eruptions have been recorded since 1616.
-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 24, 2001
Sunday June 24 8:17 AM ET
Philippine Volcano Spews Truck-Sized Boulders By Erik de Castro
LEGAZPI, Philippines (Reuters) -
Tens of thousands of villagers fled their homes as the Philippines' Mayon volcano unleashed a series of thunderous eruptions on Sunday.
Scientists said Mayon was spitting out flaming ash and boulders as big as trucks.
There were no casualties directly as a result of the eruptions, but one man trying to flee on a bicycle was knocked down and killed by a truck.
Witnesses said deafening booms rang out and giant cauliflower-shaped clouds of dust, ash and smoke shot up to six miles into the sky, darkening this provincial capital of 120,000 people as well as surrounding towns.
The blasts prompted the Philippine Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to raise the alert level around the volcano to a maximum five, meaning ``a hazardous eruption is in progress.''
Officials said about 23,000 villagers fled their homes as the series of explosions, which began on Saturday night, intensified on Sunday and shook villages as far as 12 km (eight miles) away.
``The rocks coming down are as big as trucks,'' vulcanologist Alex Baloloy said just before the first big blast at noon.
A more powerful blast two hours later showered villages with ash -- so-called black rain -- and sent mothers scurrying out of their homes clutching their babies in their arms.
``Leave, let us all leave,'' one mother cried as the mountain heaved and the ground under her shook.
Residents of the capital Legazpi, 7.5 miles from Mayon's summit, watched with fear and awe as the 8,000-foot-high mountain released its fury.
RIVERS OF FIRE
``I heard what seemed like a huge thunder and I saw dark clouds ... then more boom-boom sounds,'' local journalist Rhaydz Barcia said.
Moments later, fiery rocks and gas thundered down the volcano's slopes at speeds estimated at 60 mph.
Phivolcs chief Raymundo Punongbayan said the ``rivers of fire'' bore temperatures of 900 degrees Centigrade, hot enough to incinerate anything in their path.
The eruption might last one or two weeks, he said.
Army trucks and police cars sped out of Legazpi to threatened villages in a massive evacuation effort. Some villagers fled on carts driven by carabaos (water buffaloes).
In the panic, one woman collapsed with a heart attack while a pregnant mother prematurely gave birth, rescue officials said.
One villager fleeing on a bicycle was killed when a speeding van carrying rescue teams struck him, officials said. Another truck full of evacuees fell into a canal, injuring some of them.
In Daraga town, soldiers rushing to evacuate villagers ran into gunfire from communist rebels, triggering a 10-minute gunbattle. No- one was reported killed.
Priests tolled church bells and village chiefs sounded sirens to rouse sleeping residents and order them to flee.
In Matanag village, reporters saw parents shaking with terror as they hastily packed up their possessions while clusters of children, oblivious of danger, watched fountains of lava shooting up from the crater.
``It's just like Christmas,'' some of the children chanted.
Mayon, located in Albay province, 205 miles southeast of Manila and one of the Philippines' 22 active volcanoes, has a history of 45 violent eruptions since its first recorded blast in 1616. The deadliest occurred in 1814 when it buried a town under mud and rocks and killed 1,200 people.
-- PHO (email@example.com), June 25, 2001.