Philippines says major volcano eruption within days

09:08, December 21, 2009      

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The most active volcano in the Philippines is expected to have a "hazardous explosive eruption" within days, a government-run institute said Sunday, raising the public alert level and recommending the cordoned-off zone to be extended to eight km.

Philippine evacuees watch television inside a public school in Gogon of the Albay province, the Philippines, on Dec. 20, 2009. The possibility of hazardous volcanic eruption is high, the government warned as it called for the evacuation of residents living near the foot of the restive Mayon Volcano. Relief officials said more than 40,000 people have already moved to 25 evacuation centers in eight municipalities around Mayon. (Xinhua/Jon Fabrigar)

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert status of Mayon volcano, which is located in eastern Albay province or about 360 km southeast of Manila, to one step below the major eruption level after a series of increased volcanic activities were recorded over the past week.

Phivolcs volcanologist Julio Sabit, who heads the local monitoring team, told local television network GMA News that his team had tracked at least 463 quakes from 05:00 a.m. to 02:00 p.m. on Sunday and rumbling sounds could be heard in a nearby village.

Ed Laguerta, another volcanologist, said there are two scenarios of Mayon's future development -- it would continue to ooze lava and ashes in a gradual and relatively quite way or it might violently erupt.

A Philippine evacuee rests inside a public school in Gogon of the Albay province, the Philippines, on Dec. 20, 2009. (Xinhua/Jon Fabrigar)

More than 40,000 residents were evacuated to 25 temporary shelters but local officials said some of them sneaked back into the cordoned-off zone to look after their belongings and attend to the crops in the fields at this harvest season, prompting Governor Joey Salceda to impose a curfew to effectively ban any entry into the "dangerous zone" in a radius of eight km around the volcano.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had directed government agencies to work closely with Albay government and she is also going to monitor the Mayon development during her family vacation from Dec. 20 to Dec. 23 in Hong Kong. Arroyo has just returned from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Raffy Alejandro, a regional disaster relief official, said the government is still trying to evacuate the rest of the residents from the dangerous zone.

"We are targeting less than a thousand (families) more, these includes those in the eight-km (area)," he said.

The Mayon volcano has begun to spew lava and ashes since Dec. 14. Orange crater glow has been observed for days.

A Philippine evacuee rests inside a public school in Gogon of the Albay province, the Philippines, on Dec. 20, 2009. (Xinhua/Jon Fabrigar)

Volcanologists said the advancing lava flow now has reached approximately 4.5 km down the slope from the crater and over the last 24 hours, sulfur dioxide emission increased more than double to 7,024 tons per day.

The perfect cone-shaped volcano, a tourist spot, has erupted 48times. The deadliest one occurred in 1814 when more than 1,200 people were killed. However, there was no casualty in its latest eruption in 2006. Governor Salceda said he expects the economic loss to reach 500 million pesos (10.75 million U.S. dollars) in the worst eruption scenario.

Source: Xinhua
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