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Philippines’ Mayon volcano spews lava, residents flee

Sheetal Sukhija - Tuesday 16th January, 2018

MANILA, Philippines - As Philippines’ most active volcano continued to spew red hot lava in the sky overnight, authorities continued to evacuate the region.

As thousands of residents were evacuated from the area, the spectacular lava fireworks drew tourists in hoards to the country’s most active volcano.

Danny Garcia, a spokesman for Albay province said that tourists were flocking the area of the volcano located some 330 kilometers southeast of Manila to watch the spectacle.

Garcia said, "It's a spectacle to watch. It's beauty and fury in one, especially at night. But it's a natural phenomenon so we don't know when an (explosive) eruption will happen.”

On Tuesday, scientists warned of a potential dangerous eruption within days as lava continued to spurt from the Mayon volcano, lighting up the sky.

Scientists said the continuous lava eruptions were a sign of increasing activity that prompted official calls for evacuation of areas under threat from a major eruption.

According to the state volcanology institute, the natural pyrotechnics is described as "short-duration lava fountaining,” which is an escalation from the slow lava flow from the crater on Monday.

Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in a statement, "If lava has enough gas and material, fragments will be flown up into the air, like the fountain you light up on New Year's Eve. There is more force involved when the lava would exit so it's more intense than just the lava oozing out."

Over the past 24 hours, officials said that ash rose two kilometres into the sky and covered all the surrounding areas in a grey carpet as more residents left their homes for safety.

On Tuesday, the provincial government said in a statement that about 30,000 people in and around Legazpi have fled their homes, which was more than double the official count on Monday.

Officials added that local governments are tapping emergency funds and working to ensure clean water supply.

Hotels in the area reported receiving a high number of tourist bookings while people flocked to viewing decks to watch the volcano from a distance.

Philippines sits on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ of islands, that were formed by volcanic activity, and remains perennially under threat from 22 active volcanoes.

In recent years, the most powerful explosion was experienced in the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which is about 100 kilometres northwest of Manila.

The explosion killed over 800 people.

Now, scientists are predicting that it is highly unlikely Mayon would have a similar eruption.

David Rothery, a geosciences professor at The Open University in Britain explained, "It erupts quite often, and volcanoes that erupt frequently tend to have smaller eruptions than those that erupt less frequently.”

On Tuesday, authorities said that the number of families affected by the volcano’s increasing activity has already reached 5,318 or 21,823 persons from 25 barangays in Albay province.

Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the affected families/persons came from the municipalities/cities of Camalig, Guinobatan, Daraga, Malilipot , Ligao City, and Tabaco City in the province of Albay (Region V).

The families are currently staying in 18 designated evacuation centers.

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