Mayon lava flow advances 3 kilometers, endangering farmers in 'no man's land'

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – The lava and pyroclastic flow from the restive Mayon volcano has moved 3 kilometers from the crater, halfway to a “no man’s land” area where a handful of farmers till the land for vegetable farming and livelihood.

A number of vegetable farmers continuously return to this no man's land area to harvest crops due to the fertile soil there, despite the strict prohibition of officials from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). 

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said the lava flow associated with pyroclastic materials has run 3 kilometers from the crater since the volcano's eruption.

Solidum told local government and disaster officials to strictly impose the “no human activity” order within a 6-kilometer permanent danger zone to prevent a repeat of the phreatic explosion that killed 77 farmers on February 2, 1993 .

Solidum said Mayon is showing two patterns of eruption: partly like the 2006 and 2009 quiet episodes as well as partly like the 1984 and 1968 eruptions, where lava ejection occurred before any major explosion.

The old lava dome collapsed but a new lava dome developed, according to Solidum.

“Mayon's quiet eruption may last for 3 months or so depending on the activity of the volcano,” Solidum said.

Phivolcs Bicol region chief Ed Laguerta said Mayon's volcanic material may collapse any part of the volcano due to its conical shape.

Monitoring tool thievery

Last month, the monitoring tools and equipment of Phivolcs which were installed in Barangay Lidong in Sto Domingo town were found missing while workers were doing maintenance field work in the Mayon remote monitoring stations.

Laguerta said the unidentified thieves stole the solar panel and the two heavy duty maintenance-free deep cycle batteries. The stolen gadgets affected the monitoring of seismic activities.

“Mayon volcano is different from Mount Bulusan and Pinatubo. We’re monitoring closely the activities of Mayon but unfortunately our gadgets around in Sto Domingo were stolen. We’re like a neurologist. If you remove the instruments we can’t see and read any diagnosis,” Laguerta lamented.

Laguerta appealed to the public not to steal the gadgets as this could affect the accuracy of Phivolcs' monitoring of the volcano. This can endanger many residents residing near the foot of Mayon.

He also asked the local government units to look into the gadgets put up around Mayon to prevent a repeat of such incident.

Phivolcs' Solidum lamented it was only in Albay province that the vital instruments put up around Mayon volcano were lost to thieves.

Evacuations

The number of evacuees has reached nearly 40,000, but due to decampment imposed by the city government of Legazpi, the number of evacuees decreased to 6,973 families or 26,971 individuals.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal decamped the 2,610 families or 11,522 persons previously evacuated for pre-emptive measures. They will be reevacuated once alert level 4 is hoisted by Phivolcs.

Legazpi City is the only area in Albay without constituents within the 6 to 7-kilometer permanent danger zone (6 to 7 PDZ).

The families living in the 6 to 7 PDZ were previously relocated to Barangay Taysan.

Currently, the local government units affected by Mayon volcano's eruption are financially hard up.

Albay governor Al Francis Bichara asked Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque Jr during the regular weekly Malacañang Press briefing at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay session hall on Thursday, January 18, to bring to President Rodrigo Duterte their immediate concerns about a budget that would support the 30,000 evacuees displaced by Mayon.

Roque visited Albay on Thursday on account of this.

Volcanic unrest

Falling rocks were caused by the collapsing lava front, the advancing lava flow on the Miisi Gully, and shedding from the summit dome onto Bonga Gully.

Alert Level 3 remains in effect, which means it is currently in a relatively high level of unrest. Magma is at the crater and a hazardous eruption is possible a number of days or weeks.

The public is strongly advised to be vigilant and to desist from entering the 6-kilometer PDZ and the 7-kilometer Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southern flank due to danger from falling rocks, landslides, sudden explosions or collapse of the dome that could generate a hazardous volcanic flow.

Increased vigilance against pyroclastic density currents, lahars, and sediment-laden streamflows along channels draining the edifice is also advised. – Rappler.com