Mayon Volcano erupts, spewing lava; Philippines on high alert, thousands evacuated

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Around 12,600 people evacuate as Mayon Volcano gently spews lava down its slopes, following increased volcanic activity in the Philippines.

On Sunday, June 11, Mayon Volcano in the northeastern Philippines emitted red-hot emissions, flowing down its slope, as observed from Legaspi, Albay province. (Photo: AP)

Mayon Volcano, the Philippines’ most active volcano, exhibited a gentle lava flow down its slopes on Monday, raising concerns of a potential violent and life-threatening explosion. As a result, over 12,600 individuals residing within a 6-kilometer radius of the volcano’s crater have been evacuated since volcanic activity escalated last week.

However, there are still thousands of people remaining in the permanent danger zone below Mayon, an area officially off-limits but inhabited by generations of farmers with no alternative places to live. Teresito Bacolcol, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, warned that the high-risk zone could be expanded if the eruption becomes more severe, urging residents to be prepared for evacuation to emergency shelters.

The current eruption is characterized as an effusive eruption, and the situation is being closely monitored on a daily basis. Associated Press journalists observed the lava flow from a distance, while locals in Legazpi, a coastal district approximately 14 kilometers away from Mayon, hurriedly captured pictures of the volcano, which has long been a popular tourist attraction due to its picturesque conical shape.

Albay province in the Philippines declared a state of emergency on Friday to expedite the distribution of disaster relief funds in the event of a major eruption from Mayon Volcano. The volcano was raised to alert level three, indicating high unrest and the possibility of a hazardous eruption in weeks or days.

Although the lava flow remained gentle, the alert level could be raised further if the eruption becomes more dangerous. Level five, the highest alert, would signify a violent and life-threatening eruption with ash plumes and pyroclastic streams posing a greater threat to nearby communities.

Mayon Volcano is one of the country’s 24 active volcanoes and has a history of periodic eruptions. Despite the risks, many residents in Albay have come to accept the volcano’s sporadic activity as a part of their lives.

The abundance of natural resources, including gravel, sand, and ornamental rocks, surrounding Mayon Volcano has led to the growth of a tourism industry, making some locals wealthy.

However, within the permanent danger zone, authorities and villagers have taken steps to ensure the safety of not only the people but also their farm animals. Cows and water buffaloes were relocated to temporary grazing areas at a safe distance from the volcano.

The evacuation of livestock highlights the comprehensive approach taken to mitigate the potential economic impact of a volcanic eruption. The Philippines faces a range of natural disasters, including frequent typhoons and tropical storms, as well as being situated within the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” known for earthquakes and volcanic activity. The catastrophic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 serves as a stark reminder of the country’s vulnerability to such events.

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Toshika Chauhan

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