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Phivolcs warns of deadly lahar flow near Mayon Featured

28 January 2018, 12:13 | Bernice Figueroa

ALBAY. Mayon usually hides itself behind the veil of clouds

ALBAY. The surviving walls of the convent at Cagsawa Ruins

Millions of tonnes of ash and rocks from an erupting Philippine volcano are threatening to bury surrounding communities due to heavy rain, authorities warned January 27.

"We still have a significant amount within the volcano as it is still inflated", Solidum told reporters in Legazpi city, Albay's capital, where life went on normally within sight of the cloud-shrouded volcano.

"It's really a unsafe combination for the communities", she said.

"When Mayon has an eruption during heavy rains, lava will flow down all the way to Yawa River", he said.

"These deposits can be remobilized by rainwater and generate lahars by themselves and or by incorporating existing erodible material on channel banks", Phivolcs said.

It also estimated ashfall volume on Mayon's western sector at 1.5 million cubic meters.

The volcano has led to the evacuation of at least 81,000 people so far, as an eruption seems imminent.

For almost two weeks, Mayon — famous for its near-perfect cone shape — has increasingly been gushing red-hot lava fountains, belching huge columns of ash and molten rocks into the sky and plunging outlying villages and cities in darkness due to the falling ash.

"We're gearing up for three months of emergency", Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the disaster agency said.

Mayon's unrest has displaced about 75,500 people, the majority of whom are in evacuation centres, where children line up for meals and parents brace for the possibility of a long stay away from home.

Food and other supplies remain adequate but concerns are growing over health and hygiene conditions at all the 69 temporary shelters away from the danger zone.

Solidum said the possible explosion could be as powerful as Mayon's major eruptions during the past 50 years, including one in 2000 in which it blew ash 11 miles into the sky.

"We remain on red alert", Marasigan told a media briefing, adding that 69,672 evacuees were housed in schools while almost 12,000 took shelter in tents or went to relatives in more secure locations.

Thick grayish and sulfur-smelling gushing water force thousands of local residents near the gullies and river systems to self-evacuate for fear of being buried by lahar and crushed with boulders cascading from the Mayon Volcano.

Yesterday, three sporadic spurts of lava lasting up to 40 minutes each were recorded at Mayon volcano. "The province is doing everything to close the gaps for these toilet facilities", said Nestor Santiago, assistant secretary at the Health Ministry.

"The lava fountains reached 150 meters to 500 meters high and generated ash plumes that reached 500 meters to three kilometers above the crater", the Phivolcs said in its latest advisory.

But despite continued warnings, some residents have refused to leave their homes behind.

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