State of calamity in Albay

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed two resolutions Thursday declaring the province under a state of calamity and imposing a 24-hour curfew in the 6-8 km. extended danger-zone. The danger zone extends from the crater of Mayon Volcano and encompasses Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao Cities and the towns of Sto. Domingo, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, and Malinao.

Lava continued to flow from the tip of the volcano and volcanologists warned the threat of a major eruption remains because of two lava domes that could seal the crater and cause a major exlosion.

Board-member Neil Montallana, who sponsored the resolutions, said Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda had asked the provincial board to pass the declaration so local government units and the provincial government can use their calamity funds.

With the pre-emptive evacuation in Albay, 7,000 families or about 33,600 persons are now billeted in 22 schools in the nine cities and towns within the volcano’s radius.

According to Montallana, the state of calamity declaration to be signed by the governor will cover 15 towns and three cities.

PNP mobile group and army units are enforcing the curfew in the danger zone.

Salceda said the provincial government is aiming for “zero casualty”.

“We do not want a repeat of the incident in 1993 where about 77 vegetable-farmers in the up-slopes of barangays Bunga and Mabinit in Legazpi perished during a sudden pyroclastic explosion from the volcano’s crater,” Salceda said.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology chief Renato Solidum said Mayon, the most active of the country’s 22 volcanoes, continued to rumble with 82 quakes and eight ash explosions during a 24-hour period ending Thursday morning.

He said sulfur dioxide gas, which the volcano emits during unrest, rose to 2,758 tons from 750 tons during the previous 24-hour period.

Lava continued to trickle down the slope of the 8,070-foot mountain Thursday, and two lava domes have formed from rising magma inside the crater, Solidum said. Such domes are formed by piles of lava that have not cascaded down the slopes or been burst by pressure.

Solidum said the domes could grow bigger and plug the crater.

“It can block the passage of gas. So then if the gas is pressurized, then it can explode,” he said.

The current activity of the volcano is similar to the initial phases of previous eruptions in 2000, 2001 and 2006, he said.

He said there was a high danger that cascading lava could trigger a pyroclastic flow – superheated gas and volcanic debris racing down the slopes at very high speed, vaporizing everything in its path.