Bulusan erupts blankets Sorsogon with ash

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — BULUSAN Volcano spewed ash early yesterday, blanketing fields and villages as far as 5 kilometers away, but there was no immediate sign of a major eruption, scientists said.

The 1,560-meter volcano in Sorsogon province has been showing signs of unrest with on-and-off ash and steam explosions since March 2006.

“We are keeping an eye on some villages in Juban and Irosin town. An ash explosion can occur there anytime,” said Bella Tubianosa from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

She said the latest burst sent ash falling 5 km west of the volcano, which is about 390 km southeast of Manila.

Television reports said the ash column caused panic in the surrounding area, with residents running out of their homes.

Villagers have been warned not to venture into a 4-km “permanent-danger zone” around the volcano. ABS-CBN said the military was expected to enforce an evacuation of people from Bulusan’s immediate vicinity.

Since it last ejected ash on May 12, the mountain’s northeastern slope has swelled slightly and abnormally high numbers of earthquakes have been recorded, according to the volcanology institute.

The Philippines lies on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common.

In December, typhoon-triggered mudslides along the slopes of nearby Mayon Volcano buried entire villages, killing more than 1,000 people.

Meanwhile, a legislator yesterday called for an increase in the budget of the volcanology institute and the weather bureau so these could have the latest technology and become more efficient at predicting volcanic explosions and tracking typhoons.

“Our people at [the volcanology institute] and the [Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration] are making do with the limited equipment that they have right now,” Senator Francis Escudero said in a statement.

“If we can boost their budgets to avail of the latest equipment, we could avert greater danger to people and property,” he said.