Thousands in the Philippines have evacuated areas near Mayon Volcano, with this number expected to rise if the threat of eruptions increases. The status for the Mayon area has been raised to level three.
More than 4,000 people in the Philippines have fled their homes near Mayon Volcano, 330 kilometers (205 miles) south of Manila, as it spewed ash and steam for the second day straight on Sunday.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), at least two steam eruptions were recorded before noon (local time) on Sunday. By evening, the institute had raised the alert level at the mountain to three.
“This means that Mayon is exhibiting relatively high unrest and that magma is at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or even days,” Phivolcs said.
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The organization said it had been expecting an eruption since the volcano began acting abnormally last year. It urged residents to stay away from a 7-kilometer danger zone around Mayon’s crater.
Mayon Volcano is the most active in the Philippines. Its deadliest eruption came in 1814, when 1,200 people were killed and a town was buried in volcanic mud. Another eruption in 1993 killed 79 people. Its last deadly eruption came in May 2013, when it killed five hikers and injured seven others.
Sunday’s eruption “propelled a greyish steam and ash plume approximately 2,500 meters high,” Philvolcs said.
Romina Marasigan, a spokeswoman for the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and management Council, said the displaced residents have taken shelter in schools turned into evacuation centers. “The number of displaced residents could still go up if the threat of more phreatic eruptions increase,” she added.
Volcano raised to level two
Early Sunday, Philvocs raised the alert status of the area around Mayon to level two, “meaning the current unrest is probably of magmatic origin, which could lead to more phreatic eruptions or eventually to hazardous magmatic eruptions.”
It was later raised to level three, which means the situation is considered “critical.” Level four indicates an eruption is imminent, while level five signals that an eruption is underway.
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A phreatic eruption is a steam eruption that occurs when groundwater is heated by magma. The extremely high temperature of the magma causes almost instantaneous evaporation of water to steam, which results in an explosion of steam, water, ash, rock and volcanic bombs.
The 2,472-meter (8110-feet) volcano has erupted about 50 times since 1616.
law,nm/jlw (AFP, dpa)