SORSOGON CITY, Philippines – Active volcanoes happen to be among the most popular hiking destinations in the Philippines.
It’s no wonder then that many casualties from small eruptions are mountaineers. When is it safe to scale volcanoes? Pia Ranada poses the question to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Director Renato Solidum Jr.
Active volcanoes are objects of intimidating beauty.
The danger tends to keep everyone at a distance.
Well, almost everyone.
Mountaineers can’t resist this unique landscape.
It’s no wonder some of the most active volcanoes in the country are popular hiking destinations.
But when the volcano acts up, mountaineers are on rocky ground.
When Mayon erupted in 2013, five mountaineers died.
At the time, no alert level had been raised.
So how can mountaineers keep safe?
RENATO SOLIDUM JR, DIRECTOR, PHIVOLCS: Those who go to the top of the volcano must be aware of the restrictions and the alert level. So if we say alert level 1 then that means really it’s dangerous to go to the top of the volcano.
But mountaineers are not in the clear even at Alert Level 0.
RENATO SOLIDUM JR, DIRECTOR, PHIVOLCS: People must understand that when they go to the crater, they’re putting their lives at risk…If it’s alert level 0, there’s still a chance they can be affected.
Phreatic or steam-driven eruptions can happen even at Alert Level 0.
These eruptions spew ash, rock fragments and steam.
It’s local governments that determine if mountaineers can climb volcanoes in their jurisdiction.
But Solidum recommends some safety measures.
RENATO SOLIDUM JR, DIRECTOR, PHIVOLCS: I’ve suggested to have hard hats to be used by people. If it’s just simply ash, the danger is you can be suffocated by the ash, you can still die. But if it’s fragments being thrown out by the volcano it would be good to have hard hats. Or make sure when suddenly there’s an explosion, they know how to protect themselves, where to position.
In the end, astounding views are best enjoyed while keeping safe.
Pia Ranada, Rappler, Sorsogon City. – Rappler.com