Mayon spews ash; 5 dead, 7 hurt

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(UPDATE) Five mountain climbers die after a phreatic explosion at the Mayon Volcano; All activities within 6-km permanent danger zone suspended

Photo courtesy of Albay Gov Joey Salceda, via his Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (11th UPDATE) – Five people are confirmed dead after the Mayon Volcano spewed rocks and steam in a phreatic explosion Tuesday, May 6.

“Mayon Volcano at 8:00:25 AM today, produced a small phreatic event that lasted about 73 seconds,” the Phivolcs said in its official advisory.

A phreatic explosion is caused by the heating of water by the magma underneath the volcano’s crater, sending steam, water, and volcanic material out.

“The gray to brown clouds reached 500 meters above the summit and drifted west southwest. No volcanic earthquake was detected within the past 24-hour observation period,” Phivolcs said.

The agency said levels of seismic and gas emissions from the volcano are still very low, which does not indicate any heightened activity.

The alert level for the volcano is still at zero, which means “no eruption is imminent.” “However, small phreatic explosions including small steam and ash ejections may occur suddenly with little or no warning,” the agency warned.

Solidum also told dzBB that they will continue monitoring Mayon to see if they need to raise the volcano’s alert level.

“It is strongly advised that the public refrain from entering the 6-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) due to the threat of sudden steam-driven eruptions and rock falls from the upper and middle slopes of the volcano,” Phivolcs added.

Casualties

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 5 mountain climbers died after being hit by rocks cascading down the slopes of the volcano. 

Four of the casualties were Germans, while the fifth was their Filipino tour guide, Jerome Berin. At least 7 climbers were also injured. A total of 27 hikers were on the volcano when it happened.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said on the ABS-CBN News Channel that they have yet to confirm the identities of the other deceased climbers, as the bodies still have to be brought down from the volcano. 

There have been three groups of mountain climbers going up the volcano when the event happened, Eduardo del Rosario NDRRMC Executive Director, said on ANC.

The Albay provincial government has organized a rescue mission for the mountaineers still on the slopes of Mayon. The governor later issued a ban on all activities within the Permanent Danger Zone, including farming and mountain climbing.

Caught by suprise

Residents in towns around the picturesque volcano famous for its near-perfect cone said they were surprised by the sudden activity, which came as many were having breakfast.

“It was so sudden that many of us panicked,” Jun Marana, a 46-year-old bus driver and father of two, told AFP by telephone.

“When we stepped out we saw this huge column against the blue sky.”

Marana said the ash column was dispersed by winds after about an hour, but said he was not taking his chances and was prepared to leave his home anytime.

Mayon, about 330 kilometres (200 miles) southeast of Manila, has erupted 48 times in recorded history.

In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed when lava flows buried the town of Cagsawa.

In December 2009 tens of thousands of villagers were displaced when Mayon spewed ash and lava.

The volcano also erupted in August 2006. There were no direct deaths caused by the explosion, but the following December a passing typhoon unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud from its slopes that killed 1,000 people. – Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse

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