MANILA – The Mayon volcano in eastern Philippines erupted again on Tuesday and spewed gases and ash plumes as high as 5,000 meters into the sky, while the number of evacuated people rose to 37,000 given the possibility of stronger eruptions.
Tuesday’s eruption, one of the most powerful since the volcano became active on Jan. 13, took place at 8:54 am and occurred because magma came into contact with underground water, Winchelle Sevilla, an expert at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), told EFE.
Sevilla added that such eruptions might recur over the next few days at a larger or smaller scale, and releasing large quantities of steam and ash into the air.
Mayon, situated about 325 kilometers southeast of Manila in Albay province, became more active on Monday with strong explosions, spurring PHIVOLCS to raise the alert level from three to four – possible hazardous eruption in the next hours or days – on a scale of five.
Stunning images of rivers of lava stretching for kilometers from the crater could be seen; while the volcano also emitted loud rumbles which could be heard even outside the 8 km-danger zone around the crater.
A total of 9,341 families consisting of 37,268 individuals living in the danger zone have been evacuated and most of them have taken refuge in around 30 shelters in the area, according to information provided to EFE by the Albay Public Safety Office.
Mayon’s activity has led to fears of a repeat of the tragic Mount Pinatubo (northwest of Manila) eruption in June 1991, considered the world’s second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
That disaster left around 850 people dead and displaced some 1.3 million, apart from emitting a layer of sulphuric acid haze that spread around the globe and damage the atmosphere.
PHIVOLCS has sought to allay those fears, saying the potential eruption of the Mount Mayon volcano would not be as severe as that of Pinatubo.
The Philippines, which currently has 23 active volcanoes, is situated on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an area known for its intense seismic activity which extends from the west coast of the American continent to New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia.