MANILA – Volcano Mayon, located in eastern Philippines and active over the last 10 days, spewed fresh lava and ash in two new eruptions on Wednesday while the number of evacuees exceeded 60,000 in the face of the threat of an even more potent explosion.
Mayon, located in Albay about 325 kilometers southeast of Manila, erupted first at 6:02 am expelling rivers of lava along with a column of gas and ash three kilometers high.
This eruption, four hours later, was followed by a second one of similar magnitude accompanied by strong thunder, explained Winchelle Sevilla of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) to EFE, warning of the risk of more powerful eruptions in the coming days.
Following the frequency of eruptions increasing since Monday, authorities raised the alert level from three to four and extended the exclusion zone to a radius of eight kilometers from the crater.
A total of 60,821 people (16,326 families) who resided in the danger zone have been evacuated and relocated to 30 shelters in the region, according to data provided to EFE by Albay’s Office of Civil Defense.
“We have asked the evacuees not to return to the danger zone under any circumstances,” said Sevilla.
He further added that the rivers of lava emanating from the crater are more than three kilometers long and pyroclastic flows – currents of hot gas and volcanic rocks – have swept as far as 5 kilometers from the crater.
Mayon, which has erupted five times in the last three decades, has stoked fears of a repeat of the tragic explosion of Mount Pinatubo – northwest of Manila – in 1991, the world’s second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century that left about 850 dead and displaced more than 1.3 million people.
However, PHIVOLCS experts have ruled out an eruption of the magnitude of Pinatubo.
With 23 active volcanoes, the Philippine archipelago sits on an area of intense seismic activity within the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which extends from the west coast of the American continent to New Zealand through Japan and Indonesia, among other countries.