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 Philippine volcano 'building up to major eruption'

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Join date : 2009-10-04
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PostSubject: Philippine volcano 'building up to major eruption'   Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:00 am

LEGASPI, Philippines (AFP) - – The Philippine government warned Sunday that Mayon volcano could erupt violently within days following a week of spectacular flows of lava and increasing volcanic quakes.

Government volcanologists raised the alert level around Mayon to level four, meaning there could be an eruption in a matter of days.

"We raised it to level four this afternoon because there was a sudden acceleration in the activity of the volcano," said July Sabit, head of the volcano monitoring team.

Local civil defence head Raffy Alejandro said that the military and police had evacuated more than 8,600 of the 9,000 or so families living within an eight-kilometre (five-mile) danger zone declared around Mayon.

The military and police will now tighten the controls over the danger zone and ensure that no one is left there or allowed to enter, said Joey Salceda, governor of Albay province, where Mayon is located.

The officials warned that they would take forceful measures to remove villagers who did not want to leave their farms.

"We try to do the persuasive thing but if (it) gets bad, the governor has instructions to forcibly evacuate them," Alejandro added.

Despite the warnings, many villagers are reluctant to leave and may sneak back to their farms to harvest their produce or protect their livestock.

Sabit said the alert level around Mayon was raised after the number of volcanic quakes increased to 463 from 8:00 am (0000 GMT) Sunday compared with about 245 for the whole of Saturday.

The volcano was also belching more sulphur dioxide into the air and rumbling sounds were detected inside, the volcanologists said.

The government has already evacuated more than 8,600 of the 9,000 or so families living within an eight-kilometre (five mile) danger zone set up around Mayon, civil defence officials said.

Chief government volcanologist Renato Solidum told reporters that "what we are preparing for is a hazardous eruption and a quick descent of pyroclastic ashflow."

He said the ashflow would remain within six kilometres of the 2,460 metre (8,070 feet) volcano.

"But naturally, we have a buffer zone," just to make sure, he said.

Mayon could remain silent after an initial eruption before erupting yet again, said the volcanologists.

Although ash from the volcano was unlikely to threaten residents directly, there was a risk it could turn into a deadly mudflow, as happened in 2006, when hundreds of people were swept away, the officials said.

While no one was directly killed by that eruption, tons of debris that had collected on Mayon's slopes were dislodged by a typhoon three months later. The avalanche of mud and boulders crushed entire villages, leaving over 1,000 dead.

Mayon, renowned for its near-perfect cone, has erupted 48 times in recorded history. In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed as lava buried the town of Cagsawa.

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