LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — Volcanic activity is building up inside Mount Mayon and an explosive eruption is expected within two weeks, a government volcanologist warned Sunday.
The warning came as civil defense officials tried to convince the last residents still living within the volcano’s shadow to evacuate their homes.
“Up to now, the activity continues to increase. Most probably if this would further accelerate, an explosive eruption would occur within two weeks,” said July Sabit, part of the government team monitoring the mountain.
He said at least 222 volcanic quakes were detected from Saturday morning to Sunday morning compared to 197 quakes in the previous 24-hour period.
Sabit told AFP that an explosion could be expected sometime around January 1, adding that it would likely shoot a column of ash about 10 kilometers (six miles) into the sky.
He said that although the ash was unlikely to be of direct danger to residents, there was the risk it could turn into a deadly mudflow, as happened during the last eruption in 2006, when hundreds of people were swept away.
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.
Local civil defense head Raffy Alejandro said that the military and police had already evacuated more than 8,000 of the 9,000 or so families living within an eight-kilometer (five mile) danger zone set up around Mayon.
“Those left behind are in the edges of the eight-kilometer zone. We are still convincing them to pull out,” he said.
“We try to do the persuasive thing but if (it) gets bad, the governor has instructions to forcibly evacuate them,” he added.
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. — AFP