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Mayon Volcano threatens to erupt

Photo from National Geographic

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines — Volcanologists are saying that an explosive eruption is highly possible even as Mayon Volcano’s activity has quieted compared to previous days. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOCS) experts say the lull does not mean an eruption won’t take place, but that there may ultimately be a stronger explosion, as magma accumulates.

“We still can’t discount the possibility that the volcano will have an explosive eruption. But there is also a scenario wherein our current observations, of mild activities, can persist until the eruption eventually tapers off,” said Julio Sabit of PHILVOCS.

Legazpi City in Albay is still subject to an Alert Level 4, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent.

Mayon belched out seven ash explosions on December 28 that rose to a maximum height of about 2 kilometres above the summit. Visible ash explosions occurred at intervals of 30 minutes, which were signs of increasing unrest, according to a PHILVOCS media update. The seismic network detected 44 volcanic earthquakes, while the sulfur dioxide emission rate increased to 4,329 tons from the previous 2,304 tons.

Soldiers continue to conduct house searches, to ensure residents are not in the danger zone.

In a further security precaution, soldiers and policemen have been ordered to stop foreigners from getting close to the volcano after two tourists ventured inside the designated danger zone.

And as the country prepared to greet the New Year, Albay government officials ordered the enforcement of a ban on the use and sale of firecrackers to avoid the risk of any evacuation centre being burnt as the citizens welcome 2010.

The Philippine government received complaints received that foreign tourists and journalists had become a problem themselves for ignoring warnings not to enter areas within eight kilometres from the volcanic crater.

Nearly 50,000 villagers have been evacuated from the danger areas. Evacuees, who spent Christmas in crowded shelters, are now also spending New Year’s away from their homes.

The 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) volcano known for its perfect cone has erupted nearly 40 times over 400 years, sending people packing for months at a time. But never has it happened during the Christmas season. The volcano is reported to be the most active among the country’s 22 active volcanoes. It has erupted about 50 times since 1616. Its worst eruption buried Cagsawa town and killed over a thousand people in 1814. Almost 80 farmers and their families perished when it erupted in 1993.

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