Authorities warn of Mayon eruption as lava flow spotted

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Story updated to include 8 p.m. PHIVOLCS update.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — Authorities warn of a possible eruption "within weeks or days" as volcanic activity at Mayon Volcano intensifies.

The Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said at 8 p.m. Saturday that it is raising Alert Level 3 over the volcano, meaning that there is an "increased tendency toward eruption."

"Mayon's summit crater is now exhibiting bright crater glow that signifies the growth of a new lava dome and beginnings of a lava flow towards the southern slopes," PHIVOLCS said. "Mayon is exhibiting relatively high unrest and that a hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or days."

The agency also recommended extending the 6-kilometer-radius of the Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) to include a 7-kilometer-radius Extended Danger Zone to the south of the volcano due to the dangers of rockfall, landslides and hazardous volcanic flows.

Thousands evacuated

Around 3,000 people evacuated on Sunday as Mayon Volcano continued spewing ash.

The Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said phreatic or steam-driven eruptions occurred at 8:49 a.m. and another at 11:43 a.m.

Ash fall was experienced in Camalig, Albay after the last steam-driven eruption, PHIVOLCS said.

The first stream-driven eruption of the volcano was at 4:21 p.m. Saturday and lasted for an hour and 47 minutes.

"Since the eruption, rockfall events have been intermittently recorded and are continuing as of the time of the release of this bulletin. Faint crater glow has been first observed at 10:16 p.m.," PHIVOLCS earlier said.

PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum said past eruptions of the volcano have been preceded by similar activities.

"Sometimes this eruption activity need not really result to very explosive eruptions. Sometimes it would result to non-explosive eruption where lava would ooze out of the crater, but not explode," Solidum explained.

He said the agency is monitoring the volcanic activity, and will evaluate if this will lead to a hazardous explosive eruption.

PHIVOLCS raised alert level 2 over Mayon Volcano early Sunday, meaning there is increasing unrest, after the volcano spewed ash on Saturday afternoon.

"This means that current unrest is probably of magmatic origin, which could lead to more phreatic eruptions or eventually hazardous magmatic eruptions," PHIVOLCS said in a 12:30 a.m. bulletin on Sunday.

PHIVOLCS Volcanologist Ed Laguerta told CNN Philippines on Sunday night the agency will send two teams to Albay to check the intensity of the volcano's activity.

Over 900 families seeking shelter

Provincial disaster officials in Albay ordered the immediate evacuation of residents in 16 barangays at the foot of the volcano.

As of Sunday morning, 919 families have sought shelter at four public schools in Camalig and Guinobatan, Albay, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Coordinating Council (NDRRMC).

NDRRMC Spokesperson Romina Marasigan said it was easy to ask the residents to evacuate.

"Meron na kasi silang contingency plan sa Mayon. So nagkaroon na rin sa Albay ng drills ng mga ganyan kaya meron silang tinatawag na kapag may ganitong activity si Mayon mandatory, hindi yung kailangan pa yung, yung forced," Marasigan said.

(Translation: They already have a contingency plan for Mayon. Albay has conducted drills in case Mayon becomes active. There's no need for forced evacuation, it is mandatory.)

PHIVOLCS further said the public should refrain from entering the 6-kilometer radius of the Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) to minimize risks from sudden explosions, rockfall, and landslides.

Solidum also warned of the dangers of ash fall to people and road safety.

"One, if fine ash would be inhaled by people, then this would get lodged in their lungs and you would have problems. Second, ashes on the roads would render the roads slippery, so this need to be swept away or hosed down with water so vehicles will not slide," Solidum said.

PHIVOLCS said ash fall events would most likely affect communities on the western and southwestern side of Mayon's crater due to the wind pattern.

"People should cover their nose and mouth with damp, clean cloth or dust mask," PHIVOLCS said.

The agency also asked civil aviation authorities to advise pilots from flying close to the volcano's summit.

"Volcanic ash is also dangerous to airplanes as the ash might get melted inside the very hot jet engines, and this would stall the engines of airplanes passing over areas where ash is being experienced," the PHIVOLCS director explained.

READ: Mayon Volcano spews ash, residents told to exercise caution

PHIVOLCS said traces of ash fell on Barangay Anoling in Daraga, Barangays Sua, Quirangay, Tumpa, Ilawod, Salugan of Camalig, and Barangays Tandarora, Maninila, and Travesia in Guinobatan on January 13.

Residents of Camalig town proper smelled sulfur on Saturday, while those from Anoling, Daraga heard rumbling sounds, PHIVOLCS added.