PHIVOLCS confirms lahar near Mayon amid heavy rains

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) confirmed it spotted lahar or volcanic mudflows in Mi-isi and Budiao channel traversing two towns in Albay.

"'Yung Mi-isi channel, 'yun 'yung pinakamaraming pyroclastic density channel o pyroclastic flow na deposito since the beginning of the eruption. So doon kami talaga nage-expect na magkaka-lahar ng most significant," PHIVOLCS Executive Director Renato Solidum said in a press briefing, Sunday.

[Translation: Mi-isi channel has the most pyroclastic density channel or pyroclastic flow since the start of the eruption. That's where we expect the most significant amount of lahar.]

Mi-isi-Budiao channel straddles the borders of Daraga and Camalig, areas closes to the volcano.

The PHIVOLCS earlier warned residents of lahar as heavy rains started to hit the province.

On Saturday, the PHIVOLCS said the volume of pyroclastic density current material was around 9 million cubic meters, excluding unverified deposits.

Four recorded eruptions on Sunday

Meanwhile, Mayon has spewed roughly 1.5 million cubic meters of ashfall in the western section of the volcano.

"These deposits can be remobilized by rainwater and generate lahars by themselves and/or by incorporating existing erodible material on channel banks," the PHIVOLCS said in a Saturday advisory.

There have been four eruptions since midnight – at 12:45 a.m., 5:36 a.m., 10:33 a.m., and 3:25 p.m.

The strongest one was recorded at 12:45 a.m. where lava shot up to 400 meters.

The longest one – lasting more than an hour – happened at 5:36 a.m.

Intervals between eruptions are now up to five to six hours and Solidum said this affects the strength of eruptions.

"Ang eruptions ng Mayon pag humahaba ang pagitan, ibig sabihin wala pang masyadong pressure ang magma sa taas, kung mataas ang pressure pwede na naman siyang lumalabas at sumabog," he said.

[Translation: When the intervals between Mayon's eruptions become longer, this means there is not much pressure from magma above, if the pressure is high, it may erupt and come out.]

Solidum added longer intervals between eruptions could result in more gas collecting and could lead to a stronger eruption.

As of Sunday morning, 21,000 families or 81,200 individuals have sought shelter in evacuation centers due to the activities of the volcano.

However, authorities said it is unclear when they can return to their homes as Mayon remains unpredictable.

The volcano is currently under alert level 4, which warns of an imminent hazardous eruption.

Mayon had its first phreatic eruption on January 13.

Kanlaon, Bulusan

The PHIVOLCS on Sunday also said five volcanic earthquakes recorded in Kanlaon Volcano in Negros during the past 24 hours.

"Moderate emission of white steam-laden plumes that rose 500 meters from the summit before drifting southwest was observed during times when the crater is visible," PHIVOLCS said in an advisory on Sunday.

Kanlaon is currently under alert level 2, which means the volcano is experiencing a moderate level of unrest.

Meanwhile, Bulusan in Sorsogon – more than 100 kilometers of southeast of Mayon – is under alert level 1 or abnormal. It means the volcano is under "a state of unrest probably driven by hydrothermal processes that could generate steam-driven or phreatic eruptions."

Solidum, however, said these activities are not connected with Mayon as the PHIVOLCS has always been monitoring the most active volcanoes in the country.

CNN Philippines correspondent Makoi Popioco, and digital producer Yvette Morales contributed to this report.