Deadly mudflows threaten residents near Mayon volcano

mayon volcano photo
Photo by denvie balidoy

by Ayee Macaraig

Millions of tonnes of ash and rock from an erupting Philippine volcano could bury nearby communities due to heavy rain, authorities said Saturday, as tens of thousands flee over fears of a deadly explosion.

The official Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) issued the warning as heavy rains lashed the area surrounding the Mayon volcano, which has been emitting flaming lava and giant clouds of superheated ash for the past week.

Rainwater could combine with the volcanic ash and rock to form deadly, fast-moving mudflows — called “lahars” — that could sweep away entire settlements, it said.

“The important thing is to move out in case of heavy rains… this is a precautionary measure,” Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told AFP.

The institute earlier said that 25 million cubic metres (about 883 million cubic feet) of ash and other volcanic material had recently been emitted by Mayon, settling on its slopes and elsewhere nearby.

It warned that this could result in lahars flowing into waterways, and called on officials to move residents near rivers to higher ground.

An explosion of the 2,460-metre (8,070-foot) Mayon in August 2006 did not directly kill anyone but four months later, a typhoon unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud from its slopes that claimed 1,000 lives.

Phivolcs said Mayon had emitted fountains of lava on Friday but bad weather was preventing observation of the volcano’s activity on Saturday. (AFP)