Government Orders Evacuation Amid Warnings Of Bigger Eruption
LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) _ Heavy rains drenched the area threatened by an awakened volcano today, slowing rescuers and raising fears of new landslides.
The crater of the 8,077-foot Mayon volcano glowed a deep red before dawn today, indicating magma had reached the surface, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Mayon, which is 200 miles southeast of Manila, was emitting small amounts of steam and ash today. Nine quakes, one fairly strong, shook the area late Wednesday.
Volcanologist Agnes Aguilar said the continued activity could point to a new eruption of Mayon, historically the most active of the Philippines’ 21 live volcanos.
On Tuesday, the volcano hurled ash and steam 5 miles high in its first eruption since 1984, killing at least 35 people. Government agencies gave conflicting tolls, with 45 the highest.
Raymundo Punongbayan, chief of the volcanology institute, warned that a major eruption could occur within days. That prompted the government to order an evacuation of villages within six miles of the slopes.
Legazpi Mayor Imelda Roces said she expected about 20,000 people to seek emergency shelter. But many farmers left their families in the evacuation centers today to work their fields in the danger zone.
Legazpi is about 10 miles southeast of Mayon.
Officials said there was enough emergency shelter, food and drinking water to cope unless a major eruption occurs.
Today, the volcanology institute issued a warning of eruptions on the southeastern slope of Mayon facing Legazpi. Institute spokeswoman Leyo Bautista said superheated gases and debris had accumulated in a trench on the southeastern slope and might be loosened by the rains.
Danilo Azana, vice governor of Albay province, said the rains were slowing efforts to search remote communities for bodies and survivors.
Tuesday’s eruption began without warning, and local officials blamed the volcanology institute for not alerting residents.
The Philippines has 21 active volcanos, and the institute has often complained it doesn’t have the money to keep track of them.