Philippine Mayon volcano 'fireworks' draw tourists as residents flee

Casey Dawson
January 17, 2018

The volcanic activity prompted the provincial government to shut more schools.

Romina Marasigan, the spokeswoman of Manila's disaster risk reduction agency, said more than 12,000 individuals had already been evacuated from the towns of Guinobatan and Malilipot around Mayon Volcano, after the mountain continued to spew ash and lava oozed out of its crater.

Several small pyroclastic flows were generated by fragments in the lava streams and not by an explosion from the crater vent, like occurred with Mount Pinatubo, said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcano institute.

Although the sight of an active volcano is breathtaking, authorities have advised that people remain beyond the 3.7-4.3 mile danger zone around Mayon.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire" of islands that were formed by volcanic activity, and is perennially under threat from 22 active volcanoes.

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Alert Level 3 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano, which means that it is now in a relatively high level of unrest as magma is at the crater and hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or even days.

Disaster-response officials said nearly 15,000 people have been evacuated from high-risk areas. Emergency response officials previously said they may have to undertake forced evacuations if the alert is raised to four.

But even as thousands of residents flee, tourists are flocking to the area, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of Manila to watch and photograph the spectacle, Danny Garcia, a spokesman for Albay province told Agence France-Presse.

Mount Mayon, a volcano in the coconut-growing central Bicol region that draws tourists because of its near-perfect cone shape, has shown increased restiveness since Saturday, displacing thousands of residents. Pyroclastic flows are superheated gas and volcanic debris that can race down slopes and incinerate everything in their path, and are feared in a major eruption.

In 2013, an ash eruption killed five climbers who had ventured near the summit despite warnings. Its first recorded eruption was in 1616 while the most destructive occurred in 1814, when 1,200 people were killed and the town of Cagsawa was buried.

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