Five climbers were feared dead, which include four foreigners and a Filipino guide after Mayon Volcano spewed thick column of ash. Dozens more were trapped as one of the most active volcanoes erupted at daybreak, Tuesday, May 7, 2013. From a group of 27 mountaineers, seven were injured that included foreigners and Filipino guides. Kenneth Jesalva, one of the guides told ABS-CBN TV network said the climbers who died were hit by huge rocks. Rescue teams were already dispatched to check the trapped climbers and guides, according to Albay Governor Joey Salceda.
According to Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Mayon Volcano has already erupted 48 times during the last 400 years. He added that for the restive Mayon, Tuesday’s eruption was normal. However, no alert was raised nor planned evacuation was made. Thousands of residents in an 8-kilometer zone surrounding the crater were evacuated to temporary shelters in 2010, when the volcano ejected ash.
More than 1,200 residents were killed in 1814 when lava buried the Cagsawa town. While no direct deaths after the August 2006 eruption, the typhoon in December unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud that killed 1,000 people. Tens of thousands of people were displaced in December 2009 when Mayon spewed lava and ash.
PHIVOLCS: No eruption imminent in Mayon
According to PHIVOLCS, the small phreatic event produced by Mayon Volcano that lasted for 73 seconds does not indicate an imminent threat of eruption. They have not detected any earthquake within 24-hours, and no intensification of volcanic activity was observed. PHIVOLCS is maintaining a Level Zero alert status.
Phreatic eruptions occur when the surface is heated by lava, magma, hot rocks, or volcanic deposits, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The intense heat may cause the water to boil generating explosions of water, steam, blocks, ash, and bombs.
Small phreatic explosions may suddenly happen without warning according to PHIVOLCS. The residents and tourists are ordered by Gov. Salceda to suspend activities within the 6-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone.
Aquino orders inquiry on Mayon tourists
President Benigno S. Aquino III already ordered an inquiry why the tourists were allowed to enter the permanent danger zone. He asked Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to find out the parameters of the area.
It was found later that while permanent settlements were not allowed, tourist activities were permitted. It is too early to say if the local government of Albay could be held accountable for the deaths of five people because it was their responsibility to ensure that the 6-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone is enforced.
The Philippine government is presently concentrating on repatriating the fatalities to their country. It is not confirmed whether President Aquino will visit Albay soon.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas