More than 34,000 people were staying in evacuation centres in an eastern Philippine province as the country’s most active volcano spewed fiery lava for the fourth consecutive day, officials said yesterday.
The displaced residents were from seven towns and cities near Mayon Volcano in Albay province, 330 kilometres south of Manila, which first showed signs of unrest on Saturday when it ejected thick ash and hot gases.
“For the past 24 hours, we have monitored lava flow and rockfall events at Mayon,” Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said in an interview with Manila radio station DZMM.
“We are closely monitoring gas emission because if there is build-up, then we could see a hazardous explosion,” he added.
The number of displaced residents rose sharply from Tuesday as more areas were evacuated due to the threat of mud flows, said Romina Marasigan, a spokeswoman for the national disaster relief agency.
“We want to be sure of their safety because intermittent rain showers are being experienced...in the region,” she said.
Marasigan said her agency was co-ordinating with local government officials to assist the displaced residents, who may have to remain in temporary accommodation for weeks as during past eruptions.
Medical teams were closely monitoring evacuation centres for health concerns amid cramped conditions, while security forces were also on alert to avoid unrest, according to local officials.
In Legazpi City, Mayor Noel Rosal said the eruption had drawn a lot of tourists keen to see lava flowing from Mayon’s crater. “We expect more tourists to come since it’s still safe to watch the eruption from a distance,” he said.
On Tuesday, an 81-year-old man who was among more than 2,000 displaced residents in Tabaco City was found dead in the elementary school building that was used as an evacuation centre, police said. The man is believed to have died of ailments related to old age, a police spokesman said.
The 2,463-metre volcano has erupted about 50 times since 1616.
The last deadly eruption was in May 2013. Five hikers were killed and seven people injured in that incident.
Mayon’s most violent eruption was in 1814, when more than 1,200 people were killed and a town was buried in volcanic mud.
An eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.
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