Philippines

Despite warnings, villagers return to Mayon Volcano

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Situation Report
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Posted
Originally published
Written by Stephanie Kriner Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org, with news reports
One day after a spectacular eruption of bright red lava, the Philippines' Mayon Volcano threatened villagers who ignored warnings from authorities not to return to their homes. The volcano's eruption - following five months of rumblings - could be followed by another, scientists have warned.

As the volcano erupted Sunday (June 24), towering clouds of ash filled the sky above, and car-sized boulders tumbled down its slopes. One massive explosion from the volcano - considered one of the Philippines' most active - spewed ash more than nine miles (14.5 kilometers) high. Visibility in surrounding villages dropped to near zero within hours of the eruption as the enormous wall of ash began to settle, turning the green landscape gray.

About 23,000 villagers were forced to evacuate overnight, but many returned Monday morning despite warnings from the government. Only one death was reported during the evacuation: an elderly woman who died of a heart attack. No injuries were reported.

"I left because it was making noises," one evacuee, Lorna Azona, told CNN. "The lava was getting strong."

The southeast portion of Mayon's crater showed signs of weakening Sunday and may give way, sending more lava toward villages below, scientists warned. Depending on the amount of lava that continues to flow down Mayon's slopes, up to 60,000 more people could be evacuated from the village of Legazpi.

In addition to the threat of lava or another eruption, officials are concerned that rain in the forecast could trigger gigantic flows of mud and ash - capable of burying entire villages. In 1814, such a mudflow killed 1,200 people during Mayon's worst known eruption.

Eduardo Laguerta, resident volcanologist, told CNN that a lava dome about 100 feet wide had formed on the crater. In addition, collapsed domes are ejecting rocks and pyroclastic flows - superheated clouds of volcanic ash that travel down a volcano's slopes at up to 50 mph and incinerate anything in their path.

The 8,118-foot Mayon, a well-known tourist attraction because of its near-perfect conical shape, began showing signs of an eruption in January, but had been at alert level 3 - of a possible 5 - for weeks.

After a brief 160-foot fountain of lava flowed down the slopes late Saturday, authorities raised the alert to 4, then quickly put it at 5 early Sunday afternoon, meaning an eruption was in progress.

The volcano could spit lava and red-hot boulders for several days or even weeks, said Raymundo Punongbayan, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Mayon, 200 miles southeast of Manila, towers over farming communities in the Bicol region. The Philippines is in the Pacific "Ring of Fire," with frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.

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DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.