On 20 December the alert level for Mt Mayon, an active stratovolcano 15 kilometres northwest of Legazpi City in Albay Province, Region V, was raised to level four. At this alert level, hazardous explosive eruptions are possible within days and evacuations from the eight kilometre radius high risk zone are underway with 44, 394 people across 30 barangays evacuated to date. A 24-hour curfew is in place within the high risk zone and on 17 December, the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) declared a state of calamity across Albay Province.
In today's meeting with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), it was noted that seismic activity had dramatically increased in number and size during the past 24-hour observation period. Based on Mayon's activity in previous years, this may indicate one of two future outcomes; the continued formation of lava flow, either with or without lava fountaining; or a shift to hazardous and explosive eruptions. Further complications could also arise from poor weather conditions such as strong rains or a typhoon which may trigger a lahar, a volcanic mudslide, as was the case in 2006, where in addition to widespread flooding and wind damage, lahars killed approximately 1,000 people and destroyed more than 180,000 homes; in some cases, burying entire villages beneath mud flows. In order to meet the government's target of zero casualties, evacuation of another 72,858 people residing within the eight to ten kilometre radius of Mt Mayon may be required should the situation escalate further.
On 19 and 20 December, the Logistics Cluster conducted an assessment of the area in conjunction with the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and has assisted DSWD to reposition a mobile storage hub to Julhasan Arasain Camp in order to assist with stockpiling of food, water and relief items to be distributed across the 26 evacuation centres currently in operation.
Following a meeting with the National Disaster Coordinating Council, PDCC and other international actors, the Governor of Albay Province shared details of the considerable efforts his team have taken to date and his desire to manage as much of the relief efforts as possible without calling for international assistance. However, with current needs identified as including rice, non-rice food items, blankets, bed mats, water jugs, tents and medicines, the Governor also indicated his support for the idea of activating individual cluster-cells for specified and well-targed assistance, with written requests to relevant Cluster Leads expected tomorrow. Discussions are also currently underway regarding possible options for a Logistics Cluster response including the provision of a longhaul transport service from DSWD's National Resource Operational Centre (NROC) in Manila to Legazpi City. It is anticipated that the Logistics Cluster will begin processing cargo movement requests (CMRs) in the next 24 hours.
Updates on the volcano are issued by the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Siesmology at the following link: http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/
Aerial assessment video (courtesy of SKOL Crew, Philippines)