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Mayon expected to erupt any day

LEGAZPI CITY—Albay residents are bracing for the expected eruption of Mayon Volcano as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the volcano is heating up for a violent eruption similar to the one that took place in 1984.

The 1984 eruption had buried national roads including the 70-meter-long concrete bridge crossing the 25-meter deep Basud River in Santo Domingo town that paralyzed transportation in the First and Second Districts for a month. Hundreds of wild and attended animals such as carabaos, cows and pigs were found dead at the downstream of Basud River carried by lava from the foot of Mount Mayon.

Mayon resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta said the reduction in sulfur-dioxide emission from the usual daily average of 500 tons to only 308 tons recorded Thursday last week was a clear indication Mayon is bound for a big eruption.

This explains the lava dome protruding at the volcano summit and blocking the crater, he said, adding that “this is a prelude to eruption.”

Early last week, Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda indicated to the local media that Phivolcs is expected to raise its alert level 3 to 4. More than 3,000 animals owned by residents at the danger zone have been evacuated to safer grounds.

With 56,000-plus evacuees packed in 40 evacuation centers, soldiers started scouring the Mayon 6-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) to ensure no person is inside the declared “no man’s land.”

This developed as many evacuees expressed their desire to return home, believing Mayon may not erupt yet. Evacuees also complained about their health condition as health authorities admitted the number of sick evacuees continues to rise. As of Saturday, a total of 717 sick evacuees were reported.

Bicol Philippine National Police Regional Director Chief Supt. Victor Deona said the 6-kilometer PDZ and the 7-kilometer extended danger zone are 24-hours guarded, warning that anyone seen inside the area will be arrested.

Last Wednesday an evacuee was found dead inside the danger zone after she was declared missing when the forced evacuation began two weeks ago.

Asked how prepared authorities to avoid isolation of certain communities in the event roads are buried by lahar following an eruption, Salceda said, “I think the Department of Public Works and Highways [DPWH] have their ready contingency plans.”

DPWH Regional Director Melvin Navarro cannot be contacted for comment while his assistant regional director Armando Estrella was also in Manila. Estrella, however, said he would advise his maintenance chief Antonia Saguinsin to get in touch with the media about the DPWH contingency plans in preparation for the impending Mayon eruption. Saguinsin cannot also be contacted.

In 2009, Salceda warned that a strong Mayon eruption could paralyze transportation stretching to Sorsogon and Visayas region to include the second district of Albay. He cited Typhoon Reming in November 2006 when floods buried the Maharlika highway in barangay Busay in Camalig town, destroying roads including the PNR railway tracks.

Typhoon Reming also killed close to 2,000 people in Albay due to floods from Mt. Mayon. Then Albay Gov. Fernando Gonzalez blamed the DPWH over the death of Albay residents saying the billions funded Mayon dredging works did not helped in preventing floods from destroying lowland areas as  floods routes did not passed on the dredged sites.

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