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Sunday, May 19, 2024

‘Mayon, rein in your rage’

“President Marcos Jr. assured all families fleeing high-risk areas around the restive volcano of continued government assistance, including food packs”

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Albay, where the country’s most active volcano has been on its edge this week, has started evacuating people as officials declared the province under a state of calamity after the volcano status was raised to Alert Level 3.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said its initial “quiet” eruption was with sulfur dioxide which measured at 332 tons per day last week and there is inflating on the upper slopes.

Volcanologists say as magma accumulates in an underground reservoir before an eruption, the ground surface typically swells, which means there is inflation.

As magma leaves the reservoir, potentially to erupt, the ground above the reservoir subsides, and this is called deflation.

Phivolcs is considering recommending evacuation of everyone beyond the 6-kilometer radius or “danger zone” due to the danger of pyroclastic density currents, rockfalls, lava flows, landslides and ballistic fragments.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has also sent more advisories to flight operators to avoid flying close to Mayon as well as Taal in Batangas and Kanlaon which straddles Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

In the meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates government has donated 50 tons of assorted food items for families affected by Mayon’s eruption.

Since the alert level on the volcano was raised to 3 out of a possible 5 last week, nearly 90 percent of residents living in the danger zone have been evacuated and efforts to relocate the rest are ongoing, Albay’s Provincial Information Office said.

Albay Gov. Edcel Greco Lagman said with the province under a state of calamity the local government would be able to tap into the quick response funds and provide support to some 3,000 families forced to evacuate while Mayon is under Alert Level 3.

More than 14,000 have been evacuated as several government agencies called on residents living inside Mayon’s danger zone to seek safer ground amid the volcano’s increasingly abnormal behavior.

The 2,462-meter tall Mayon, which has a base of 130 kilometers, dominates the provincial capital of Legazpi and has been called the world’s most perfect volcanic cone because of the symmetry of its shape seen from the shores of Albay Gulf.

Mayon is a highly active stratovolcano with recorded historical eruptions dating back to 1616, the most recent eruptive episode in early January 2018 that consisted of phreatic explosions, steam-and-ash plumes, lava fountaining, and pyroclastic flows.

In one of its eruptions in June 1897, the active Mayon had volcanic ash fell on the surrounding countryside for 160 kms to the east and 121 kms to the west, killing up to 400 people.

The six-hour eruption of Mayon on February 1, 1814 was its most destructive historical eruption which killed 1,200 people who took refuge in the Catholic stone church of Cagsawa town and nearby areas.

With rising concerns over a potential “hazardous eruption,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appealed to residents near Mayon to follow local orders to evacuate, as state seismologists discovered the emergence of a newly formed lava dome – a stern indicator of escalating volcanic unrest.

In a message posted on his social media accounts, the President assured all families fleeing high-risk areas around the restive volcano of continued government assistance, including food packs.

An estimated 40,000 people would have to be evacuated once the warning goes up to Alert 4, among the 250,000 who live within the 10-km radius danger zone.

Meanwhile, some Bicolanos shared with Grinding Grains their thoughts as the agitated volcano continued to shoot up plumes in the past few days.

Dr. Lucio Teoxon, author of two books and former chairman of the department of literature and humanities at the Far Eastern University in Manila but now lives in Naga, 101 kilometers away from Mayon, said Bicolanos view Mayon’s spewing lava and rocks “in occult perspective.”

Waxing philosophical, the 77-year-old Teoxon said: “They feel its horrendous rumblings as an outer reflection of the inner turmoil in the mind or psyche of the people around, the anger expressing the violence of human beings as in reality we are all interlinked.

“But the disturbing situation is not confined locally but extends as far as the upheavals in the Middle East or even Russia vs Ukraine.”

Sofronio Santos, an 86-year-old former automotive teacher at the Bicol University School of Arts and Trade in Albay, reminisced being accommodated by relatives in Baligang, one of 50 barangays of Camalig, 452 kms southeast of Manila, and only 10 kms away from Mayon.

“Maga evacuar kitang pamilya pasiring kina Tia Meriam. Hindi kita pwede makipag sabayan sa evacuation center ta purunuan man. Kaya man kita iacomodar ninda nin pirang aldaw habang naga alburuto ang Mayon,” he said in his native language.

(Loose translation: We evacuated the family in Tia Meriam’s residence. You cannot join in the rush of people to the cramped evacuation centers, and we stayed in their residence while Mayon was having its delirium.)

Retired banker Aline Masip, a University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi alumna from the provincial capital, said Mayon’s eruption is ordinary to people from the province, but stressed “still there is this fear of a big bang wherein the lives of our kababayans are at stake.

“Life will be difficult if that happens, and the people’s health and the economy of the province will be very much affected.”

Another Albayano, the UST-Manila-educated licensed pharmacist Sherry Javier, who manages her drugstore in Camalig, said Mayon’s turmoil “is a natural phenomenon for us Albayanos to experience but is full of danger.”

She added: “We feel sorry for those living at the foot of the volcano and within the 6-km danger zone; they have to evacuate to different centers and be away from their homes and source of livelihood at an early stage.

“Though we are in awe, we still have to be alert and take necessary precautions like preparing ‘Go bags’ anytime there is urgency and threat to our lives.”

Javier’s anxiety was audible, stressing “Despite the advancement in technologies at Phivolcs plus the social media scare and the assessments of experts, we can’t help (but) feel the fear and pressure of what they call the main event.”

But she does not bat an eyelid, saying “Life has to go on, we continue our daily activities aside from the disaster and risk we face.”

Her family has prepared a small house uphill in Baligang, a 10-minute drive away from the town proper of Camalig, “to serve as our evacuation site” where they planted pili, cacao, coconut and other fruit bearing trees to mark as our resting place.”.

She remains hopeful that Mayon would “remain as as exquisite and grand and not the deadly one that would devour our lives and livelihood with its wrath.”

Many Filipinos share her hope.


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