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Philippines raises alert, Mayon volcano eruption likely

Sheetal Sukhija - Tuesday 23rd January, 2018

MANILA, Philippines - Philippines’ most active volcano, Mayon, that has been spewing ash, lava, pyroclastic material since January 13, is now threatening to explode.

On Monday, the Philippines raised the alert level at its Mayon volcano after a loud explosion was heard at the summit.

Authorities said that in the wake of increased activity, a hazardous eruption looks imminent.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in a statement that it was raising its alert on Mayon to level 4, signifying a hazardous eruption is imminent, from level 3, which warns that such an eruption could be "weeks or even days" away.

A level 5 alert signifies a hazardous eruption is underway.

The agency’s chief Renato Solidum said at a news conference, "We strongly advise all people, both residents and tourists, to avoid the danger zone, and airlines to avoid flying near the volcano summit.”

He added that the danger zone around the 8,077-foot volcano has been expanded to a radius of 5 miles.

Further, Solidum said the agency had recorded increased seismic activity and "lava fountaining and a summit explosion" from Sunday night.

This, he said, indicated more explosions ahead, including a hazardous eruption.

Since January 13, when the volcano displayed signs of an eruption, over 40,000 residents in the central province of Albay have been displaced.

Further, the provincial governor Al Francis Bichara has said that Albay province has run out of emergency funds and more people would be evacuated once government financial help arrived.

He ordered schools to suspend classes, amid ash fall warnings following the explosion at the volcano.

Speaking to reporters, the governor said, “In some areas...it's already zero visibility, especially along the foot of the volcano,” adding that strong winds could carry ash to distant towns.

He added, “(People) have to stay home and if they intend to get out of their houses, they have to wear masks.”

Mark Dambal, the information officer at the Philippines' Office of Civil Defense, has said, “The evacuation has been ongoing since [the volcano] started showing signs of instability. Because of the volcanic activity, the danger zone was extended from six kilometers to eight kilometers [from the volcanic summit]. People staying in the area are now ordered to be evacuated."

He added that more than 24,000 people have already been displaced to evacuation centers across the province, while another 3,100 have moved to stay with relatives and friends.

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