Philippines' Mount Mayon Erupts Killing Four, Injuring Several Others
May 7, 2013

Philippines’ Mount Mayon Erupts Killing Five, Injuring Several Others

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

One of the Philippines most active volcanoes roared to life early Tuesday sending a cloud of ash and rocks into the morning sky. Mount Mayon, which sits about 206 miles southeast of the capital of Manila, killed five people and injured several others during the brief eruption.

Eduardo del Rosario of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) confirmed that the blast killed five and injured seven. The deaths were four German climbers/tourists and their Filipino guide.

Another guide who was also on the mountain told a local TV station that the five deaths came as a result of rocks raining down the mountain after the initial eruption. He said at least 20 people were either on or near the mountain when the eruption began.

The guide, Kenneth Jesalva, told ABS-CBN TV by phone that the German climbers and the guide had spent the night camping on the mountain before setting out for the crater at daybreak when the explosion occurred. He said rocks the sizes of rooms came down the mountainside, killing and injuring climbers. He said he raced down to the base camp to call for help.

A local resident, Jun Marana, told the AFP that it happened so suddenly that “many of us panicked. When we stepped out we saw this huge column against the blue sky.”

A local tour guide operator, Marti Calleja, quoted one survivor of the eruption as saying, “It rained like hell with stones.”

Calleja said three guides from his firm had taken five foreigners up the mountain just hours before the eruption. He said the foreigners had paid about $100 US each for an overnight adventure on the 8,070-foot Mount Mayon, which is famed for its near-perfect cone and long history of eruptions.

A 3.7-mile radius area around the cone is monitored closely and enforced, as it is has become known as a “permanent danger zone.” But the local government has always allowed people to climb when there were no signs of eruptions. And there were no signs that the mountain top was rearing its ugly head this day either.

Calleja said that during the climbing season, which generally runs from May to August, as many as 1,000 climbers will make their way up the mountain.

Volcano experts described Tuesday morning´s eruption as a 73-second “steam-driven minor explosion” that was not expected to be repeated anytime soon.

Renato Solidum, the Philippines' chief seismologist, said people living around the mountain were safe and did not need to evacuate. He said the eruption was triggered by rain water making contact with hot ash on the mouth of the crater. He told AFP there was no magma activity and the explosion was a “normal process of a steam-driven explosion.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said in an advisory that the eruption was a “small phreatic event.” It maintained that the short blast would not be intensified and there was no reason to raise the alert level.

Mount Mayon has erupted no less than 40 times in the last 400 years. One of the most violent eruptions occurred in 1814, when more than 1,200 people were killed and several towns were decimated. A more recent eruption in December 2009 forced thousands of local residents to evacuate after a column of ash was ejected up to 5 miles from the crater.

A typhoon in December 2006 unleashed an avalanche of volcanic mud from an earlier eruption that raced down the mountainside killing as many as 1,000 people.