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Active Mayon Volcano Could Erupt Again Soon

July 11, 2009

One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines could be ready to erupt soon, experts at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on Friday.

The institute changed its alert status on Friday for the Mayon mountain from “low-level unrest” to “moderate unrest”, citing steam emissions and a ominous glow at the top of the 8,077-foot volcano in the Bicol region.

The changed alert status only represents a transition from level 1 to 2 of its 5-level scale, but authorities are not taking any chances.

“This alert condition signifies a state of unrest which could lead to ash explosions or eventually to hazardous magmatic eruption,” the institute reported on Friday.

Local residents have been warned to steer clear of the four-mile radius surrounding the volcano, known as the “permanent danger zone”.

“Beginning June 2009 monitored parameters indicated an increase in the current activity of Mayon Volcano. The number of recorded low frequency volcanic earthquakes rose to a higher level signifying possible movement of magma beneath the volcano edifice at shallow depth,” the institute said on its Web site.

“Aerial survey conducted last July 08, 2009, showed a cone-shaped pile of hot, steaming old  rocks, possibly remnants from previous eruptions which could be the source of the glow at the crater. The low frequency volcanic earthquakes and ground uplift could indicate that fresh volcanic materials are moving upward at depth, causing the formation of the cone-shaped pile of materials at the crater.”

The volcano erupted with a mixture of lava and ash during a period lasting from July to October 2006, resulting in the displacement of about 30,000 local residents.

Additionally, mudslides resulted in the burial of villages in December 2006, accounting for more than 1,000 fatalities, authorities said.

Seismologist Renato Solidum, head of the institute, warned that an eruption from Mayon could have impacts on local aviation at Legazpi airport as well as pose threats to nearby homes.

“Sudden explosions and rockfalls from the upper slopes” also pose threats, according to the institute.

The volcano has erupted 48 times since records began, authorities told AFP.

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