December 26, 2009

Mayon Volcano May Be Ready To Blow

Despite the growing infrequency of tremors in the Philippines' active Mayon volcano, experts say that a swell of magma is building up beneath it that could eventually be released in a powerful and dangerous eruption.

State volcanologist Ed Laguerta has cautioned that residents of the surrounding areas should not be lured into returning home by the volcano's apparent return to dormancy.  An eruption could occur at any moment and could potentially devastate the countryside around it.  

"The number of volcanic earthquakes has gone down, but this is just part of the eruptive cycle of Mayon," he explained.

The number of earthquakes at the volcanic site fell precipitously from Friday to Saturday, dropping to 406 tremors in a 24-hour period compared with the 871 on the preceding day.

Despite spewing out more than 26 million cubic yards of lava over the past two weeks, Laguerta says that his equipment shows that a large amount of pressure is still accumulating beneath the volcano, which means that whatever lava has been released is simply being replaced by fresh magma from the deep within the earth.

Laguerta also explained that he and his colleagues are using data from previous eruptions to better understand what the volcano is doing this time around.

"We are looking at not only at what Mayon is presently exhibiting, because that fluctuates. We are also looking at its past characteristics," he said.

Mayon's disastrous 1984 eruption followed a four-day period of inactivity after relatively minor initial activity.

Nearly 50,000 inhabitants that live within a five-mile radius of the volcano spent Christmas in government-erected evacuation centers.  According to army spokesman Capt. Razaleigh Bansawan, the state has also sent in the troops to try to corral a few hundred locals who have opted to stay with their homes.

With a summit that reaches over 8,000 feet into the sky, the majestic peak has erupted nearly 40 times since records started being kept over 400 years ago.

The government has had a difficult time keeping the thousands of disgruntled evacuees from attempting to escape the camps.  Despite donations of gifts, food, games and entertainment, many of the Filipino families have tried to escape from the camps in order to celebrate Christmas in their homes.

Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Filipino culture and is traditionally spend feasting and merry-making with friends and families.  Officials hope to be able to send them home within a few weeks.


Image Caption: Mayon Volcano as viewed from Lingñon Hill in Daraga, Albay in December 2006. Courtesy Tomas Tam - Wikipedia


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