Over 14,000 evacuated as Philippines braces for ‘hazardous’ volcanic eruption

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More than 14,000 people living within the danger zone of a restive volcano in the central Philippines will be evacuated by Sunday as officials brace for the possibility of a major eruption within days or weeks.

The Mayon volcano in Albay province remained on Alert Level 3 after authorities first raised the warning system earlier in the week, indicating a “relatively high level of unrest” and the possibility of a “hazardous eruption,” the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.

Thousands of residents within the six km radius of Mayon’s crater have now been moved to safety as authorities recorded one volcanic earthquake and 177 rockfall events within a 24-hour period by 8 a.m. on Sunday.

“We already have … almost completed the evacuation of the affected population inside the six km radius permanent danger zone,” Eugene Escobar, chief of the research division of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, told Arab News in a phone interview.

“Once the evacuation is completed, we’ll be expecting for the people to be settled in in a day or two and what we will do from then on will be monitoring the condition of the volcano.”

Escobar said that officials at the local and national level are “supporting and coordinating” with Albay authorities “to provide the need for relief — both for food and non-food items.”

The 2,462-meter-high Mayon, located about 330 km southeast of the capital Manila, is a popular tourist attraction in the Philippines because of its near-perfect conical shape. It last erupted violently in 2018, displacing tens of thousands of villagers.

Mayon is considered among the most active of about two dozen volcanoes in the Philippines and has erupted more than 50 times in the last four centuries.

“With the province of Albay placed under a state of calamity due to the eruption of the Mayon volcano, we remind Bicolanos to follow the recommendations and evacuation instructions of your local government to ensure everyone’s safety,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a tweet on Saturday, using a local term to refer to residents in the affected areas.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. One of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the last century was that of the long-dormant Mount Pinatubo north of Manila, which erupted in 1991 and killed more than 800 people.

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