Mayon Volcano in Albay Province, Philippines is a magnet for tourists, owing to its perfectly formed conical shape famous the world over. Behind its majestic appearance, however, is its notoriety as the most active volcano in the country. Mayon has over 49 recorded eruptions over four centuries, the most destructive of which buried an entire town and killed over a thousand people.
Increased seismic activities and observable crater glow observed during a 24-hour period on Sept. 15 suggest that the volcano could once again erupt within weeks. In a statement issued in the evening, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) reported that Mount Mayon exhibited increased unrest marked by 39 rockfall events, 32 low-frequency earthquakes attributed to magma intrusion and volcanic gas activities, as well as crater glow which indicate the presence of molten lava and hot volcanic gas, prompting the agency to raise the alert status to level 3.
"This means that Mayon is exhibiting relatively high unrest and that magma is at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks," PHIVOLCS said. "It is therefore recommended that the 6-km radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the 7-km Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southeastern flank be enforced."
In response to PHIVOLCS' warning, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has ordered the forced evacuation of thousands of residents who live near the volcano. Falling rocks, landslides, explosions and dome collapse that may produce dangerous volcanic flow threaten those who live in the no-go zones.
"The southeastern part of the volcano's dome has eroded from past eruptions," said PHIVOLCS Bicol region chief Ed Laguerta. "We are most concerned about the pyroclastic flow because it can move very fast and can cause death."
Salceda said that over 12,000 people were forcibly evacuated and these evacuees would live in temporary shelter for up to three months. The military had been evacuating the residents and preventing people from going home, even as some residents do not want to leave behind their houses, animals and livelihood.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that over 10,000 families or 52,000 people live in areas that cover the Permanent Danger Zone and Extended Danger Zone but GMA News TV reported that the Armed Forces of the Philippines have so far only evacuated about 1,700 families as of early Sept. 17.
Salceda has ordered complete evacuation within 24 hours after PHIVOLCS raised the alert level to 3.