Authorities fear Mayon eruption may set farms, forests on fire

Authorities fear Mayon eruption may set farms, forests on fire
21 September 2014

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Philippines — The Albay Public Safety and Management Office (APSEMO) has raised the possibility of wild fires that may raze forests and farms at the foot of Mt. Mayon in case of a major eruption.

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, what Mayon has been exhibiting since it was placed under alert warning level 3 last Monday are indications of magmatic eruptions characterized by huge ejections of volcanic ash and super-hot pyroclastic material that would flow down large crevices along its slopes to its foot.

When these burning volcanic materials reach the 3.2-kilometer distance from its summit, chances are great these may set on fire the vast forests and coconut plantations within that mark, APSEMO chief Cedric Daep said over the weekend.

In its latest Mayon Volcano Bulletin No. 21 released Sunday morning, Phivolcs said its seismic network recorded four volcanic earthquakes and eight rockfall events during the past 24-hour observation period.

Weak-to-moderate emission of white steam plumes drifting east-northeast and north-northeast was observed while crater glow was not observed Saturday night.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at an average of 1,290 tons/day on Sept. 19 although SO2 emission rates peaked at 2,360 tons/day on Sept. 6.

Ground deformation data showed inflationary changes in the edifice from February, based on precise leveling surveys on the third week of August, and edifice inflation from January 2012 baselines, based on continuous tilt measurement.

All these data, the Phivolcs said, indicate that the volcano is becoming very restive due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma.

The agency recommended that the six-kilometer-radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the seven-kilometer Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southeastern flank be enforced due to the danger of rock falls, landslides and sudden explosions or dome collapse that may generate hazardous volcanic flows.

Wild fire down major slope

According to Daep, the possibility of wild fire down Mayon’s slope will not be remote in case of a major eruption.

Wild fires did not take place in the area during previous eruptions, but since forest vegetation at the volcano’s lower slope and around its base has grown thick over the years, a bush fire this time around is not being discounted, he explained.

Daep recalled how wild fire of still undetermined origin in May this year destroyed a huge area of forest within the government-protected Mayon Volcano Natural Park.

Another fire hit the area last Aug. 4, simultaneously with four other incidents of forest conflagration in Cagararay Island of Bacacay; Cayaban Mountain, Manito town; Barangay Putan, Tiwi; and Barangay Guadalupe, Rapu-rapu.

Those simultaneous blazes took place after a 3,100-hectare forested area along the poblacion of Rapu-rapu was first razed by a massive bush fire lasting for five days and threatening the densely populated downtown of the island municipality.

These Albay forest fires, along with several others that hit its neighboring provinces of Camarines Sur and Sorsogon last month, left damage estimated at P20 million, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office here.

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