Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mt. Mayon cooling down stirs guessing game (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 23 (PNA) – Erupting or not erupting—place your bets.

In the past six days following a week-long show of heightened restlessness, Mt. Mayon seemed to have calmed down, stirring a guessing game among locals and outside observers whether it is really headed for a major eruption or not.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) last Sept. 15 raised alert warning level 3 over the volcano after its seismic network recorded a total of 142 volcanic earthquakes and 251 rockfall events during a 24-hour observation period.

This alert level means explosive eruptions may take place in weeks, moving local government authorities in at least two cities and four municipalities around the foot of the volcano to evacuate a total of over 30,000 residents from 22 barangays considered to be within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) and 6 to 8-km-radius extended danger zone (EDZ).

The evacuees, representing more than 10,000 families, are now being kept and fed in government evacuation camps -- mostly public school buildings.

From its week-long dramatic show of agitation associated with the intense glowing of its summit and mild overflowing of burning lava that oozed gently from the crater into a giant crevice to form a stream of fire visible at night from this city and the nearby Daraga town, Mayon, starting on Thursday last, changed its temperament to a meeker one.

In its Mayon Volcano Bulletin covering the 24-hour observation period ending 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, Phivolcs said its seismic network recorded only three volcanic earthquakes and 18 rockfall events.

Crater glow was not observed Monday night while sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at a lower average of 1,048 tons per day.

The most-photographed stream of incandescent materials on a crevice at the volcano’s upper slope has also disappeared.

Ground deformation data, on the other hand, showed inflationary changes in the edifice, based on precise leveling surveys and continuous tilt measurement.

The announcement of changes like these leading to a seemingly meeker Mayon stirred the guessing game whether it is indeed ripe for an eruption or not, even as Phivolcs said all these data still indicate that the volcano is exhibiting relatively high unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma.

It maintained on Tuesday Alert Level 3 on the ground that magma is at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks.

According to Jose Briones, the former Albay tourism provincial officer, the cooling down of Mayon came amid heavy rains spawned by typhoon "Mario" and if the weather will remain not as hot as we experience it these past few days, the volcano will never be triggered to erupt.

“In addition, it appears there are no reports of ‘voluntary evacuation’ among animals and reptiles using Mayon’s slopes as their habitats to convince the ‘olds’ among nearby residents that this amazing volcano undoubtedly wants to show off or display her dangerous and destructive fireworks," Briones said.

However, he suggested that something unfavorable could be expected to happen when the weather changes its temper from medium cool to hottest.

“Mayon Volcano will most definitely define her fury for she would definitely become uneasy like any other woman who hates to feel discomfort whenever irritated by her surroundings. A woman of tastes rarely stays quiet,” according to Briones.

That is, of course, if her stomach is still full of hot lava and most certainly she will vomit as the Phivolcs has reported, he said adding that “as a man, I fear so much to see her raging like hell. Meanwhile, feeding and housing the evacuees are the best that we can do in the meantime if the desired goal is zero casualty.”

Alan Garcia of Quezon City said in his post on Facebook “anything that is too hot and too much to handle will have to explode. That is the principle of the law on averages...what comes up, will have to go down...maybe not now, but sooner or later. Mayon's temperament depends on how much lava she has on her belly.”

For Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, the provincial government cannot be complacent in the ongoing preparations for a full-blown eruption despite the decrease in signs of Mayon hostility.

The governor intends to keep the evacuees in refugee camps around the province for at least three months under the prevailing condition even as resources to feed them have been going scarce and he had to beg for donations from the outside sources.

The guessing game that features a battle of notions between the possibility, as against the remoteness, of an eruption has also been stirring these evacuees into returning to their homes, given the relatively miserable living condition that most of the evacuation facilities offer and developing belief that no calamity is indeed going to take place. (PNA)