DPWH prepositions equipment, sets alternate roads amid Mayon Volcano unrest

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Mt. Mayon
Lava flows from the Mayon summit towards Miisi and Bonga gullies as seen on the evening of Jan. 15, from the Mayon Volcano Observatory-Lignon Hill. -- REUTERS

REGIONAL AND District Risk Reduction and Management Teams of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in the Bicol Region are on alert status as indications of unrest and eruptive activity of Mayon Volcano intensifies. The DPWH said in a statement released yesterday that Region 5 Director Danilo E. Versola has ordered the district engineers of the three DPWH offices in Albay to closely monitor national road network and river channels in their jurisdiction that may be affected by the rapid lava flowing down the slopes of Mayon Volcano. Heavy equipment and service vehicles have been prepositioned to provide support for road clearing operations, evacuation of people, and relief distribution. The DPWH has also identified alternate routes to prevent isolation of municipalities highly vulnerable to ash plume and volcanic mudflows known as lahar. The alternate roads are:

• Tabaco-Ligao National Secondary Road for Legazpi-Sto Domingo-Tabaco Road;

• Camalig-Comun-Gapo-Peñafrancia National Secondary Road for the Camalig Section of Daang Maharlika Highway, which is south of Mayon; and

• Ligao-Tabaco Road for the Guinobatan Section of Daang Maharlika Highway

As of yesterday, the number of displaced families due to Mayon’s activities increased to 5,318 families, composed 21,823 individuals, from 25 barangays in Albay, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Of the total, 4,134 families or 16,887 persons are currently staying in 18 evacuation centers while the rest are with relatives in the municipality of Daraga. DSWD officer-in-charge Emmanuel A. Leyco, in a statement, said the agency has sufficient resources that can be immediately released if necessary. The DSWD regional office has so far provided P124,605 worth of assistance to the local government of Malilipot and is awaiting the request of other local government units for augmentation support.

Mayon, the Philippines’ most active volcano, spewed lava that cascaded downslope and emitted ash that fell on nearby towns, state volcanologists said on Tuesday, prompting the provincial government to shut more schools.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded nine episodes of tremor, four of which accompanied lava fountains, and 75 lava collapse events as pressure builds up leading to lava flows and ash plumes, reiterating its warning that a hazardous eruption could happen any time.

Mount Mayon, a volcano in the coconut-growing central Bicol Region that draws tourists because of its near-perfect cone shape, has shown increased restiveness since Saturday, displacing thousands of residents.

Phivolcs said the advancing lava and pyroclastic flows had reached the six-kilometer radius no-go zone, from which some residents fled.

“Alert level 3 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano, which means that it is currently in a relatively high level of unrest as magma is at the crater and hazardous eruption is possible within weeks or even days,” it said.

Alert level 4 means an eruption is possible “within days” while level 5 is when a hazardous eruption is under way.

The Albay provincial government has expanded its class suspension order to include more towns around the 2,462-meter (8,077-foot) volcano, and advised travelers to avoid ashfall-hit villages amid poor road visibility.

Class suspensions have allowed the government to use schools as temporary shelters for displaced people. — with Reuters