By Celso Amo
LEGAZPI CITY --- At least 14,680 families or 55,261 evacuees were allowed to go home after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) lowered the present Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 Tuesday morning following Mayon Volcano’s reported general decline in eruptive threat.
The decampment order also allowed the city and municipal disaster risk reduction and management councils in the affected areas for site managers to clean up the school buildings used as evacuation centers and prepare them for holding classes in the coming days.
Relief goods will be given to the home-bound evacuees to sustain them since most of them are farmers while they are not allowed to get inside the 6 kilometer danger zone to tend their crops.
Cedric Daep, Albay provincial security and emergency management office (APSEMO)
said the evacuees from the 8-kilometer and the extended 7-kilometer danger zones at the southeast sector are now allowed to return home.
“But 2,666 families or 10,836 persons from the 6 kilometer permanent danger zone must still stay at their respective evacuation sites,” said Daep during an emergency meeting at the APSEMO conference room just in front of Peñaranda Park.
Daep said villagers from eleven barangays evacuees located inside the 6 kilometer permanent danger zone from Barangay Mii-si in Daraga(337 families or 1,552 persons); Barangay Anoling in Camalig(378 families or 1,552 persons); Sitio Nagsipit of Barangay Mariroc (40 families or177 persons), Purok 7 of Barangay Comon(8 families or 20 persons), Purok 2 to 7 of Barangay Magapo(252 families or 988 persons), Barangay Oson(26 families or 85 persons), Purok 1 of Barangay Buang (178 families or 720 persons), Purok 6 and 7 of Barangay Buhian(65 families or 224 persons) from Tabaco City; Barangay Canaway(211 families or 844 persons), Barangay Calbayog(552 families or 2,105 persons), Upper Barangay San Roque(65 families or 234 persons) from Malilipot town; Barangay Muladbucad Grande(25 families or 105 persons), Sitio Basiao(25 families or 105 persons), Sitio Hacienda(54 families or 205 persons) from Guinobatan town.
‘Clean up schools’
“The local chief executives can now plan and implement the decampment of the school houses which were used as evacuation sites,” said Daep.
Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal has also ordered some 2,703 families or 11,064 evacuees from Barangays Buyoan, Matanag, Bonga, Mabinit and Padang which are located 8 to 8.25 kilometers from Mayon Volcano to plan an orderly decampment.
Evacuation started after Mayon Volcano spewed ash on January 13 which was followed by an increase in the level of unrest.
“Based on our close monitoring of Mayon eruption an overall decline was observed on February 20,” Ed Laguerta, Mayon resident volcanologist based at Lignon Hill Observatory, said during the emergency meeting.
Based on Phivolcs 5-step alert level Alert Level 4 means imminent hazardous eruption while Alert Level 3 means a decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.
Laguerta said Mayon Volcano’s condition in the past week has been characterized by a general decline in unrest reflected by moderate seismicity and degassing, deflation of the edifice and a decreased in eruptive activity at the summit crater.
First, the overall decline in the volcano’s unrest was due to diminished to sporadic degassing with associated ash plume, weak lava fountaining, quiet lave flow and lava collapse, interspersed with two to four days of relative quiescence.
The decline in intensity and frequency of events suggests a gradual depletion of eruptible magma at the shallow levels of the volcano’s 2,462-meter edifice.
Second, the seismic activity has been dominated by low frequency events associated with degassing at the summit and signals of rockfall and small volume pyroclastic density currents(PDCs) generated by collapsing front and margins of lava flows on the Mi-isi, Bonga and Basud Gullies and intermediate channels.
This is reflected in the diminishing overall seismic energy release from the volcano despite the infrequent occurrence of effusive activity at the summit crater.
In the past 24 hours, a total of only four volcanic quakes and 44 rockfalls were recorded by seismic monitoring network.
Third, ground deformation data from precise leveling(PL) surveys and real-time electronic tilt continue to record deflation of the lower slopes that began on February 20, 2018.
The downtrend in ground deformation follows a period of continuous inflation that began in October to November 2017 and indicates a decreased in magma recharge from deep to shallow levels of the edifice.
However, based on medium-term PL data the volcano is still inflated based on January 2010 baselines.
Fourth, the measured magmatic sulfur dioxide flux throughout the eruption has varied from a maximum of 4,270 tons per day on Feb. 21 to 1,400 tons per day on March 3, 2018.
These concentrations are significantly lower than those measured for past eruptions compared to up to 8,000 tons per day in 2009 and are consistent with batches of partially degassed magma that have incrementally risen to shallow depths within the edifice.
Sulfur gas emission was measured at an average of 2,560 tons per day on March 5, 2018.
In view of the above, the Phivolcs is lowering the present Mayon Volcano’s Alert Level 4 to 3 which means there is a decreased tendency towards hazardous explosive eruption which should not be interpreted that unrest has ceased.
The volcano can be expected to continue generating volcanic earthquakes, magmatic gas output and weak surface processes such as sporadic degassing and lava effusion events, steam-driven explosions, rockfall and pyroclastic density currents while shallow remnant magma rests within the edifice.
“Should the potential for hazardous explosive eruption starts by an uptrend or pronounced change in monitoring parameters, Alert Level 3 may be raised back to Alert Level 4,” said Laguerta.
Conversely, should there be a persistent downtrend in monitoring parameters, then Alert Level 3 will be further lowered to Alert Level 2.
Laguerta said that about 63 million cubic meters of ejected has been extruded by the volcano.
“Our team is now conducting an aerial survey using drone to determine the potential loose materials from the volcanic debris which will be potential lahar flows,” said Laguerta.
Mayon Volcano’s crater has now a breach or crack at the southeast sector from the continuous lave flows and lava fountaining during its eruption, Laguerta said.
Jun Paverico, Guinobatan municipal disaster risk reduction and management office head, who was present during the emergency meeting, said he will meet with the members of the MDRRMO and the barangays captains to plan the decampment.
“They will be going home on Thursday but we will also clean the classrooms as well as disenfect them so the school children will not get sick,” said Paverico.
He said that evacuees who had tricycles started to bring their things after the decampment was announced.
“We will still wait for the official order from the provincial government,” he added.
Evacuees from Muladbucad Grande can use the multi-purpose building so classes can start since there is about a month of classes before summer vacation begins.
He also said food packs will be given to the evacuees to sustain them while they are not yet allowed to tend their crops inside the danger zone.
Sandro Alcantara, Ligao City MDRRMO officer, said camp managers have to clean up the evacuation site first.
Pabaon for homebound evacuees
“Evacuees going home will be given pabaon food packs,” he said.
Barangay Chairman Elmer Grajeda of Quirangay in Camalig town said evacuees are now excited to go home.
Grajeda said the second batch of those who were hired under the DSWD work program for evacuees will start cleaning the classrooms.
Some evacuees, he added, who had vehicles or tricycles started to bring their things back to their homes.
Claudio Yucot, Office of Civil Defense(OCD) regional director for Bicol, said total support for the Mayon evacuees from the Department of Social Welfare and Development(DSWD) for the evacuees has reached P82,150,646.72 million while from the OCD and the national government totaled P202,172,140.29 million and assistance from non-governmental organizations reached P46,829.204.08 million.
“We would like to thank the help of Mayon crisis manager Francis Tolentino for his help in addressing the evacuees’ problems so they will stay at the evacuation sites for the duration of the eruption,” said Yucot.
Yucot also said that there are still resources good for 100 days for the remaining evacuees.
“We are now planning for those who will be affected by lahar with the onset of the raining season especially the resources needed by the affected families beside the river channels around Mayon,” he added.
Che Rebeta, Albay provincial agriculturist, reminded the 10,000 farmers who were affected by the volcano’s eruption to start coordinating with their city and municipal agriculture office for the financial support from the Department of Agriculture.
“There is no application or service fee,” Rebeta said.
Beneficiaries will be screened by their respective city and municipal agriculturists and the initial P5,000 financial assistance will be available.
“They can also ask the requirements needed so they can immediately avail of another P25,000 to help them recoup their losses,” said Rebeta.
Phivolcs reminds the public that at Alert Level 3 sudden explosions, lava collapse, pyroclastic density currents and ashfalls can still occur and threaten areas in the upper slopes of Mayon.
“So the seven kilometer radius extended danger zone at the south-southeast to the east-northeast sector of the volcano stretching from Barangay Anoling in Camalig town to Barangay Sta. Misericordia in Sto. Domingo must be strictly prohibited,” said Laguerta.
He said villagers living close to these areas are also advised to be on guard against rockfalls, PDCs and ashfall.
“Active river channels and those identified lahar prone areas in the southern and eastern sectors should also be avoided especially during inclement weather or when there is prolonged and sustained rainfall,” he added.
Civil aviation authorities must also advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosion and PDCs are hazardous to aircraft because they can stall aircraft engines on flight.