Albay braces for more lahar flows

LEGAZPI CITY---The Albay provincial government is now bracing for potential lahar flows should strong typhoons hit again the province as millions of cubic meters of volcanic materials were already washed down by Typhoons “Quinta” and “Rolly” that silted major river channels and gullies surrounding Mayon Volcano.


Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) chief, said that based on their aerial survey conducted three days after super Typhoon “Rolly” brought torrential rains showed that lahar materials had already silted major rivers and gullies at the lower slopes of Mayon Volcano in the second and third district towns of Albay.

“Lahar threat is there. There is an urgent need to conduct massive dredging on these rivers and channels before another strong typhoon could wash down more lahar presently deposited at the middle and upper slopes of Mayon,” Daep said.

At least five people died when rampaging lahar materials half-buried houses in Barangay San Francisco in Guinobatan, Albay at the height of “Rolly’s” onslaught on Nov.1.

Residents at the foot of Mayon insisted that the rampaging lahar flows that hit their communities were aggravated by the massive quarrying activities around the volcano.

Daep explained though that the lahar sediments that hit the populated villages were washed down first by Quinta, then by Rolly a week after.

“Quinta had first pushed the volcanic materials that silted the major river channels. Then “Rolly” again pushed these materials and additional amount of debris further until they hit the communities in Guinobatan,” Daep said.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal had wrote a letter to Governor Bichara to stop quarry operations in the city, citing the order of an Albay-wide quarrying suspension by Sec. Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Rosal said residents of the lahar-prone villages of Padang, Buyuan, Bonga, Matanag, Mabinit, and Pawa have expressed fears of the danger that might befall them in case of heavy downpour and torrential rains spawned by in coming typhoons usually hitting Bicol during the last quarter of the year.

“We have already formally requested Gov. Bichara to stop the quarry operations in the Mayon villages of Legazpi City,” Rosal said.

A DENR task force from Manila had already arrived in Legazpi City to assess the quarry operations in Albay. Daep also said that a local team was already formed by Bichara to find out if quarry activities had triggered the lahar flow in Guinobatan.