Mayon Volcano spews ash; tour guide says 4 dead

Posted at 05/07/2013 8:38 AM | Updated as of 05/07/2013 11:00 AM
Mayon Volcano in Bicol spews ash Tuesday morning at past 8 a.m. -- Photo courtesy of Bayan Patroller Joseph de Leon Advincula

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) -  Four people died after the Mayon Volcano spewed ash on Tuesday morning, a local tour guide said.

Volcano tour guide Kenneth Jesalva, who went up the volcano with seven others, said four people died after being crushed by large rocks brought about by the explosion in Camp 2.

Jesalva, who also got injured, said the fatalities include 3 foreigners and a fellow tour guide. Another mountaineer is in critical condition.

"Paakyat kami noon sa taas, nagpapahinga kami saglit at may narinig na kaming malakas na gulong ng mga bato. Iyung iba po naming kasamahan natamaan ng bato," Jesalva told ANC.

"Tumakbo po kami sa may safe na lugar, yung bato na mag-cocover sa amin, pero di talaga kinaya," he added.

The bodies have yet to be brought down to the base camp, Jesalva said. Albay Governor Joey Salceda said a team has been sent to rescue the trapped hikers.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Eduardo del Rosario, meanwhile, reported that three died and four were injured in the volcanic explosion.

"We have received initial report that three got killed and four were injured. So far we are receiving reports that there were 3 or 4 who got killed. But for now our official report is 3," del Rosario told dzMM.

Del Rosario added that there were about 20 hikers who went up the volcano.

Salceda, meanwhile, said all "human activities" within the 6-kilometer radius permanent danger zone of the volcano have been suspended.

The permanent danger zone covers some parts of Legazpi, Santo Domingo, Malilipot, Bacacay, Tabaco City, Ligao, Guinobatan, Camalig and Daraga.

Salceda said that those who wish to trek the volcano must seek permission from the local government and the Department of Tourism.

He, however, said some tour guides opt to skip the process for fear that the local government will regulate their source of livelihood.

Phreatic explosion

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) executive director Renato Solidum explained that the spewing of ash was caused by a hydro-thermal explosion. This type of explosion is also called "phreatic".

Solidum explained that a hydro-thermal explosion is stream-driven, which means that the volcano has let out steam that got trapped over time.

"The steam column that was produced was grayish, but mainly it is water. There is not much pressure on it. There is no new magma yet… The steam carried with it the old ash at the crater of the volcano." Solidum told ANC.

"It is a normal process in any volcano. If you look at Mayon Volcano, it continuously moves steam, even other volcanoes in the country. But once that steam is trapped, there can be pressure and that can trigger a shallow explosion," Solidum added.

Phivolcs said the wind was forcing the ash to go west, towards Albay's 3rd district, consisting of Guinobatan, Jovellar, Libon, Oas, Polangui, and Pio Duran.

Solidum said Phivolcs is maintaining alert level 0 for Mayon, since there is no new magmatic activity yet.

Local government units have convened to prevent casualties.

Solidum said there is no way to predict if another ash explosion will occur.

"In previous episodes of eruption of Mayon Volcano, sometimes other ash explosions would happen, but the interval would not be very regular," Solidum said.

"We don't know when that will happen. We always reiterate that people should be careful especially those in the permanent danger zone. We have sufficient instrumentation there - cameras, seismic instruments. What we need to do is to evaluate the condition of the volcano continuously."