Mayon Volcano in the Philippines Erupts – Environmental Risks
16 Jan 2018
Since 13 January 2018, Mayon Volcano of Albay province in the Philippines has been erupting, with more than 24,000 being forced to evacuate; villagers have been taking shelter in nearby schools. On 16 January, it was reported that the volcano spewed lava nearly two kilometres, with ash falling on villages within its vicinity.
- Mayon Volcano of Albay province in the Philippines has been erupting since 13 January.
- More than 24,000 people have been evacuated from its vicinity due to safety concerns.
- Police have set up checkpoints around the volcano to prevent tourists and travellers from approaching.
Environmental: Since 13 January 2018, Mayon Volcano of Albay province in the Philippines has been erupting, with more than 24,000 being forced to evacuate; villagers have been taking shelter in nearby schools. On 16 January, it was reported that the volcano spewed lava nearly two kilometres, with ash falling on villages within its vicinity.
Mayon is the Philippines’s most active volcano, where 23 other active volcanoes are present. It has erupted 50 times in the past 500 years and remains popular with tourists and climbers. In 2013, five climbers were killed by an ash eruption close to Mayon’s summit, despite warnings. The volcano’s first recorded eruption occurred in 1616 with the most destructive, in 1814, when 1,200 were killed by volcanic mud.
Officials in Albay have declared a ‘state of calamity’ amid the threat of a full volcanic eruption. This allows the local administration to fully mobilise agencies and resources to respond to disasters.
Solace Global Comment
According to experts, the lava cascading down the volcano was not caused by an explosion from the crater with superheated lava, molten rocks, and steam. Rather, the cause is said to have been lava fragments breaking off and crashing on the lower slopes. At present the alert level is set at three (of five). Volcanologists in the country are yet to detect enough volcanic earthquakes of the type that could lead the alert level to be raised to four. Level four would suggest that an explosive eruption may be imminent and could lead to forced evacuations. Despite this, local scientists have suggested that while the present situation remains fairly quiet, there is the potential that it may escalate into a hazardous event, perhaps within weeks or even days.
The Philippines is located in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’; the world’s most active seismic zone. The Ring of Fire runs from New Zealand around to Chile in South America and it is estimated that 90 per cent of all of the world’s earthquakes occur in this area. Countries which sit on or near the Ring of Fire include: The United States, Canada, Chile, Peru, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Mexico, which was recently hit by two strong, deadly earthquakes in less than two weeks. The Ring of Fire is also home to at least 25 major active volcanos according to the US Geological Survey and contains more than 75 per cent of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. Future volcanic activity is notoriously difficult to accurately predict.
Volcanoes bring a series of potential hazards. Lava flows are significant risks due to intense heat; lava flows destroy everything in their path but are slow moving, allowing people to move out of the way. Acidic gases and ash produced by volcanos can cause respiratory issues to children primarily, but also to adults. Volcanic ash can also damage machinery and, once mixed with water, can collapse the roofs of buildings. Ash produced by volcanos can have an impact hundreds of kilometres from its origin. Volcanic eruptions can cause ‘lateral blasts’ in which large pieces of rocks are shot at high speeds for several kilometres. Lateral blasts can kill by impact, burial, and heat. Eruptions often occur together with fires, landslide, acid rain, flash floods, mudflows, or earthquakes.
Police in the Philippines have urged people to leave and not enter the almost six-kilometre danger zone. It is important that this, and any further official advice, is fully adhered to. Philippines police have set up checkpoints in various locations around Mayon, travellers should follow any instruction at checkpoints in case of an overassertive reaction from police.
There are a number of steps that those in an active volcanic area should consider:
Have an emergency supply kit prepared. This should include non-perishable food, water, breathing masks, goggles, and torches with extra batteries. An emergency plan should also be in place so that all people in your family or group know what to do in case of an emergency.
Most importantly, travellers should follow any evacuation orders issued by local authorities and immediately evacuate. It is also important that during an eruption caution is paid to the threat of mudflows. Look upstream before crossing a bridge and do not cross if a mudflow is approaching. All river valleys and low-lying areas should be avoided if possible.
If unable to evacuate, it is vital to protect oneself from ash. It is important to stay inside with doors and windows shut until the ash settles, unless there is a threat of the roof collapsing. Listen to radio or tv transmissions for the latest emergency information. Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, wear goggles but avoid wearing contact lenses, use a dust mask to help
with breathing, stay away from downwind areas, clear heavy ash from roofs and gutters (if possible), and be aware that car engines may be clogged up by ash.
Go to a shelter if told to evacuate or you feel unsafe. Continue to follow TV and radio transmissions on what is happening and what to do next.
Travellers visiting Philippines are advised to consider the use of enhanced security measures. This is due to the high rate of criminal activity and ongoing insurgency in the southern region of the country. Solace Global recommends the use of pre-arranged airport meet and greet services, in addition to a locally-vetted driver and vehicle when staying in most areas of the Philippines. Furthermore, the use of travel-tracking technology, supported by a live intelligence feed, is recommended in order to keep abreast of security developments whilst in country.
Navigating a Crisis: Emergency Evacuation Planning
In the face of an emergency, whether it be political unrest, severe weather events, medical crises, or security threats, it is crucial to have the confidence that a reliable support team comprising private ground and air transport services is readily available to evacuate your personnel to a safe location.