Authorities warn residents vs possible lahar from Mayon

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Legazpi, Albay (CNN Philippines, January 17) — Authorities on Wednesday warned residents in Albay against possible mudflow or lahar from Mayon volcano.

Disaster management officials said nonstop rains in the province, more than 300 kilometers south of Manila, may trigger lahar, a mix of volcanic debris and water.

Volcanologists are still monitoring this possible event.

"Most of the activity is lava flow na hindi naman naanod 'yan to generate lahar. And also we really need huge amount of rain to generate lahar. Kung may mga nakikita tayong dumadaloy sa ilog these are just sediment-laden stream flows. Dahil marami tayong ash na nadeposit doon sa taas," said Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Volcano Monitoring Chief Mariton Bornas.

Volcanologist Ed Laguerta advised residents inside and beyond the 7-kilometer permanent danger zone to be on alert at all times.

"Kapag pinagusapan kasi ang mudflow or lahar, walang distance yan eh. Kung matatandaan niyo sa Pinatubo trenta kilometers inabot," he said on Tuesday.

He added residents should avoid a devastating lahar episode.

Laguerta recalled the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, where mudflow reached around 30 kilometers and killed over 350 people.

"Worst case scenario kung hindi ka handa, matatabunan ka doon (if you're not ready, you'll be buried there). Like what happened in 2006 here," Laguerta said.

Disaster management officials said as of Wednesday morning, there are more than 37,000 evacuees from 36 barangays.

Albay has been under a state of calamity since Tuesday as Mayon threatens a hazardous eruption.

The volcano remains on Alert Level 3, or a relatively high level of unrest as magma is at the crater and hazardous eruption is possible within days or weeks. Alert level 5 is the highest warning which means a hazardous eruption is taking place.

Phivolcs on Tuesday recorded more volcanic activies in the last 24 hours: 143 lava flows to Barangay Miisi, Daraga and Matanag and Buyuan in the capital Legazpi City.

The volcano also emitted over 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide on Tuesday. The normal sulfur emission is 500 tons per day.

Mayon's most destructive eruption was in February 1814 where volcanic material destroyed the church with the bell tower as the only standing structure. Thousands were killed in that violent eruption.

CNN Philippines correspondent Makoi Popioco contributed to this report.