Relief goods arrive amid wait for Mayon’s big bang
LEGAZPI CITY -- Relief goods sent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrived Friday at this city at the foot of restive Mayon Volcano, as scientists awaited a big eruption.
Nearly 40,000 people have been evacuated from 28 villages near Mayon and sheltered in schools in Albay province, southeast of Manila, the provincial disaster agency said Friday.
Scientists said ground surveys showed Mayon was still "swollen" and registered a high number of volcanic earthquakes, emitted large amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and continued to eject lava down its slope nearly four weeks after it came to life in a "quiet" eruption on July 14.
Successive ash explosions on Monday prompted volcanologists to raise alert Level 4 - the second-highest of a five-step warning system - and the forced evacuation of villagers living on the volcano's south and southeast slopes.
"All of these would indicate...the ascent of magma," said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). "It has not stopped. It has not calmed down."
Officials said the government-run train carried 150 bales of used clothes and 850 boxes of luncheon meat that had been confiscated by the customs bureau.
The train arrived at midday in Legazpi, the capital of Albay, 21 hours after it was sent off by Arroyo from Manila, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) away.
Social Welfare Undersecretary Celia Yangco said Thailand also has donated 2,000 bags of rice.
Arroyo appealed to communist rebels not to disrupt the trip after New People's Army guerrillas attacked troops in an army camp in Albay, wounding five soldiers.
The rebels said they will not attack agencies and groups involved in relief and rescue, and denied military claims the camp it attacked Tuesday was close to an evacuation center and that the soldiers were involved in relief operations.
Solidum said the volcano belched ash twice on Thursday, confirming volcanologists' predictions that it will explode after recording a sudden drop in the amount of sulfuric gas earlier. He said this indicated that the crater had been blocked by some magma deposits, building up pressure.
"So it has to clear its throat. When it clears its throat, explosions occur," he said.
Solidum said an eruption episode in 2001 started quietly, similar to the current event, before a major explosion came three weeks later.
Mayon is one of the Philippines' 22 active volcanos.
Its most violent eruption in 1814 killed more than 1,200 people, many of whom sought shelter in a church that was buried by lava in Cagsawa town. The church's stone belfry jutting from the ground has become a popular tourist attraction.