Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines, was categorized as a Level 4 eruption threat on Jan. 22, which indicates that a catastrophic eruption will likely occur in the near future. According to an article from the Atlantic more than 75,000 residents of the Albay province in Luzon have evacuated from their homes.
“There are multiple factors that make volcanic eruptions dangerous, but it basically boils down to the type of volcano,” instructor of chemistry Melinda Huff said. “Mount Mayon is a stratovolcano, which is made up of layers of lava flows and pyroclastic material : loose rock, like pumice and ash that is hot when it comes out of the volcano.”
Senior Timmy Roncal and sophomore Adrian Blanco both have family living in the Philippines.
“I imagine those fleeing would end up in economic crisis,” Roncal said.
Blanco said his family runs relief missions after massive disasters, like Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Relief missions to those regions affected by the typhoon lasted for months.
“Mount Mayon is close to Legazpi City and Tabaco City, two very sizable cities. The sad part is those cities were rattled by Typhoon Haiyan and continuously get battered by typhoons,” Blanco said. “It’s one thing to have a volcano erupt in rural land, like Mount Pinatubo, but this is right beside two impoverished and densely populated cities.”
Roncal said that poverty is incredibly difficult to escape in the Philippines because government often changes legislation at the expense of the masses. However, even though poverty is widespread in the country, Filipino people come together in times of crisis.
“Filipinos value friendship and family at a different level than what I’ve seen here in the West,” Roncal said. “I’m sure a freak volcanic eruption wouldn’t hinder those kinds of relationships from fleshing out.”
Mount Mayon has spread both ash and lava several miles away from its base, extending the hazard zone to a nearly five-mile radius. Seismologists have recorded over a dozen earthquakes resulting from the volcano’s continuous behavior.
“Not only do we have to be concerned about the hot lava, but also the fine material and gases in the air that can get into the lungs and suffocate living things,” Huff said. “However, if it erupts pyroclastic material, the ash clouds can rise thousands of feet into the atmosphere that eventually fall to earth. As of right now, Mount Mayon is erupting lava. Lava eruptions are still explosive and dangerous, but they do not spread as far as the pyroclastic material.”
Volcanologists believe ongoing eruptions could last for months, preventing evacuees from returning to their homes.