12/22/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Manila on high alert for the eruption of volcano Mayon

Ash explodes from the crater covering surrounding villages. Shelters, housing nearly 50 thousand refugees, also at risk. The medical staff sound alarm: dust hazardous to the lungs and skin. The experts wait to raise the alert level to 5, the maximum of the scale.

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Experts from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) are evaluating the possibility of raising the alert level to 5, the maximum on the scale, for the activity of volcano Mayon. There are continuous eruptions from the crater and ash has covered the villages of the area. A full scale eruption could occur "at any moment."

The volcano Mayon is located in the central region of the country, about 360 kilometres southeast of Manila, it has a maximum height of 2460 meters. For some days now very fine ash has been smoking from the crater covering some nearby villages. Medical staff have warned that the dust could cause "serious respiratory or skin problems." Thousands of people now housed in shelters set up in the area, eight kilometres away from the "evacuation area" are now at risk.  

Eyewitnesses reported that the ash has spread up to 10 km away from the crater. Eric Tayag, head of the Government Department for epidemics, has invited residents to remain indoors and avoid exposure to dust.

Manila has so far evacuated 9200 families, for a total of over 44 thousand people from areas considered at risk. Jimmy Sincioco, a spokesman for Phivolcs, said the experts are awaiting further "critical factors" to "raise the alert level to 5", which indicates imminent eruption. 

When strong explosions are felt, he adds, and earthquakes in the area of volcano Mayon are felt by the inhabitants of Legazpi in the province of Albay, then it will be "the moment of maximum alert."

 

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