Ash cloud from Mount Mayon, Philippines.
Jan 23 2018

Families in Philippines anxiously wait as Mayon Volcano threatens to erupt

On Wednesday, the Mayon Volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines continued to spew lava and ash, signifying that a major eruption may be imminent.

“Almost every five hours, Mayon Volcano is erupting with lava fountains and spewing mushroom-like ashes,” said Unbound staff member Klaire Perez. “The ashes are being carried by the wind to the southern part of Albay [province]. Yesterday, I was home and I had experience of one of the worst ashfalls. It suddenly went dark and it literally started raining ashes. It’s a bit scary, but it’s more scary for communities just below Mayon Volcano.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has set the threat level at 4, the second highest, and more than 56,000 people living in the area have now been evacuated, according to news reports. As of Friday, the evacuees included at least 193 families served by Unbound’s program in Legazpi, coordinator Angie Bermas said. But with the widening of the evacuation zone to a 5-mile radius over the weekend, the number has likely increased.

The volcano is in the Albay province in the Bicol region, in the east-central part of the island. Flights in and out of Legazpi have been canceled, and schools throughout the province are closed.

According to Tristan John Cabrera, Unbound’s communications staff member in the Philippines, “All classes in all levels are suspended, and families in the evacuation centers and those in their homes are advised to stay inside.”

Unbound’s Legazpi program serves more than 9,000 sponsored children, youth and elders. At this time, we’ve received no reports of injuries to any individuals or families served by Unbound. Legazpi program staff member Jovie Nocedo said families are familiar with evacuation procedures.

“Our families already know what to do in this kind of situation,” she said.

Schools outside the evacuation zone are being used for shelters, some of which are overcrowded. It’s also being reported in the news media that some residents of the shelters have been leaving during the day to check on their homes and livestock and returning to the shelters at night.

On Sunday, the volcano discharged a cloud of volcanic material 6 miles high that quickly spread, resulting in ash falling over towns and villages in the area and felt in the city of Legazpi, 7 miles away. Cabrera said that, according to his contacts in Legazpi, the ash is “itchy on their skin and painful in their eyes.” Exposure to volcanic ash can also cause respiratory issues, according to the American Lung Association.

Historically, Mount Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines. It has erupted 47 times since its first documented eruption in 1616. In 1993, 70 people were killed in an eruption that continued over a two-month span. The last eruption took place in September 2014.

“It’s just breathtaking looking from afar and it’s totally captivating looking at the wonders of nature,” Klaire said. “But this beauty can bring so much disaster. We hope that there won’t be any casualty and damages but above all, we pray that the eruption will stop very soon.”

The Unbound program in Legazpi stands ready to assist sponsored persons and their families should they need it in the aftermath of this event. Additionally, Unbound maintains a Disaster Response fund that can be used to help families in any of our programs around the world when needed.

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