Volcano Threat Rises as Quakes Strengthen

Major Mayon eruption seen as imminent
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2009 9:31 AM CST
Philippine National Police officers pack rice and other food supplies for distribution to Mayon volcano evacuees in Legazpi city, Philippines, Dec. 22, 2009.   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
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(Newser) – Almost all of the 47,000 residents living on the slopes of a rumbling volcano in the central Philippines have moved to emergency shelters, as quakes grew stronger yesterday and red hot lava flows reached three miles from the crater. Scientists raised Mayon's alert level to one step below a hazardous eruption; the only higher level is when a major eruption is in progress. "Hazardous eruption can happen today or in the next few days," said the chief state volcanologist, adding that an eruption also may not happen. "Nobody has a 100% accuracy."

Low clouds obscured visibility of the smoldering 8,070-foot Mayon, towering over coconut farms and rice paddies in coastal Albay province, but ash columns were seen rising during a cloud break. Volcanologists have recorded 1,266 volcanic quakes in the last 24 hours, and the emission of sulfur dioxide—an indication of magma rising inside the volcano—was measured at a high 6,530 tons per day; normal gas emission is 500 tons per day.

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