Tourists flock to Mayon's danger zone

by Jose Carretero, ABS-CBN Bicol

Posted at Jul 15 2009 09:39 PM | Updated as of Jul 20 2009 07:02 PM

ALBAY - Despite stern warnings from disaster officials in Albay of a possible Mayon volcano eruption, foreign and local tourists on Wednesday still flocked to areas that have been declared as danger zones.

The tourists, some of whom were from Switzerland, were seen visiting the Mayon Planetarium and Science Park in Buang in Tabaco City, just 3 kilometers away from the volcano's crater. The planetarium is known as the "Little Baguio" (the summer capital of the Philippines) in Albay because of the cool weather.

Several volcanologists have noted that it is harmful to stay in the area since a sudden volcanic eruption is possible.

Despite the risk, tour groups still enjoyed taking pictures of the newr-perfect-cone-shaped volcano. "The place is amazing. So there is no reason not to come here. And I saw many people coming around, so there's no reason for us to be afraid," said Raphael Perruchoud, a Swiss tourist, in an interview with ABS-CBN.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) warned, however, that a 6-kilometer perimeter around the volcano has been declared a permanent danger zone and should be off-limits to any human activity.

The provincial government of Albay had supposedly halted tourism-related activities within the danger zone, including the trek to the Mayon Planetarium. Disaster teams sent by the local government are set to meet to discuss how to prevent tourists from entering the planetarium grounds.

Members of Albay's Public Safety and Emergency Management Service Office (APSEMO) said it would be better if they put up warning signs around the danger zone.

Sustained magma activity

For the past 24 hours, PHIVOLCS recorded 5 short-duration tremors and observed crater glow in the evenings, which indicate sustained magma activity inside the volcano.

Residents living on the volcano's foot have also reported strange animal behavior, possibly indicating an impending eruption. They reportedly observed an increasing number of snakes and wild pigs descending from the volcano's slopes.

Ed Laguerta, PHIVOLCS resident volcanologist, said wild animals are sensitive to their environment and instinctively look for safety when sensing harm. He said the animals might be feeling the increased temperatures on the volcano's rim, prompting them to move away.

PHIVOLCS officials, however, have yet to release an official statement on this matter. Report by Jose Carretero, ABS-CBN Bicol.