'Strong lahar flow from Bulusan likely'

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2011 08:07 PM | Updated as of Feb 23 2011 04:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A resident volcanologist in Sorsogon province on Tuesday warned residents around Mount Bulusan against the possibility of strong lahar flow from the volcano.

Ed Laguerta of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said that several towns in Sorsogon may be hit by strong flows of lahar from the volcano during heavy rains.

Laguerta said they are seeing indications that ash deposits within the Bulusan volcano’s crater have become heavy.

"Namumuti na kasi yung upper slope ng Bulusan, marami pa siyang deposits sa ngayon," the volcanologist said.

People residing near valleys and river/streams are strongly advised to be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall, he added.

Laguerta said that they are seriously looking into the sides of the Bulusan that might have created vents where magma flow could originate.

"Tinitingan natin yung mga vents, yung side ng volcano. It might change to another phase, the magmatic phase, dadaan ‘yun kung saan may weak openings,” he said.

Laguerta, meanwhile, said that Alert Level 1 is still hoisted over Mount Bulusan.

This means people are still barred from entering the 4-kilometer permanent danger zone, which is more prone to sudden steam and ash explosions.

At least 16 tremors were recorded by Phivolcs within the past 24 hours after the explosion on Monday.

Laguerta said they are still waiting for the results of the chemical test done in the samples they sent to the Manila office, which would determine what type of ash powder was spewed by the volcano on Monday.

Many observed that the ashfall also included sand, and there were no tremors felt prior to explosion.  

Thousands affected

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that 108,906 individuals were affected by the explosion.

The NDRRMC said 81 baranggays in at least 3 towns of Sorsogon suffered from severe ashfall few minutes after Bulusan spewed ashes.

In the municipality of Irosin alone, Mayor Jun Ong said there are about 32,000 residents affected in 17 baranggays, and in the municipality of Juban, 5 baranggays were affected, while 59 baranggays in the town of Bulan.

In Irosin, residents have been cleaning their houses and dusting off ashes that accumulated as much as 5 millimeters, according to Phivolcs.

Classes were still suspended as classrooms were filled with sand and ash.

Teachers are now afraid that school structures will become weak due to the accumulation of hot ashes from the volcano.

Pilar Hachaso, a teacher from Monbon Elementary School said, "once na nalagyan ‘yan ng abo, magtutulo na ‘yang mga yero, ‘yung mga bakal liliit at mapuputol."

School principal Andrea Glipo, meanwhile, said she is concerned with the health of their children especially those with weak immune respiratory system due to consistent exposure to ash.

"Lalo na sa mahihina ang baga, magiging ubuhin sila, magko-cause ‘yun ng hindi nila pagpasok," Glipo said.

Hachaso and Glipo are requesting more face masks and medicine for the students.

Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee admitted they do not have enough face masks to supply every individual in Sorsogon, but he offered what he believes a more effective way avoid inhaling volcanic ash.

"’Pag nag-erupt, kunin ang face towel, basain, ‘pag wala, gamitin ‘yung T-shirt. Hindi rin naman kasi durable ang face mask," Lee said.