MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday warned that with Mayon Volcano's increasing restiveness, the chance of a "hazardous" eruption is now "high."
"Alert Level 3 remained hoisted over Mayon Volcano. Since an increasing trend is noticeable at present, the possibility of hazardous volcanic eruption is high," the Phivolcs said in its 7 a.m., December 18 bulletin.
Mayon Volcano's activity intensified with 7 successive ash explosions in a matter of 2 hours on Friday morning.
Government volcanologist July Sabit said the first ash explosion occurred around 6:59 a.m.. More ash explosions took place at 7:24 a.m., 7:25 a.m., 7:43 a.m., 8:32 a.m., 8:33 a.m. and 8:44 a.m.
Sabit said the successive ash explosions are indications of an intensified activity of the volcano. He said 7 ash explosions were also recorded the whole day of Thursday.
Radio dzMM's Alex Calda reported that the 7:25 a.m. ash explosion went as high as 1 kilometer above the volcano's summit.
Sabit said Phivolcs instruments also detected 248 volcanic earthquakes and tremors for the past 24 hours. This unrest is higher compared to the number of earthquakes recorded from Monday to Thursday.
Sabit said if the volcano continues its increased activity, a major explosive eruption may happen very soon.
"Kung ito ay tutuloy at lalong lalakas pa. Masasabi natin na papalapit na," the volcanologist told radio dzMM.
Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum also reported that thicker white steam has also been creeping from the volcano's mouth. Lava also continued to flow since Alert Level 3 was raised over the volcano on Monday night.
Solidum said the lava flow has stretched to 3 kilometers of the volcano’s down slope.
Two lava dome formations have been spotted by volcanologists during an aerial survey on Wednesday. Volcanologists said the formations indicate pressure is building up from inside the volcano and rising magma has accumulated at the mouth.
Sabit said it was likely that the domes would collapse if the pressure continued to build, causing a major eruption or fast-moving hot volcanic ash, rock and gases, known as pyroclastic flows.
The increasing activity of the volcano has forced the provincial government to declare a state of calamity, which would allow affected municipalities to use 5 percent of their allocated budget for calamity expenses.
The military and the police on Thursday night started forcibly evacuating residents who have refused to be brought to temporary shelters, which are located outside the 6- to 8-kilometer danger zones of the volcano.
The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council is expecting to evacuate all 9,946 families from the danger zones on Friday.
Mayor Noel Rosal said 4 villages in Legaspi City, which are located inside the danger zone, have already been abandoned. He said only police and military personnel are allowed inside the danger zones.
The local chief executive, meanwhile, said that their 5 percent calamity fund would not be enough if the crisis lasts for months or beyond the holiday season. With a report from Jose Carretero, ABS-CBN Bicol and Alex Calda, radio dzMM