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Philippines: Mount Mayon spews more lava, ash as downpours may trigger more lahars

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 03, 2018, 9:04:24 AM EST

As Mount Mayon continues to spew lava and ash, downpours will further endanger lives and property by threatening to trigger lahars.

Lahars are volcanic mudflows that occur when a buildup of volcanic debris is swept down a volcano due to heavy rainfall. Lahars can claim lives and destroy property in its path.

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In this Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, file photo, the Mayon volcano spews molten lava during its sporadic eruption in the early morning outside Legazpi city, Albay province. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

The lahars last weekend resulted in travel disruptions as multiple roadways were left impassible.

Localized downpours into Sunday may result in similar conditions, potentially triggering additional flash flooding and lahars.

In an update from the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Saturday morning, it was reported that roads in Albay were impassible due to landslides and ash-fall.

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An evacuee drives his motorcycle through a gully which shows signs of lahar flow (volcanic landslides) near the slopes of Mayon volcano following overnight rains at Camalig, Albay province, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Wind patterns will influence the dispersal of ash from the volcano, which can cause health problems to individuals that come in direct contact with it.

Several violent eruptions from Monday into Tuesday dispersed ash on the villages of Camalig and Guinobatan, according to the Associated Press.

Philippines Weather Center
Detailed Legazpi City weather forecast
Interactive Philippines weather satellite

The thick ash caused near-zero visibility at times and forced a halt to travel in the towns affected.

Camalig and Guinobatan will remain at risk for additional ash falls into Sunday as winds should generally direct any additional ash to the southwest of the volcano. Most of the ash should stay just west of Legazpi City.

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Due to the Alert Level 4 status at Mount Mayon, the danger zone stands as an 8-kilometer (5-mile) radius from the volcano, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

As many as 90,000 people have been impacted due to the eruptions, according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Of those impacted, over about 69,000 are currently taking refuge in 69 evacuation centers and other safe areas.

Those numbers may further rise if new eruptions force the evacuation zone to expand.

Businessman Elizaldy Co, in association with Sunwest Care Foundation, has offered 41-hectares (101 acres) of land in Legazpi City to be used as temporary shelters for those impacted by Mount Mayon, according to the Philippine Inquirer.

The shelters would be able to accommodate more than 50,000 families and help take stress off the schools and other buildings currently being used as evacuation centers in the area.

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With Legazpi city in foreground, Mayon volcano erupts anew at dusk Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 in Albay province around 200 miles (340 kilometers) southeast of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

People are being advised to remain outside the danger zone, despite having to leave their homes and animals behind.

While not currently emitting ash high enough into the atmosphere to cause impacts outside the Philippines, a larger eruption could have more far-reaching implications.

If sulfur dioxide from an eruption is able to reach the stratosphere, roughly 15 km (50,000 feet) above the Earth’s surface, it could result in sunlight being reflected back into space and cause a cooling effect.

Despite being a popular tourist attraction, Mount Mayon has erupted around 50 times in the past 500 years. Most recently, an ash eruption in 2013 killed five climbers who had ventured near the summit despite warnings. An eruption in 1814 killed 1,200 people and buried an entire town in a volcanic mudflow.

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