All systems go for Albay polls despite Mayon explosion

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By REYNARD MAGTOTO, VERA Files

Legazpi City—With no imminent threat of any further volcanic explosion, officials in Albay said elections in the province will push through on Monday.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), however, advised the public to refrain from entering the 6-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) for possible sudden steam-driven eruptions and rock falls from the slopes of Mayon Volcano.

The phreatic explosion on Tuesday was steam-driven, which could spew out deposited volcanic materials.

“In fact after what happened, the Phivolcs still released an alert level zero status which means there’s no significant risk,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said, adding that the phreatic explosion will not lead to the postponement or cancelation of the local elections.

Alert zero means no magmatic eruption is imminent, he said.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), however, issued an advisory against mountain climbing and mountaineering without prior notification. In the 6-km danger zone, it has advised against human activity such as orchid picking and vegetable harvesting.

5 dead

Tuesday’s eruption resulted in the death of a local tour guide and four Germans who were part of a team of 27 people trekking Mayon.

The group started their climb 2p.m. Monday from Bonga, Bacacayand was at 1,817 feet above sea level when they heard a loud thunder at 8a.m. Tuesday. They panicked but NicanorMabao Jr., one of the local guides, told them to move to a higher elevation.

He said they struggled to run from fallinghot boulders bigger than a bus tire. Some managed to take cover while others did a chest to rock climbing position to avoid being hit, he said.

Mabao is in critical condition and his left foot is under observation. The other three foreigners, two Thais and an Austrian,sustained bruises. Three other guides—Bernard Hernandez,CalixtoBalunso and Kenneth Jkesalva—were injured.

The other guide, Jerome Berin, died of serious injuries, along with German nationals Joanne Edosa, Roland Pietieze, Farah Frances and FureanStilfer.

Berin, who insisted on going to the trek, was about to be married on June 8.

Survivors managed to go down slowly. They reached Camp 2 before 11a.m. and managed to continue till noon. Mabao reached Camp 1 before 4p.m. where the ambulance was waiting.

The Philippine Air Force Tactical Operation Group deployed two choppers at BarangayLidong, Sto. Domingo, Albay and BarangayBonga, Bacacay to rescue the survivors and retrieve the dead bodies.

The incident was Mabao’ssecond unforgettable Mayon trek. In 2012loose rocks fell due to heavy rain as they were climbing. Mabao has been a local guide for almost three years and is an incomingthird year Agricultural student at Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry.

Sinusumapa ko na ang Mayon; hindi na ako aakyat ulit. Puwede pa akong umakyat ng ibang bundok pero hindi na mga bulkan (I will never climb Mayon again. I can climb other mountains but no more volcanoes),” he said.

(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)

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