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The Philippines' Mount Mayon spews ash and rocks into the sky

May 7, 2013

Mount Mayon, one of the Philippine Islands, experienced a small phreatic event May 7 which sent huge rocks and ash flying toward the sky just after daybreak. The first explosion of its kind in approximately three years, the sudden blast killed at least five mountaineers and left a dozen more trapped near the volcano's summit. 

Four of the five fatalities were German tourists and one remaining was their guide. They were part of a larger group who had spend the previous night camping on the nearly perfectly conical mountain before the explosions began early on the morning of the 8th. The fatalities were caused by falling rocks, while another seven people were injured. On the whole, 27 people were on the mountain at the time of the small eruption. 

The clouds have since cleared over Mayon, and the head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Renato Solidum, has said there is no eruption warning or evacuation planned for the area. As a precautionary measure a officials are warning tourists and locals to respect a six-kilometer danger zone now in effect around the volcano.

"Mayon is just like any other mountain, and mountaineers assume the same risk as anywhere. But while we allow them to go, they should notify us and seek our approval. In this case, they did not," said Joey Salceda, the governor of the Philippine province where the volcano is located. 

A volatile mountain
The May 7 explosion was cause by a blast of steam super-heat by magma beneath the surface of the Earth. The entire event began and ended in under a minute and half and was one of the volcano's smallest eruptions to date. 

Mayon is considered one of the most volatile of the 22 to 23  active volcanoes located across the Philippine archipelago. A 2010 ash release forced thousands from their homes and into temporary shelters to escape. In total the volcano has erupted at least 50 times in the 390-year period between 1616 and 2006 according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

The worst eruption on record occurred in 1814 and left 1,200 casualties in it wake. Unlike the most recent ash explosion, the 1814 cataclysm included outpouring of hot gas, volcanic ash, and rivers of liquefied gas and rock known and pyroclastic flows. In 1978, lave flowed from the mountain intermittently for two months between May and July. 

Volcano enthusiasts, mountain climbers are concerned vacation planners can pick up an international calling card and discuss volcanic conditions in the Philippines and around the world.  

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