This assurance came from the chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), who debunked yesterday social media posts that the rare celestial event known as the “super blood blue moon” this midweek will trigger a major eruption of Mayon Volcano. Karen Bleier/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — The moon affects ocean tides, not volcanoes.
This assurance came from the chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), who debunked yesterday social media posts that the rare celestial event known as the “super blood blue moon” this midweek will trigger a major eruption of Mayon Volcano.
On Wednesday, a lunar eclipse, a blood moon and a supermoon coincide for the first time in over 150 years, according to the website space.com.
Science Undersecretary and Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said there is no correlation between the moon’s gravitational pull, which affecs ocean tides, and the ongoing lava fountaining episodes of Mayon.
“We don’t expect the supermoon will influence Mayon’s activity. It is already erupting,” Solidum told The STAR.
A supermoon – a term coined by astrologer Richard Nolle – is a phenomenon that occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon being the closest it gets to the Earth on its orbit.
Scientists say the moon’s gravitational pull is strongest when it is closest to the Earth.
A blue moon, meanwhile, refers to the second of two full moons occurring in the same month.
The Jan. 31 supermoon will also coincide with a total lunar eclipse, which will give the moon a reddish glow due to the sunlight reflected by the Earth’s atmosphere.
Mayon – the country’s most active volcano – remained under Alert Level 4, which means a hazardous explosion may happen in a matter of hours or days.
President Duterte said he would decide today when he would visit Albay. Upon his return to the country last Saturday, the President apparently had the sniffles due to the cold weather in New Delhi in India, so he needed to rest.
Heavy rains spawned by the tail-end of a cold front triggered landslides and floods in Albay and Camarines Norte as disaster risk reduction and local government officials were closely monitoring various river channels yesterday.
Guinobatan Mayor Ann Gemma Ongjoco said a landslide occurred in Barangay Morera. Although no casualty had been reported, Ongjoco sent out a team to assess the damage and warn villagers to evacuate when needed.
Dong Nebres, barangay captain of Salugan in Camalig, Albay said the Department of Public Works and Highways conducted a road-clearing operation after heavy rains mobilized sand and gravel which covered the Barangay Salugan-Anoling road.
Nebres said 306 families or 1,090 persons from Barangay Salugan were in evacuation centers.
Minimal flooding also affected Legazpi City’s 11 low-lying barangays after Macabalo and Panal rivers overflowed their banks.
“The sandy content of the ash deposits at the slopes of Mayon can easily be brought down by continuous heavy rains,” said Ed Laguerta, Mayon resident volcanologist.
Laguerta added that this would combine with old deposits at the slopes of the volcano from past eruptions.
Sancho Alcantara, Ligao City disaster risk reduction and management officer, said brownish volcanic sediment stream flow was observed at the river channels last Saturday in Baligang at Camalig and Nabonton, both in Albay.
Barangays Calabagas and San Vicente in Camarines Norte were not passable last Saturday after a spillway overflowed, according to Senior Inspector Malou Calubaquib, spokesperson for the Philippine National Police in Bicol.
Calubaquib added that 54 tourists were stranded in the popular Calaguas Island in Camarines Norte.
An ocular inspection conducted yesterday afternoon by Phivolcs confirmed that lahar had flowed to a new direction up to nine kilometers at the Miisi channel in Daraga and Anoling gully in Camalig after an almost 24-hour moderate to heavy downpour over Mayon.
Phivolcs director Solidum said the lahar flow could have been mobilized by downstream waters from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, when intense rains poured on the erupting volcano.
The Phivolcs five-man team took photos and videos of Mayon activities reportedly to be presented in a briefing today with President Duterte.
Mariton Bornas, Phivolcs chief volcanologist, told The STAR that the lahar flow ran up to nine kilometers downstream, this time, in a new conduit between Barangays Salvacion and Budiao in Daraga.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Mayon erupted again at 5:36 yesterday.
At least 7,000 workers in Albay have been rendered jobless due to the activity of the volcano, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said data from DOLE in Bicol showed that the figure could go up as Mayon continued to spew ash and lava.
But Bello assured residents that the government was readying necessary assistance for the affected workers and their families.
Bello said he has ordered the release of P30 million for the implementation of programs providing alternative employment and livelihood for the displaced workers.
The government must step up its building of permanent evacuation centers to avoid making schoolchildren the “first collateral damage” as their schools are commandeered to house refugees, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said yesterday.
Recto asked the government to step up its evacuation center-building program that began in 2016, when that year’s national budget authorized funding for 32 dormitory-type buildings in 16 regions.
In addition to building more of these, the senator also urged government to “consider other designs, like gymnasiums which will serve as evacuation centers during calamities.”
Evacuees reach 80,000
The number of evacuees displaced by Mayon Volcano eruption in Albay has topped the 80,000 mark, and their need for assistance “has assumed serious urgency.”
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda yesterday said relief assistance and donations for the evacuees, now housed in various government evacuation centers around the province, are urgently needed.
Salceda said although the Department of Social Welfare and Development has started distributing relief assistance, resources are still not enough.
Partial reports as of yesterday by the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Council showed the number of evacuees at 79,121 persons belonging to 21,693 families now housed in evacuation centers.
Several thousand more have taken refuge in homes of relatives outside the danger zone.
Salceda said there is a need for steady supply of food items, drinking water, gas masks and other relief assistance since no one can tell when the calamity would end.
In past Mayon eruptions, evacuees were forced to remain in evacuation centers for months. In 2006, the evacuation period lasted 147 days and in 2009, 185 days. – With Celso Amo, Cet Dematera, Mayen Jaymalin, Edith Regalado, Paolo Romero