(2nd Nightlead) 4 Germans, 1 Filipino guide die as Mayon spews ash, stones

May 7, 2013 10:11 pm 

LEGAZPI CITY, May 7 -– Five mountaineers — four German nationals and their Filipino guide — died on the slope of Mayon when they fell into a gulley Tuesday following a surprise steam-driven ash explosion, officials said.

The 73-second phreatic blast hit Mayon at about 8:04 a.m., according to Gov. Joey Salceda, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC).

The explosion sent a vertical column of ash blended with stones almost 3 kms in height, which drifted west-southwest towards Guinobatan town.

It caused a mantle of about 2-3-millimeter thick ash that covered some portions of Brgy. Muladbucad Grande, barangay officials said.

Salceda identified the dead German nationals as Joan Edusa, Roland Tieza, Farah Franes, Furian Stellfer and the local tour guide from Malilipot town as Jerome Berin.

Disaster officials earlier identified the dead as Joan Eduza, Roland Pieza, Farah Franes, Fibian Stifler — all Germans — and Jerome Berin, a local tour guide from Albay’s Malilipot town.

There was no immediate reaction from the German Embassy in Manila.

Their bodies had not been recovered as of nightfall as a mountain-size dark cloud enveloped the imposing 2,463-meter Mayon, discouraging the rescuers from further recovering them.

Eight other climbers were injured after the volcano ejected ashes with big stones that officials said hit the victims at the head, back, hands and feet.

Rescued were Bernard Hernandez, 25, married, from Barangay Lidong, wounded at the right hand; Calixto Baluso, 30, single, from Lidong, with swelling left forefinger; Kenneth Jesalva, 21, and Sabine Strohberger, 32, Austrian,Nithi Ruangpisit, 26, Tanut Ruchipiyrak, 26 both Thais, and 10 other able-bodied individuals.

The Dept. of Tourism said the mountaineer casualties did not notify their office about their plan to climb Mayon, while the Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office said only two advised the office.

At about 11:45 a.m., a 10-man rescue team took off from Camp 1 of the volcano to retrieve the bodies of the five dead and the rest of the injured at Camp 2, about two hours' away from Camp 1, the latter point 600 meters above sea level.

Earlier, the PDRRMC sent rescue teams to three jump-off sites–in Lidong, Sto. Domingo; Bonga, Bacacay and San Roque, Malilipot towns–to scour the slopes of Mayon for the reported casualties.

The dispatched teams were from the Philippine Red Cross, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Navy, Office of Civil Defense 5, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital, and Sto. Domingo MDRRMC to assist and provide emergency transportation to injured climbers.

The PDRRMC requested air asset support from the Armed Forces through the OCD5 to conduct area reconnaissance and air-to-ground operation for injured victims.

The Dept. of Health and the Provincial Health Office were monitoring ash fall condition in the 3rd District of the province.

The DOH V also provided body bags and emergency supply for the operation.

Rains fell at about 3:15 p.m., discouraging rescuers, even relatives of a Filipino casualty, Jerome Berin.

Roy Montesina, a relative of Berin's, said they saw the bodies of the dead persons about 50 meters from their location but they were discouraged by the enveloping darkness.

Nicanor Mabao Jr., one of the injured, was brought down to Camp 1 at about 3:15 p.m.

Bok Llarena, brother-in-law and a companion of Berin, said they thought it was just water that was cascading along the slope but “those were stones that rolled down.”

Llarena said his group could hear another bunch of Mayon climbers who were shouting for help but could not do anything as they were at the other side of the gulley.

Salceda issued an advisory suspending all human activities within the 6-km-radius permanent danger zone at the slope of the volcano to include mountain climbing, farming, orchid gathering and sports.

The advisory warned mountain climbers to immediately clear the 6-km PDZ and told the responding teams to meet climbers at a safe pre-designated area.

He advised the DRRMCs of Legazpi City, Tabaco City, Ligao City, Daraga, Camalig,Guinobatan and Malilipot to closely monitor activities in their respective areas of responsibility, report any untoward incidents in their respective areas of jurisdiction and call for emergency meeting for contingency planning.

Mayon Volcano, also known as Mount Mayon, is an active volcano in Albay and 10 kms from Albay Gulf.

The Phivolcs is maintaining Alert Level 0 status, which means that no eruption is imminent.

However, small phreatic explosions–including small steam and ash ejections, may occur suddenly with little or no warning, it added.

Explaining the nature of the explosion, Ed Laguerta, resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said a phreatic explosion, a steam-driven one, is caused by the pressure of heat that developed underneath the volcano, causing a steam that pushed ash up and come out as ash cloud.

“It is like a heated pressure cooker,” Laguerta added.

Residents noted that it rained Monday night and said rainwater could have reached the superheated magma inside the volcano, thus, producing steam.

Laguerta said Mayon last erupted in 2009.

The veteran volcanologist said there is a set of detecting equipment available, including a seismograph, which was to be installed yet after election but “was overtaken by event.”

Salceda, however, said the event is considered as disaster tourism, but is neither encouraged, promoted nor sponsored by the provincial government.

“Disaster tourism is certainly not within the contemplation of the provincial development strategy even if disaster risk reduction and tourism are integral components,” he said.(PNA)

HBC/FGS/CBD/

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