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Despite the casualties, Mayon Volcano's May 7 eruption was relatively mild in its 390-year recorded history, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Tuesday, mere hours after the mountain's latest explosion. No one might have died if climbers were not near the peak at the time of the sudden "phreatic eruption," a steam blast caused by hot magma deep in the earth. The climbers reportedly died in a hail of large rocks. The explosion caught the country's vulcanologists by surprise. But they said there was no indication of a follow-up eruption. The iconic Bicol landmark has erupted at least 50 times in the 390-year period between 1616 and 2006, according to Phivolcs.
Mayon's 'Vesuvius-like' eruption in 1814
But Phivolcs said that the "most destructive eruption" of Mayon on record was on Feb. 1, 1814, when it erupted with "plinian, pyroclastic flows" and "volcanic lightning and lahar." Named after the Greek historian Pliny the Younger —who described the violent and spectacular destruction of Pompeii by Vesuvius' eruption in AD 79— so-called Plinian eruptions are notable for their outpouring of hot gas, volcanic ash, and occasional pyroclastic flows.
In Mayon's Plinian eruption of 1814, some 1,200 casualties were reported, and Camalig, Cagsaua, Budiao, Guinobatan and half of Albay were damaged.
The second most destructive eruption of Mayon occurred between June 4 and July 23, 1897, when pyroclastic flows damaged the seashore of Sto. Domingo and barrios of Sto. Nino, San Isidro, San Roque, San Antonio, Misericordia in Sto. Domingo town; Ligao; parts of Bigaa, San Fernando and Legazpi.
A lava flow affected the Basud River in Sto. Domingo and Camalig. There were at least 350 casualties, "most likely due to pyroclastic flows," Phivolcs said.
Phivolcs added this was "next to the 1814 eruption in destructiveness," adding the violent phase lasted 17 hours.
From Feb. 2 to April 4, 1993, 77 were killed and five injured as pyroclastic flow affected Mabinit and Bonga; ashfall affected Camalig. Sto. Domingo and Legazpi; and lava flow and lahar were confined to gullies. Other notable Mayon eruptions
Among the other major Mayon eruptions recorded by Phivolcs since Feb. 19-24, 1616 are:
- July 20-24, 1766: Pyroclastic and lava flows towards east. Malinao was destroyed, while Cagsaua, Guinobatan, Budiao, Polangui, and Ligao recorded major damage. At least 39 were listed as casualties.
- Jan. 21, 1845: Vulcanian, ashfall, lava flow in 15- to 30-minute eruption. Ashfall over Camalig, Guinobatan and Ligao.
- May 11, 1846: Vulcanian, pyroclastic flows, ashfall, lahar, with 12 cm of ash falling over Camalig.
- July 7, 1853: Vulcanian, ashfall, pyroclastic flow, lahar affecting Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui, Malilipot, Cagsaua in Albay. There were 34 casualties.
- January 1858: Strombolian, lava flow, lahar; intial lava fountaining lasted until December.
- December 8, 1871 to January 1872: Albay, Legazpi, Camalig, Guinobatan. Three casualties.
- Jan. 8 to February 1947: lava flows affected Sto. Domingo, Calbayog and Malilipot. Pyroclastic flow affected San Vicente and Malilipot. Ashfall brought ankle-deep ash to Masarawag and Guinobatan.
- April 20 to May 20, 1968: Pyroclastic flow affected Tinobran, Quirangay, Miisi, and Bonga. Lava flow affected Camalig. Ashfall affected Camalig, Guinobatan and Legazpi.
- May 3 to July 4, 1978: Lava emission lasted until July 4.
- September 9 to October 1984: Pyroclastic flow affected southeast and east of Mayon, Bonga, and Sto. Domingo. Lava flow affected Camalig. Ashfall affected Sto. Domingo and parts of Legazpi.
Phivolcs said a series of ash explosions occurred on Jan. 31, March 17, April 5, and May 6 and 14 in 2003, which it described as precursors to Mayon's activity in 2006.
At the time, there was also an intermittent faint crater glow.
On July 14, 2006, Phivolcs recorded lava flow and ash explosions as high as 800 meters from Mayon. Phivolcs lists Mayon as one of at least 23 active volcanoes in the Philippines, along with Mounts Pinatubo (Central Luzon) and Taal (Batangas). — TJD, GMA News