Sep 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09MANILA2583.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2583
2009-12-16 08:54
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7442
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2583/01 3500854
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 160854Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6075
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHOVQHS/COMSEVENTHFLT IMMEDIATE
INFO RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2326
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0352
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/USMISSION UN ROME IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002583

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

BANGKOK FOR USAID /OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR A. DWYER
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA R. THAYER
USAID W/ FOR ANE/AA AND DCHA/FPP
GENEVA FOR N. KYLOH
USUN FOR OFDA REP
BRUSSELS FOR P. BROWN
ROME FOR USAID/OHA H. SPANOS
SECDEF FOR SOLIC
JOINT STAFF WASHDC FOR J3/J4/J5
PACOM FOR J3/J4/J5
NSC FOR P. MARCHAM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PREL KPAO SENV EAGR RP
SUBJECT: VOLCANIC RUMBLINGS PROMPT SOUTHEAST LUZON EVACUATIONS

REFTEL: Manila 2056

¶1. (SBU) Summary. On December 14, authorities ordered the
evacuation of approximately 50,000 people living within five miles
of the Mayon volcano in southern Luzon island, after the Philippine
Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) issued an
intermediate Alert Level 3 warning. PHIVOLCS scientists using
state-of the-art instrumentation donated by the U.S. Government
expect only lava flows, and consider an imminent violent eruption
unlikely. However, provincial officials are taking no chances and
are proceeding with large-scale evacuations. End Summary.

——————————————
Governor Cancels Copenhagen Trip to Direct Evacuations
——————————————

¶2. (SBU) The Albay Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC)
began evacuating residents from within the five mile radius
‘extended danger zone’ surrounding Mount Mayon on December 14, the
same day the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology
(PHIVOLCS) raised the volcano’s warning intensity to Alert Level 3.
According to the Philippine National Red Cross, 23,000 persons,
almost half of the residents of the danger zone, had been evacuated
by the evening of December 15. These families have taken shelter in
13 identified evacuation centers, in most cases schools. The
Philippine National Red Cross has deployed volunteers to two
evacuation centers to provide first aid services. Albay provincial
governor Jose Sarte “Joey” Salceda, who was scheduled to accompany
Philippine President Arroyo to the Copenhagen climate talks December
16, postponed his departure to direct evacuation efforts. Salceda
told the media that he expects more than 9,000 families to spend the
Christmas and New Year’s holidays in evacuation centers. Amcits
residing in Albay province contacted by the Embassy’s American
Citizen’s Services section reported that military units were
assisting in the evacuation of area farmers, who have proven
reluctant to relocate during earlier volcanic alerts.

¶3. (SBU) The Consular section issued a Warden Message on December 15
to U.S. citizens advising them of the heightened possibility of a
volcanic eruption from Mount Mayon. American Citizens Services
(ACS) has 251 registered U.S. citizens in Albay province, none of
whom, according to area wardens contacted by ACS staff, live within
the extended danger zone. Area wardens report that despite ongoing
evacuations, tourists are still being allowed into the zone.
————————————–
Volcano’s Long History of Bad Behavior
————————————–

¶4. (SBU) PHIVOLCS scientists have been monitoring the Mayon volcano
since July 10, when an increasing frequency of volcanic earthquakes
caused them to raise its status to Alert Level 1, signifying Low
Level Unrest. (Note: The six-level volcanic alert scale ranges
from Level 0, signifying Quiet, to Level 5, for Hazardous Ongoing
Eruption. End Note.) Mount Mayon is the Philippine’s most active
volcano, having erupted 49 times in the last 400 years. An 1814
eruption killed over two thousand and buried surrounding areas in up
to 30 feet of ash. Although the last major eruption in October 2006
caused no loss of life, Typhoon Durian the following month caused
landslides of volcanic debris that killed an estimated 1,000.

—————————————
Scary Headlines versus Sober Scientists
—————————————

¶5. (SBU) While many national dailies featured smoking volcanoes on
their front pages, government volcanologists told us that they do
not expect a major eruption any time soon. PHILVOCS Assistant
Director Bartolome Bautista said that based on seismographic, gas
emission, and ground deformation measurements, he expected the
volcano to effuse lava for several weeks, and predicted that the

MANILA 00002583 002 OF 002

volume of lava flow would be significantly less than that typically
exhibited by Mount Mayon while at Alert Level 3 conditions.
Volcanologist Maricel Capa noted that no strong explosions were
imminent, lamenting that the ‘media hype’ to that effect was not
true. She also said that PHILVOCS central Manila office will issue
guidelines in coming days intended to restrain ‘younger, less
experienced’ field employees from making predictions that are not
supported by the full range of data.

——————————————— —
U.S. Technology Strengthens Volcano Alert System
——————————————— —

¶6. (SBU) Several PHILVOCS scientists lauded the utility of a ‘fly
spectrometer’ (flyspec) donated to the institute this summer by the
United States Geological Survey (USGS). Developed by the University
of Hawaii’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, these
spectrometers can measure sulfur and nitrogen oxides, hydrogen
sulfide, and other toxic volcanic gases in real time. The
lightweight hand-held flyspec replaced an older vehicle-mounted
unit, allowing researchers to more easily access active volcanic
areas.

——-
Comment
——-

¶7. (SBU) PHILVOCS is effectively using U.S. assistance to improve
its capabilities to monitor and predict volcanic eruptions. In the
densely populated, volcanically active Philippines, more accurate
forecasting of volcanic eruptions could save many lives. Despite
the current scientific indicators, Albay provincial officials,
perhaps sensitized by criticism of the slow government response to
this year’s typhoon flooding (reftel), are taking no chances and are
proceeding with large-scale evacuations. End Comment.

Kenney

   

 

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