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Mayon simmers down but big bang still possible

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Mayon Volcano’s sulfur emission has lessened, but a hazardous eruption by the restless volcano is still possible, state geologists told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Saturday.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a health-threatening gas with a pungent odor.

Mayon remains under alert level 4, and surrounding communities are urged to stay vigilant, said science research specialist Maria Concepcion Barairo of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

“Latest data on SO2 and other parameters we’re monitoring continue to indicate such unrest there,” Barairo said, adding the volcano’s reduced sulfur emission is no reason for the surrounding communities to be complacent.

Scientists said SO2 was among the volcanic gases that escape into the atmosphere through a volcano’s various openings. Once released, they said, SO2 could reach varying distances and altitudes. Exposure to SO2 could irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system, they said.

In its bulletin released Saturday, Phivolcs reported that Mayon’s SO2 emission level on Friday was at an average of 1,583 tons.

Phivolcs reported higher average daily SO2 emission levels of 2,299 and 3,428 tons on Jan. 31 and Jan. 30, respectively.

“SO2 emission levels can’t be the same every day,” noted Barairo, saying various conditions, including those within Mayon, may limit the SO2 emission.

Mayon Volcano’s SO2 emission on Friday still exceeded this gas’ normal level of approximately 500 tons per day, noted Barairo. She said some people had already reported smelling sulfur with Mayon’s continuing unrest.

That smell might even intensify if Mayon’s SO2 emission rises again, Barairo said, adding that people around Mayon must heed the local authorities’ advice on actions to take to stay safe while the volcano is restive. (PNA)