Thai hurt in Philippine volcano blast

A Thai tourist was injured from the explosion at Mount Mayon in Albay province, 350 kilometres southeast of Manila, the Philippines.

In this handout photo taken on Tuesday, Volcano Mount Mayon spews a thick column of ash 500 metres into the air, as seen from the city of Legazpi, Albay province, southeast of Manila. A Thai tourist is injured from the explosion. (AFP / PHIVOLCS-DOST photo)

Five Thais were among 27 mountaineers who were climbing the peak when the sudden explosion occurred, said the Thai embassy in Manila.

Four European and Filipino mountaineers were killed, according to Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the Office of Civil Defense of the Philippines.

The mountaineers included tourists from Germany, Austria, Indonesia and Thailand, he added.

Three German tourists were among those killed, said Marti Calleja, a tour operator who organised the climb for a group of four Germans and one Austrian.

"They were half a kilometre from the summit when the explosion occurred," he told dpa by telephone. "They were actually on their way down." "It literally rained rocks on them, and the rocks were as big as a dinner table," he said. 

"They were reportedly pinned down by the rocks, and those who survived are very, very lucky." The rocks could have been dislodged from the crater by the phreatic explosion, which spewed gray-to-brown clouds of ash and steam 500 metres above the summit, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

"This is not related to magma rise," said Renato Solidum, the institutes director. "We are not raising the alert level unless we monitor changes in the volcano, which we dont see now." Phreatic explosions are caused when water comes into contact with molten rock underground, turning it instantly into steam and propelling it into the air, often mixed with soil, ash, mud, rock fragments and gases.

"No volcanic earthquake was detected within the past 24-hour observation period," the institute said in a bulletin. "Seismic and gas emission parameters remained within the background levels and indicate no intensification of volcanic activity."

The 2,472-metre volcano has erupted about 50 times since 1616. It last erupted in July 2006, forcing more than 30,000 people to flee their homes.

Mayon's most violent eruption was in 1814, when more than 1,200 people were killed and a town was buried in volcanic mud. An eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.

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Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol and dpa