What Happens When Typhoons Strike Volcano Areas?

Mayon is located on typhoon alley.
A resident walks past a damaged house and boulders washed away by floodwaters from the slopes of nearby Mayon volcano in Guinobatan town, Albay province on Nov. 2, 2020, after Super Typhoon Rolly made landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 1.
Photo/s: Charism Sayat, Agence France-Presse

Torrential rains and super typhoon winds from Rolly pushed volcanic ash and debris from Mayon Volcano's slopes, burying entire villages, drone footage from the site showed.

Quarry operators left their stockpiles in the middle of three rivers, which were pushed down to the villages by lahar, a combination of water and volcanic ash, said Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu. The miners were suspended.

In some Albay villages, only the roofs of houses are visible, residents also dug deep to recover cars and tricycles. The drone footage below from Agence France-Presse was taken from Daraga and Guinobatan.

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At least 20 people died due to floods and landslides spawned by Rolly (international name: Goni) the strongest storm in the world so far this year.

The lahar flows highlighted the dangerous mix of typhoons and volcanoes. Mayon is located in the Bicol Peninsula that faces the Pacific Ocean, where most of the nearly 20 typhoons that enter the country are formed.

In 2006, Typhoon Reming (Durian), dumped heavy rains in Bicol, triggering lahar flows that killed hundreds and left tens of thousands homeless. The death toll due to Rolly is far from Reming, based on initial estimates.


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Catanduanes and Albay bore the brunt of Rolly, which was packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 225 kph when it slammed into the east coast on Sunday.

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Ferocious winds and torrential rain toppled power lines, triggered flooding and sparked landslides that engulfed houses as Rolly swept across the southern part of Luzon. It lost intensity as it skirted the sprawling capital of Manila and headed out to the South China Sea.

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"We are horrified by the devastation caused by this typhoon in many areas including Catanduanes island and Albay," Philippines Red Cross President Richard Gordon said in a statement.

"Up to 90 percent of homes have been badly damaged or destroyed in some areas. This typhoon has smashed into people's lives and livelihoods on top of the relentless physical, emotional and economic toll of COVID-19," said Sen. Gordon.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes ahead of the typhoon and many of them remain in evacuation centres as authorities scramble to restore power and telecommunications services in the hardest-hit areas.


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Fourteen deaths were recorded in Albay province, but provincial disaster chief Cedric Daep said without pre-emptive evacuations "thousands would have died".

"We have extensive damage to infrastructure and housing," Daep said.

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"Many people are hungry. They had already suffered from Covid due to the loss of jobs and dislocation. Some don't even have kitchen utensils."

'Severely affected'

Seven of the victims were in a town that was hit by a landslide of volcanic ash from the nearby active Mayon volcano.

The mayor of Guinobatan told local media that around 147 homes had been swamped and some were now unlivable.

"We are severely affected here," provincial Governor Joseph Cua told a government briefing.

Most of the island's power lines were damaged in the typhoon and reports from towns were only trickling in, suggesting the toll could rise. 

"We're hoping aid will arrive soon. We are short on funds," Cua told CNN Philippines.

Across the areas in Rolly's path, more than 20,000 houses were destroyed and around 58,000 partially damaged, Civil Defense said in a statement. Farmland was also damaged.

Clean-up efforts were under way with residents removing sodden furniture and other belongings from their houses as they shovelled out mud and debris after heavy rains inundated towns.

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"The flood took only minutes to rise -- not hours, but minutes," Alona Espino in Batangas city, south of Manila, told AFP.

"We never experienced flood raging so fast."

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