The Philippines lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common. About 23 out of the 220 volcanos in the archipelago are active according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). These include Mayon (Albay Province in southern Luzon), Mounts Pinatubo (Central Luzon) and Taal (Batangas in southern Luzon). By some reckonings the southern part of the Philippines island of Luzon has more active volcanoes per square kilometer than any other place. A supervolcano erupted at Taal within the last 2 million years.

The Phivolcs defines "active" as volcanoes that have erupted in the past 500 years. In addition to th ones named above, these include Biliran, Babuyan Claro, Bulusan, Camiguin, Camiguin de Babuyanes, Didicas, Iraya, Jolo, Kanlaon, Makaturing, Musuan, Parker, and Ragang.

Worst Recorded Volcanic Eruptions (number of dead): 1) Mt, Tambora, Sumbawa, Indonesia, Apr. 10-12, 1815 (92,000); 2) Krakatoa, Indonesia, Aug. 26-28, 1883 (36,000); 3) Mt. Pelée, Martinique, May 8, 1902 (28,000); 4) Nevado del Ruíz, Columbia, Nov. 13, 1985 (23,000); 5) Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, Aug 24, 79 AD (16,000); 6) Mt. Unzen, Japan, May 21, 1792 (14,500); 7) Kelut, Java, Indonesia, 1586 (10,000); 8) Laki, Iceland, June 8, 1783 (9,350); 9) Mt. Kelut, Java, Indonesia, May 19, 1919 (5,000); 10) Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, Dec. 15, 1631 (4,000); 11) Mt. Papandayan, Java, Indonesia, Aug. 12, 1772 (3,000); 12) Mt. Lamington, New Guinea, Jan 17-21, 1951, New Guinea (3,000); 13) El Chichon, Mexico, May 28, 1982 (1,800); 14) Lake Nyos, Cameroon, Aug. 21. 1986 (1,700); 15) Mt. Taal, Philippines, Jan 30. 1911; 16) Santa Maria, Guatemala, Apr. 24, 1902 (1,000); 17) Mt. Pinatubo, Luzon, Philippines, June 15, 1991 (800); 18) Mt. St. Helens, May 18, 1980 (57).

The world's dangerous volcanos (as judged by their potential for a dangerous eruption and nearness to major population areas): 1) Merapi (Indonesia); 2) Taal (Philippines); 3) Unzen (Japan); 4) Sakurajima (Japan); 5) Ulawun (Papua New Guinea); 6) Mauna Loa (the United States); 7) Rainier (the United States); 8) Colima (Mexico); 9) Santa Maria/ Santiaguito (Guatemala); 10) Galeras (Columbia); 11) Teide (Canary Islands); 12) Vesuvius (Italy); 13) Etna (Italy); 14) Santorini (Greece); 15) Niragongo (Zaire). [Source: International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior]

People who live near dangerous Philippines volcanoes such as Mayon say the warning and evacuation procedures are good but the facilities to take of people after they have been evacuated are poor.

See Separate Articles on PINATUBO, TAAL VOLCANO and MAYON

Bulusan Volcano

Bulusan is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. Luzon's southernmost volcano, it lies at the southeast end of the Bicol volcanic arc occupying the peninsula of the same name that forms the elongated southeast tip of Luzon island. Bulusan is a young andesitic volcano built upon the northeast rim of an older dacitic-to-rhyolitic caldera, the 11-km wide Irosin caldera, which was formed about 35,000-40,000 years ago. Bulusan is flanked by several other large intracaldera lava domes and cones, including the prominent Mount Jormajan lava dome on the SW flank and Sharp Peak to the NE. The summit of 1565-m-high Bulusan volcano is unvegetated and contains a 300-m-wide, 50-m-deep crater. Three small craters are located on the SE flank. Many moderate explosive eruptions have been recorded at Bulusan since the mid-19th century. [Source: volcanodiscovery.com /*\]

Bulusan is a 1565 meter-high (5,134 foot-high) stratovolcano. It lies 43 kilometers south of the capital city Sorsogon in Sorsogon province about 240 miles (380 kilometres) southeast of Manila. Typical eruption style: Explosive. In historic time, frequent small to moderate phreatic and phreatomagmatic ash eruptions. Mudflows from loose deposits on flank are often generated when heavy rains fall (e.g. during taifuns). Stratovolcano Bulusan volcano eruptions: 2011, Oct 2006-07, Mar-Jun 2006, 1994, 1988, 1983, 1981, 1979, 1978, 1933, 1928, 1918-22, 1916, 1894, 1892, 1889, 1886, 1852(?). /*\

Mount Bulusan Eruption In 2011

Mount Bulusan erupted in the morning at 9:15am on February 20, 2011. ABS-CBN News Channel and the Huffington Post reported: “Ash and steam from the explosion reached as high as 2 kilometers. Mount Bulusan had increased volcanic activity in November 2010, spewing ash and steam over several days. Families were evacuated at the time. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology confirmed the ash explosion and says it was caused by steam buildup. The institute advises all aircraft to avoid the vicinity and warns that the ash emission could trigger respiratory illnesses for those near the volcano. People are advised not to enter the 4-kilometer danger zone around Mount Bulusan.[Source: Huffington Post, February 20, 2011]

According to the Daily Mail: “Hundreds of people fled homes and farms in central Philippines after a volcano spewed a 2km-high column of ash covering several villages, officials said.

Soldiers were patrolling a 4km danger zone around the crater of Mount Bulusan, one of the most active volcanoes in the poor Southeast Asian nation. Schools were closed and were being used as temporary shelters, Major Harold Cabunoc told reporters. The army sent trucks to move around 2,000 people to safety. 'We're also asking aircraft to avoid the volcano,' Major Cabunoc said. [Source: Daily Mail, February 21, 2011]

The Philippine Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology said Mount Bulusan started spewing ash in November 2010 but the activity had died down just before the end of 2010. The latest eruption saw a huge plume of grayish smoke sent more than a mile into the blue sky above while ash drifted southwest towards four framing towns in Sorsogon province.

About 1,200 villagers in the province were forced to flee to emergency shelters and relatives' homes, according to Benito Ramos of the government's disaster-response agency. Army trucks helped villagers move from communities hit by the ashfall and emergency teams handed out protective masks, Ramos said. There have not been any government orders to evacuate communities near the mountain. While many scrambled to safety, residents streamed out of houses in Irosin town to gaze or take pictures of the mid-morning spectacle using their cellphones. Still-hot debris at the peak of Bulusan came into contact with water, sparking the explosion. Such steam-driven blasts have happened since November and could continue in coming weeks, Solidum said.

Bulusan volcano spews ash

In March 2006, Bulusan erupted in February 2006 after being quiet for 11 years, spewing ash clouds as high as 1.5 kilometers into the sky and prompting government warnings to residents not to go near the volcano. The Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported a steam-driven explosion from the summit of the 1,559-meter volcano at 10:58 p.m. It lasted 20 minutes and was accompanied by an earthquake. [Source: Bobby Labalan, Blanche S. Rivera, PDI Southern Luzon Bureau Inquirer, March 23, 2006 ||||]

Bobby Labalan and Blanche S. Rivera wrote in the Southern Luzon Bureau Inquirer, “Resident volcanologist Bella Tubianosa said that because of the westward direction of winds, only the villages of Cogon, Tinampo, Gulang and Bolos in Irosin town and the villages of Bacolod, Sapa, Sangkayon and Biriran in Juban town were covered by the ash fall. An earthquake was accompanied the explosion at 10:58 p.m., but three more earthquakes followed at 11:30 p.m., 11:32 p.m. and 11:37 p.m.||||

"Technically, it's an eruption, although it's only an ash explosion since the materials spewed were mostly ash and not pyroclastic ones," Ed Laguerta, Mount Mayon resident volcanologist who is based in Legazpi City in Albay, said late yesterday afternoon.Laguerta, who went to Bulusan to assist in monitoring activities, said there was not much hazard or threat to life at present but only inconvenience to local residents, except for those near the crater. He said no succeeding activity had yet taken place after Tuesday's ash explosion. ||||

“Bulusan usually exhibits a "one-shot deal" -- meaning, once it explodes, it will take days before another activity occurs, he said. Laguerta noted the reactivation of certain fissures down the slopes, as manifested by smoke emissions. Tubianosa said the ash ejection was preceded by at least 63 volcanic quakes and a loud rumbling. Phivolcs warned people to stay away from areas within 4 kilometers of the crater that has been designated as a permanent danger zone (PDZ). The zone, which covers portions of Juban, Barcelona, Bulusan and Irosin towns, is off-limits to the public because this will be affected by sudden explosions. Nearby communities near the zone have been warned against more ash explosions that could generate life-threatening volcanic flows. ||||

“At 6 a.m. yesterday, the Phivolcs' seismic network around Bulusan recorded 18 low-frequency volcanic earthquakes, 41 high-frequency ones, and four explosion-type earthquakes. High-frequency earthquakes are caused by the breaking of rocks. Low-frequency earthquakes are those caused by the movement of fluid or gas. "What we are warning against are the more dangerous kinds of explosion," Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said. Hazardous eruption is characterized by tall eruption columns, pyroclastic flows moving down the slope, and lava flows. ||||

“Two days before the eruption, Phivolcs raised the Alert Level 1 in Bulusan after recording 73 high-frequency volcanic earthquakes, much higher than the usual five volcanic quakes in 24 hours. The next day, its seismic network recorded 58 volcanic earthquakes, compelling the agency to issue a warning on a possible explosion, which occurred at night. "These are phreatic explosions, which are a precursor to an eruption ... These indicate volcanic unrest," Phivolcs volcanology officer-in-charge Jaime Sincioco said in a phone interview. Sincioco said his office was treating the explosion as phreatic. This type of explosion occurs when water impounded in the crater flows into the cracks and meets the hot rocks, converting it to steam. ||||

“Gov. Raul Lee of Sorsogon immediately called the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council to a meeting to assess the situation and prepare for any eventualities. Lee asked the Department of Education to make available its classrooms in the affected areas and even in towns that might be hit by ash fall for possible evacuation. He mobilized the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection to clean up the national highway. Before the ash explosion, Bulusan's last activities were recorded from Nov. 27, 1994 to January 1995. It only caused ash fall in villages in Bulusan, Barcelona, Casiguran, Juban, Irosin and Gubat towns and was accompanied by at least 14 minutes of weak tremor.”

One Person Dies of an Asthma Attack as Mount Bulusan Spews Ash in 2006

At least one villager died of an asthma attack near Mount Bulusan as the volcano spewed ash. ABS-CBN: reported: “Officials warned residents to stay away from the mountain after its crater belched ash clouds nearly 2 kilometres (1,2 mile) high, prompting authorities to raise the alert level to two from the one it was ordered in March when ash first began flowing from its crater. At level 3 an explosion is considered possible, at level 4 it is seen as likely and at level 5, the highest alert, an eruption has occurred with lava flows or ash columns reaching 6 km. [Source: ABS-CBN, June 9, 2006 |=|]

“The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology told Reuters they were monitoring an increasing frequency of ash explosions and had warned residents in Sorsogon province not to venture within a 4-kilometres (2.5 mile) zone of the 1,559-metre (5,1000 foot) volcano because of fears of sudden explosions. Local communities complained the downpour of volcanic ash had affected their health. "We get very scared when we see the sky dark and when the ash is falling. We are scared," said a villager. Local residents cleaned their yards and reached for the garden hose to wash away greyish ash from plants and roofs of their homes. Bulusan, one of the six most active volcanoes in the Philippines, has had five ash eruptions since March. |=|

“Experts warn they cannot predict when or even if the volcano will erupt. "We can't say what date or what day it will explode," said Crispolo Diolata Junior, the Officer-in-Charge of the Bulusan branch of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. In a nearby village, thousands of face masks were distributed to farming villages after volcanic ash fell on homes in the coastal community's 25 villages. The Office of Civil Defence urged residents not to drink ground water because of possible contamination. Local authorities said they were preparing for the worst following the warnings issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. Ash fall was also reported in nearby Juban town and officials said as many as 50,000 people would be evacuated in case of a major volcanic eruption. The Philippines, like neighbouring Indonesia, lies in an area of the Pacific basin that is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. |=|

Canlaon Volcano

Canlaon volcano (also spelled Kanlaon) on Negros Island is another very active volcano in the Philippines. Part of the Negros Volcanic Belt and the most active one of the Central Philippines, it forms the highest peak of Negros Island and is located west of Canlaon about 36 kilometers southeast of Bacolod City and belongs to Canlaon National Park. [Source: volcanodiscovery.com /*\]

Canlaon is a large 2435 meter-high (7,989 feet-high) stratovolcano dotted with numerous flank cones and craters, many of which contain lakes. The summit of Kanlaon contains a 2-km-wide, elongated caldera with two craters. One is inactive and contains a crater lake. The second crater to the south is smaller, higher and contains the historically active vent, Lugud crater. Lugud crater is 250 meter wide and 150-200 meter deep. The base of Kanlaon measures an area of 30 kilometers x 14 km. /*\

Historical eruptions from Kanlaon have been recorded since 1866. Most historic eruptions were small to medium sized phreatic explosions, causing minor ash fall near the volcano. Canlaon's geologic record of past deposits include a remarkable large debris avalanche, that resulted from flank failure of the volcano and traveled 33 kilometers to the SW.

Canlaon Volcano Eruptions

Canlaon volcano eruptions: 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 1996, 1993, 1992, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1980, 1978, 1970, 1969, 1932-33, 1927, 1905-06, 1904, 1902, 1894, 1893, 1884, 1883, 1866. [Source: volcanodiscovery.com /*\]

2006 ash eruptions A series of new eruptions at Kanlaon volcano began on 3 June 2006. Until 25 July, a total of 23 ash eruptions were reported. All eruptions were phreatic (i.e. no fresh magma was ejected), and ejected ash and steam up to 2 kilometers above the crater. No significant seismic activity had occurred before or after the ash emissions, indicating the explosions were near surface hydrothermal events. [Sources: volcanodiscovery.com, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), GVP monthly activity report for Kanlaon +\+]

2005 ash eruptions: A brief phreatic ash eruption occurred at Canlaon volcano on 21 January 2005, producing a 500 m high ash plume. A fine layer of ash fell on the town of Cabagnaan 5.5 kilometers SW of the crater. Ash emissions began again on 20 March and caused minor ash fall in the town of Guintubdan 5 kilometers W of the volcano. Until 4 April, occasional ash eruptions reached 1 kilometers above the volcano, and small ash fall was reported in the towns of La Castellana (16 kilometers SW of the crater), Upper Sag-ang, Yubo (5-6 kilometers SW), and Guintubdan (5-6 kilometers WNW). Ash eruptions stopped after 25 May 2005. +\+

2003 small ash eruptions: On 17 March 2003, a gray volcanic plume was observed above Canloaon volcano. Small eruptions produced plumes of steam and ahs rising 100 m above the active crater during the beginning of June. On 8 June, ashfall was observed at Canlaon City. A total of 46 minor ash ejections were recorded, mostly in June and July. After 23 July, only weak steam emission was noted and seismic activity returned to normal low levels. 2002 ash eruptions: An increase in seismicity during February-April 2002 was followed by a raised alert, increased steaming, and a small ash eruption on 28 November 2002. +\+

1996 phreatic eruption with 3 fatalities: A phreatic explosion at Canlaon volcano on 10 August 1996 killed 3 people who were at the summit when the explosion happened. 18 people were injured by falling blocks and had to be hospitalized. 1993 phreatic eruption: Small phreatic explosions occurred at Canlaon volcano on 25 August and 3 September 1993. The eruption on 3 September lasted for 8 minutes and produced a steam-and-ash column that rose 1,000 m above the summit before drifting SSW and SSE. Ash fell at the Canlaon Volcano Observatory 8 kilometers SSE of the summit. The phreatic eruption was accompanied by an earthquake felt at the Cabagnaan Station. +\+

1992 eruption: A minor earthquake accompanied an ash eruption at Kanlaon volcano on 10 June 1992. 1989 ash eruptions: Since 25 October 1989 mildly explosive ash ejections occurred almost daily. The eruptions lasted until December 1989. On 3 November, a relatively large eruption produced an ash plume rising 1200 m above the crater. PHILVOLCS scientists had detected ground inflation a few hours before the ash emissions. 1988 eruptions: A series of ash emissions occurred between 21-27 June 1988 and produced plumes of up to 500 m high. Small amounts of ash fell in the village of Mananawin on the SE slope at 980 m elevation. +\+

1987 ash eruptions: New euptions started at Kanlaon volcano in April 1987. On the morning of 24 April an eruption produced a fresh ash deposit ~1-2 kilometers wide and 6.5 kilometers long that extended down the SW flank. There was no seismic signal associated with the explosions and no sounds heard by local residents. A sulfur smell was reported from the Cabagnaan Observatory (approximately 6 kilometers SW of the crater) on the same day. The activity was preceded by an increase in sulphate concentrations at Mambucal Aquapool, Mudpool, and Sulfur Spring, 9.75 kilometers NNW of Kanlaon's summit.

1986 powerful eruption of 21 June: Without any preceding seismic activity, Canlaon had a small eruption on 3 June 1986, producing a plume of 300 m above the crater. 19 days later, on 21 June, a powerful explosion occurred sending a mushroom-shaped plume to 4000 m above the crater. The eruption was accompanied by an earthquake felt at up to 8 kilometers from the summit, as well as booming and hissing noises. +\+

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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