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Huge Rocks From Philippine Volcano

February 23, 2000

LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) _ Rocks the size of cars came crashing down the slopes of the Philippines’ Mayon volcano on Wednesday, while residents left the area in an evacuation, officials said.

The 8,118-foot volcano, one of the Philippines’ most active, appeared to be following its usual pattern of a gentle rising of magma followed by an eruption, said Ernesto Corpuz, chief of volcano monitoring at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Corpuz said fragmentation of the crater’s lava dome increased slightly as the large rocks broke away. He said the rising of the magma suggests volcanic activity will intensify, leading to an explosive eruption that could occur ``as soon as this week.″

``But before it does that, we will be observing signs like earthquakes accompanying explosions,″ he said.

Juan Cordon, a research specialist at the volcanology institute, said short-duration tremors suggest the magma has become more fluid, freely moving through the crater.

Mayon is located about 215 miles southeast of Manila in Albay province.

At least 4,150 people from 14 villages had been evacuated as of Wednesday, said Cedric Daep, head of the Albay provincial disaster management office.

Classes were suspended in schools used as temporary shelters and in villages on the volcano’s southeast slope, the area most vulnerable to falling rocks and superheated clouds of ash and volcanic debris.

Most residents of the village of Bonga, directly in the path of a possible lava flow, left in the evacuation, but many men stayed home to watch over crops and farm animals.

Florentino Mina, a 60-year-old farmer who survived five previous eruptions, said he was confident he could escape an eruption since he and his neighbors had several vehicles ready to flee in.

The volcano has been showing signs of activity since last June, spewing ash-laden smoke high in the sky several times last year, but causing no injuries. An explosion in September forced more than 5,700 people to flee their homes.

Mayon’s most violent eruption on Feb. 1, 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried an entire town in volcanic mud flows. Its last eruption in February 1993 killed more than 70 villagers.

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