Thousands More Evacuated as Volcano Rumbles
LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) _ Mayon volcano, belching ash and debris, threatened still bigger eruptions today and the provincial governor ordered 6,000 more people evacuated.
No casualties have been reported since the eruptions resumed Friday after a 10-day lull. An explosion that seismologists called minor killed 68 people on Feb. 2.
After that blast, authorities ordered everyone within a four-mile radius of the crater evacuated, but many had drifted back in recent days to protect homes or harvest crops.
″We have not lowered the alert level, therefore, we are expecting more eruptions, maybe bigger,″ said Raymundo Punongbayan, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Police Supt. Andres Superable said 57,100 people were living in emergency shelters outside the four-mile danger zone.
Most came from the southeastern slopes of the volcano, where burning clouds of ash, debris and gases have been flowing from the crater.
Today, acting Albay provincial Gov. Danilo Azana expanded the evacuation area to include six villages with an estimated population of 6,000, west of the crater. He said 55 more villages might be evacuated in case of a major eruption.
Those who live in Mayon’s shadow are mostly poor farmers. Maria Miravite, 42, said her son was killed in a volcanic avalanche in 1984. She recently adopted a girl whose father and brother are missing after the Feb. 2 explosion.
″We are very much afraid of Mayon,″ she said. ″But we have no place else to go.″
Mount Mayon, 220 miles southeast of Manila, emitted ash clouds twice this morning, bringing the number of eruptions since Friday to seven.
Volcanologist Julio Sabit said gases and debris as hot as 1,800 degrees flowed from the crater and rolled nearly four miles down the slopes, at 60 mph.
″Any human or animal would have suffered second- or third-degree burns at that temperature and experienced instant death,″ Sabit said.
Corazon Alma de Leon, acting secretary of Social Welfare and Development, said the government may have to ban settlements near the volcano.
Such bans were imposed after a 1984 eruption, but were not enforced. The Department of Tourism even encouraged tourists to climb the volcano, although trekking was suspended after the Feb. 2 eruption.
Even with a big eruption, Mayon is not expected to be as threatening as the 1991 explosion at Mount Pinatubo, 60 miles north of Manila, which killed more than 700 people.