09/13/2006, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Mayon Volcano less active, 40,000 evacuees can go home

by Santosh Digal
Since starting in early August, the volcano's eruptive activities slow according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. Experts warn that it is too soon to cancel alert. Residents told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Legasp (AsiaNews) – The Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has downgraded the alert level for Mayon volcano, which is located in the middle of the Filipino archipelago, allowing thousands of evacuees to go home. In early August, more than 40,000 local residents were forced to leave its immediate area because the eruption of hot ashes indicated a possibly imminent eruption and lava flow. But after about four weeks, the volcano has shown a general decline in its overall activity, giving evacuees a chance to return.

Cedric Daep, an executive officer with the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Centre, said that more than 30,000 people were sent home. "People staying near the six-kilometre permanent danger zone in the towns of Malilipot, Guinobatan and Tabaco City will still be placed under alert-preparedness status until the present alert level is back to normal," he added. "In the event of the elevation of the present alert level, these barangays (villages) will be immediately evacuated."
Almost 5,000 residents from villages in Camalig are still staying in six evacuation centres set up by the government and the Catholic Church.
Zenaida Azores, 45, and her two children have been staying at the Bagumbayan Elementary School since August 7. She told AsiaNews that she was grateful to "all those who helped us while we were staying at the evacuation centre" but was happy to go home, eight kilometres from the volcano.

Volcanologist Ed Laguerta warned though that Mayon is still in a silent eruptive mode. "Evacuees will have to go back to the evacuation centres when there is a resurgence of hazardous explosion," he said.

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