Philippines

More evacuations expected from low areas around Mayon volcano

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Manila (dpa) - Disaster and relief officials braced on Thursday for more evacuations of people as mudslides threatened to choke river banks and bury low-lying areas at the foot of the erupting Mayon volcano in the eastern Philippines.

Welfare officer Alex Arana said more than 66,000 people have been evacuated since the volcano in Albay province, 330 kilometres southeast of Manila, erupted last week,

''Some residents are taking advantage of the lull in the activity of Mayon by moving into evacuation centres,'' Arana said

The Philippine Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has recorded only one seismic earthquake and ''quiet lava extrusion'' over the last 12 hours following two days of explosive eruptions. Grey ash continued on Thursday to fall on several towns at the foot of the volcano.

Arana said volunteers were dispatched to dig latrines in 46 evacuation centres to ensure adequate sanitation for the evacuees.

Despite a rising number of respiratory ailments in the evacuation centres, Arana said the situation remained manageable because medicines were still readily available.

Disaster and relief officials said two people died during an explosive eruption on Monday, but insisted the deaths were ''not Mayon-related''.

Phivolcs officials urged residents near river banks and low-lying areas surrounding the volcano ''to be very alert against these potentially destructive and life-threatening flows during the rains''.

''There is now potential for hot lahar flows along major tributaries draining from Mayon volcano due to the presence of pyroclastic deposits which may be eroded and remobilised during heavy rainfall,'' Phivolcs said in a statement.

Lahar - a deadly mixture of volcanic debris and rainwater - killed more than a thousand people and buried villages in the northern provinces of Pampanga, Bataan and Bulacan when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991.

Philvolcs said earlier Mayon's present activities have already surpassed the intensity and magnitude of its eruptions in 1993 when more than 70 people were killed.

The 2,462-metre Mayon, which is known for its perfectly symmetrical cone, has been showing signs of unrest since last June.

Mayon's last eruption was in February 1993, when at least 78 people died and more than 50,000 were evacuated. Its deadliest eruption was in 1814 when it buried an entire town under ash and killed more than 1,300 people. dpa jg wp

AP-NY-03-02-00 0123EST

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/02/2000 01:23:13

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