Philippines

Philippine volcano in danger of further eruptions

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By Enrique de Castro

LEGAZPI, Philippines, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Philippine scientists warned of the danger of further fierce eruptions from a volcano on Friday a day after 14 blasts that shook nearby towns.

But some families were already making their way back to the danger zone to check on their houses, farms and livestock.

President Joseph Estrada visited camps packed with refugees from villages and towns near the Mayon volcano as clouds of steam spewed out above them and lava flowed slowly down the mountainside.

He placed five towns under a state of calamity.

Mayon, 330 km (190 miles) southeast of the capital Manila, erupted violently on Thursday, hurling rocks and clouds of ash 10 km (six miles) into the sky and turning day into night.

The volcano was quiet on Friday. No casualties have been reported.

''But one day of relative quiet is not an assurance that the danger is over,'' vulcanologist Ed Laguerta told Reuters.

''It does not mean the volcano is quieting down. There can be more explosive eruptions, bigger or smaller, it's difficult to say.''

Estrada left celebrations in Manila commemorating the anniversary of the 1986 ousting of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and flew to Legazpi to supervise relief operations for 30,000 evacuees.

He ordered the release of 20 million pesos ($490,000) and announced he had placed the towns under a state of calamity.

The declaration allows the release of emergency funds and empowers the government to place ceilings on the prices of basic commodities.

Following Thursday's series of eruptions, officials declared an eight-km (five-mile) radius exclusion zone around Mayon's crater.

But with Friday's relative quiet several families moved back into the danger zone to check their property.

''We're picking vegetables and getting coconuts so we can have something to eat,'' a housewife said in a radio interview from her deserted village.

Others said they had gone back to wash their clothes with water from village wells.

One of the country's 22 active volcanoes and among its deadliest, Mayon last erupted in 1993 when it killed 77 people. Its almost perfect cone has made it a popular tourist attraction.

Mayon's deadliest eruption occurred in 1814 when it buried a whole town under ash and killed 1,200 people. Of that town, only the church belfry remains today.

Mount Pinatubo, a volcano north of Manila, killed about 800 people when it exploded in 1991. Reut03:06 02-25-00

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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