Philippines

Rains threaten to trigger mudflows in Philippines' Mayon volcano

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Manila (dpa) - Disaster relief officials said Monday the number of villagers threatened by the eruption of Mayon volcano in the eastern Philippines may further rise if continuing heavy rains trigger ash and mudflows in the area.

A total of 47,248 residents from 46 villages have already fled their homes since last Thursday when Mayon volcano in Albay province, 330 kilometres southeast of Manila, erupted after eight months of unrest. No injuries or casualties have been reported.

While some evacuees have been advised to return to their homes since their communities are not in immediate danger, the threat of ash and mudflows became imminent when heavy rains started to fell on Sunday.

''I have sent a team to monitor traces of mudflows,'' said Cedric Daep, head of the provincial disaster management office. ''If the rains continue and mudflows occur, the number of evacuees may further rise and their stay in evacuation centres may be prolonged.''

Government vulcanologist earlier said displaced residents may not be allowed to return to their homes for at least two months, noting that the country's most active volcano has not calmed down despite instances of inactivity.

Late Sunday, Mayon shook again with a third series of eruptions since February 24.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said at least seven ash and gas explosions were recorded, ''the most significant of which were accompanied by lava fountaining with ejection of volcanic bombs''.

''The activities last night only show that Mayon's unrest is not over and that lava supply to the summit is continuing,'' said Phivolcs director Raymundo Punongbayan. ''The continued lava ascent will cause lava fountaining and extrusions.''

In a bulletin, Phivolcs said it has monitored a resurgence in sulphur dioxide emissions, explosion-type earthquakes and harmonic tremors, indicating that ''explosive activity shall continue over the next weeks''.

The institute also warned that prevailing northeasterly winds may cause heavy ashfall that could endanger passing airplanes.

The 2,462-metre Mayon is famous among local and foreign tourists for its perfectly symmetrical cone.

Mayon's last major eruption was in February 1993, when 70 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 gl wp

AP-NY-02-27-00 2309EST

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 02/27/2000 23:09:26

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