Philippine volcano erupts again, thousands abandon homes

February 28, 2000
Web posted at: 3:44 PM HKT (0744 GMT)

MANILA, Philippines (Reuters) -- A restive volcano in the central Philippines blew its top seven times overnight and scientists said on Monday they expected eruptions to continue for weeks.

Tens of thousands of people have abandoned their homes on the slopes of Mayon and sought refuge in evacuation centers since it began erupting five days ago. No casualties have been reported.

Mayon unleashed seven ash and gas explosions, accompanied by an ejection of "volcanic bombs" or burning rocks on Sunday night, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a bulletin.

It said the restlessness displayed by Mayon, including a series of earthquakes, "strongly indicates that explosive activity shall continue over the next weeks."

The volcano, 330 kilometers (190 miles) southeast of Manila, last erupted in 1993, killing 77 villagers. It killed 1,200 people in its deadliest eruption in 1814.

Chief provincial relief officer Cedric Daep said he expected the number of evacuees to swell. His office was still receiving reports of villagers leaving their homes at the foot of the volcano.

Daep said the more than 47,000 people now in evacuation centers included several thousand villagers whose houses are outside the designated no-man's land of 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Mayon's crater but who fled anyway for fear of their lives.

"They should not have evacuated. We are telling them to go back to their villages because life in an evacuation center can be very inconvenient and diseases can break out," Daep said.

Most of the evacuees are being housed in schools in towns around the volcano. Some of them go back to their villages for brief periods during the day to tend to their farms and check their cattle but return to the evacuation centers before nightfall.

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