Volcano eruption in Philippines prompts evacuations

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from areas near Mount Mayon in the Philippines on Tuesday, after the lava started flowing out of the volcano. Local scientists caution that Mayon might be on the verge of a powerful eruption.

"After the series of ash puffs and ash explosions of 1,000 metres, we cannot rule out a major explosion," said Cedric Daep, the head of local disaster relief operations, commenting that officials are intending to eventually evacuate up to 50,000 people.

"We are in the process of evacuating nearly 10,000 families around the 6-8 kilometre danger zone around the volcano. We have enough food for all these people for only a month," Daep added.

An alert for the area surrounding Mayon has been raised, and about 20,000 people were evacuated from the foothills of the volcano. Thousands more people are expected to be moved out of the area later. They are currently living in evacuation centres set up by the Philippine government. Authorities noted that it might be until Christmas before most will be able to return to their homes.

"It's 10 days before Christmas. Most likely people will be in evacuation centres, and if Mayon's activity won't ease down we will not allow them to return to their homes. It's difficult and sad, especially for children." said an emergency management official, Jukes Nunez.

The governor of the province where the Mayon volcano is located, Joey Salceda, commented that, in case of an eruption, the government was trying to have "zero casualties".

Mayon erupted last in 2006; its most deadly eruption was in 1841, when 1,200 people were killed after the village of Cagsawa was buried. The volcano stands over 8,000 feet above sea level and has erupted 49 times since records were started, in 1616. The Philippines are also located along the "Ring of Fire", an area in southeast Asia prone to earthquakes, volcanos, and other seismic activity.