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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
Philippines volcano 'could erupt again'
There were three explosions on Thursday
Villagers living near the Mayon volcano in the Phillipines have started returning to their homes, despite warnings that it could erupt again.

"I am afraid to lose my livestock - I can't afford to leave them

Vulcanologists said a new blast could come at any time, after three explosions on Thursday blew ash six miles into the air and forced tens of thousands of people to flee.

"Due to ongoing tremors and significant ground deformation that are being detected... experts expect more explosive activity in the following days," according to the Philippine Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology.

Officials in the area around the volcano, about 200 miles south-east of the capital Manila, are also braced for what weather forecasters call "moderate to heavy rain", which could lead to landslides and flows of volcanic mud.

But many villagers, after a nervous night away from home, returned to look after livestock and clear volcanic ash from their houses.

Villagers are evacuated
The army helped evacuate villagers when the volcano erupted
"I am afraid to lose my livestock," Arturo Baria, 64, told French news agency AFP.

"I have a water buffalo and a cow. I can't afford to leave them. If it really erupts and we can see there is a lot of smoke, then we will leave but after two hours, if the eruption stops, we will come back," he said

Officials said about 40,000 people had sought shelter in evacuation camps on Thursday, up from 25,000 a day earlier, as thick volcanic ash continued to rain on towns and villages around Mayon.

Army trucks ferried villagers from their homes, while local officials appealed for food and provisions. Supplies were already low following an eruption in June.

Officials say there were no reports of any injuries.

Jo Malasarte, who lives in the village of Malabog at the foot of the mountain, described the eruption to the Associated Press news agency. "There was an earthshaking and we heard roaring thunder, and after, we heard the frying sound of eggs when the pebbles fell on our roofs," he said.

Vulcanologists have raised the level of alert around Mayon to a maximum of five after downgrading it to level three when it stopped erupting on 4 July.

The BBC's John McLean
"Huge red hot boulders and super-heated ash were sent racing down the mountain side"
Vulcanologist Dr Raymundo Punongbayan
"This volcano will be active for many generations from now"
See also:

25 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines volcano may erupt 'for weeks'
25 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Volcano disaster warning
05 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines volcano eruption warning
24 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands flee Philippines volcano
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
01 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Why volcanoes explode
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