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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 20:11 GMT 21:11 UK
Filipino volcano fears remain
Some evacuees are still not allowed to return
The BBC's Clare Arthurs in Botolan, Philippines, watches the relief effort to help those forced to flee Mount Pinatubo

Although many of the 40,000 people evacuated from their homes near the Philippines' Mount Pinatubo volcano have been returning, there are still several thousand from areas at high risk of flash flooding who have not been allowed to.

Volcanologists say it will be several days before those still in evacuation centres can return.

Some of the evacuees have been complaining that the handouts have not been enough to feed their families

In a small office in Libunga community centre, relief workers live off a diet of instant noodles.

Their work has been relentless for several days, caring for people coming into the camp.

Motorcycle taxis arrive piled high with children, grandparents and family possessions, and more than 2,000 people are crowded into the centre.

Those living on the highest slopes of Mount Pinatubo have been told it is safe to return home.

And now there is good news for those from areas still at high risk as well.

It appears that the bedrock under the volcanic lake currently being drained to prevent flooding is compacted solid, and volcanologists are hoping to confirm this with observations over the next few days.

Scared to return

But some of the people sleeping on concrete floors here are scared to return home.

Workers dig channel
Water flow out of the lake is speeding up
They fear the next heavy rains could again raise the level of the crater lake or that a downpour could start the mudslide which they are dreading.

One local, a pastor from the higher reaches of the mountain, has clear memories of the eruption a decade ago which created the lake.

He wonders if it will ever be safe to go home - such fears are what the volcanologists hope to ease with the new canal.

Days to go

The water flow out of the lake is speeding up as the water itself cuts the canal deeper, but it will be several days before the project can be judged a success.

If the early indications of solid bedrock are confirmed, the canal will remain a permanent spillway from the lake bringing not only a new water supply for the people of Pinatubo but greater peace of mind as well.

However, aid workers expect it will be a few more days before the rest of the evacuees can go home.

Meanwhile, some of the evacuees have been complaining that the handouts have not been enough to feed their families.

Exhausted aid workers say they are doing their best.

See also:

06 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines volcano lake empties
06 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines volcano draining begins
25 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Volcano disaster warning
16 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Volcanic lake threatens disaster
31 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Early warning for volcanic mudslides
08 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Satellite snaps volcano eruption
24 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands flee Philippines volcano
07 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Philippine crater lake
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