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Thousands more flee erupting Philippine volcano


    Agence France-Presse

Legazpi, Philippines | Wed, January 24, 2018 | 10:40 pm
 Thousands more flee erupting Philippine volcano The Mayon volcano spews lava as it continues to erupt, as seen from Legazpi City in Albay province, south of Manila on Jan. 23, 2018. (Agence France -Presse/Charism Sayat)

Tens of thousands more people have fled an erupting volcano in the Philippines, relief workers said Wednesday, as foreign tourists arrived to watch the flaming lava and giant clouds spurting from its crater.

More than 70,000 residents are now crammed in schools and other buildings, a figure that has nearly doubled over the past three days, officials said, two weeks after Mayon volcano began showing signs of activity.

Volcanologists on Monday warned of a hazardous eruption within days and a no-go zone was extended from six kilometres (3.7 miles) of the crater to nine kilometres, forcing even those beyond it to flee homes being pounded by a rain of ash.

"They were not in the danger zone but they are scared," Cedric Daep, the head of the civil defence office of Albay province told AFP, adding about 360,000 people, or a third of the province's one million residents have been breathing in volcanic ash.  

At some shelters, evacuees are sleeping on the floor, with as many as 50 people sharing a toilet. Other shelters have no toilets at all, relief officials said.

"They are saying that the local government will provide (portable toilets) but until now, there are still" none, said Maria Evelyn Grollo, who runs a school-turned-shelter for more than 4,000 people on Legazpi city's outskirts.

Rose Rivero, the local Red Cross administrator, said the evacuees, mostly farmers and their families, are surviving on food handouts from the government and charities, with her aid group pitching in with drinking water, counselling, and hygiene items.

"We did not want to leave because we knew life is hard at the evacuation centres. But the ashfall yesterday was just too much," Susan Nolaso, one of the new arrivals, told GMA television.

Drone footage aired by the network showed Guinobatan, a farming town of 65,000 people below Mayon's western slope carpeted in ash that from the air resembled dirty snow with just the green of rice paddies breaking the pattern.  

"If we go back to its (Mayon's) history of eruption, it would take three to four months before we could send them back to their homes," Rivero said.

The state volcanology office said there was little chance of that happening soon.

It reported five episodes of "intense but sporadic lava fountaining from the summit crater" overnight Tuesday, along with ash plumes five kilometres high.

Lava and incandescent rocks also rolled down the volcano's flanks, it said in a Wednesday bulletin.


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