Philippines Mayon volcano ready to blow, but some residents slow to go

The Mayon volcano in the Philippines is expected to erupt imminently. But some residents are slow to leave their farms and homes, despite evacuation pleas.

Mike Alquinto/AP
Residents living within the danger zone of Mayon volcano, seen in the background, are evacuated to safer grounds in Guinobatan, Philippines, on Monday.

With “audible booming and rumbling sounds” coming from the Philippines’s Mayon volcano, in the words of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, a major eruption is expected within days. But even with the crater glowing with lava at night, Filipino security forces are having a hard time keeping tens of thousands of evacuated residents from returning to the danger zone to check on their farms and homes.

"There are people who have been evacuated three times and we sigh: 'You again?' " Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay province told the Associated Press. "We've been playing cat and mouse with them."

Mayon is about 200 miles southeast of the capital, Manila. The over 8,000-foot peak in the central Philippines overlooks the Gulf of Albay and Legazpi city.

Filipino forces went house to house on Monday with trucks to pressure the 3,000 remaining residents in the danger zone to evacuate. But some men refused to board. "There are always a few who don't want to go. They say they are used to eruptions and they never get hurt anyway," a village counselor told the Agence France-Presse.

Albay authorities already have ordered 70,000 people to evacuate from the five-mile dangerous radius around the volcano, according to the Philippine Star. The refugees may need to spend up to four months in temporary shelters, Filipino officials said. Social workers in the shelters were organizing Christmas parties and games to keep children entertained, the Star added.

Filiipino authorities raised the volcano eruption threat level from three to four on Sunday. Level five is the highest and means an eruption is taking place.

The Philippines is no stranger to volcano eruptions, and Mayon is a tourist attraction for its fine cone shape. It is one of the Philippines' particularly active volcanoes, according to Reuters. It has erupted more than 50 times in the past four centuries, the last time in 2006.

No one was killed immediately by the volcano blast in that year. But when debris that had caught on Mayon’s slopes from the eruption was dislodged in a typhoon three months later, the resulting avalanche of mud and boulders crushed villages, according to the Philippine Star. More than 1,000 were killed.

To see where relocated residents are being taken, you can watch this ITN world video that shows the emergency shelters.

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