MANILA – Authorities allowed on Tuesday nearly 55,000 people evacuated amid the risks of Mayon volcano in eastern Philippines to return home as the alert level was lowered and an imminent hazardous eruption has been ruled out.
The measure will permit 54,657 people (14,520 families) to return to their homes between 6-8 kilometers (3.7 and 5 miles) from the crater, after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) lowered the alert level from 4 to 3.
Alert level 4 indicated that there was an impending danger of a hazardous eruption, while 3 indicates a decreased risk of explosive eruption.
Another 10,836 people (2,665 families) – whose homes are within less than 6 kilometers of the crater – remain in evacuation centers and will not be able to return until the alert level is downgraded to 2, according to Albay province’s Office of Civil Defense.
Mount Mayon became active on Jan. 13 and spewed rivers of lava and thick clouds of gas and ash in the weeks that followed.
Although volcanic activity has diminished in the last month, emissions of gases and ash continue, prompting the authorities to maintain the alert.
Mayon, which has erupted six times in the last three decades, has stoked fears of a repeat of the tragic explosion of Mount Pinatubo – northwest of Manila – in 1991, the world’s second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century that left about 850 people dead and displaced more than 1.3 million.
However, PHIVOLCS experts have ruled out an eruption of the magnitude of Pinatubo.
With 23 active volcanoes, the Philippine archipelago is situated on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an area known for intense seismic activity, which extends from the west coast of the American continent to New Zealand through Japan and Indonesia, among other countries.