SCIENTISTS see less threat of new eruption from central Philippine volcano

Monday, August 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The threat of another major eruption from the Philippines' Mayon volcano has receded as volcanic activity dropped in recent days, scientists said Monday.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said it may reduce alert levels around Mayon, allowing some of the tens of thousands of evacuees to return to villages inside a danger zone within about 4 1/2 miles of the volcano.

Mayon's roar could be heard 6 miles away in the latest eruption July 26, but the volcano was silent Monday and sulfur dioxide emissions dwindled, indicating decreasing activity, scientists said.

``The overall condition of Mayon indicates that the possibility of a sudden major explosive eruption has decreased greatly,'' the institute said in a statement.

The institute said Mayon belched about 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Monday, about half the daily rate recorded in recent weeks.

Even if the volcano does not erupt, however, villagers and farmers are not entirely free of danger. Experts warned of possible mudslides as ongoing seasonal rains drench ash deposits on the mountainside.

Scientists said they may soon reduce alerts around Mayon from the current level five alert, the highest possible, to level four. Level five indicates an ongoing eruption while four means an eruption is possible in days.

Most residents had just returned home from a lengthy evacuation following a June 24 eruption when the volcano blew again unexpectedly on July 26, heaving up ash clouds 6 miles high and jetting lava 200 feet into the air.

Famed for its near-perfect cone, Mayon, 200 miles southeast of Manila, is the most destructive of the country's 22 active volcanoes. At least 49 eruptions have been recorded since 1616.

The 8,118-foot volcano has rumbled nearly all this year, erupting several times in late June and three times on July 27.