Army truck takes residents away from volcano

Security forces in army trucks today sent thousands more residents away from the smouldering Mayon volcano, which looks set for a major eruption.

Authorities in central Albay province declared a round-the-clock ban on anyone being within the five-mile (eight-kilometre) zone around the 8,070 foot (2,460-metre) mountain, the most active of the country's 22 volcanoes.

More than 35,000 evacuees were given sleeping mats and food as they settled down in evacuation centres, mostly schools, where social workers were organising Christmas parties and games to keep children busy, said provincial emergency officials.

Mayon shot two plumes of smoke early today, one reaching almost 1.2 miles (2km) into the clear sky. Lava continued to trickle down its steep slope, and two lava domes had formed from rising magma inside the crater, said chief state volcanologist Renato Solidum.

He said the domes could grow bigger and plug the crater, leading to a gas explosion.

Scientists have raised a five-stage alert to two steps below a hazardous eruption, which they said is possible within weeks.

Albay's Governor Joey Salceda said a provincial board had authorised police and soldiers to move out some 2,000 remaining families - or 10,000 people - from around two towns in Mayon's foothills.

Many had refused to leave their coconut and vegetable farms during the harvest time. Police will show them pictures of victims of a 1993 eruption that killed more than 70 people to persuade them to evacuate the area, he said.

At the Bagumbayan Central School in Legazpi, the provincial capital, Guilly Anonuevo, a 75-year-old veteran of five evacuations, will spend Christmas for the first time in a shelter.

"We do not know where we will get our Christmas dinner. We have no money," she said. "It's all right to be sad as long as we are safe from Mayon's eruption."

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