Mayon volcano calms down

Most of the 30,000 displaced Philippine villagers are allowed to come back home after the scientists on Monday lowered the alert status on Mayon volcano.

The 2,462-meter (8,077-foot) volcano in Albay province southeast of Manila continues to emit smaller volumes of lava and could still eject fast-moving pyroclastic flows blistering gas and volcanic debris but other indicators of a possible violent eruption have eased, officials said.

Mayon, the country's most active volcano, has not blasted out ash since Sept. 1 and has eased its sulfuric dioxide emission. The number of volcanic earthquakes has dropped and the night reddish glow of its crater has not been as intense, according to Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

As a result, experts lowered a five-step alert system from 4 to 5, indicating Mayon continues to erupt but with less chances of an explosive eruption, Solidum said.

"There is a slowdown in Mayon's eruptive activities, there is a waning condition," he said.

A danger zone around Mayon where villagers were evacuated by force was scaled back with the easing of the alert status, he said.

Most of about 30,000 villagers staying in emergency shelters would now be allowed to return home, said Cedric Daep, executive director of a disaster coordination council in Albay province, where Mayon is located, the AP reports.

Mayon, famous among tourists for its nearly perfect conical shape, has been emitting lava and large amounts of sulfuric dioxide since July. It blasted ash six times within an hour on Aug. 7, prompting experts to warn of an imminent explosive eruption.

Mayon has erupted at least 47 times in the last 400 years. Its most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried a town in mud.

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