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Filipinos fear full moon spark volcano blast

Written by: Staff

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines, Aug 9: Scientists and villagers sheltering from a throbbing volcano in the central Philippines fear today's full moon could finally spark a violent eruption.

Volcanologists have warned that Mount Mayon, in the province of Albay, could explode at any time but the gravitational pull of a full moon could provide the final push.

''To put it in a simple way, it's like it massages a volcano,'' the head of monitoring and eruption prediction at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Ernesto Corpuz, told Reuters.

''When that volcano is ready to erupt it could trigger the eruption.'' A full moon coincided with at least three of Mayon's near 50 explosions, including the two most recent in 2000 and 2001, Corpuz said.

Nearly 40,000 people have been evacuated from an 8-km danger zone on the southeast flank of the volcano, which has been quaking and spitting plumes of ash since July, a member of the provincial disaster council said.

But some people have yet to leave their livestock and vegetable plots despite an encroaching four-storey-high wall of scalding lava that has streamed more than 6 km (4 miles) from Mayon's crater.

''I'll leave tonight because of the full moon. My wife and five kids are already gone,'' said Ambrosio Baranquil, a 41 year old farmer, whose village is 3 kms from the foot of the mountain.

In schoolhouses, crowded with families who have fled their homes, locals swapped tales of Mayon's previous blasts.

''I've witnessed six eruptions, the first in 1928 and the strongest in 1968 when rocks as big as houses came tumbling down,'' said Isabel Lodana, an 84 year old grandmother.

The 2,462-metre-high mountain is the most active volcano in the Philippines and during its most destructive eruption in 1841 buried a town and killed 1,200 people.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said she is confident there will be no casualties if Mayon blows.

The Philippines, which sits on a seismically active stretch of the Pacific Ocean, known as the ''Ring of Fire'', is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and flooding caused by tropical storms.


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