Water, Electricity Cut Off in Mayon Volcano Danger Zone

Fewer earthquakes have been recorded in the Philippines' lava-spilling Mayon volcano, but the local scientists still believe an eruption to be imminent.

In response to the continued seismic activity at the volcano, Albay Governor Joey Salceda cut off the electricity and water supplies within the extended and permanent danger zones around Mayon Volcano yesterday evening, reports the Manila Bulletin.

Salceda told the paper that the move was designed to is to ensure that people remain away from their homes and out of the danger zone. Reportedly, many evacuees have returned to their homes for the New Year's.

SLIDESHOW: Mayon Volcano Near Eruption in Philippines

The official said both the National Power Corporation and the Albay Electric Cooperative agreed to cut off the power supply while the water supply would discontinue as soon as possible today. Meanwhile, thousands of tourists have been flocking to the area, taking advantage of travel to the area for a once-in-a-lifetime look at the spectacular lava flows.

"All the hotels are fully booked, even the cheapest ones," Salceda told the AFP.

In the latest daily bulletin from PHIVOLCS, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, scientists noted continuing ash explosions and lava flows. According to the bulletin, the lava stretches 3.6 miles from the summit along the Bonga-Buyuan gully.

A network of seismic detectors recorded 16 volcanic earthquakes in the past 24 hours, as well as a total of 150 rock fall events related to the detachment of lava fragments at the volcano's upper slopes.

More serious, however, was the continued inflation of the volcano itself, as indicated by electronic tilt meters, which leads PHIVOLCS to keep the status at alert level 4, meaning an eruption is imminent, and to maintain the 5-mile extended danger zone.

A hazardous eruption remains possible within days, and residents who live near the volcano's slopes should not be misled into leaving the evacuation centers that they spent Christmas in and venturing back to their homes, volcanologist Ed Laguerta warned.

"The number of volcanic earthquakes has gone down, but this is just part of the eruptive cycle of Mayon," he said.

"We are looking at not only at what Mayon is presently exhibiting, because that fluctuates. We are also looking at its past characteristics," he said, recalling that in 1984, a four-day lull was followed by Mayon's sudden, big eruption.

More than 47,000 people living within a 5-mile danger zone around the volcano have fled to evacuation centers. But soldiers are still trying to evacuate several hundred residents who have refused to leave their homes despite the danger, said Capt. Razaleigh Bansawan, a military spokesman.

The 8,070-foot volcano known for its perfect cone has erupted nearly 40 times over 400 years, sending people packing for months at a time. But never has it happened during the all-important Christmas celebration, when Filipinos gather with family and friends for traditional meals and songs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.