Volcano Spews Lava, but Some Refuse to Leave

At the Mayon volcano site, volcanologists continue to warn residents to leave.

December 28, 2009, 8:22 AM

LEGAZPI, Philippines, Dec. 28, 2009 — -- At the Mayon volcano in the Philippines, collapsed lava sent ash plumes billowing into the air and the wind drifted the debris towards fleeing residents.

"We went out of the house heading downhill," says Daisy Mina, 32. "We were running."

Risking her life to tend to her shop at home, the mother of two children keeps a packed bag close by for moments like this when she has to run.

"It was big," Mina said of the ash explosion, "so we were very afraid."

Still she won't evacuate, explaining that she can't afford to leave the plants that she sells to make her under-$100 weekly income.

As the alert level lingers at the 2nd highest level for over a week now, volcanologists continue to warn residents to clear out.

"Mayon's eruptions usually have pyroclastic flows," resident volcanologist Eduardo Laguerta tells ABC News, describing the high-speed avalanche of hot ash and gas. "And if you will be within the strength of the pyroclastic flow, then definitely you will be killed."

Randy Austria, 29, also sprinted away in his flip-flops when he saw the ash.

"We were born and raised here," Austria says, explaining his refusal to evacuate. "We have our source of living here. At the foot of the volcano, it's the place where we plant our vegetables."

"The top three reasons people return to their homes during the evacuation," Gov. Joey Salceda tells ABC News, "are for firewood, their animals and their farms."

"Women, children, mothers," Austria says, "they stay at the evacuation center while men and fathers return back home to tend the animals. We also need to watch over our property."

Mayon Residents Familiar With Volcano's History

For generations, many residents near the summit of Mayon have accepted the land they grew up on, despite its volatile nature.

Nine-year-old Jomari Mirabete spends his days hanging around Cagsawa Ruins Park, the remains of Mayon's most destructive eruption in 1814.

He has memorized the talks of tour guides and rattles off information about the sight to ABC News. "From here to the foot of Mayon is 10 kilometers," he says, "16 kilometers from the danger zone, and the height of Mayon is 8,189 feet above sea level."

He tells us we're standing on the 2nd floor of what used to be a church and he points to where the altar used to be.

"More than 1,200 people died on February 1, 1814," Mirabete says.

When asked if he is afraid that Mayon may erupt, Mirabete simply answers "yes."

He walked towards a rice paddy field, explaining that in the past the volcano has wiped out people's livelihood – in some cases destroying the land for decades.

"The people did not catch fish," he says, pointing to an area that used to be water, "because the volcanic ash from Mayon was going here and the fish was died."

In town, the local government monitors facilities at the evacuation centers, hoping to get the resources to construct additional bathrooms and waste removal facilities.

At least one medical tent has been set up in a nearby village and the government is looking for aid to set up an additional 600 tents in evacuation center schools so classes can start again.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is also on the ground, scouting locations to transfer over 4,000 animals - like cattle and water buffalo - out of the danger zone.

As ash columns spew from the volcano and blasts can be heard throughout town, Mayon holds residents here captive, keeping them on edge.

ABC News' Miki Toda and Anna Cerezo contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events