Saturday, June 18, 2005

Villagers go back to their homes

Nearly four dozen people evacuated last week from a town at the base of Mexico's Volcano of Fire have been allowed to return to their homes, even though the peak continues to smolder and occasionally spout ash.

The Jalisco state civil defense agency said the volcano's eruptions had quieted enough to allow residents of the village of Juan Barragan to return to their homes Monday, but that officials and residents would remain on alert.

The agency said Monday's eruptions sent ash only about a mile high, lower than last week's blasts. The residents of Juan Barragan, about five miles from the peak, had spent almost a week in an improvised shelter in the nearby town of San Marcos.

Straddling the border of Colima and Jalisco states, the Volcano of Fire has unleashed six spectacular eruptions in the past four weeks, some of which sent ash as much as three miles above the crater of the 12,533-foot volcano.

The volcano, located 430 miles west of Mexico City, is considered to be among the most active and potentially the most destructive of the volcanoes in Mexico.

Seismologists say the increasing frequency of the eruptions and their intensity are signs the volcano was returning to an explosive stage like one that started in 1903 and climaxed with a massive explosion 10 years later that left a 1,650-foot-deep crater at the volcano's peak and scattered ash on cities 240 miles away. Records aren't clear if there were any casualties.

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