Albay evacuees going home due to crowded evacuation centers

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Mayon Volcano once again spewed thick ash clouds on Thursday morning.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 3) — Crowded, hot and poorly maintained-- that's how residents describe evacuation centers in towns affected by the eruption of Mayon volcano.

As Mayon continues to spew ash and lava, residents displaced by the rumbling volcano make do with living conditions in cramped evacuation centers.

Weeks after Mayon first erupted, some 79,000 residents remain in the evacuation centers.

With as many as 20 families sharing a classroom in some centers, residents have set up their own living quarters instead.

Visitacion Balean and her family set up their own makeshift shelters instead by the road in Sto. Domingo, Albay.

Karamihan sa mga apo ko mahihirapan lalo na noong isang araw may inuwi akong apo dahil nagtae at nilagnat. Okay naman sila dito at presko po dito,” Balean said.

[Translation: Many of my grandchildren will have a harder time, especially the other day when I brought one home because he had diarrhea and fever. They're okay here because it's less cramped.]

A few meters away from Balean, 82-year-old Pobleo Bañeg, is also building his own hut.

He says his wife is too sickly to stay in a congested evacuation center.

Parang fresh pa ang pamilya ko kung kumu-kubo na lang kami. Kung ipasok ko doon sa school na marami mga tao, may mga init ng tao, magkasakit pa apo ko,” said Bañeg.

[Translation: It's more comfortable for my family here if we just use a hut. If I bring them to the school there are a lot of people, the warmth from other people will make my grandchildren sick.]

Last January health officials recorded more than a thousand evacuees suffering from coughs and cold all over Albay, while a number of children have been stricken with diarrhea.

They said evacuees were getting sick not because of the ash emissions from Mayon, but due to congestion.

READ: Officials: More Mayon evacuees getting sick

Local officials said they're going to fix the problem and make shelters more livable. 

For now, authorities have ordered some five thousand residents to go back to their homes to free up space in centers.

Residents outside the eight-kilometer danger zone may go back, while those with houses in the restricted areas are to stay put. 

Some evacuees are pleased to hear the news, but not everyone is happy. 

One of the residents, Jennifer Paharo, still prefers to live in the evacuation center as she has a one-year old baby. She said if the volcano erupts again, it will be hard for her family.

Kung muling mag alburoto ang bulkan, paano naman po kami na mga may bata,” she said. “Wala po kaming magawa kasi alangan naman po na pinapauwi na kami magstay pa kami dito.”

[Translation: If the volcano erupts, what about us with kids? We can't really stay here because they're ordering us to go home.]

Volcanologists say Mayon may remain restless for a few more weeks, or even months. On Saturday, it had at least three minor eruptions.

The volcano remains on alert level four, which means a violent eruption could still happen within days or weeks.