Signs of life at 'no-man's land' around Philippine volcano

Burnt trees are seen on an ash-covered slope at the foot of the Taal volcano in the Philippines during an aerial survey on Jan 21, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

TAAL, PHILIPPINES (AFP) - A desolate landscape of ash dunes and bare trees left by the eruption of the Philippines' Taal volcano lay in contrast with a few signs of life at ground zero of the disaster on Tuesday (Jan 21).

The island site was buried by massive deposits of ash when Taal erupted last week and remains under a mandatory evacuation order due to a feared bigger blast.

Yet about a dozen white cows milled near dust-blanketed homes, and several brightly coloured boats were docked at the shore on Tuesday, according to an AFP reporter taken on a rare military flight around the area.

Thin plumes of steam rose from the crater.

Authorities have said any outward signs of an imminent eruption have been weak over the past several days.

But scientists warn that the volcano is still at risk of a major blast, and more than 110,000 people have taken refuge in shelters away from danger.

At least 3,000 who lived on the island were ordered out, though many have made trips back to rescue livestock or fetch items from their homes.

Houses were flattened or buried under the ash, though AFP saw at least one with a roof swept clean.

Many families previously offered services catering to the tourists who visited the volcano - a popular attraction in the Philippines despite the risk of eruption.

The government has said it is now working on a plan to permanently relocate them, and turn the island into what officials have called a no-man's land.

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