December 2, 1998
Activity subsides at Mexican volcanos

                  MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Villagers have returned to their homes on the
                  slopes of Mexico's Colima volcano, despite warnings that the bursts of ash
                  and rivers of lava that forced them to flee last month could just be a prelude.

                  About 180 residents returned Tuesday to La Yerbabuena, a town in western
                  Colima state that was evacuated 15 days before and where soldiers
                  remained on guard against further volcanic activity.

                  "The danger posed by the volcano has diminished," Colima civil protection
                  official Javier Velasco said. "People can return to their daily lifestyles and
                  children can go back to school."

                  But some experts advised continued caution. Geologist Michael Sheridan of
                  the University of Buffalo in New York said the Colima volcano could be
                  entering a period of activity that comes every four or five decades.

                  "Colima is going through its regular cycle, and it's approaching its climactic
                  phase, which is going to be very violent," he said. "It could happen this week
                  or it could happen within a month."

                  Meanwhile, the Popocatepetl Volcano near Mexico City also showed signs
                  of diminished activity, the National Center for Disaster Prevention said.

                  The "Popo", as local residents call it, had six brief bursts Tuesday morning,
                  sending small quantities of ash over nearby towns.

                  Soldiers have increased patrols to keep climbers and hikers at least 41/2
                  miles away from the Popo's crater.

                  Although no evacuations have been ordered, the Mexico City government
                  reportedly is setting up more than 100 shelters capable of housing 53,000
                  people in the event that they become necessary.

                  Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.