Is it safe to return home or not? That’s the question asked repeatedly by tens of thousands of people on the Philippine island of Luzon since Mt Mayon erupted back into life last month.
For the past five weeks, 80,000 have been sheltering in evacuation centres scattered outside the 8km exclusion zone around the volcano.
The conditions are dire: overcrowded, insanitary, swarming with mosquitos.
Yet the alternative is the stuff of nightmares: being scalded, blasted or crushed to death by the ejecta of a volcano in full eruption.
Recently there have been signs that Mt Mayon is calming down. Smoke and gas is pouring from its famously graceful cone, hinting at an escape route for the pressure that drives an explosive outburst.
So now the experts monitoring Mt Mayon face the decision from hell. Do they trust their theories and give the all-clear – or insist that the tens of thousands endure continuing misery in the camps?
For the time being, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) is erring on the side of caution. As the most active in the Philippines, Mt Mayon is quite capable of springing surprises, having erupted at least 50 times over the last 400 years.