The Philippines’ most active volcano spewed lava down its slopes today as thousands fled the area.
More than 12,600 people have fled the mostly poor farming communities that lie within a 6.0 kilometer radius of Mayon Volcano as part of mandatory evacuations imposed after a spike in volcanic activity last week.
However, thousands remain in the high-risk zone, which has been in lockdown for years but is still home to people because they have nowhere else to go.
The volcano started ejecting lava last night and the danger zone could widen if the eruption gets worse, said Teresito Bacolcol, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
He said if that happens, people in any extended danger zone should be prepared to evacuate to emergency shelters.
“What we are seeing now is an exuberant eruption,” said Mr. Bacolcol. “We deal with it every day.”
Last night lava could be seen flowing for hours down the volcano’s southeastern canyons.
In the coastal district of Legazpi, 13.6 kilometers from Mayon in Albay province, people could be seen taking photos of the volcano, which has become a popular tourist attraction due to its picturesque conical shape.
A state of emergency was declared in Albay on Friday to allow for faster distribution of disaster relief funds in the event of a major outbreak.
The volcano was raised to alert level three on Thursday, following a five-tier system to warn that the volcano is in a state of great agitation and a dangerous eruption is possible in weeks or days.
As the lava slowly flows down the volcano, Mr Bacolcol said the alert level will remain at three but could be raised if the eruption gets worse.
A top five alert would mean a violent and life-threatening eruption is underway, with plumes of ash shooting skyward and superheated pyroclastic flows threatening more communities in the lush Mayon foothills.
Mayon is one of 24 active volcanoes in the Philippines. Most recently, a violent eruption occurred in 2018, forcing tens of thousands of villagers to evacuate.
In 1814, the Mayon eruption buried entire villages and reportedly killed more than 1,000 people.
However, many people in Albay have accepted the volcano’s sporadic violence as a part of their lives.
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