Thousands evacuate as lava flows down Philippines’ most active volcano

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Mayon volcano
The Mayon volcano spews a column of ash during another mild eruption in Legazpi City, Albay province, south of Manila, Philippines January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Thousands of people have evacuated the areas surrounding the Philippines’ most active volcano, which has begun erupting again. On Monday, lava was seen flowing down its crater in a gentle eruption. This could turn explosive within weeks or days, according to scientists.

Nearly 15,000 people have fled from the villages near Mount Mayon in Albay province, as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to three on a scale of five. This means that there is an increased potential of a hazardous and explosive eruption of the volcano.

Lava from the Mayon’s crater flowed down a gulley, and ash clouds began covering the volcano mid-slope. The thick clouds shrouding the volcano are preventing authorities from visually assessing the amount of lava flow.

The lava’s red-orange glow was seen through the thick cloud cover Sunday night, lighting up the night sky with a fiery red-orange glow. The terrifying sight was enough motivation for many residents to flee their homes.

According to authorities, more than 14,700 people have been moved from the three cities and four towns near the volcano. All areas are considered high-risk locations.

“There are some who still resist but if we reach alert level four, we’ll really be obligated to resort to forced evacuation,” said Cedric Daep, an Albay emergency official. A level four alert means that a violent eruption could be expected in days.

Officials say that the volcano’s eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows that could incinerate everything in their path. Ash clouds could also increase and drift toward the nearby Legazpi City, the provincial capital located just nine miles from Mount Mayon.

Owing to its near-perfect cone shape, Mount Mayon, despite being a very active volcano, is a popular destination for tourists and climbers.

The volcano’s most recent eruption was in 2014 when thousands of residents were evacuated in response to a critical alert. In 2013, five climbers were killed by falling rocks caused by a violent blast from the volcano.

Mayon’s most deadly eruption took place in 1814 when explosions killed at least 1,200 people.