Thousands of locals and tourists have been evacuated from the Albay province in the Philippines over fears that an eruption of Mount Mayon could be imminent.
The 2,460-metre mountain, one of the world’s most perfectly formed volcanoes, began oozing lava and ash overnight, threatening to explode over the picturesque tourist town of Legazpi, which lies 210 miles southeast of the capital, Manila.
Some 20,000 villagers living within the 6-8 km danger zone around Mount Mayon, were evacuated earlier today.
Magma has been rising at the volcano for the past fortnight, and lava and ash has been shooting over 100 metres into the air.
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology: “Now lava is trickling down, but if the ascent of magma is sustained there will be laval flows. There is also the possibility of an explosion.”
The institute upgraded Mayon’s status to alert level three, meaning it was “critical” and could erupt at any moment.
Nearly 50,000 people live in an 8km radius around the mountain.
Albay Provincial Governor Joey Salceda confirmed that more than 20,000 people were evacuated to safety by nightfall Tuesday. He has also placed central Albay province, under a “state of imminent disaster,” which will make it easier for him to draw and use emergency funds.
“Whatever the volcano does, our target is zero casualty,” Salceda told the AP.
Jukes Nunez, a local emergency official, told The Times: “It’s ten days before Christmas. Most likely people will be in evacuation centres, and if Mayon’s activity won’t ease down we will not allow them to return to their homes. It’s difficult and sad, especially for children.”
Mount Mayon has erupted many times since records began in 1616. The most recent activity was in 2006 when 30,000 people were moved to safety. Typhoon-triggered mudslides near the mountain later that year buried entire villages, killing more than 1,000 people.
Another eruption in 1993 killed 79 people. The most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried a town in mud.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific’s infamous “Ring of Fire” where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common. About 22 out of 37 volcanoes in the archipelago are active.