Philippine officials have raised the alert level for one of the country’s most active volcanoes after superheated streams of gas, debris and rocks cascaded down its upper slope in a condition they fear could lead to a hazardous eruption within days.
The 2,463-metre (8,081-foot) Mayon volcano in central Albay province – a draw for tourists because of its near-perfect conical shape – “is exhibiting magmatic eruption”, the state volcanology agency said in a statement on Thursday.
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At “alert level three” – on a scale of five – Mayon has increased chances of lava flows and a potential for explosive activity within weeks or even days, it added.
Villagers living within a 6km (3.7 mile) radius of the volcano’s crater were told to leave the long-designated permanent danger zone and move to safer ground due to the danger of volcanic emissions, lava flows, rockfalls and other hazards.
Cedric Daep, a provincial public safety official, said villagers were preparing to evacuate from the danger zone, which is supposed to be off limits to permanent residents but where many mostly poor families have built houses in Mayon’s shadow over the years.
CRATER GLOW AT MAYON
A resident of Sto. Domingo, Albay witnessed a faint crater glow at the summit of Mayon Volcano at 4:40 AM on Tuesday, two days before Phivolcs placed Mayon under Alert Level 3 on Thursday, June 8, 2023. (Photos courtesy of Erickson Balderama) pic.twitter.com/rr2qpmpRvk
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) June 8, 2023
Mayon is one of the most restive of two dozen active volcanoes across the Philippines. It last erupted violently in 2018, displacing tens of thousands of villagers.
Three brief volcanic gas and ash emissions on Thursday streamed down the volcano’s southeastern gully about a kilometre (half a mile) from the crater.
Officials were also closely monitoring Taal volcano, south of Manila, and Mount Kanlaon, on central Negros island, due to renewed signs of restiveness.
Several villages in three towns near Taal suspended classes on Wednesday due to thick smog emanating from the volcano, one of the world’s smallest, and residents were advised to limit outdoor activities and wear masks for protection.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, blew its top north of Manila in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.