Philippines, Dec.15: One of the world’s most perfectly formed volcanoes oozed lava and ash overnight yesterday, threatening to explode over a picturesque tourist town in the Philippines.
Many of the 50,000 villagers living within the 6-8km (4-5 mile) danger zone around Mount Mayon, around 500 km south of Manila, the capital, were evacuated earlier yesterday. The glowing volcano loomed large over the town of Legazpi, in the Albay province, spewing lava and ash that reached a height of about 100 metres (330 feet).
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said that magma has been rising at the volcano over the past two weeks and an explosion could be imminent.
“Now lava is trickling down but if the ascent of magma is sustained there will be laval flows,” Mr Solidum said. “There is also the possibility of an explosion.”
He said that volcanologists had observed incandescent fragments rolling about 2 miles down from the 2,463m summit of the mountain.
The institute upgraded Mayon’s status to alert level three, meaning it was "critical" and might erupt in the near future.
Tens of thousands of people live in a 10km radius around the mountain, and the authorities have begun moving them in case it erupts. They now face the bleak prospect of spending Christmas in an emergency shelter.
Jukes Nunez, a local emergency official, said: “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.”
Earlier yesterday vehicles, including army trucks, were sent to villages to take residents to schools and other temporary housing.
Mount Mayon is an active stratovolcano and regarded as one of the world’s most perfectly formed volcanoes because of its symmetrical cone.
Residents who live in the coconut-growing Albay province in the shadow of the mountain are used to the threats posed by the volcano, which has erupted many times since it was first recorded in 1616.
Most recently the volcano was active over a four-month period 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.
Mayon’s most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried a town in mud. Another eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common. About 22 out of 37 volcanos in the archipelago are active.