Around 13,000 people have been evacuated in north-east Philippines as the country’s most famous volcano, Mayon, continued to ooze lava.
Riding lorries and buffalo-drawn carriages, people living within the “permanent danger zone” or six-kilometre radius fled to shelters.
Known for its “perfect” conical shape, Mayon started spewing lava last week.
But evacuations only began over the weekend as volcanic activity intensified, setting of alerts.
More people could be evacuated if Mayon’s unrest intensifies in the coming days, said Teresito Bacolcol, the country’s chief volcanologist.
It is currently under the third highest warning in a five-tier system that forecasts the threat of a hazardous or explosive eruption. It is technically erupting, albeit at a slow pace, with lava oozing from the crater, scientists say.
Located in a farming peninsula called Bicol, Mayon is among the country’s most active volcanoes. It has grown restive in recent weeks with more frequent earthquakes and rocks falling from its crater.
“There’s the danger of a fast-moving current of volcanic gases and rocks from the crater,” Bacolcol told local media. “It will be difficult to outrun those currents.”
An eruption in 1814 killed 1,200 people and buried an entire town. But the perimeter was declared off limits, resulting in fewer casualties after recent eruptions in 2013 and 2018.
As Mayon glowed a fiery red, tourists have also begun to camp out in hilltops to witness the volcanic spectacle. Mayon, which Guinness describes as the world’s “most conical” volcano, is a tourist favourite. Local officials have designated viewing points where thrill-seekers can marvel at its glowing crater.
“Last night, Mayon again put on a show as lava flowed from its crater,” Eugene Escobar, a disaster response official in the region, said on Monday in a TV interview.
Philip Balselle, a French tourist, told ABS-CBN News that he felt lucky that his Philippine holiday this year coincided with Mayon acting up. He joined about a dozen tourists at a lookout point in a nearby town.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’m seeing Mayon, and there’s volcanic activity,” said Filipino tourist Joseph Palasigue from the capital Manila, which is around half a day’s drive away.
Mayon’s beauty is part of Filipino folklore pop culture. It’s name is derived from the local word for beautiful lady, daragang mayon.
A Filipina beauty queen, Catriona Gray, won the 2018 Miss Universe competition wearing a gown that is inspired by lava flowing down Mayon’s slopes. Her mother hails from Albay province, where the volcano is located.
Mayon is among the Philippines’ 24 active volcanoes. In recent days, two others – Taal and Kanlaon – have also been put under close watch for signs of unrest.
While recent eruptions have not directly resulted in many deaths, powerful typhoons in the past have triggered volcanic mudflows that proved fatal.
In 2006, Typhoon Durian washed volcanic debris from Mayon’s slopes, burying villages and killing about 200 people. At least 10 people were killed in volcanic mudslides from Super Typhoon Goni in 2020.
Over the weekend, a powerful typhoon from the Pacific missed the Mayon area.