The Mayon volcano in the Philippines spews lava down its slopes

Norman Ray

Global Courant

LEGAZPI, Philippines — The Philippines’ most active volcano spewed lava gently down its slopes on Monday, warning tens of thousands of people that they may need to flee quickly from a violent and life-threatening explosion.

More than 12,600 people have left the mostly poor farming communities within a 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) radius of Mayon volcano’s crater in mandatory evacuations since volcanic activity increased last week. But thousands more remain within the permanent danger zone below Mayon, an area long off limits to humans but where generations have lived and farmed because they had nowhere else to go.

With the volcano beginning to eject lava Sunday evening, the high-risk zone around Mayon could expand if the eruption turns violent, said Teresito Bacolcol, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. Bacolcol said if that happens, people in an extended danger zone should be prepared to evacuate to emergency shelters.

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“What we’re seeing now is an effusive eruption,” Bacolcol told The Associated Press. “We’re looking at this on a day-to-day basis.”

From a distance, Associated Press journalists watched for hours on Sunday night as lava flowed through the volcano’s southeastern gullies. People hurriedly stepped out of restaurants and bars in a coastal neighborhood of Legazpi, the capital of the northeastern province of Albay, about 14 kilometers (8.5 miles) from Mayon, many of them snapping photos of the volcano which is a popular tourist attraction known as for its picturesque cone shape.

Albay was placed under a state of emergency on Friday to allow for faster distribution of any emergency relief funds in the event of a major eruption.

The volcano was raised to alert level three on a five-step system on Thursday, warning that the volcano was in a state of great unrest and that a dangerous eruption is possible within weeks or days.

With lava gently flowing down from the volcano, Bacolcol said the alert level would remain at three, but could rise higher if the eruption becomes dangerous.

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The highest alert, level five, would mean a violent and life-threatening eruption is underway with plumes of ash shooting into the sky and superheated pyroclastic flows endangering more communities on Mayon’s lush foothills.

Mayon is one of 24 active volcanoes in the Philippines. It last erupted violently in 2018, displacing tens of thousands of villagers. In 1814, the Mayon eruption buried entire villages and reportedly killed more than 1,000 people.

However, many of Albay’s people have accepted the sporadic wrath of the volcano as part of their lives.

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Crowds of people jogged, cycled and walked their dogs on a seaside boulevard in Legazpi on Sunday morning. The 2,462 meter high volcano was hidden in thick clouds at a distance.

Some locals have become wealthy from the tourist industry that grew out of Mayon or the gravel, sand, and ornamental rocks and boulders found in abundance around the volcano.

Within the permanent danger zone, authorities and villagers moved cows and water buffaloes from the high-risk farms to temporary grazing areas at a safe distance on Sunday.

“Not only people need to be brought to safety, but also their farm animals,” Albay’s provincial veterinarian, Manny Victorino, told the AP. He said authorities were taking steps to prevent a deeper economic impact if the volcano erupted.

They gave deworming drugs and vitamins and stuck identification tags into the ears of several cows and buffaloes for better monitoring.

The evacuations of livestock underline the magnitude of potential threats from natural disasters in the Philippines.

The archipelago is ravaged by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms a year and is located on the so-called “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific Ocean, the edge of seismic fault lines where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo north of Manila blew its top in one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.

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Associated Press journalist Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.

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Find more of AP’s Asia-Pacific coverage at

The Mayon volcano in the Philippines spews lava down its slopes

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