Thousands evacuated as Philippines’ Mayon volcano oozes lava

Approximately 13,000 individuals have been forced to evacuate in the north-east region of the Philippines as Mayon, the country’s most well-known volcano, continues to emit lava. Residents within the six-kilometre “permanent danger zone” have sought refuge in shelters, using lorries and buffalo-drawn carriages to evacuate. Known for its flawless conical shape, Mayon began to spew lava last week, with evacuations commencing over the weekend as volcanic activity increased and triggered alerts.

Teresito Bacolcol, the nation’s chief volcanologist, stated that more people might need to evacuate if Mayon’s volcanic activity escalates in the coming days. The volcano is currently under the third-highest warning of a five-tier system, which predicts the risk of a hazardous or explosive eruption. Scientists have confirmed that Mayon is technically erupting, albeit at a slow pace, with lava oozing from its crater.

Situated in the Bicol farming peninsula, Mayon is among the Philippines’ most active volcanoes. In recent weeks, it has become increasingly restless, with more frequent earthquakes and rocks falling from its crater. Bacolcol warned of the danger of a fast-moving current of volcanic gases and rocks from the crater, which could be difficult to escape from.

In 1814, an eruption killed 1,200 people and buried an entire town. However, as the perimeter was declared off-limits, there were fewer casualties following the recent eruptions in 2013 and 2018. With Mayon glowing a fiery red, tourists have started to camp out on hilltops to witness the volcanic spectacle. Recognised by Guinness as the world’s “most conical” volcano, Mayon is a popular tourist attraction. Local officials have established designated viewing points where visitors can safely admire its glowing crater.

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Eugene Escobar, a disaster response official in the region, said in a TV interview on Monday, “Last night, Mayon again put on a show as lava flowed from its crater.” French tourist Philip Balselle expressed his excitement that his Philippine holiday coincided with Mayon’s volcanic activity. He joined approximately a dozen tourists at a lookout point in a nearby town.

Mayon’s beauty is an integral part of Filipino folklore and pop culture. Its name originates from the local term for a beautiful lady, daragang mayon. In 2018, Catriona Gray, a Filipina beauty queen, won the Miss Universe competition wearing a gown inspired by lava flowing down Mayon’s slopes. Gray’s mother is from Albay province, where the volcano is located.

Mayon is one of the Philippines’ 24 active volcanoes. Recently, two others, Taal and Kanlaon, have also been closely monitored for signs of unrest. While recent eruptions have not directly resulted in many fatalities, powerful typhoons in the past have triggered volcanic mudflows, which have proven deadly. In 2006, Typhoon Durian washed volcanic debris from Mayon’s slopes, burying villages and killing around 200 people. At least ten individuals were killed in volcanic mudslides caused by Super Typhoon Goni in 2020. Over the weekend, a powerful typhoon from the Pacific bypassed the Mayon area.

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Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.

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