The Mayon volcano, which has blown its top nearly 40 times in 400 years, menaced nearby residents with small eruptions of ash and lava Wednesday as Philippine authorities moved more than 30,000 people to shelters in case of a larger eruption.
Trickles of lava rolled down the 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) mountain towering over the Albay Gulf in the central Philippines, while five new ash explosions, one of them reaching 550 yards (500 meters) in the air, shook Mayon's steep slopes, said chief state volcanologist Renato Solidum, The Associated Press reports.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level up a notch on Monday night to level 3. Scientist Alex Baloloy told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that under level 3, "a full-blown eruption is expected to take place within weeks to days."
He said seismic instruments detected 83 volcanic quakes, a majority of which were tremors associated with rockfalls.
People in Albay province, about 466 kilometers (290 miles) south of the capital, Manila, flocked to town centers to catch a glimpse of glowing lava cascading down the slopes of Mayon. The volcanic mountain soars 2,464 meters (8,077 feet) into the sky and has erupted 49 times since the first documented eruption in 1616, CNN reports.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the province was placed under a "state of imminent disaster" as early as July this year when Mayon’s alert status was raised from one to level two.
"Now that we have thousands of persons actually evacuating, it is high time to place Albay under the state of calamity," he said, adding that the province has sufficient fund to feed the 100,000 persons in 18 days in case of mass exodus.
Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) chairman Norberto Gonzales, on the other hand, ordered Task Force Mayon to strictly enforce the no-entry policy within the declared no-man’s land zone after scientists confirmed that at least two lava domes were already partially blocking the 200-meter diameter mouth of the restive volcano.
Cedric Daep, chief of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) said that at least 6,559 families, or 30,761 people were already moved to at least 26 evacuation centers across the towns and cities around Mayon, The Philippine Star reports.