Thousands displaced as Mayon volcano in Philippines spews lava

Lava seen flowing slowly from the mouth of the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) volcano in Albay province.

Nearly 15,000 people have left their homes around a volcano spewing lava and noxious gases in the northeastern Philippines and may remain displaced for months, authorities warn.

Lava was seen flowing slowly on Tuesday from the mouth of the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) Mayon volcano in Albay province, which was placed on high alert last week after tremors and hundreds of rockfalls.

“Based on our previous experiences, this volcanic activity may persist for a few months,” Teresito Bacolcol, chief of the state volcanology and seismology agency, told DZMM radio, adding that residents usually living within 6km (3.7 miles) of the volcano on Luzon island would have to stay in evacuation centres.

Those who have been evacuated were sheltering in schools and community centres, disaster agency data show. An unspecified number of residents remain within the permanent danger zone below Mayon, an area long declared off-limits to people but where generations have lived and farmed.

Residents arrive at an evacuation center in Santo Domingo town, Albay province, northeastern Philippines, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Truckloads of vi
Residents arrive at an evacuation centre in Santo Domingo, Albay province, northeastern Philippines [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Larry Llenaresas, a community leader in Albay, told DZMM radio more food and drinking water is needed for the displaced.

Authorities said people living farther away from the volcano should also be ready for possible evacuation as police set up checkpoints to prevent residents from returning.

“We will make sure evacuees cannot return until they are advised to do so,” police regional director Westrimundo Obinque told reporters, according to the Reuters news agency.

Mayon is a tourist attraction because of its near-perfect conical shape.

Dorothy Colle, a provincial tourism official, said that while the no-go zone was being enforced, people were still flocking to observation stations to witness lava flows, which appear particularly bright at night.

The eruption is the latest natural calamity to test the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who took office in June last year and inherited an economy that was shattered by two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which deepened poverty and unemployment.

He has deployed some of his cabinet officials to Albay to help distribute food and reassure displaced villagers.

Mayon is the most active of 24 known volcanoes in the Philippine archipelago. It last erupted in 2018, displacing tens of thousands of people. In 1814, another eruption buried entire villages and killed more than 1,000 people.

The Philippines is in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common.

Source: News Agencies