Thousands flee as Mayon threatens eruption
Wednesday December 16, 2009
TENS of thousands of villagers in the Philippines fled their homes yesterday as one of the nation's most active volcanoes spewed lava and sent ash plumes high into the sky.Soldiers and police marshalled the evacuation from the so-called "danger zone" around the foothills of Mayon volcano, amid concerns a big eruption could occur at any moment."After the series of ash puffs and ash explosions of 1000 metres [high], we cannot rule out a major explosion," Cedric Daep, the head of the disaster relief operations in the eastern Bicol region, told reporters.Mr Daep said the authorities aimed to evacuate nearly 50,000 people from villages within eight kilometres of the volcano by tomorrow.The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level for Mayon to three on Monday after lava was seen dripping from the crater. Level three of five means an eruption is likely in the very near future. Level five means an eruption is occurring.However, the volcanology institute said Mayon could also calm down without eruption.Mayon, above a farming area about 330 kilometres south-east of Manila, has erupted 48 times since records began, killing thousands.In 1814, more than 1200 people were killed as the lava buried the town of Cagsawa.