MANILA – Around 70,000 people have been evacuated from the neighborhood of the Mayon volcano in eastern Philippines on Thursday after it spewed lava six times in less than 15 hours, leading to fears of a stronger eruption.
The new eruptions in Mayon, situated in the Albay province around 350 kilometers (217 miles) southeast of Manila, took place between midnight and 3:00 pm local time, according to The Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology (PHIVOLCS).
The crater had spewed 3,000-meter (9,800-foot) high ash plumes and lava that stretched more than 3 km from the crater.
PHIVOLCS expert Winchelle Sevilla told EFE they were expecting continuous lava eruptions in the coming days and were on alert about the possibility of a more powerful eruption.
Authorities have kept the alert on level 4 – possible hazardous eruption in the next hours or days – on a scale of five.
An evacuation zone has been declared in an 8 km radius around the crater, with the maximum-risk area spread over a 6 km radius.
A total of 68,172 people from 17,803 families have been evacuated and relocated to around 30 shelters in the region, according to data provided to EFE by Albay’s Office of Civil Defense.
PHIVOLCS has asked the evacuees not to return under any circumstances to the high-risk area due to gases and ash in the high-risk zone where the pyroclastic flow – a mixture of hot gas and rock – has reached almost 5 kilometers from the crater.
Mayon, which has erupted five times in the last three decades, has led to fears of a repeat of the tragic explosion of Mount Pinatubo – northwest of Manila – in 1991, the world’s second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century that left about 850 dead and displaced more than 1.3 million people.
However, PHIVOLCS experts have ruled out an eruption of the magnitude of Pinatubo.
With 23 active volcanoes, the Philippine archipelago sits on an area of intense seismic activity within the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which extends from the west coast of the American continent to New Zealand through Japan and Indonesia, among other countries.