Philippines authorities have evacuated more than 40,000 people and placed the area around the Mayon Volcano under a Level 4 alert, which means that a “hazardous eruption is imminent.”
Activity from the volcano, which has been rumbling and slowly erupting in spectacular displays in recent days, escalated Monday when the mountain shot a giant column of ash into the sky.
Volcanologists measured the column as reaching as high as 10 km (6.2 miles) and covering large parts of nearby villages with fine dust particles.
“Mayon Volcano in Albay province has been exhibiting increased seismic unrest, lava fountaining and summit explosions,” Renato Solidum, the Philippine government’s chief volcanologist, said.
The volcano in Albay province, at the southeastern end of Luzon island, rises 2,462 meters (8,077 feet) and is shaped almost perfectly like a cone.
Jonathan Escano, a tourist from Manila, said he had traveled more than nine hours to see the fireworks from the volcano.
“It’s good to observe. It’s like a mushroom and fireworks at night,” he told BenarNews, adding that he was not worried because there were “a lot of exit points” from Legazpi, the nearest city to the volcano.
Mayon is the most active volcano in the natural disaster-prone Philippines. In 2013, five hikers were killed when Mayon erupted suddenly.
Twenty years earlier, at least 70 people were killed in another eruption of Mayon. In 1841, more than 1,200 people were killed when it erupted and buried an entire town.