Philippine volcano 'fireworks' draw tourists as residents flee

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Legazpi, Philippines - Spectacular lava "fireworks" shooting from its crater are drawing tourists to the Philippines' most active volcano, authorities said Tuesday as scientists warned of a potential risky eruption within days.

Phivolcs said Alert level 3 which it hoisted on Monday remained in effect, meaning the volcano "is now in a relatively high level of unrest as magma is at the crater and hazardous explosion is possible within weeks or days".

More than 12,000 residents had already fled to evacuation centres after the Mayon volcano, in central Albay province, began spewing ash on Saturday (January 13) and unleashed burning mud and rocks on Sunday (January 14). A "bright crater glow" at the summit crater indicates "the growth of a new lava dome and beginnings of lava flow towards the southern slopes", the agency said.

More than 3,000 families have been evacuated to safety as the Philippines' most active and picturesque volcano showed signs if was priming for an eruption, volcanologists said Tuesday.

The Albay provincial government declared a state of calamity.

At least 15,000 people have so far been evacuated to safer areas in the towns of Camalig, Guinobatan, and Malilipot, and in the cities of Tabaco and Ligao.

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The 2,460-meter Mount Mayon is a tourist attraction in the province of Albay because of its near-perfect cone shape.

Experts fear a major eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows - superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path.

"This means Mayon is exhibiting relatively high unrest and that the magma is at the crater and eruption is possible within weeks or even days", Phivolcs explained.

"The public is strongly advised to be vigilant and desist from entering the six kilometer (3.7 mile) radius Permanent Danger Zone to minimize risks from sudden explosions, rockfall and landslides", the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) announced on Sunday.

The potentially deadly lava flows have prompted the provincial government to shut more schools after Phivolcs recorded nine episodes of tremors, four of which accompanied lava fountains.

Temporary school sites were also being considered to ease the disruption to education after school buildings were turned into emergency shelters, he said.

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