Lava begins flowing from Philippine volcano, thousands evacuated

LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) — Nearly 15,000 people have fled from villages around the Philippines’ most active volcano as lava flowed down its crater Monday in a gentle eruption that scientists warned could turn explosive.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology increased the alert level for Mount Mayon late Sunday to three on a scale of five, indicating an increased prospect of a hazardous eruption “within weeks or even days.”

Lava flowed at least half a kilometer down a gulley from the crater on Monday morning and ash clouds appeared mid-slope as lava fragments rolled down, said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcano institute. It was hard to track down the lava flow given the thick clouds shrouding the volcano.

Molten rocks and lava at Mayon’s crater lit the night sky Sunday in a reddish-orange glow despite the thick cloud cover, leaving spectators awed but sending thousands of residents into evacuation shelters.

Disaster-response officials said more than 14,700 people have been moved from high-risk areas in three cities and four towns in an ongoing evacuation. People in the danger area have put up huge white crosses in the past in their neighborhoods, hoping to protect their lives and homes.

“There are some who still resist but if we reach alert level four, we’ll really be obligated to resort to forced evacuation,” Cedric Daep, an Albay emergency official, told The Associated Press. Level four signifies the volcano could erupt violently within days.

Mayon lies in coconut-growing Albay province about 340 kilometers southeast of 

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