The Philippines has evacuated more than 12,000 residents from near the foot of one of the most active volcanoes in the country, fearing an eruption within weeks, media reports said Tuesday, citing government scientists. Mount Mayon in the eastern Albay province, located about 210 miles southeast of the capital Manila, is the largest of 22 active volcanoes in the country, and has erupted more than 40 times in the last 400 years.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, or PHIVOLCS, said in a bulletin that it has increased the alert level to “critical” after the volcano showed signs of “relatively high unrest” late on Monday. The unrest escalated after a 15-hour period and the institute also recorded 32 low-frequency volcanic earthquakes as well as 39 incidents of rockfall in the summit area.
"We are now raising the alert status of Mayon Volcano from alert level 2 to 3," Renato Solidum, head of PHIVOLCS, said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda reportedly ordered the evacuation of about 12,000 families within a 4- to 5-mile radius of the “danger zone.” Salceda also reportedly said that the people will be sent to temporary shelters where they could stay for as long three months.
However, the eruption is not expected to cause major harm to the country’s farm output, and the region does not have any major industries, Reuters reported.
In May 2013, the volcano had emitted ash and rocks that claimed the lives of five people, including three Germans, who visited the area despite alerts about the area being a permanent danger zone, according to The Associated Press. The most destructive eruption from the volcano reportedly occurred in February 1841 that killed 1,200 people.