Philippine volcano lava 'fireworks' draw tourists even as residents flee

Lava cascading down the slopes of Mayon volcano on Monday. Lava spurting from the volcano was a sign of increasing activity that may result in a dangerous eruption within days, said scientists.
Lava cascading down the slopes of Mayon volcano on Monday. Lava spurting from the volcano was a sign of increasing activity that may result in a dangerous eruption within days, said scientists.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LEGAZPI (Philippines) • Spectacular lava "fireworks" shooting from its crater are drawing tourists to the Philippines' most active volcano, authorities said yesterday as scientists warned of a potentially dangerous eruption within days.

Lava spurting from Mayon volcano lit up the sky overnight on Monday in what scientists said was a sign of increasing activity that prompted official calls for evacuation of areas under threat from a major eruption.

But even as thousands of residents fled, tourists were flocking to the area, some 330km south-east of Manila, to watch and photograph the spectacle, Mr Danny Garcia, a spokesman for Albay province, told Agence France-Presse.

"It's a spectacle to watch. It's beauty and fury in one, especially at night. But it's a natural phenomenon, so we don't know when an (explosive) eruption will happen," Mr Garcia added.

Hotels reported getting more tourist bookings, while people flocked to viewing decks to watch the volcano from a distance, the provincial government said although it gave no specific figures.

Mayon, a near-perfect cone that also draws thousands of tourists during its periods of quiet, rises 2,460m above Legazpi, a city of about 200,000 people surrounded by a largely agricultural region.

The state volcanology institute described the natural pyrotechnics as "short-duration lava fountaining", an escalation from the slow lava flow from the crater a day earlier.

"If lava has enough gas and material, fragments will fly up into the air, like the fountain you light up on New Year's Eve," Mr Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told AFP.

"There is more force involved when the lava exits, so it's more intense than just the lava oozing out."

Ash also rose 2km into the sky yesterday, enveloping surrounding areas in a grey carpet as more residents left their homes for safety.

About 30,000 people in and around Legazpi have fled their homes, more than double the official count on Monday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'Philippine volcano lava 'fireworks' draw tourists even as residents flee'. Print Edition | Subscribe