MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines has evacuated more than 12,000 people from around the foot of its most active volcano as the crater glows red and authorities warn of a possible eruption.
Mount Mayon, known for its near-perfect cone shape in the coconut-growing central Bicol region, has recorded a series of recent quakes and rockfalls, indicating a possible eruption within weeks.
"We are now raising the alert status of Mayon Volcano from alert level 2 to 3," Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said on Tuesday.
Joey Salceda, governor of the central Albay province, said more than 12,000 people were forcibly evacuated.
"What the alert level 3 did was to fast-track the preparation to evacuate 12,000 families in the 6-8 km extended danger zone," he said.
The evacuees would be housed in temporary shelter for as long as three months, he said. More villagers, facing the southeastern crater rim, would be moved to safer areas if Mayon erupts.
Troops were enforcing the no-go area, preventing people from returning home.
A major eruption is not expected to impact the country's farm output with mostly subsistence farmers tilling the land around the volcano. There is also no major industry in the area.
But an eruption could boost tourism, as happened the last time Mayon erupted in 2009. It has erupted nearly 50 times over the last 600 years.
The most destructive eruption was in February 1841, when lava flows buried a town and killed 1,200 people.