July 14, 2006

Philippines raises alert after volcano spills lava

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines decided on Friday to
raise the alert level at the country's most active volcano and
warned residents to stay away from the mountain after a lava
spill was observed at its crater.

Mayon volcano in the central Philippines spewed ash on
Thursday but lava was seen spilling from its crater late on
Friday, prompting authorities to raise the alert level to 3
from 1 ordered in 2003.

"We're preparing to raise the alert level to 3," said
Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of
Volcanology and Seismology. "At 6 p.m. (1000 GMT), our
vulcanologists on the ground have observed lava trickles from
its craters."

Solidum warned residents in Albay province not to venture
within a 6-km zone of the 2,462-metre-high volcano because of
fears of sudden hazardous eruptions.

At level 3 an explosion is considered possible, at level 4
it is likely and at level 5, the highest alert, a hazardous
eruption has occurred.

"Hazardous eruption is possible," Solidum told reporters
after lava was observed in the Mayon crater this week.

Vulcanologists have been watching Bulusan volcano in nearby
Sorsogon province after it spewed ash and vented steam in
March. Last month, authorities raised the alert level there to

Mayon is the most active volcano in the country, having
erupted around 50 times over the past four centuries. The most
destructive eruption came in February 1841 when lava flows
buried a town and killed 1,200 people.

The last time Mayon erupted was in 2000-2001.