Ash plumes rise from the crater of Mayon volcano in Albay Province, the Philippines, Jan. 23, 2018. The Philippine authorities raised the alert level for the Mayon volcano from level three to level four on Monday, meaning that a "hazardous eruption is imminent." (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)
LEGAZPI CITY, the Philippines, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Mount Mayon volcano in the Philippines continued to spew lava and huge plumes of smoke on Tuesday as authorities warn of a huge and violent eruption within days.
Nearly 36,000 residents have fled their homes since the volcano rumbled two weeks ago, and an 8-kilometer danger zone has been established around it.
The volcano, located in Albay province approximately 300 km southeast of Manila on the island of Luzon, has been spewing ash into the sky since Jan. 13, prompting the government to order people around the danger zone to flee.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in Manila that more than 12,000 families, or roughly 49,000 people, have been affected by the volcanic explosions.
As of Jan. 23, he said that nearly 9,000 families, or nearly 36,000 people, in the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo, all in Albay have so far been evacuated to safety.
Some residents are reluctant to leave their homes. Nieves Caberia and her husband Felicito, both 76, opted to stay in their hut in Sto. Domingo town despite the increased seismic unrest, lava fountaining and summit explosions.
In an interview with Xinhua at their house in the middle of the rice paddies some 10 km from the volcano, Nieves Caberia said they are used to the rumblings of the volcano.
She and her husband left the house on Monday after the explosions and spent the night in a temporary shelter where their four married children, 20 grandchildren and four grand-grandchildren are staying.
A son-in-law manned the house while the septuagenarian couple were away, she said. "But my son-in-law told me that he barely slept last night because of the continued rumblings of the volcano," Caberia said.
On Tuesday morning, Caberia said she and her husband decided to return to the house to feed the four pigs, three carabaos, two dogs and several chicken. Caberia's husband was cutting grass in the field. While Xinhua was interviewing Caberia, her youngest daughter, Marlyn, arrived with her daughter to convince the couple to stay in the shelter.
Marlyn de Mesa, 33, told Xinhua that she and the other evacuees are holding their breath as they wait for the imminent eruption.
"It's scary. I grew up in this town and I've witnessed several eruptions starting from 1993 but this one is very scary. The rumblings the volcano makes are very scary," she said.
Residents in the affected towns have been warned to wear masks to protect themselves from the volcanic ashes. Xinhua saw residents of Camalig and Guinobatan towns wearing masks as they go about their daily activities.
Volcanic ash also caused very poor visibility in the affected towns of Albay and some nearby towns in Camarines Sur province.
Civil aviation authorities have temporarily closed Legazpi airport due to the threat of the volcano.
On Monday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert level for the Mayon Volcano, predicting that a "hazardous eruption is imminent."
In view of the increased activity and imminent major eruption of Mayon volcano, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office in Albay province issued an advisory urging the public to strictly observe safety precautions.
"Foreign and domestic visitors, who have arrived in the area to watch the once-in-lifetime spectacle displayed by the countries magnificent natural treasure, must abide by the mandatory precautions imposed by the authorities, particularly keeping off the 8-km radius danger zone," Benjamin Santiago, the DOT regional director said.
Based on the Phivolcs reports, the DOT said continuous lava fountaining and summit explosions "may precipitate raising to alert level number anytime on Tuesday, which means any or all human activities will be prohibited within the 10-km extended danger zone."
The DOT also advised operators of hotels and tourism-related establishments including resorts and tourist spot "to take preventive measures for the safety of their guests."
Mount Mayon is a popular tourist destination in the Bicol region. It is famed for its near-perfect cone but has a long history of deadly eruptions. It has erupted 51 times during the last 400 years.
Mt. Mayon, which has an elevation of 2.46 kilometers and a base diameter of 20 kilometers, last erupted in 2014.
In an 1814 eruption, more than 1,200 people were killed and three towns were buried under mud and rock.
The Philippine archipelago straddles the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.