More Than 70,000 People Forced to Evacuate as Philippines Volcano Mount Looks Ready to Blow

The Mayon volcano spewing ash and lava in Albay Province, the Philippines, on Tuesday.
Jes Aznar for The New York Times

Mount Mayon, one of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes, is as renowned for its beauty as it is feared for its destructiveness.

Admired for its symmetry and classic cone shape, the volcano was named for a mythological fairy. But its smooth slopes and cute name belie its deadly nature: Inside is an enormous chamber, churning with molten rock and toxic gas.

And it is ready to blow.

For two weeks Mayon has rumbled, belched plumes of ash and smoke and lit up the night sky with an eerie orange glow.

“It is very hard to sleep at night when you start to hear the explosions,” said Ed Esquivel, 60, a retired police inspector from the village of Bogna, five miles from the crater. “It is like five big airplanes flying around the village.”

Residents looking on as the volcano erupted on Tuesday.
Jes Aznar for The New York Times

A source of pride for the residents of Albay Province on Luzon Island, who rely on its rich soil and tourist dollars, the volcano has recently been upending life here instead. More than 70,000 people had been forced from their homes by Thursday, one of the largest mass evacuations on the island in recent years.

Mr. Esquivel is among the dozens who have ignored the government’s warnings, brushing off the soldiers deployed to take him and his neighbors to shelters several miles away. He has chosen instead to remain at home, keeping an eye on his property and livestock.

It is not out of ignorance that Mr. Esquivel remains. He knows Mayon’s fatal power all too well.

“I’ll always remember the day my father died, on Feb. 2, 1993,” Mr. Esquivel said. “He was among the 73 who died when Mayon erupted while they worked their farms at the foot of the volcano.”

The farmers were killed by a pyroclastic cloud, a wall of superheated gas that can barrel down the sides of a volcano at speeds up to 430 miles per hour, and at temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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SOURCE: New York Times, Jes Aznar and Russell Goldman

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