Thousands of residents in several towns in Albay province, about 500 kilometers south of Manila, have fled their homes in fear of the possible eruption of Mount Mayon.
Volcanologists warned that the volcano can erupt “within weeks or even within days” as magma continued to build up at its summit.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to 3, or critical after observers noted lava flow from the mouth of the volcano.
The agency announced that it will raise the alert level to 4 if there is an indication of a hazardous explosion. Level 5 indicates an eruption is in progress.
At least 15,000 people have so far been evacuated to safer areas in the towns of Camalig, Guinobatan, and Malilipot, and in the cities of Tabaco and Ligao.
Mayor Ahrdail Baldo of Camalig town said that although the local government has been ready for evacuation, “I am worried about food supply.”
In the town of Guinobatan, Mayor Ann Ongjoco suspended classes in all schools to accommodate at least 3,700 people who have left their homes.
The 2,460-meter Mount Mayon is a tourist attraction in the province of Albay because of its near-perfect cone shape.
The volcano has, however, a long history of deadly eruptions.
In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed when lava flows buried the town of Cagsawa.