Philippine villagers flee ashfall, sight of red-hot lava from erupting Mayon volcano

Philippine Navy personnel help bring down children from a military truck Tuesday as they arrive at an evacuation center in Santo Domingo town. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

SANTO DOMINGO, Philippines (AP) — Truckloads of villagers on Tuesday fled Philippine communities close to the erupting Mayon volcano, traumatized by the sight of red-hot lava flowing down its crater and fearful of sporadic blasts of ash.

Nearly 15,000 people have left the mostly poor farming communities within a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) radius of Mayon’s crater in northeastern Albay province in forced evacuations since volcanic activity spiked last week. Albay’s governor extended the danger zone by a kilometer (more than half a mile) on Monday and asked thousands of residents to be ready to move anytime.

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But many opted to flee from the expanded danger zone even before the mandatory evacuation order.

“There’s lava and ashfall already,” Fidela Banzuela, 61, said from a navy truck where she, her daughter, grandchildren and neighbors clambered up after leaving their home in San Fernando village close to Mayon. “If the volcano explodes, we won’t see anything because it would be so dark.”

Her daughter, Sarah Banzuela, fled with her two children, including a 2-year-old who has asthma.

“There’s ashfall already and, at night, there’s red-hot lava from the volcano that seems to be moving closer to us,” Sarah Banzuela, 22, told The Associated Press.

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