Villagers evacuated as volcano erupts

The Philippines' most active volcano oozed lava and shot up plumes of ash yesterday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

State volcanologists raised the alert level on the cone-shaped, 2,460m Mayon volcano, 210 miles south of the capital, Manila. Orange lava fragments glowed in the dark as they trickled down the mountain slope. Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the activity could get worse. "It's already erupting," he said.

More than 20,000 people had been evacuated by last night, facing the prospect of Christmas in shelters. Vehicles including army trucks were sent to villages to take residents to schools and other temporary housing.

Nearly 50,000 people live within a five-mile (eight-kilometre) radius of the mountain, and some villages were evacuated last month when the volcano spewed ash.

Mayon last erupted in 2006, and about 30,000 people were moved. Another eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.