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By Girlie Linao, dpa

MANILA — Tens of thousands of people living near the Philippines’ most active volcano began to evacuate on Tuesday after increased activity prompted government scientists to warn of an imminent eruption.

Dozens of military trucks were dispatched to pick up the residents in the danger zones around Mayon Volcano in Albay province, 330 kilometers south-east of Manila, said Major General Ricardo Visaya, a regional military commander.

“So far, there has been no reported opposition to the evacuation plan,” he said.

An estimated 12,000 families or nearly 60,000 residents are in the danger zones that affect three cities and five towns in Albay province, according to provincial Governor Joey Salceda.

“Everyone in the danger zones has to evacuate and we will guard these areas to make sure that none of them sneak back,” he told a Manila radio station.

Salceda ordered the mandatory evacuation after the alert at Mayon was raised to level 3 overnight, which means a “hazardous eruption is possible within weeks,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The institute said it had recorded 32 volcanic earthquakes, 72 rockfalls, and intense crater glow in the past 24 hours at the 2,472-metre volcano, which is famous for its nearly symmetrical cone.

“Rolling incandescent rockfall … last night indicates that the summit lava dome is breaching the crater on its south-eastern side,” it said in the latest bulletin.

“All the above data indicate that the volcano is exhibiting relatively high unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma.”

Mayon has erupted about 50 times since 1616. Its most violent eruption was in 1814, when more than 1,200 people were killed and a town was buried in volcanic mud. An eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.

In May 2013, sudden explosions from the crater killed four foreign tourists and a Filipino guide.

AFP Photo/Charism Sayat

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