Thousands Evacuated as Philippine Volcano Spews Ash, Lava

Lava from the Mayon volcano erupts in Legazpi, the Philippines on January 15, 2018. (AFP)
Lava from the Mayon volcano erupts in Legazpi, the Philippines on January 15, 2018. (AFP)
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Thousands Evacuated as Philippine Volcano Spews Ash, Lava

Lava from the Mayon volcano erupts in Legazpi, the Philippines on January 15, 2018. (AFP)
Lava from the Mayon volcano erupts in Legazpi, the Philippines on January 15, 2018. (AFP)

Thousands of people were evacuated from two municipalities in the Philippines on Monday as a restive volcano threatened to erupt within “weeks or even days.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology increased the alert level for Mount Mayon late Sunday to three on a scale of five, indicating an increased prospect of a hazardous eruption "within weeks or even days."

More than 12,000 residents have already fled to evacuation centers after the 2,462-meter (8,077-foot) volcano, in central Albay province, began spewing ash on Saturday and unleashed burning mud and rocks on Sunday.

“There is an ongoing forced evacuation from the municipalities of Daraga and Legazpi because of the lava flow,” Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told reporters.

“The lava flow has reached some areas around three kilometers away from the volcano.”

Lava flowed at least half a kilometer (less than half a mile) down a gulley from the crater on Monday morning and ash clouds appeared mid-slope as lava fragments rolled down, said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcano institute. It was hard to track down the lava flow given the thick clouds shrouding the volcano.

With its near-perfect cone, Mayon is popular with climbers and tourists but has erupted about 50 times in the last 500 years, sometimes violently.

In 2013, an ash eruption killed five climbers, including three Germans, who had ventured near the summit despite warnings of possible danger.

Experts fear a major eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows — superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path. More extensive explosions of ash could drift toward nearby towns and cities, including Legazpi city, the provincial capital, about nine miles (15 kilometers) away.

Manila’s airport authorities said Cebu Pacific had canceled flights to nearby Legazpi City for a second day on Monday, citing bad weather.

Philippine Airlines said it had not canceled any flights to and from Legazpi, but there were some delays.

Mayon’s most destructive eruption was in February 1814, when lava buried a town and killed 1,200 people. It last erupted in 2014, spewing lava and forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

The Philippines raised the volcano alert to level 3, which indicates increased volcanic activity toward a hazardous eruption, late on Sunday.

Level 5 indicates an eruption is in progress.

People have been advised to stay away from a 6-km (4-mile) radius Permanent Danger Zone and a 7-km Expanded Danger Zone on the volcano’s southern flank.



Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)

Greece on Monday denied a new report that accused its coast guard of brutally preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, which also alleged that the practice had resulted in dozens of deaths.

A BBC report said it had been ascertained that 43 migrants drowned — including nine who were thrown into the water — in 15 incidents off Greece's eastern Aegean Sea islands in 2020-2023. It cited interviews with eyewitnesses, following reports from media, charities and the Turkish coast guard.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis insisted that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he told a regular press briefing when asked about the claims. “Every complaint is looked into, and in the end, the relevant findings are made public.”

Greece is a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands slip into the country every year, mostly in small boats from neighboring Türkiye. Relations with Türkiye are often tense, and the two countries' coast guards have repeatedly traded accusations of mistreating migrants.

Migrant charities and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Greece's coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by surreptitiously returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has angrily denied that, arguing its border forces have saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country's reputation took a further knock in June 2023, when a battered fishing vessel with an estimated 750 people on board sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard having shadowed the vessel for hours, and survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included a claim by a Cameroonian man that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, just after landing on the island of Samos.

The man claimed all three were put in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Syrian man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis said “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.