The Philippines' most active volcano oozed lava and shot up plumes of ash, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes and face the possibility of a bleak Christmas in a shelter.
State volcanologists raised the alert level on the cone-shaped, 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) Mayon volcano to two steps below a major eruption after ash explosions late Monday. Dark orange lava fragments glowed in the dark as they trickled down the mountain slope overnight.
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the activity could get worse in coming days.
"It's already erupting," Solidum told The Associated Press.
More than 20,000 people were evacuated to safety by nightfall yesterday, said Gov Joey Salceda of Albay province, where Mayon is located about 340 kilometres southeast of Manila.
The first of 20 vehicles, including army trucks, were sent to villages to take residents to schools and other temporary housing, provincial emergency management official Jukes Nunez said.
"It's 10 days before Christmas. Most likely people will be in evacuation centres, and if Mayon's activity won't ease down we will not allow them to return to their homes," Nunez said. "It's difficult and sad, especially for children."