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Mount Mayon, one of the Philippines' most active volcanos, is erupting

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A volcano in the Philippines is quietly erupting. Over the weekend, Mount Mayon began oozing lava. Ashley Westerman reports from the Philippines.

(CROSSTALK)

ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: Just outside of Mount Mayon's so-called danger zone - anywhere within four miles of the volcano - thousands of displaced villagers crowd into tents lined up side by side in a huge evacuation center.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

WESTERMAN: It's hot and crowded in these centers, says Alfred Nimo, who sent NPR the video. He's the head of TAYO, a youth-based NGO helping the displaced.

ALFRED NIMO: The situation in the evacuation centers are really not good. For example, there are 10 to 15 families who need to stay in one classroom, so it's really crowded.

WESTERMAN: His group has been providing evacuation transportation and handing out water and sleep kits since last week. That's when the villagers were given the order to head to the shelters when the alert level for the volcano was raised to three. Alert level three out of five means an eruption is imminent or already happening. Some 15,000 people have already been evacuated so far from around the volcano. Located a little over 200 miles southeast of the capital, Manila, on a peninsula known as Bicol, the Mayon volcano is known for two things - one, its nearly perfect cone shape, and two, for being super active.

MARITON BORNAS: Essentially, we are having a very atypical, very low-gas eruption.

WESTERMAN: Mariton Bornas is with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. Her team has been tracking Mayon's increased activity since last year. But incidents of rockfalls, tremors and volcanic emissions, such as gas and ash, have really picked up since the start of June, she says. But she says they aren't quite sure what may happen next.

BORNAS: Because this is a new type of eruption. I mean, for all intents and purposes, it looks the same, but from the scientific point of view, it's really different.

WESTERMAN: The last time the Mayon volcano erupted was in 2018, displacing thousands of people. But that's what comes with living so close to a volcano, says Alfred Nimo, who also grew up in Mayon's shadow and who, like many Filipinos, is no stranger to natural disasters in a country often battered by supertyphoons and other calamities.

NIMO: They're already used to the situation. And actually, every time that we're having typhoon, they really need to evacuate. So this is something not new to them.

WESTERMAN: Most cannot afford to move, he says, because they're farmers who make their livelihoods there. A life, he says, which is actually pretty comfortable when there isn't an eruption.

For NPR News, I'm Ashley Westerman in Laguna, Philippines.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.

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