GUINOBATAN, Albay - More than 2,000 people hurriedly left their homes at the foot of Mount Mayon as the volcano started belching ash and smoke over the towns of Guinobatan and Camalig in Albay province.
Residents said they heard a rumbling sound before the air started smelling like sulfur late Saturday afternoon when the strong winds blew the ash and smoke from Mayon to the southwest.
The volcano is a tourist attraction in Albay because of its near-perfect cone shape.
Saturday's phreatic, or steam-driven, eruption was followed by three more on Sunday, sending 2,018 people, or 630 families, to evacuation centres.
Alert Level 2
On Sunday morning, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Mayon's alert status from Level 1 (abnormal) to Level 2 (increasing unrest).
Alert Level 2 means that the current unrest is probably of magmatic origin, which could lead to more phreatic eruptions or eventually to hazardous magmatic eruptions, Phivolcs said in a bulletin.
The warning was raised after the volcano spewed grayish steam and ash plume, reaching a height of 2.5 kilometers, in a phreatic eruption that lasted an hour and 47 minutes starting 4:21 p.m. on Saturday.
Residents are forbidden from entering the 6-kilometer radius permanent danger zone to avoid harm from explosions, rockfall and landslides that may occur in the area.