-- The Philippines' most active volcano ejected an immense and thick gray cloud of lava, ash and steam on Monday, causing thousands of villagers in the Province of Albay to flee to evacuation centers for safety.
The midday explosion at Mount Mayon "sent superheated lava, molten rocks and steam 3.5-5 kilometers (2 to 3 miles) into the sky," the Associated Press reported.
The sudden eruption has forced nearly 27,000 people from Albay and neighboring communities to evacuate their homes.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a level 4 alert for the Province of Albay, notifying villagers in the surrounding community that a "hazardous eruption is imminent," and volcanic eruption could occur within hours or days.
Alerts for Mount Mayon were previously set to level 3, due to signs of increased activity within the mountain.
Volcanic ash and deadly debris lingered roughly three kilometers, or 1.8 miles, around the southern plank of Mount Mayon near the no-entry danger zone. According to AP, officials have yet to report any deaths or injuries as a result of the natural disaster.
The alert also strongly advised villagers to remain vigilant and protect themselves, as the thick gray ash fall has obstructed visibility in certain areas.
"It was like night time at noon, there was zero visibility in some areas because the ash fall was so thick," Albay provincial disaster response officer, Juke Nunez, said in an interview with AP.
More than 30,000 ash masks and about 5,000 bags of rice, along with water, medicine and various other supplies have been prepared to be sent to evacuation centers, according to the Office of Civil Defense Regional Director Claudio Yucot.
Classes across all grades for students in both public and private schools throughout the province were suspended by Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, shortly after notification of the level 4 alert was released. Bichara also advised that everyone, "wear their facemasks and stay indoors."
Nestled within a line of seismic faults that surround the Pacific Ocean known as the "Ring of Fire," the Philippines is no stranger to earthquakes and volcanic activity.
In 1991, Mount Pintaubo in the northern Philippines exploded in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing 800 people.