THE Philippines’ most active volcano spewed fountains of red-hot lava and massive ash plumes in a dazzling but dangerous new eruption that sent 56,000 villagers fleeing to evacuation centres.

Lava fountains yesterday gushed up 2300ft (700m) above Mount Mayon’s crater and ash plumes rose up to 1.9 miles (three kilometres), according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

An explosive eruption at noon local time on Monday was the most powerful since the volcano started acting up more than a week ago.

“We couldn’t sleep last night because of the loud rumblings. It sounded like an airplane that’s about to land,” said 59-year-old farmer Quintin Velardo at an evacuation centre in Legazpi city, where he took his wife, children and grandchildren.

Despite the danger, he said he needed to return to his village, about five miles (8km) from the erupting volcano, to take his livestock to safety. A few minutes later, the volcano belched a massive column of greyish ash.

Authorities warned that a violent eruption may occur, characterised by more rumblings and pyroclastic flows – superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, vaporising everything in their path.

After Monday’s explosion the danger zone was expanded to five miles (8km) from the crater.