LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Mount Mayon, a volcano in the central Philippines, showed signs a major eruption was imminent as it belched smoke and spewed burning rocks and mud, scientists said on Sunday.
Four explosions have been recorded since Saturday. One mild eruption shot gray ash columns into the air and sent heated volcanic debris cascading down Mayon's slopes, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
"This could be the beginning of a big bang events," Ed Laguerta, a vulcanologist, told reporters.
"This could be an indication that a hazardous explosion may very imminent due to the flow of pyroclastic materials on Saturday," he said as rain and dark clouds covered the mountain, hiding the summit.
Last week, Phivolcs scientists warned that the 2,462-metre (8,077 foot) Mayon, the country's most active volcano, could explode any time, raising the alert level to 4 and forcing more than 40,000 people to move from an 8-km danger zone on Mayon's southeast flank.
A major hazardous eruption had been expected Wednesday night due to the possible gravitational pull of a full moon, but the volcano calmed for the next three days.
A full moon coincided with at least three of Mayon's nearly 50 explosions over the last 400 years, including the two most recent in 2000 and 2001.
On Saturday, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo toured some school buildings and public parks serving as temporary shelter areas for people who have fled their homes and farms since the volcano started acting up last month.
Arroyo, who initially gave disaster officials about 250 million pesos ($4.8 million), promised more relief goods to feed displaced people and ordered the provision of permanent structures and sanitation facilities to prevent an outbreak of diseases.
(With additional reporting by Rhaydz Barcia, Joseph Agcaoili and Darren Whiteside)
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