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Lava flows from the crater of Mount Mayon volcano during a new eruption in Legazpi city, Albay province, Philippines January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

(reuters_tickers)

By Ronn Bautista and Roli Ng

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - A huge plume of ash billowed from the glowing peak of the Philippines' most active volcano on Thursday, as more residents of surrounding areas fled and experts warned of further escalation 12 days after it started to erupt.

A cloud hovered some 8,202 feet (2,500 metres) above Mount Mayon in central Albay province and orange lava fountained and flowed down from its crater as magma continued to move beneath.

Scientists recorded regular episodes of intense activity throughout the day. Tourists, residents and media gathered at vantage points to document the drama at the country's most impressive volcano, which last erupted in 2014.

Mayon's unrest has displaced about 75,500 people, the majority of whom are in evacuation centres, where children lined up for meals and parents braced for the possibility of a long stay away from home.

"We are worried. We got used to the volcano, but we are still afraid," said one evacuee, Irene Agao.

"If only we could, we would go home right now, away from this evacuation centre, but we need to stay. Because we never know what else the beautiful Mayon volcano will do."

Government offices and schools have been closed in 17 towns and municipalities and 66 flights have been cancelled in recent days. The authorities have warned residents far from the area to stay indoors to avoid heavy ash fall.

The alert remains just one notch below the highest level of 5, after five more episodes. The provincial government has expanded the no-go area around the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) Mayon to a radius of 9 kilometres.

Mayon was showing no signs of calming down soon, said Paul Alanis of the Philippine volcanology agency.

"Right now our instruments around the volcano are measuring or detecting magma constantly coming up from below," Alanis said.

"So there's always that danger, that this may still escalate."

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Reuters