When one of the world's most active volcanoes blows its top, the obvious course of action is to give it a wide berth. Not so in the Philippines, where thousands of tourists are risking their lives to get close to the spectacular flow of lava.
The Mayon volcano, famed for its near-perfect cone, began slowly erupting two weeks ago. Tens of thousands of villagers living in its foothills have been evacuated – but tourists have been flooding in, and hotels in the area are booked out.
Joey Salceda, the governor of Albay province, which includes Mayon, said yesterday that some visitors were evading security patrols to enter the 8km danger zone for a close look. "There are enough thrill-seekers, and when you combine them with some enterprising local guides, they find their way in," he said.
Mr Salceda said that although the lava was advancing slowly, volcanic ash could combine with rainwater to form a lethal, fast-moving mud-flow. "At the moment of the eruption, the local guides will have a better chance of getting out. The hapless tourist will be left behind."
An estimated 2,400 visitors are heading daily to Mayon, with most staying overnight to watch the crimson lava oozing from the crater in the dark. "It's like a slow-moving meteor show," Mr Salceda said.
The volcano, 200 miles south-east of Manila, has erupted 48 times since 1616, most destructively in 1814, when an entire town was buried and 2,200 people died.