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Evacuation as Lava and columns of ash are spewing from a volcano south of the Philippine capital, flights Grounded

Lava and columns of ash are spewing from a volcano south of the Philippine capital, grounding hundreds of flights and forcing thousands to evacuate.

The Taal Volcano, south of Manila, has forced villagers to flee and partially shut down Manila's international airport.

The government's disaster-response agency reported about 8,000 villagers have moved to at least 38 evacuation centres in Batangas and nearby Cavite province as red-hot lava has started gushing out of a volcano in the Philippines prompting authorities to warn of "an imminent hazardous eruption".

Officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more being told to flee. Authorities raised the alert level to its second-highest level on Sunday, saying an "explosive eruption" could happen in "hours to days".

The Taal Volcano in Batangas province, south of the capital Manila, began to erupt in the early hours of Monday after blasting steam and rock up to 15,000 metres into the air on Sunday.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries or damage.

But clouds of ash blew more than 62 miles (100km) north, reaching Manila on Sunday, and forcing the partial shutdown of the country's main airport with more than 240 international and domestic flights cancelled.

On Monday Manila International Airport was operating some flights, authorities said. Aviation officials said they were working to resume flights at Manila's main international airport, which was shut down Sunday due to the risk posed to planes by the volcanic ash.

Close to 240 flights have been cancelled so far, snarling plans for tens of thousands of people travelling through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
An alternative airport north of Manila at Clark freeport remains open but authorities said it would shut it down too if ashfall threatens flights.

Coastal communities around the lake have also been told by officials to evacuate to safer areas in case an eruption causes a tsunami or pyroclastic surge.

Residents have been urged "to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest".

Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife who fled from Laurel town with her two children by hitching a ride to safety, said: "The air turned muddy because of the ashfall and it started to smell like gunpowder".

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the threat level from 3 to 4, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent.

A statement said: "Hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days. (The institute) strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and additional evacuation of areas at high risk... within a 14km radius."

As tremors shook the area, volcanic lightning flickered in the column of steam and ash.

Pictures from the scene showed the sky darkened by the ash plume and a thick layer of dust covering everything in the nearby town of Talisay.

Ashfall has been reported in towns and cities several miles away, with families advised to stay indoors and don masks and goggles for safety.

Authorities recorded a series of earthquakes and motorists are also being hampered by poor visibility due to the ashfall.

Taal, one of the smallest volcanos in the world, is among two dozen active cones in the Philippines, which lies along the so-called Pacific 'ring of fire'.

Taal's last eruption was in 1977, Solidum said.

Two years ago, Mount Mayon displaced tens of thousands of people after spewing millions of tonnes of ash, rocks and lava in the central Bicol region.

The most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometres northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.

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