MANILA • A volcano near the Philippine capital spewed ash as high as 15km into the sky yesterday, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people, the cancellation of flights and warnings of a possible explosive eruption and volcanic tsunami.
Taal Volcano, one of the country's most active, is in the middle of a lake about 70km south of the centre of the capital, Manila.
As tremors shook the area, volcanic lightning flickered in the column of steam and ash.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised its alert level to four out of five - meaning a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days".
Phivolcs also warned of possible hazards of a volcanic tsunami and rapid currents of hot gas and volcanic matter that could hit areas around the Taal Lake, a popular weekend getaway from Manila.
Evacuation of about 8,000 residents of the volcano island and other high-risk towns is underway, with about 6,000 already out of the danger zone as of early yesterday evening, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told reporters.
Ash fell as far away as Manila, prompting the suspension of flights at the capital's busy international airport. Mr Ed Monreal, the airport's general manager, said the suspension would continue into today because of ash on the runway.
The local authorities cancelled school for today and urged people to stay indoors.
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed the authorities to move people within the perimeter of Taal out of the danger zone, his spokesman said in a statement.
The ash plume was clearly visible from the nearby city of Tagaytay, a well-frequented viewing spot for the volcano.
"We were having lunch when we heard rumbling. We saw the volcano erupting. It rained and some small pebbles fell to the ground," Mr Jon Patrick Yen, a restaurant customer in Tagaytay, said.
"I did not expect to see such (a) spectacle."
One of the world's smallest volcanoes, Taal is among two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
REUTERS, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Philippines on alert as volcano spews ash
People watching plumes of smoke and ash rising from Taal Volcano, south of Manila, yesterday. The volcano spewed ash up to 15km into the air, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people, the cancellation of flights and warnings of a possible explosive eruption and volcanic tsunami.