Lava spews out of Philippine volcano with thousands forced to flee their homes7 min read

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Red-hot lava gushed out of a Philippine volcano today after a sudden eruption of ash and steam that forced thousands to flee their homes. 

Clouds of ash blew more than 60 miles north of the Taal volcano, reaching Manila and shutting down the country’s main airport with hundreds of flights cancelled.  

There were no early reports of casualties but authorities were today scrambling to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from the volcanic island in the middle of a lake which is usually a popular tourist spot. 

Today the lava spurting from the volcano was falling into the lake after Taal, which is situated on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, spewed out columns of ash as high as nine miles into the sky.  

Lightning crackled in the smoke while a series of earthquakes rattled the area and authorities have warned of a further ‘explosive eruption’ which could even trigger a tsunami surging across the lake.   

A lightning streak over Taal volcano where huge columns of ash and smoke were spewing out of the crater on Sunday night

A lightning streak over Taal volcano where huge columns of ash and smoke were spewing out of the crater on Sunday night

A column of ash rises over Taal volcano in an eruption which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes

A column of ash rises over Taal volcano in an eruption which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes

Lightning crackled in the smoke while a series of earthquakes rattled the area and authorities have warned of a further 'explosive eruption'

Lightning crackled in the smoke while a series of earthquakes rattled the area and authorities have warned of a further ‘explosive eruption’

Lightning strikes as a column of ash surrounds the crater of Taal Volcano as it erupts on Sunday with lightning crackling inside the smoke and tremors shaking the area

Lightning strikes as a column of ash surrounds the crater of Taal Volcano as it erupts on Sunday with lightning crackling inside the smoke and tremors shaking the area 

Residents living near the erupting Taal Volcano evacuate Agoncillo today as people fled the tourist hotspot

Residents living near the erupting Taal Volcano evacuate Agoncillo today as people fled the tourist hotspot 

A cow covered in ash rests along damaged trees after a volcano eruption on Sunday night which has forced evacuations

A cow covered in ash rests along damaged trees after a volcano eruption on Sunday night which has forced evacuations

Stunning lightning shows have periodically played out above the volcano in a little-understood phenomenon that is attributed to static electricity

Stunning lightning shows have periodically played out above the volcano in a little-understood phenomenon that is attributed to static electricity

People watch as the column of ash rises miles into the atmosphere on Sunday. Taal, one of the world's smallest active volcanoes, sits in the middle of a lake about 45 miles south of the centre of the capital, Manila. Authorities said there was a risk that an eruption could cause a tsunami in the lake

People watch as the column of ash rises miles into the atmosphere on Sunday. Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, sits in the middle of a lake about 45 miles south of the centre of the capital, Manila. Authorities said there was a risk that an eruption could cause a tsunami in the lake

People take photos of the plumes of ash rising from the Taal volcano as seen from the town of Tagaytay in Cavite province, southwest of Manila

People take photos of the plumes of ash rising from the Taal volcano as seen from the town of Tagaytay in Cavite province, southwest of Manila

The eruption began with an explosion of superheated steam and rock, but by early Monday ‘fountains’ of lava had been spotted on Taal, the volcano monitoring agency said.

Stunning lightning shows have periodically played out above the volcano in a little-understood phenomenon that is attributed to static electricity. 

The agency today raised the danger level around Taal three notches to level 4, indicating ‘an imminent hazardous eruption.’ 

‘We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now ahead of a possible hazardous eruption,’ Renato Solidum, who heads the institute, said. 

Police reported that more than 13,000 villagers have moved to evacuation centers in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province. 

The current evacuation numbers are likely higher and officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more being brought out of harm’s way. 

Dust masks sold out in stores as authorities warned locals that the ash could cause respiratory problems especially in the very young and those with pre-existing lung conditions.  

It blasted steam and ash up to one kilometer (about half a mile) into the sky in a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year

It blasted steam and ash up to one kilometer (about half a mile) into the sky in a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage but authorities scrambled to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, officials said

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage but authorities scrambled to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, officials said

Dozens of international and domestic flights were put on hold for at least four hours Sunday night at Manila's international airport

Dozens of international and domestic flights were put on hold for at least four hours Sunday night at Manila’s international airport

The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal two notches on Sunday to level 3. This is the view from Tagaytay, in Cavite province, outside Manila

The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal two notches on Sunday to level 3. This is the view from Tagaytay, in Cavite province, outside Manila

Villagers in several villages and towns around the lake were also asked by officials to evacuate to safer areas after the volcanic activity escalated

Villagers in several villages and towns around the lake were also asked by officials to evacuate to safer areas after the volcanic activity escalated 

Limited flight operations resumed mid-Monday at Manila’s main international airport, nearly a day after authorities halted them due to the safety risk volcanic ash poses to planes.  

‘I’m disappointed because this (delay) means additional expense for me and it’s tiring to wait,’ said stranded traveller Joan Diocaras, a 28-year-old Filipino who works in Taiwan.

‘But there’s nothing we can do.’ 

However, travellers booked on over 240 cancelled flights still faced delays at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.   

Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife from Batangas province’s Laurel town, said she immediately fled from her home with her two children, including a four-month-old baby, after Taal erupted and the ground shook mildly twice.

‘We hurriedly evacuated when the air turned muddy because of the ashfall and it started to smell like gunpowder,’ Bautista said.  

‘ Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio: ‘We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows.

 ‘We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them.’

Maralit, whose town lies along the shoreline of Taal Lake surrounding the erupting volcano, appealed for troops and additional police to be deployed to stop distraught residents from sneaking back to their high-risk villages. 

A policeman with an umbrella walks past a police vehicle covered in ash mixed with rainwater as Taal Volcano erupts

 A policeman with an umbrella walks past a police vehicle covered in ash mixed with rainwater as Taal Volcano erupts

Authorities recorded a swarm of earthquakes, some of them felt with rumbling sounds, and a slight inflation of portions of the volcano ahead of Sunday's steam-driven explosion, officials said

Authorities recorded a swarm of earthquakes, some of them felt with rumbling sounds, and a slight inflation of portions of the volcano ahead of Sunday’s steam-driven explosion, officials said

Heavy to light ashfall was reported in towns and cities several kilometers from the volcano, and officials advised residents to stay indoors and don masks

Heavy to light ashfall was reported in towns and cities several kilometers from the volcano, and officials advised residents to stay indoors and don masks

A resident walks along a lakeside as Taal Volcano erupts. One of the world's smallest volcanoes, Taal is among two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines

A resident walks along a lakeside as Taal Volcano erupts. One of the world’s smallest volcanoes, Taal is among two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines

A resident splashes water on a vehicle covered in ash mixed with rainwater as Taal Volcano erupts. Motorists were hampered by poor visibility, which was worsened by rainy weather

A resident splashes water on a vehicle covered in ash mixed with rainwater as Taal Volcano erupts. Motorists were hampered by poor visibility, which was worsened by rainy weather

About 20 typhoons and storms each year also lash the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific and the South China Sea, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries

The Philippines lies along the so-called Pacific 'Ring of Fire,' a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

The Philippines lies along the so-called Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

Residents use plastic bags to shield themselves from ash mixed with rainwater as Taal Volcano erupts near the city of Manila

Residents use plastic bags to shield themselves from ash mixed with rainwater as Taal Volcano erupts near the city of Manila

Taal sits in a picturesque lake and is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation where earthquakes and eruptions are a frightening and destructive part of life. 

About 20 typhoons and storms each year also lash the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific and the South China Sea, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. 

The volcanology institute says the small island where the volcano lies is a ‘permanent danger zone,’ although fishing villages have existed there for years. 

It asked nearby coastal communities ‘to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest.’

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

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.   

Residents walk along a road covered in ash mixed with rainwater after the volcano began spewing ash, rocks and steam

Residents walk along a road covered in ash mixed with rainwater after the volcano began spewing ash, rocks and steam 

A resident prepares to evacuate as Taal Volcano erupts. Dozens of flights were cancelled and thousands told to leave their homes

A resident prepares to evacuate as Taal Volcano erupts. Dozens of flights were cancelled and thousands told to leave their homes

Local authorities have begun evacuating residents near Taal Volcano as it began spewing ash up to a kilometer high Sunday afternoon

Local authorities have begun evacuating residents near Taal Volcano as it began spewing ash up to a kilometer high Sunday afternoon

People watch as the Taal volcano spews ash and smoke during an eruption in Tagaytay, Cavite province south of Manila

People watch as the Taal volcano spews ash and smoke during an eruption in Tagaytay, Cavite province south of Manila

Villagers evacuate during a volcanic eruption in Talisay, Batangas, the Philippines today. Many were told by authorities to leave their homes immediately

Villagers evacuate during a volcanic eruption in Talisay, Batangas, the Philippines today. Many were told by authorities to leave their homes immediately 

A policeman helps a young girl through the rain as residents scramble to evacuate their homes after the volcanic activity

A policeman helps a young girl through the rain as residents scramble to evacuate their homes after the volcanic activity

A view of a lightning strike over the Taal Volcano during an eruption in Talisay, Batangas, the Philippines

A view of a lightning strike over the Taal Volcano during an eruption in Talisay, Batangas, the Philippines