A volcano south of Manila gushed red hot lava on Monday, as thousands of people in communities nearby moved to evacuation centres and flights from the Philippines capital’s international airport were cancelled amid fears of a violent eruption.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage.
Evacuations from arouind the Taal volcano began on Sunday after the volcano sent a column of ash and steam as high as 15km (9 miles) into the sky. Lightning crackled inside the smoke and tremors shook the ground.
The government’s disaster-response agency reported about 8,000 villagers had moved to at least 38 evacuation centres, but officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more being brought out of harm’s way.
Some residents could not move from ash-blanketed villages because visibility was low and they had no transport. Some refused to leave their homes and farms, officials said.
“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,” Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio. “We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them.”
Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, sits in the middle of a lake about 70km (45 miles) south of Manila and its picturesque lake is a popular getaway for people who live in the city.
“We were having lunch when we heard rumbling. We saw the volcano erupting. It rained and some small pebbles fell to the ground,” Jon Patrick Yen, a restaurant customer in Tagaytay, a nearby city, told Reuters news agency.
“I did not expect to see such spectacle. We just went by to eat,” Yen added.
Authorities warned there was a risk an eruption could cause a tsunami in the lake.
“Taal is a very small volcano but a dangerous volcano,” said Renato Solidum, head of The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. “It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano.”