Flights have been suspended after a volcano on a tourist island in the Philippines erupted, sending a plume of ash into the sky.
Taal Volcano in Batangas province, south of Manila, has blasted steam and rock up to 15,000 metres into the air in the last few days.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has raised the threat level from 3 to 4, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent.
Image: Taal volcano has been blasting steam and rock up to 1,000 metres into the air for days
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.”
Manila International Airport Authority said all flights into and out of the main international airport serving the country’s capital had been put on hold “due to volcanic ash in the vicinity of the airport”.
A tweet said: “Flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been temporarily suspended due to the volcanic ash from the eruption of Taal Volcano.”
So far, there have been no reports of injuries or damage.
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But authorities are evacuating more than 8,000 people – 6,000 of which have already fled the island where the volcano lies, in the middle of a lake, which is a beauty spot and tourism draw.
Pictures from the scene show the sky darkened by the ash plume and a thick layer of dust covering everything in the nearby town of Talisay.
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.
Image: The threat level has been raised from level 3 to level 4
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”.
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’.
Source : Sky News