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Tiny volcano erupts near Manila, causing villagers to flee

People watch plumes of smoke and ash rise from Taal Volcano erupting on Jan 12, in Tagaytay, Cavite province, outside Manila, Philippines. (AP)

A tiny volcano near the Philippine capital that draws many tourists for its picturesque setting in a lake belched steam, ash and rocks in a huge plume Sunday, prompting thousands of residents to flee and officials to temporarily suspend flights. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano in Batangas province south of Manila blasted steam and ash up to 1 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. “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 by phone. Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife from Batangas province’s Laurel town, said she immediately fl ed from her home with her two children, including a 4-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.

Dozens of international and domestic flights were put on hold for at least four hours Sunday night at Manila’s international airport “due to volcanic ash in the vicinity of the airport” and nearby air routes, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

Taal lies more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Manila. The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal two notches on Sunday to level 3, indicating “magmatic intrusion that is likely driving the current activity.” Level 5, the highest, indicates an ongoing eruption. (AP)

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