Mon | Feb 24, 2020

Lava gushes from volcano near Manila; tens of thousands flee

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 4:52 PM
A family rides their motorcycle through clouds of ash as they evacuate to safer grounds as Taal volcano in Tagaytay, Cavite province, southern Philippines on Monday, January 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

TAGAYTAY, Philippines (AP) — Red-hot lava spewed from a volcano near the Philippine capital of Manila on Monday as tens of thousands of people fled through heavy ash and frightening tremors, and authorities made plans to evacuate hundreds of thousands more for fear of a bigger eruption.

Clouds of ash from the Taal volcano reached Manila, 40 miles to the north, on Sunday, forcing the shutdown of the country’s main airport, with more than 500 flights cancelled.

The airport partially reopened Monday after the ashfall eased.

There were no immediate reports of any deaths or major damage directly blamed on the eruption.

A truck, however, skidded out of control on an ash-blanketed road, killing the driver and injuring three companions in Laguna province in an accident police said may have been linked to slippery conditions.

The government’s disaster-response agency and other officials reported more than 30,000 villagers fled their homes in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province.

Officials expected the number to swell.

Some residents could not immediately flee their ash-blanketed villages because of a lack of transportation and poor visibility.

Others refused to leave their homes and farms.

On Monday, the ash and steam column reached about a mile, with lava fountains spurting less than half of that height before falling into the lake waters surrounding the main crater.

Lava also spurted from another vent north of the main crater, said Renato Solidum, who heads the institute.

Frequent tremors and a buildup of pressure of the 1,020-foot volcano, one of the world’s smallest, however, indicated a major and much more dangerous eruption could still happen, he said.

The government volcano-monitoring agency raised the danger level around Taal three notches on Sunday to Level 4, indicating a hazardous eruption within hours to days was possible.

Level 5, the highest, means such an eruption is underway.

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