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Philippine volcano spews ash and steam, evacuation underway

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) – A small volcano in a scenic lake near the Philippine capital blew a white plume of steam and ash 1.5 kilometres into the sky in a brief but powerful explosion yesterday, prompting authorities to raise the alert level and evacuate hundreds of residents from high-risk villages.

Magma came into contact with water in the main crater of Taal volcano in Batangas province, setting off the steam-driven blast that was followed by smaller emissions and accompanied by volcanic earthquakes, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The institute raised the alarm at the 1,020-foot Taal, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, to the third level in a five-step warning system, meaning “there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions.” Alert level 5 means a life-threatening eruption that could destroy communities is underway.

Residents of five lakeside villages within a seven-kilometre danger zone from the crater in the Batangas towns of Agoncillo and Laurel were warned of possible hazards, including fast-moving gas and molten materials and “volcanic tsunami” in Taal lake, and began evacuating to safety.

Taal Volcano spews white steam and ash as seen from Balete, Batangas province, south of Manila, Philippines. PHOTO: AP
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