Taal Volcano spews ash in Tagaytay, Cavite province, Philippines. The small volcano near the Philippine capital that draws tourists for its picturesque setting in a lake erupted with a massive plume of ash and steam Sunday, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and forcing Manila's international airport to shut down. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP

Manila - A volcano near the Philippine capital started spewing lava fountains on Monday, as the country's specialist institute warned of "further eruptive activity" that could affect hundreds of thousands of people.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded at least 75 volcanic earthquakes overnight from Taal Volcano in Batangas province, 66 kilometres south of Manila.

Some 45 000 residents had already evacuated at-risk areas the day before due to thick ash fall and showers of small stones raining on nearby towns.

Officials estimated that at least 200 000 residents could be forced to flee if the eruption worsens, and said it was possible there could still be a "hazardous explosive eruption" within hours or days.

The "magmatic eruption [of Taal Volcano] is characterized by weak lava fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning," the institute said.

"Such intense seismic activity probably signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity," Phivolcs said in its bulletin.

Residents clean ash outside their homes as Taal Volcano still spews ash in Tagaytay, Cavite province, south of Manila, Philippines. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP

A huge cloud of white and grey ash reaching up to 15 kilometres high and accompanied by lightning billowed out of Taal's main crater starting on Sunday.

A dog walks along ash fall covered road as Taal Volcano continues to spew ash in Tagaytay, Cavite province, south of Manila, Philippines. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP

Manila's international airport closed operations overnight due to falling ash, and cancelled more than 100 international and domestic flights. 

Residents clean ash fall from Taal Volcano's eruption. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP

School classes were suspended and government offices closed on Monday in metro Manila, Batangas and 11 other provinces affected by the eruption.

Residents living near the erupting Taal Volcano evacuate Agoncillo in Batangas City. Picture: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

Taal Volcano, the second most active volcano in the Philippines, has erupted 33 times since 1572, Phivolcs said. Its last major eruption was in October 1977, while the deadliest was in 1911, killing more than 1,300 people.