PICS: Tens of thousands evacuated as Philippine volcano spews lava fountains
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.
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.
Manila's international airport closed operations overnight due to falling ash, and cancelled more than 100 international and domestic flights.
School classes were suspended and government offices closed on Monday in metro Manila, Batangas and 11 other provinces affected by the eruption.
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.dpa