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Philippine volcano shuts down Manila, triggering tsunami warning

21:53 | 14/01/2020

Schools and businesses on Jan 13 shut across the Philippine capital - Manila as a volcano belched clouds of ash across the city while seismologists warned an eruption could happen at any time, potentially triggering a tsunami, according to Reuters.

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Residents living near the errupting Taal Volcano evacuate in Agoncillo, Batangas City, Philippines, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Clouds of ash blew far north of the Philippines' Taal volcano, reaching Manila, the country's bustling capital, and forcing the shutdown of its main airport after lava gushed out of the mountain on Monday.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes around Taal, one of the world's smallest active volcanoes, which spewed ash for a second day from its crater in the middle of a lake about 70km south of central Manila.

"The speed of escalation of Taal's volcanic activity caught us by surprise," Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology told reporters. "We have detected magma. It's still deep, it hasn't reached the surface. We still can expect a hazardous eruption any time."

Authorities warned that an eruption could send a tsunami surging across the lake.

Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told AFP the lava was evidence of fresh movement in the volcano, but said it was unclear if Taal would "sustain its activity".

Government seismologists recorded magma moving towards the crater of Taal, which is located 65km south of Manila.

More than 24,000 people were evacuated from the volcanic island and the area immediately around it - normally a popular tourist spot. Dozens of tremors set residents on edge but some tourists ignored the dangers and travelled to towns closest to the volcano to get a better look.

To the southwest of the volcano, the towns of Agoncillo and Lemery were coated by a thick layer of ash, making roads impassable.

Agoncillo's mayor, Daniel Reyes, told DZMM radio some homes and part of a building had collapsed under the weight of the fallen ash.

philippine volcano shuts down manila triggering tsunami warning
Satellite map of the erupting Taal volcano in the Philippines. (Photo: AFP / Patricio ARANA AND Sabrina BLANCHARD)

In nearby Talisay Batangas, Vice Governor Mark Leviste said rain had turned ash to mud and trucks were needed to evacuate more people from remote communities.

"There is no power. Even water was cut, so we are in need of potable water," he said. "We are in need of face masks."

In Manila, masks sold out quickly after residents were advised to wear them if they had to go out as breathed air tainted by the smell of sulphur.

Schools and government offices were closed on official orders. The stock exchange suspended trading and many private businesses shut for the day too. Classes in some cities in the capital will remain suspended on Tuesday, officials said.

Flight operations at Manila's international airport partially resumed, authorities said, after more than 500 flights were delayed or cancelled on Sunday.

One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.

The island has been showing signs of restiveness since early last year.

Philippines lies on the Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes./.

VNF/Reuters/AFP