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Flights halted as Philippine volcano spews ash


PHILIPPINE authorities warned on Sunday that a volcano near the capital Manila could erupt imminently, hours after it sent a massive column of ash skywards that grounded flights and coated towns across the region in fine dust.

Thousands of people living near Taal volcano, a popular tourist attraction set in the centre of a picturesque lake, were evacuated from their homes as it spewed ash, rumbled with earthquakes and lightning exploded above its crest.

A "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days", the nation's seismological agency warned, adding that the ash could pose a risk to aircraft.

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Aviation officials ordered a suspension of flights in to and out of the capital's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, after the ash cloud was reported to have reached 15,000 metres.

Government seismologists recorded magma moving towards the crater of Taal, one of the country's most active volcanoes located 65km south of Manila. Taal's last eruption was in 1977.

The local disaster office said it had evacuated over 2,000 residents living on the volcanic island, which lies inside a bigger lake formed by previous volcanic activity. Earthquakes and volcanic activity are not uncommon in the Philippines due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire". AFP