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Hundreds evacuated as Philippines volcano spews ash

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Thousands evacuate as Philippine volcano rumbles

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised the alert status of Taal Volcano in Batangas from level 3 to 4.

A volcano south of the Philippine capital Manila has spewed a giant ash plume, prompting the authorities to order the evacuation of about 8,000 residents.

Science and Technology Undersecretary Renato Solidum, concurrent Director of Phivolcs, said this was a result of hydro-thermal activities of one of the country's most active volcanoes.

Cameras monitoring the volcano caught ash spewing from the crater around the midday hours of Sunday.

Manila's worldwide airport also announced on Twitter that the eruption caused all flights to and from the airport to be suspended.

Ash fell as far away as Manila, prompting the suspension of flights at the capital's busy global airport.

The agency said that residents on Taal Volcano island needed to be evacuated. The alert system has five levels with Alert Level 5 meaning a hazardous eruption is in progress.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Mark Timbal told the "Manila Bulletin" the affected residents were from the municipalities of San Nicolas, Balete and Talisay, which are areas surrounding Mt. Taal.

Earthquakes and volcanic activity are not uncommon in the Philippines due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth's surface.

In December, 19 people died after a New Zealand volcano island unexpectedly erupted in a forceful explosion of scorching steam, gas and ash.

In Manila, long queues formed in shops selling face masks as health officials warned of possible breathing problems for people with respiratory ailments and urged the public to stay indoors and use dust masks when going out. "It was raining and a few small stones fell to the ground", Jon Patrick Yen, a customer of the restaurant in Tagaytay, told Reuters.

"I did not expect to see such spectacle".

Taal's last eruption was in 1977, he added. The volcano emitted a large plume of ash earlier in the day, triggering evacuations and shutdowns. "We just stopped by to eat".

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