(By Joeal Calupitan and Jim Gomez, AP)

TAGAYTAY, Philippines (AP) — A volcano near the Philippine capital spewed lava, ash and steam and trembled constantly Tuesday on the third day of an eruption that could portend a much bigger and dangerous eruption, officials warned as tens of thousands of people fled ash-blanketed villages in the danger zone.

The continuing restiveness of the Taal volcano after it rumbled to life Sunday indicates magma may still be rising to the crater, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said. It raised the alert level to 4, indicating a hazardous eruption is possible in hours to days. Level 5, the highest, means such an eruption is underway.

The volcano was spurting fountains of red-hot lava 500 meters (1,640 feet) into the sky with dark-gray plumes of ash-laden steam that reached 2 kilometres (more than 1 mile) high. The massive volcanic column at times flashed with streaks of lightning.

More than 200 earthquakes have been detected in and around Taal, 81 of which were felt with varying intensities. “Such intense seismic activity probably signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity,” the volcanology institute said.

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This Jan. 12, 2020, image made available by Himawari-8 IR satellite via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows the eruption of Taal volcano, south of Manila, 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.(NOAA via AP)

Sunday explosion

The picturesque volcano in the middle of a lake in Batangas province south of Manila rumbled to life Sunday in a powerful explosion that blasted a 15-kilometer (9-mile) column of ash, steam and pebbles into the sky. Clouds of volcanic ash blowing over Manila, 65 kilometres (40 miles) to the north, closed the country’s main airport Sunday and part of Monday until the ashfall eased.

The government’s disaster-response agency counted more than 30,400 evacuees in Batangas and nearby Cavite provinces. Officials expected the number to swell.

Erman Batan breaks in tears over her missing husband Roberto who she has not seen since they evacuated their homes near the Taal volcano in Tagaytay, Cavite province, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

 

Government work was suspended and schools closed in a wide swath of towns and cities, including Manila, because of the health risks from the ash. The eruption has not directly caused deaths or major damage. The death of a driver in a crash on an ash-covered road was linked to slippery conditions.

The small island where the 1,020-foot (311-metre) volcano lies has long been designated a “permanent danger zone,” though fishing villages have long existed there. Those villages were all evacuated, though volcanology officials have called for a total evacuation of endangered communities within a 14-kilometre (8.7-mile) radius of Taal.

A girl waits for a military evacuation for her village in Talisay, Batangas, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, to escape the heavy ash and debris from the Taal volcano eruption. Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital on Monday, as thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash. Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon)

 

Taal’s last disastrous eruption, in 1965, killed hundreds of people. It is the second-most restive of about two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where most of the world’s seismic activity occurs.

A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, blew its top north of Manila in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.

Residents are evacuated as heavy ash and debris from the Taal volcano eruption continues to fall on their town in Talisay, Batangas, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital on Monday, as thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash. Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon)
Residents wait to be evacuated as heavy ash and debris from the Taal volcano eruption continues to cover their town in Talisay, Batangas, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital on Monday, as thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash. Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon)
In this Jan. 13, 2020, photo, a dog walks along ash fall covered road as Taal Volcano continues to spew ash in Tagaytay, Cavite province, south of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
People watch from Tagaytay, Cavite province, south of Manila, as Taal Volcano continues to spew ash on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. Thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash as experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate more.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Residents arrive at local school after being evacuated from the heavy ash and debris from the Taal volcano eruption outisde Talisay Town in Batangas, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital on Monday, as thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash. Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon)
Residents arrive in a military truck at a local school after being evacuated from the heavy ash and debris from the Taal volcano eruption in Santo Tomas, Batangas, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital on Monday, as thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash. Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon)
Residents arrive at local school after being evacuated from the heavy ash and debris from the Taal volcano eruption in Santo Tomas, Batangas, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital on Monday, as thousands of people fled the area through heavy ash. Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon)
Residents clean ash outside their homes as Taal Volcano still spews ash on Monday Jan. 13, 2020, in Tagaytay, Cavite province, south of Manila, 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. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A man walks along ash fall covered road as Taal Volcano continues to spew ash on Monday Jan. 13, 2020, in Tagaytay, Cavite province, south of Manila, 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. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A family rides their motorcycle through clouds of ash as they evacuate to safer grounds as Taal volcano in Tagaytay, Cavite province, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Red-hot lava is gushing from the volcano after a sudden eruption of ash and steam that forced residents to flee and shut down Manila’s airport, offices and schools. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A family evacuates to safer grounds as Taal volcano in Tagaytay, Cavite province, southern Philippines on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

 

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Gomez reported from Manila. Associated Press journalists Kiko Rosario in Manila and Aaron Favila in Tagaytay contributed to this report.

Author: ANA Newswire