A 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, the AP reports. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano in Batangas province south of Manila blasted steam, ash, and pebbles up to 6 to 9 miles into the sky in a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year. The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal three notches on Sunday to level 4, indicating "a hazardous eruption may happen within hours or days," said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcanology institute.
Level 5, the highest, means a hazardous eruption is underway and could affect a larger area. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but authorities scrambled to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, and tens of thousands more from nearby coastal towns, officials said. About 300,000 people were targeted to be moved to safety in Batangas overnight and in the next few days. "We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now ahead of a possible hazardous eruption," Solidum said. Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife who fled with her two children, said they "hurriedly evacuated when the air turned muddy because of the ashfall and it started to smell like gunpowder."
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