Philippine volcano trembles more, spews lava half-mile high

  • Men carry piglets they rescued from across the lake Tuesdau as Taal volcano, in rear, continues to spew ash in Talisay, Batangas province, southern Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

TAGAYTAY, Philippines — A volcano near the Philippine capital spewed lava into the sky and trembled constantly Tuesday, possibly portending a bigger and more dangerous eruption, as tens of thousands of people fled villages darkened and blanketed by heavy ash.

Government work was suspended and schools were closed in a number of towns and cities, including Manila, because of health risks from the ash. Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

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The restiveness of the Taal volcano and several new fissures in the ground nearby likely mean magma is rising and may lead to further eruptive activity, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The volcano was spurting fountains of red-hot lava 800 meters (half a mile) into the sky, and the massive column of ash and volcanic debris at times lit up with streaks of lightning.

The alert level since the eruption began Sunday has been 4, indicating a hazardous eruption is possible in hours to days. Level 5, the highest, means such an eruption is underway.

The Philippine institute said about 50 volcanic earthquakes were detected over eight hours Tuesday, indicating rising magma.

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More than 38,000 people have been relocated so far to over 200 evacuation centers, Dujarric said.

He said U.N. teams are visiting centers and supporting authorities, who have asked for help getting face masks.

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