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Lava gushes from Philippine volcano

TAGAYTAY, Philippines (AP) — 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.

Clouds of ash blew more than 62 milesnorth of the Taal volcano, reaching Manila, the bustling capital, and forcing the shutdown of the country’s main airport, with more than 500 flights canceled so far.

There have been no reports of casualties or major damage from the eruption, which began Sunday.

Police said more than 13,000 villagers had moved to evacuation centers in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province, but officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more being brought out of harm’s way.

The current evacuation numbers are likely higher since local authorities are busy helping displaced people before notifying the national agency that is collating the figures. Some residents could not move out of ash-blanketed villages due to a lack of transport and poor visibility, while others were refusing to leave their homes and farms.

“We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows,” Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio. “We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them.”

Maralit, whose town lies along the shoreline of Taal Lake surrounding the erupting volcano, appealed for troops and additional police to be deployed to stop distraught residents from sneaking back to their high-risk villages.

Several planes stranded at Manila’s airport may be allowed to take off Monday once they are cleaned of ash and authorities are sure an easterly shift in ash-laden wind away from the capital would not revert, airport general Ed Monreal told a news conference. The airport cannot accommodate incoming flights until stranded aircraft fly out and free up parking bays, he said.

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