A giant plume of ash​ has erupted from a volcano in the Philippines, prompting villagers to flee their homes and airport chiefs to suspend flights.

The Taal volcano spewed ash, steam and rocks more than half a mile into the sky after tremors and rumbles.

About 8,000 villagers on an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, were ordered to leave their homes, officials said.

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Taal, nearly 40 miles south of Manila, draws many tourists for its picturesque setting but the entire island is considered a “permanent danger zone”.

It’s feared the volcano’s restiveness, which began last year, could lead to a more dangerous eruption within weeks. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to three out of five. 

“We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now ahead of a possible hazardous eruption,” said Renato Solidum, head of the institute.

He advised communities around the lake to take precautionary measures and be aware of possible lake water disturbances, adding that the entire island should be strictly off-limits to all residents.

People take cover under a plastic sheet as ash settles (EPA)

“Flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been temporarily suspended due to the volcanic ash from the eruption of Taal Volcano,” the Manila International Airport Authority tweeted.

Roads, buildings, cars and people were covered in a film of ash and rainwater for miles around after the eruption.

Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife from Batangas province, who fled her home with her two children, said: “We hurriedly evacuated when the air turned muddy because of the ash fall and it started to smell like gunpowder.”

Ash also reached the province of Cavite, prompting the provincial government to suspend classes on Monday and urge residents to stay indoors.

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