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Villagers flee as Philippine volcano shoots ash

PHILIPPINEs: Scores of people were forced to flee their homes after a restive Philippine volcano shot a column of ash into the air on Sunday, showering surrounding villages, authorities said.

Residents of two villages near the 1,565-metre (5,135-foot) Mount Bulusan volcano evacuated their homes after the volcano shot a column of ash some two kilometres into the air.

"The ones evacuated were those most vulnerable to the ash like the children, the elderly, the pregnant and nursing mothers," said disaster control chief Jose Lopez in an interview with ABS-CBN television.

Evacuees were taken to government schools that are being used as relief centres, he added.

More than 750 people have fled their homes since Bulusan started emitting ash on November 6, said Lopez. One man with asthma already died from Bulusan's ash emissions on November 11, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in Manila.

Government vulcanologists had earlier raised the alert level for Bulusan from zero to level 1, indicating abnormal activity, possibly a sign of more ash eruptions to come.

The government has warned people not to enter a four-kilometre (2.5 miles) "danger zone" around the volcano and communities nearby were told to be on alert for volcanic mudslides caused by heavy rains mixed with ash depositd on Bulusan's slopes.

Bulusan, 250 kilometres southeast of the capital Manila on the main island of Luzon, is one of the country's 23 active volcanoes.

The local government said a quarter million people live in six towns around the volcano, and many of them could be at risk if the mild eruption increases in intensity.

Bulusan has erupted 16 times in recorded history, the last time in 2006. It began emitting ash again from November 6.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire where frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take place.

Manila, Sunday, AFP

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