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Videos can use content-based copyright law contains reasonable use Fair Use (). ERUPTING Taal volcano in the Philippines blasted smoke and rock nine miles into the sky – turning surrounding areas into a grey ash desert. Scientists warned of a worse eruption to come today as the peak was rocked by 50 earthquakes and fresh fissures spewed boiling magma half a mile high. Tens of thousands of people have already fled the danger zone, only 40 miles south of capital Manila with a population of 13million. Yesterday a giant column of smoke was lit up by spectacular lightning flashes inside the dark cloud. Today shocking photos reveal the devastation around Lake Taal, where homes, forests and abandoned resorts are coated in a thick layer of ash. Schools and offices in Manila were shut because of the dangerous dust, and hundreds of flights have been grounded at the country’s main airport leaving 80,000 people stranded. And the eruption continued as fountains of red-hot lava were flung at least 800m (half a mile) into the sky amid the constant rumbling of tremors. More than 50 quakes over eight hours today were caused by molten rock rising to the surface – a possible indicator of imminent catastrophe, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. The volcano-monitoring agency raised the danger level around Taal three notches to Level 4 – indicating an imminent hazardous eruption. Level 5, the highest, means a hazardous eruption is underway and could affect a larger area. Renato Solidum, who heads the institute, said: “The speed in the rise of magma is important (in determining) when the volcano will have a strong eruption and if it will slow down and freeze. “As of now, we don’t see activities slowing down and the earthquakes still continue.” He warned evacuees not to return to their villages yet or they risk being incinerated by “pyroclastic flow”, an avalanche of super-heated debris that can gush down the volcano. MASS EVACUATION The country’s disaster-response agency counted more than 40,000 evacuees in Batangas and nearby Cavite provinces who are being housed in 200 shelters. Officials expect that number to swell. Villages living on the same island as 1,020ft Mount Taal have been moved, but scientists have called for a total evacuation of half a million people within 11 miles of the volcano. Wilson Maralit, Mayor of Balete on the shore of Taal Lake, told DZMM radio, called for extra troops and police to help. He said: “Our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows. “We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again any time and hit them.” Mt Taal: Killer volcano At 1020ft, Mt Taal is the Philippines’ second most active volcano, after Mt Mayon. Betw