Manila, Philippines (CNN) - Philippine authorities have urged a "total evacuation" of nearly a million people near the capital Manila, after a volcano spewed ash up to nine miles (14 kilometers) into the air Sunday prompting warnings of a possible "explosive eruption."
The Taal Volcano, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of the capital Manila on the island of Luzon, is one of the country's most active. Images from the scene on Monday showed streams of lava beginning to gush out the volcanic vent, the sky above still thick and dark with ash and steam.The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has raised the alert level to four, meaning an "explosive eruption" could happen in the coming hours or days. Its highest alert level is five, indicating an eruption is taking place.
As of Monday, more than 25,000 people had sought shelter in temporary evacuation centers set up by the authorities. The total number of evacuees is likely to be higher, however, with many people choosing to stay with family members and relatives in other parts of the country.
Federal authorities are helping the response and evacuation operation. The army sent 20 military vehicles and 120 personnel to help affected residents, and the secretary of national defense said helicopters were on standby to evacuate people.
The defense secretary also urged residents near the eruption to evacuate, and not to hesitate in leaving their homes. Aid organizations like the Red Cross are assisting on the ground by sending rescue vehicles and supplies.