Philippines volcano spews lava for 3rd day

The Philippines' Taal volcano is spurting fountains of red-hot lava 500 metres into the sky

A volcano near the Philippines' capital has spewed lava, ash and steam and trembled constantly on the third day of an eruption that could portend a much bigger and dangerous eruption.

Tens of thousands of people have fled ash-blanketed villages in the danger zone.

The continuing restiveness of the Taal volcano after it rumbled to life on Sunday indicates magma may still be rising to the crater, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

It raised the alert level to 4, indicating a hazardous eruption is possible in hours to days. Level 5, the highest, means such an eruption is under way.

The volcano was spurting fountains of red-hot lava 500 metres into the sky with dark-grey plumes of ash-laden steam that reached two kilometres high. The massive volcanic column at times flashed with streaks of lightning.

More than 200 earthquakes have been detected in and around Taal, 81 of which were felt with varying intensities.

The picturesque volcano in the middle of a lake in Batangas province south of Manila rumbled to life on Sunday in a powerful explosion that blasted a 15-kilometre column of ash, steam and pebbles into the sky.

Clouds of volcanic ash blowing over Manila, 65km to the north, closed the country's main airport on Sunday and part of Monday until the ashfall eased.

The government's disaster-response agency counted more than 30,400 evacuees in Batangas and nearby Cavite provinces. Officials expected the number to swell.

The small island where the 310-metre volcano lies has long been designated a "permanent danger zone," though fishing villages have long existed there.

Those villages were all evacuated, though volcanology officials have called for a total evacuation of endangered communities within a 14km radius of Taal.

Taal's last disastrous eruption, in 1965, killed hundreds of people. It is the second-most restive of about two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where most of the world's seismic activity occurs.