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Ash eruption from Philippines volcano triggers evacuation

MANILA (Reuters) - An active volcano in central Philippines spewed ash into the air on Saturday, prompting the country's disaster agency to order the immediate evacuation of residents in nearby villages.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said it was closely monitoring the Mayon volcano in Albay province, which last erupted in 2014.

Mayon's most destructive eruption was in February 1841, when lava flows buried a town and killed 1,200 people.

The volcano, known for its near-perfect cone shape, is on the lowest alert level despite a "phreatic or steam-driven eruption", meaning people are not allowed to stay within a six-kilometre "permanent danger zone", Phivolcs said.

This also suggests there is no imminent major eruption, but the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said it had ordered the evacuation of residents for the safety of their health due to expected ashfall.

It was not immediately clear how many residents had to leave the danger zone.

Those within the slope of the volcano, but outside the danger zone, were told to take precautionary measures against possible roof collapses due to accumulated ash and rainwater.

"The volcano's abnormal behaviour began late last year and it seems due for another one," Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Alexander Smith)

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