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Philippine province halts work, flights amid heavy volcanic ashfall

A view of the Mayon Volcano after a new eruption in Legazpi city, Albay province, south of Manila, Philippines January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Rhadyz Barcia

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MANILA (Reuters) - A central Philippine province suspended work on Tuesday in public and private offices in at least three towns as a heavy fall of ash hit urban areas, amid the continued eruption of the country's most active volcano.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said it shut down the Legazpi airport in Albay province because of ashfall, affecting nine international and 16 domestic flights.

The Mayon volcano has been placed just one notch below the highest alert level of 5 since Monday, when it spewed more lava, ash and a mixture of gases, rock debris and water that scientists call "pyroclastic density currents".

Al Francis Bichara, Albay's governor and chairman of its disaster agency, said he had suspended office work in three town due to the thick ashfall.

The danger zone around the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) volcano has been expanded to a radius of 9 kilometres (5.6 miles). Bichara said about 40,000 residents have sought temporary shelter in evacuation centres.

"Some people outside the danger zone are afraid, so we also have to accommodate them," he added.

The volcano, which draws many tourists, last erupted in 2014.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

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