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Philippines struggles to evacuate reluctant villagers near volcano

MANILA – Nearly 40,000 people have been evacuated from near a Philippine volcano that could erupt violently at any moment, authorities said on Tuesday, but thousands more are refusing to leave or have already drifted back.

A cloud of ash and fountains of lava gushed for a third day from the crater of Taal, which lies in the middle of a lake about 70 km (45 miles) south of the centre of the Philippines capital Manila.

Everyone living within 14 km (9 miles) of the volcano has been ordered to leave: potentially as many as 300,000 people, though disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal said he believed the actual number who had been there was much lower.

Officially, 38,200 have now been evacuated, the agency said.

Local officials complained that many others were complicating the evacuation effort by staying put.

“I had to put Talisay under lockdown to prevent residents, who were already in the evacuation centres from returning,” said Gerry Natanauan, mayor of one town that is well within the danger zone of the 311 meter (1,020-foot) volcano.

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