Ash from Philippine volcano blankets 2 towns; scientists say eruption unlikely

Ash from a central Philippine volcano blanketed eight villages and parts of two towns on Wednesday but scientists said an eruption was unlikely.

Mount Bulusan blasted a thick column of ash three kilometers (1.8 miles) into the sky late Tuesday, after nearly four months of relative calm, alarming residents of nearby villages, officials said.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum said the ash was blown toward the nearby towns of Irosin and Bulusan, and that at least eight villages were blanketed in up to 5 mm (0.2 inches) of ash.

Solidum said there has been no other activity since the ash explosion, and the institute maintained the lowest alert level for the volcano.

"Alert level 1, which we have maintained since July, would mean the volcano can show explosions and that is why people should not venture into the four-kilometer (2.5-mile) permanent danger zone," he said.

Tuesday's ash explosion may have been caused when rain water fell onto hot rocks in Bulusan's crater, he said, reports AP.

The 1,560-meter (5,149-foot) volcano, located in Sorsogon province about 390 kilometers (240 miles) southeast of Manila, has been showing signs of unrest since coming back to life in March. It has not belched ash since June.

Bulusan is one of 22 active volcanos in the Philippines, which lies in the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire," where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common.