MANILA, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Embassy to the Philippines on Tuesday donated 1,000 pieces of disposable N95 face masks to help residents of Manila City cope with the volcanic ash emitted by Taal island volcano.
During the donation ceremony, Manila City Mayor Francisco Domagoso received the masks from the embassy personnel.
The disposable N95 mask is a safety device that covers the nose and mouth and helps protect the wearer from breathing in some hazardous small particles in the air like volcanic dust.
Prices of face masks soared and supply ran out a few hours after Taal volcano, about 66 km south of Manila, belched a massive "steam-laden tephra column" or ashes with rock fragments reaching up to about 15 km into the air last Sunday afternoon.
The volcano began erupting last Sunday, prompting the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology to raise the alert level to 4 in a scale of 5 fearing that a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days."
The ash blanketed the whole Batangas province, where the volcano is located, and drifted to nearby provinces, including Metro Manila.
The institute added that as of Tuesday morning the volcano continues to emit thick ash clouds and red-hot lava that glowed overnight due to "continuous magmatic and hydro-volcanic activity."
"Lava fountains generated 800-meter tall dark gray steam-laden plumes that drifted to the general southwest," the institute said in its latest bulletin.
Volcanologists also observed new fissures or cracks in areas around the volcano, the institute said.
The institute said it has recorded a total of 49 volcanic earthquakes in the Taal region from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. (local time) on Tuesday. Seven of these earthquakes were felt with intensities ranging from intensity 2 to 5 in nearby Tagaytay City.
So far, a government disaster agency said more than 30,000 people in Batangas province and Cavite province have been moved to shelters. However, local officials said up to 50,000 have heeded the official call to evacuate.
Authorities initially shut down the main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Manila last Sunday, resulting in the cancellation of international and domestic flights. Airport operations resumed around mid-day on Monday.
As one of the most active volcanos in the Philippines, Taal volcano is a popular tourist destination in the country.