MANILA, November 6, 2010 (AFP) – A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake and a burst of volcanic ash struck a region south of the Philippine capital on Saturday in quick sucession, but government experts said the events were unrelated.

A earthquake hit the Bicol region early Saturday, shaking people from their sleep but causing no serious damage, the government said.

The quake, with an epicentre off the coat of Burias island, about 275 kilometres (171 miles) southeast of Manila, occurred at 12:41 am (1641 GMT Friday), the government seismology office said.

Just hours later, Bulusan volcano, located 250 kilometres southeast of Manila, ejected a column of ash about 600 metres into the air, which showered down onto several towns in Bicol, the government said.

Government vulcanologists have raised the alert level for Bulusan from zero to level 1, indicating abnormal activity, possibly a sign of more ash eruptions to come.

People were warned not to enter a four-kilometre “danger zone” around the volcano and communities nearby were told to be on alert for volcanic mudslides in case heavy rains mix with the ash deposited on Bulusan’s slopes.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire where frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take place.

The last major earthquake to cause widespread death and destruction in the Philippines was in 1990, when a 7.7-magnitude quake killed 2,400 people in the country’s north.