Thousands of people packed their vehicles and fled Marawi, a Muslim city of about 200,000 on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, as fighting raged for a second day on Wednesday between government forces and local militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).
Army tanks and trucks were placed along the highway as heavily armed soldiers in battle gear patrolled and carried out inspections.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire southern third of this predominantly Catholic nation under martial law, meaning the military can conduct arrests and carry out searches without any court orders.
Since fighting began on Tuesday, at least 13 militants were killed, while five soldiers and a police officer died in running gun battles. Several establishments including a university were burned down by militants who also took a local priest and three companions hostage.
Gunmen have threatened to kill the hostages if the military offensive is not stopped even as troops deployed road blocks around the city and on the main highway leading out of it.
The heavy military presence in the area revived fears of martial law similar to the two-decade rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, when thousands of activists died or went missing.