Authorities say a volcano in the Phillippines can potentially suffer within hours or days from a “hazardous explosive eruption,” after a sudden gush of molten lava forced a massive evacuation.
Clouds of ash spewed from the Taal volcano – the second-most active in the world – causing all flights to be shut down at Manila’s international airport and offices and schools closed.
The volcano is situated less than 50 miles south of the capital on Lake Taal, and the government’s monitoring agency Phivolcs has increased its level of warning to 4 out of a possible 5. The top level would mean that there was a major eruption occurring.
Phivolcs said popular tourist destinations around the lake’s edge were threatened, as Renato Solidum, head of the agency, described Taal as “a very small but dangerous volcano”
Approximately 8,000 villagers have so far been evacuated to some 38 centers in the worst-affected Batangas and Cavite provinces, but officials said they expected that number to rise to hundreds of thousands as operations continued to get people away from the volcano.
Some refused to leave, while others were incapable of leaving their ash-covered villages because of poor visibility and a breakdown of transport connections.
“We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows,” Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio. “We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them.”
Maralit, whose town lies along the Taal Lake coastline surrounding the erupting volcano, has called for deployment of troops and additional police to avoid frightened people from sneaking back to their high-risk coastal villages.
According to Phivolcs, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, after months of hesitation which began last year, Taal suddenly came back to life Sunday, blasting steam, ash and pebbles up to 6 to 9 miles into the sky.
Officials have also said that there is a possibility of a potential “volcanic tsunami,” caused by debris from an explosion falling into the lake and moving a large volume of water.
The volcanology institute reminded the public that the small island on which the volcano is situated is a “permanent danger zone,” although there have been fishing villages for years. It called for “total evacuation” of people “at high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 9-mile radius from Taal” on the volcano island and coastal regions.
Some flights were resumed at Manila’s main airport later on Monday, but the agency suggested that aircraft refrain from flying at a certain distance from the volcano “as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the column of eruption pose hazards to aircraft.”