Philippines’ Taal Volcano spewing lava and ash, fears of a bigger eruption
A volcano in the Philippines has been shuddering continuously with earthquakes and opening cracks in nearby roads as police blockaded at-risk towns over fears of a bigger eruption. More than 53 000 residents have fled their homes in the vicinity of the Taal Volcano to take shelter in evacuation centres, though thousands more have refused to leave or have returned to check on their animals and possessions. Many houses and farms have been damaged by volcanic ash since Taal, one of the country’s most active and deadliest volcanoes, began spewing lava and ash on Sunday, 12 January 2020.
A crater lake and nearby river have dried up amid warnings of an imminent eruption. Soldiers and police have blocked villagers from sneaking back by boats to the volcanic island and nearby towns to check on their animals and possessions.
Taal Volcano is a large complex volcano filled with a 15km by 20km lake located on Luzon island in the Philippines, in the province of Batangas. Taal is the second most active volcano in the Philippines, with 34 recorded historical eruptions, all of which were concentrated on Volcano Island, near the middle of Taal Lake. The lake partially fills Taal Caldera, which was formed by prehistoric eruptions between 140 000 and 5 380 BP. Viewed from the Tagaytay Ridge in Cavite, Taal Volcano and Lake presents one of the most picturesque and attractive views in the Philippines. It is located about 50 kilometres south of the capital of the country, the city of Manila.
The volcano has had several violent eruptions in the past, causing loss of life on the island and the populated areas surrounding the lake, with the death toll estimated at about 6 000. Because of its proximity to populated areas and its eruptive history, the volcano was designated a Decade Volcano, worthy of close study to prevent future natural disasters. All volcanoes of the Philippines are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano blasted steam, ash and pebbles up to 10 to 15 kilometres into the sky in a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year. The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal three notches on Sunday to level 4, indicating "a hazardous eruption may happen within hours or days," said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcanology institute. Level 5, the highest, means a hazardous eruption is underway and could affect a larger area.
It also warned that areas within a nine-mile radius of the volcano are at risk of "pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami." There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage but authorities scrambled to evacuate more than 6 000 villagers from an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, and tens of thousands more from nearby coastal towns, officials said. About 300 000 people were targeted to be moved to safety in Batangas overnight and in the next few days. "We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now ahead of a possible hazardous eruption," Solidum said.
The volcanology institute reminded the public that the small island where the volcano lies is a "permanent danger zone," although fishing villages have existed there for years. It asked nearby coastal communities "to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest."
Heavy to light ashfall was reported in towns and cities several kilometres from the volcano and officials advised residents to stay indoors and don masks and goggles for safety. Motorists were hampered by poor visibility, which was worsened by rainy weather.
Volcanic ash, according to the US Geological Survey, is formed during explosive volcanic eruptions. Although it is called “ash,” it is not made of soft material similar to the product of burning. Rather, it is composed of small and jagged pieces of rocks, minerals and volcanic glass the size of sand and silt.
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said ashfall could cause irritation and breathing problems. It warned against long-term exposure to ashfall. Taal may show signs of quieting down in the next few days but scientists and experts cautioned the public to remain vigilant for any volcanic activity.
The worst that could happen, according to University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences director Mario Aurelio, would be similar to Taal’s longest eruption in 1754, which lasted for seven months. On the other end of the spectrum, he said, an eruption could last just a few days.
Source: ABC News and The Inquirer