Residents in 5 barangays told to evacuate, brace for further eruptions
Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate from their homes Saturday after the Taal Volcano erupted, sending ash and steam hundreds of meters into the sky.
The volcano, which sits in a lake south of Manila, exploded with a “short-lived” burst at 7:22 a.m., the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said, raising Taal’s status to Alert Level 3 after the phreatomagmatic eruption.
It warned further eruptions were possible, which it said could trigger dangerous, fast-moving volcanic flows of gas, ash and debris, as well as a tsunami.
Phivolcs advised the residents of barangays Bilibinwang, Banyaga, Agoncillo, Boso-boso, Gulod and Bugaan East in Laurel, Batangas to evacuate due to possible hazards as the entire Taal Volcano island is declared a permanent danger zone.
All activities on Taal Lake are currently not allowed, the agency further warned.
“Communities around the Taal Lake shores are advised to remain vigilant, take precautionary measures against possible airborne ash and vog and calmly prepare for possible evacuation should unrest intensify,” said Phivolcs.
“Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid flying over Taal Volcano Island as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosions and pyroclastic density currents such as base surges may pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.
Phivolcs OIC Renator Solidum, however, said Tagaytay City and surrounding tourist hubs like Nasugbu in Batangas province remain safe for tourists.
“It is safe. The approach here is managing the risk. Under Alert Level 3, we don’t expect the activity to be strong. So there is no threat beyond the mentioned barangays,” Solidum said.
Tagaytay was one of the areas most affected when the volcano erupted in January 2020.
“What is important is that all restrictions will be focused on Taal Volcano and the five mentioned barangays. But all the rest of the towns outside the Taal lake, people can still visit,” Solidum added.
The initial eruption was followed by “nearly continuous phreatomagmatic activity” that sent plumes stretching 1,500 meters into the air.
A phreatomagmatic eruption happens when molten rock comes into contact with underground or surface water, said Princess Cosalan, a scientist at the agency, likening it to pouring “water on a hot pan.”
Cosalan told AFP that ash and steam emissions had quietened in the hours after the initial burst, but said the institute’s on-site sensors continued to detect volcanic earthquakes and another eruption was “possible.”
Residents of the five villages have already been ordered to leave their homes, regional civil defense spokesman Kelvin John Reyes said.
More than 12,000 people live in the settlements, according to the latest available official data.
Police have been deployed to stop people entering high-risk areas.
Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation hit periodically by eruptions and earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”—a zone of intense seismic activity.
Access to the volcano island, which was once home to a community of thousands, has been prohibited since January 2020.
That was when an eruption shot ash 15 kilometers high and spewed red-hot lava, crushing scores of homes, killing livestock and sending tens of thousands into shelters.
Last July, the seismological agency raised the alert level to three after Taal burst to life again.
It belched sulphur dioxide for several days, creating a thick haze over the capital and surrounding provinces.
The alert level was lowered back to two before Saturday’s eruption. With AFP