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Big bang signs: Cracks, quakes

Fissures were observed across a road connecting towns in Batangas province amid Taal Volcano’s seismic activities, an indication of a hazardous explosive eruption in hours or days to come, state seismologists said Tuesday.

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Big bang signs: Cracks, quakes
TEMPESTUOUS TAAL. Lakeshore residents of the nearby vehement volcano walk past wooden boats Monday after its initial eruption, with lava and broad columns of ash illuminated by lightning spewed from the active volcano (below), grounding hundreds of flights in nearby Metro Manila as authorities warned of a possible ‘explosive eruption.’ AFP
“The intense seismic activity coupled with fissuring on the caldera region likely signifies continuous magma intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a bulletin.

The cracks were seen in Lemery town’s barangays Sinisian, Mahabang Dahilig, Palanas, Sangalang and Poblacion; Agoncillo’s Barangay Pansipit; Talisay’s barangays Poblacion 1, Poblacion 2, Poblacion 3 and Poblacion 5, and San Nicolas’ Barangay Poblacion.

Big bang signs: Cracks, quakes
Sattelite image of the explosion. AFP 
A crack was also spotted along the interconnecting road of Agoncillo and Laurel. Some of them led right through houses, disrupting their floors and foundations and forcing residents to seek safer ground.

PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum said the intrusion of magma into the Taal edifice had produced the fissures.

“A huge volume of magma may cause big eruptions,” he said.

According to Ma. Antonia Bornas, PHIVOLCS’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division chief, frequent earthquakes and fissuring “only shows there is big volume of magma intruding into the edifice that can cause a strong eruption.”

“Right now, the cracks are not that big as that of the 1911, wherein after a strong eruption, there was a ground subsidence. There was then fissuring first before a large eruption, then the ground sank,” she said.

Solidum, however, said the slowdown in Taal’s plume of ashes does not indicate the volcano has already calmed down.

“People may say that there is lessened volcanic activity, but that [kind of thinking would] sometimes gives you a false sense of security, and that could be a reason why some of the people tend to go back. That is not our basis why we have raised Alert Level 4,” he said.

“We are looking into more quakes [to happen],” Solidum added.

Raymond Ordinario, senior weather forecaster at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said Taal Volcano’s ash plumes will continue to trigger thunderstorm rains over its crater.

“For as long as there are ashes, there would be rains within the crater,” he told the Manila Standard.

“Nimbus clouds are formed when water vapor from the Taal Lake and the volcano’s ashes go up into the air. When these clouds get so full of water, the waterfalls as thunderstorm rains for about 30 minutes,” he said. 

“The rains will last for several months until there is eruption,” Ordinario added.

The PAGASA forecaster also said Taal “is creating its own weather pattern. The volcano is driving the weather.”

Bornas said the Taal eruption activity could last from three days to seven months.

As it could spew lava and ash for weeks, the volcano’s activity has left thousands in limbo after they fled their homes fearing a massive eruption.

The crater of the volcano exploded to life with towering clouds of ash and jets of red-hot lava on Sunday, forcing those living around the mountain south of Manila to flee to safety.

Many residents abandoned livestock and pets as well as homes full of belongings after authorities sounded an alert warning that an “explosive eruption” could come imminently.

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.

Big bang signs: Cracks, quakes
SURREALISTIC SCENE. Motorists passing by a cracked road-bridge in barangay Sinisian in Lemery, Batangas overlooking the Taal Volcano.
The Taal eruption has been putting on a stunning and terrifying display, with lightning crackling through its ash cloud in a poorly understood phenomenon that has been attributed to static electricity.

Solidum said Taal’s previous eruptions have gone on for as long as months so it was impossible to predict an end to the current activity.

However, he said the alert warning of a potentially catastrophic “explosive eruption” may remain in place for weeks, depending on developments.

“We have a protocol of waiting for several days, sometimes two weeks, to make sure that indeed... volcano activity has essentially stopped,” he told Agence-France Presse.

The volcano dramatically burst with activity on Sunday, shooting a massive column of ash two kilometers into the sky that then rained down on the region.

Taal’s last eruption was in 1977, but it has a long history of activity. In 1965 the volcano, which is a popular tourist attraction set in a picturesque lake, killed some 200 people.

Big bang signs: Cracks, quakes
SURREALISTIC SCENE. Another household scarred with ugly cracks. Photo by Raffy Tima
The country’s most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people. With AFP

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Topics: Taal Volcano , Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology , eruption , Renato Solidum
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