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Danger signs of ‘big bang’ eruption persist

The threat of Taal Volcano unleashing a potentially catastrophic eruption remains high, authorities warned Thursday, saying it was showing dangerous signs despite a “lull” in spewing ash.

READ: Atom-bomb like blast feared

Danger signs of ‘big bang’ eruption persist
MASKED IN MUD. A police officer standing at a roadblock at the edge of a restricted area in Talisay, where all roads to the town have been closed since the eruption. AFP 
Scores of earthquakes rattle the region daily and large fissures are opening up in the ground, which means the magma that would fuel a major eruption is still flowing beneath.

Authorities are struggling to keep evacuees, some 50,000 of whom fled to shelters after Taal burst to life Sunday, away from the danger zone around the volcano.

People are trying to get back to homes they left in a hurry to get a change of clothes, feed livestock and pets and check on properties damaged by the fissures or covered with a thick layer of ash.

“Please allow us to observe the lull period for now. We are studying what that means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, a scientist from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

“A long lull could be just a break from volcanic activity,” she said. “The danger remains.”

She said no one or no instrument could determine when a base surge could occur.

“The lull is either a good or a bad thing. Should the lull continue, that’s good (news). We may stand down,” she said.

On the other hand, she said it could be a “resting phase” before a new cycle of explosive activity.

On Thursday after 6 a.m., two small explosions were recorded. The short-lived eruption sent out dark gray ash plumes 500 meters to 800 meters high.

READ: Taal rumbles, spews ash

Alert Level 4 remained, necessitating the total evacuation of the volcano island and high-risk areas within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater.

From 5 a.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday, PHIVOLCS recorded 103 volcanic earthquakes, 14 of which were intensities 1 to 3.

Taal’s main crater lake has dried up, having been vaporized by the magma coming out of the volcano, Bornas said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government called on the public not to risk their safety and their lives and stay out of the 14-kilometer radius danger zone around Taal Volcano.

On Monday, the department ordered the mandatory evacuation of 199 barangays in 15 municipalities and cities in Batangas and Cavite identified as the most susceptible to ballistic projectiles, base surges, and volcanic tsunami as a result of an eruption of the volcano.

“We do not want to leave anything to chance,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.

DILG spokesman Jonathan E. Malaya said that the Philippine National Police has created a perimeter task force and set up checkpoints in all entry points to enforce the lockdown imposed by the various local government units in Batangas.

He said anyone wanting access to high-risk areas should coordinate with local disaster officials.

“LGUs may allow, on a case to case basis, access to the high-risk areas but this has to be done in coordination with local disaster officials and is dependent on prevailing conditions,” he said.

Malaya said the PNP has also deployed a special anti-looting task force to patrol the danger zones to ensure that properties are safe and secure.

Malaya reiterated that the volcano island is completely off-limits and the PNP Maritime Group and the Philippine Coast Guard will stop anyone attempting to return to the island.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said residents who try to return to their homes in the danger zone should be stopped.

“I believe in prevention. It’s just right to have a lockdown,” said Gatchalian as he aired an appeal to those residing within the Taal Volcano danger zone to cooperate and heed the lockdown, which was imposed for their own good.

PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum, however, said residents do not have to evacuate Tagaytay City, even though it is within the 14-kilometer danger zone, because it is elevated enough to be safe from the potential base surge, tsunami or pyroclastic current that Taal could spawn.

The PNP, meanwhile, allowed Batangas residents to return to their homes to check on their livestock and property for two hours.

Authorities have warned since Sunday that the volcano, which sits south of Manila and is one of the country’s most active, could let loose a powerful eruption in hours or days.

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

Danger signs of ‘big bang’ eruption persist
MASKED IN MUD. Authorities showing how they are preparing for what they call a potentially catastrophic eruption with a number of affected people in areas within the 14-km danger zone. 
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 and PNA

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