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Taal alert level 4 up after phreatic eruption

8,000 residents face evacuation


By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz, Martin Sadongdong, and Aaron Recuenco

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised the alert status of Taal Volcano in Ba­tangas from level 3 to 4, with the active volcano’s steam-driven explosion on Sunday afternoon.

RESTIVE TAAL VOLCANO – Smoke billows from the crater of Taal Volcano, as the active volcano’s alert level was raised from 1 to 3 by Phivolcs staff yesterday afternoon. (Photo by Atty. Dante T. Pamintuan of Ayala Westgrove Heights)

RESTIVE TAAL VOLCANO – Smoke billows from the crater of Taal Volcano, as the active volcano’s alert level was raised from 1 to 4 by Phivolcs staff Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Atty. Dante T. Pamintuan of Ayala Westgrove Heights)

As of 7:30 p.m., the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) upgraded the volcano’s alert status to level 4 as Taal Volcano’s continuous eruption generated a 10-kilometer to 15-kilometer steam-laden “tephra column” composed of rock fragments and particles.

It was accompanied by frequent volcanic lightning and rained wet ash fall on the general north as far as Quezon City, Phivolcs added.

It also recorded continuous volcanic tremor since 11 a.m. Sunday with magnitudes measuring 2.5 and 2.9.

The earthquakes were felt at Intensity III in Tagaytay City and Alitagtag, Batangas at 6:15 p.m. and 6:22 p.m., respectively.

Alert Level 4 means “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”

Phivolcs appealed to the public to immediately evacute Taal Volcano island due to high risk of pyroclastic density currents—a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter—and volcanic tsunami within the 14-kilometer radius from the main crater.

Areas north of Taal Volcano were also advised to take necessary precautionary measure in case of heavy and prolonged exposure to ash fall.

Phivolcs also asked civil aviation authorities to order air crafts to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose serious threats.

Due to the active volcano’s in­creased activity, Phivolcs recom­mended the precautionary evacuation of those living in Taal Volcano Island pending observation of the volcano’s condition within the next 48 hours.

Authorities are rushing to evacuate at least 8,000 people who are living within striking distance of volcanic materials.

As of 3 p.m. on Sunday, a report from the Batangas Provincial Police disclosed that all residents of Sitio San Isidro and Sitio Tabla, both located at the Pulo Is­land near the Taal Volcano were advised to evacuate as soon as possible.

Local officials of Talisay town, where the two sitios are located, have declared Alert Level 4 in order to expe­dite the evacuation.

Phivolcs said it has observed in­creased steaming activity in at least five spots inside Taal Volcano’s main crater at around 1 p.m. Sunday.

The largest activity was manifested by a phreatic or steam-driven explosion and has generated a plume approxi­mately 100 meters high.

Since March 28, 2019, Science and Technology Undersecretary and Phiv­olcs Director Renato Solidum pointed out that Taal volcano’s seismic network has manifested moderate to high level of activity.

Phivolcs reminded the public that the main crater of Taal Volcano should be strictly off-limits because sudden steam explo­sions can occur and high concentrations of toxic volcanic gases can be released.

The northern portion of the main crater rim, in the vicinity of Daang Kas­tila Trail, can also become hazardous when steam emission along existing fissures suddenly increases.

Furthermore, the public is reminded that the entire volcano island is a per­manent danger zone and permanent settlement is strictly prohibited.

Taal Volcano had a total of 33 his­torical eruptions and the last major eruption happened on October 3, 1977.

Phivolcs has set volcano alert lev­els, 5 being the highest, to serve as a warning system and risk management scheme for active volcanoes in the country.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesman Mark Timbal said the af­fected residents were from the mu­nicipalities of San Nicolas, Balete and Talisay which are areas surrounding Taal.

“[T]he municipalities [are] con­ducting the evac [evacuation]. The Ba­tangas provincial DRRM [disaster risk reduction and management] council’s Taal Volcano contingency plan is being implemented now,” he said.


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