The Taal volcano, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of the capital, Manila, on the island of Luzon, began to erupt on Sunday, sending ashes up to nine miles (14 kilometers) into the air and causing warnings of A possible “explosive eruption.” “
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recorded 335 earthquakes in the volcano area, which is one of the most active in the country, since Sunday and said more activities are expected in the coming days.
“These new strong and continuous earthquakes that we are now experiencing are due to fissures, which means that there really is magma that is still coming out of Taal,” said Mariton Bornas, Head of Volcano Monitoring and Eruption, PHIVOLCS Protection Division.
The lava fountains generated dark gray feathers loaded with steam that reached 800 meters (2624 feet) high, according to the institute. The volcanic lightening was also visible.
The institute said new vents had been opened on the north flank of the volcano and that there were fresh ash falls in nearby cities.
The photos of the eruption show ashes that mix with the rain, creating a thick black mud that covered cars, streets and houses in some cities. Ashes are even heavier than snow, which means that excessive accumulations, especially when mixed with rain, can cause roofs to collapse.
At an informational meeting with the media on Tuesday, the director of PHIVOLCS, Renato Solidum, said they cannot say definitively when the eruptions will stop.
The alert level for the volcano remains at four, which means that an “explosive eruption” could occur in the next few hours or days. Its highest alert level is five, indicating that an eruption is occurring.
People were warned not to return to their homes.
The Taal volcano is not really very large, but it is considered one of the most dangerous in the world, due to the number of people living nearby, said Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist at Denison University.
There are two concentric areas of concern around the volcano. About 459,000 people reside within a dangerous area with a radius of 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) around the volcano, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), while more than 930,000 people live in a 17 kilometers wide. (10.5 miles) danger zone.
PHIVOLCS has requested a “total evacuation” of all within the largest radius of 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) around the volcano.
Tens of thousands of people from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite sought refuge in 118 temporary evacuation centers established by authorities on Tuesday. However, the total number of evacuees is unknown, as many people choose to stay with family and relatives in other parts of the country.
Following reports that some people were returning to their homes near the volcano to tend farms or livestock, officials called on the public to stay away.
Bornas said the fissures opened within the immediate danger zone on Tuesday and asked people not to return to their homes “as tremors are becoming frequent and fissures are observed in many places.”
“PHIVOCS strongly reiterates the need for the evacuation of Volcano Island, Lake Taal and the high-risk areas surrounding the volcano … located within 14 kilometers of the main crater,” he said.
Federal authorities are helping the response and evacuation operation. The army sent 20 military vehicles and 120 people to help the affected residents, and the national defense secretary said the helicopters were waiting to evacuate the people.
The defense secretary also urged residents near the eruption to evacuate and not hesitate to leave their homes. Relief organizations such as the Red Cross are helping in the field by sending rescue vehicles and supplies.
On Sunday, volcanic ash extended to the city of Quezon north of Manila, which caused the suspension of all flights at the capital’s international airport. For Tuesday, normal operations resumed, according to airport general manager Ed Monreal, although flights may be suspended again if Taal activity increases.
The airport is still congested by people trying to take flights, Monreal added.
The ash fall has also damaged crops in the area, such as corn and coffee, and continues to threaten fish stocks, said Agriculture Secretary William Dar. The province of Batangas supplies Metro Manila with 40% of its fish crop, including tawilis or “live sardines” found only in the province.