A man catches fish when the Taal volcano erupts in the background in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines, January 15, 2020. REUTERS / Jerome Morales
MANILA (Reuters) – A Filipino volcano that has been throwing ash for days seemed to calm down on Thursday, but seismologists said the danger of an eruption was still high and authorities warned evacuees not to return home.
Some residents took advantage of what they perceived as a break in the activity of Taal, one of the most active and deadly volcanoes in the country, to return home even though an exclusion zone of 14 km (nine miles) remained in place.
“We are analyzing what this apparent calm of the volcano means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, a leading specialist in scientific research at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told reporters.
The lake inside Taal dried up, Bornas said, which was to be expected as it began throwing lava fountains a day after it threw giant clouds of ash into the air on Sunday.
Phivolcs said that volcanic activity had “generally decreased to the weak emission of steam-laden feathers.” Even so, he had recorded more than 100 tremors since Wednesday, which means that magma was still rising.
More than 53,000 residents have left their homes around Taal to take refuge in evacuation centers, but thousands more refuse to leave or have already returned to control their animals and possessions.
Electricity was restored in some areas of the nearby city of Tagaytay, where business owners were cleaning the ashes and preparing to start trading again.
Although Taal is one of the smallest active volcanoes in the world with only 311 meters (1,020 feet) high, it can be deadly. An eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.
Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the last five centuries, and the most recent in 1977. The Philippines is in the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes that surrounds the Pacific Ocean and is also prone to earthquakes. .
Additional reports by Jay Ereno in Cavite; Edition by Stephen Coates