Schools and government offices closed and the city of Tagaytay was shaken by dozens of tremors on Tuesday when The Taal volcano in the Philippines threw lava and ash half a mile into the sky.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology set the “alert level” to four, which means that a dangerous explosive eruption is possible in a matter of hours to days. He advised residents of much of the country to protect themselves against the effects of prolonged and heavy ash fall.
Nearly 40,000 people in the Taal area lived in 198 evacuation centers with no time to return home, the government said. Many will never do it.
Renato Solidum, who runs the volcano institute, said authorities were closely monitoring the speed of magma increase, an important factor in determining whether the volcano will have a strong eruption or settle.
“As of now, we don’t see activities slow down and earthquakes continue,” Solidum said.
Not everyone ran away. In Tagaytay, a few miles north of Taal, many of the city’s 70,000 residents watched and waited cautiously, sweeping the ashes of their homes and cars.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned companies across the country not to cherish face masks while ash-filled clouds cross the archipelago, obscuring the air in the capital, Manila, 40 miles north. Most of the schools in the city of nearly 2 million closed due to the poor air quality that kept people in their homes.
“If you treasure them, I will be forced to attack your business,” Duterte said. “For those who can’t afford it, I’ll give it for free.”
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported due to the volcano, which has been rumbling for weeks but began to erupt on Sunday. But the nation’s Department of Agriculture said the volcano already killed 2,000 head of cattle.
Local lawmaker Lawrence Fortun asked the government to grant “direct grants with no repayment provision” instead of loans to farmers “who have already lost everything.”
“They cannot return to the volcano island, so they must be relocated,” he told the Philippines News Agency. “It is feasible for the government to implement a housing and distribution program for farmland.”
Fortun said the government should also help relocate fishermen’s families in villages near Bay Lagoon.
The volcano institute warned airlines to “avoid airspace around the Taal volcano as air ashes and ballistic fragments of the eruption column represent a danger.”
Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport had problems with hundreds of delayed or canceled flights that affected 80,000 passengers. The general manager, Ed Monreal, said the airport was handling about half of its normal number of flights on Tuesday, encouraging news after the airport was closed due to the fall of ashes on Sunday and barely operational on Monday.
“We are on the road to recovery,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press