The Taal volcano in the Philippines appears to be in the midst of a very serious eruption. Giant plumes of ash began shooting from the Volcano on Sunday. Around the same time, tremors were felt in the areas near the volcano, which caused local officials to evacuate the region’s 8,000 people. Residents living or staying in areas within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater have been ordered to leave immediately.
Taal volcano is located south of the capital city of Manila, on an island in the middle of Lake Taal. The volcano is not very large, and is, in fact, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, stretching a little more than a half-mile into the sky.
Despite its small size, Taal is still the second most active volcano in the Philippines, with 34 eruptions being recorded at the site in the past 450 years.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also warned nearby residents about the possibility of a “volcanic tsunami”.
Ongoing phreatic explosion at the Main Crater of Taal Volcano. Photos taken from installed IP camera monitoring the activity of Taal Volcano.
By Sunday night, the state seismology bureau raised the alert level to 4 in the areas closest to the Taal Volcano, as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), announced that eruptive activity at Taal Volcano was beginning to intensify at the site. According to Phivolcs, an alert level of 4 means that a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.
A report from the agency on Sunday night said that, “Eruptive activity at Taal Volcano Main Crater intensified as continuous eruption generated a tall 10-15 kilometer steam-laden tephra column with frequent volcanic lightning that rained wet ashfall on the general north as far as Quezon City. Areas in the general north of Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise aircraft to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft.”
In addition to the evacuations, The Manila International Airport Authority was forced to put all flights on hold due to the amount of volcanic ash that was in the sky.
The volcano has had several very serious eruptions in the past, causing loss of life on the island and the populated areas surrounding the lake, with the death toll estimated at around to 6,000. The Taal Volcano, along with all of the other volcanoes of the Philippines, is a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Phivolcs has banned Permanent settlement on the island because the entire region was designated as a high-risk area and a Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ). However, despite the warnings from authorities, poor families from the area have settled on the island, risking their lives to earn a living by fishing and farming crops from the rich volcanic soil.
Although the volcano had been quiet since 1977, it had begun to show signs of unrest around 1991.
Mark Timbal, spokesman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said that the municipalities of Balete, San Nicolas and Talisay in Batangas have undertaken precautionary evacuation.