Thousands evacuate amid Taal Volcano's "imminent hazardous" eruption
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised on Sunday the alert status of Taal Volcano in Batangas province to Alert Level 4 or "imminent hazardous" eruption.
This as thousands of residents surrounding the volcano in Batangas have been evacuated as ashfall has reached in various parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila and Central Luzon.
"As of 5:30 PM PST (1730H), 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," Phivolcs said.
It said that volcanic tremor was recorded continuously since 11:00 a.m. and two volcanic earthquakes of magnitudes 2.5 and 3.9 were felt at Intensity III in Tagaytay City and Alitagtag, Batangas were recorded at 6:15 p.m. and 6:22 p.m., respectively.
With the raising of the volcano's alert level to 4, Phivolcs said, "this means that hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days."
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that there were already 6,000 residents from various municipalities near the volcano who have evacuated.
Rowena Garcia, 46, from Barangay Gitna, Agoncillo, Batangas told Manila Shimbun in a phone interview that they have already evacuated their family members, especially the old ones and children, to other safer place.
According to her, her 83-year old mother-in-law, three kids, including a 4-year old child of their staff in their piggery, were transferred to another town in Batangas.
Agoncillo, is one of the towns in Batangas surrounding Taal Lake where the volcano is located.
Garcia said she started feeling the tremors between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. and as of press time, they became more "frequent and stronger."
She also said she could hear louder thunders and saw lightnings coming from the volcano.
Garcia, her husband, and their assistant did not evacuate yet because they have to look after their hogs, which are about 70 pieces.
She said they would just leave their home once the authorities forced them to do so or when they feel that it would no longer be safe in their place.
Phivolcs reiterated total evacuation of the residents in Taal Volcano Island and additional evacuation of areas at high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 14-kilometer radius from Taal main crater.
"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," it said.
Some local government units near Taal Volcano and in Metro Manila have suspended classes in all levels in public and private schools on Monday due to ashfall.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has already ordered the concerned government agencies to undertake measures necessary to place the people within the perimeter of Taal out of the danger zone.
"The Palace is closely monitoring the situation of Taal Volcano," he said.
"Concerned agencies of the national government are now working closely with the Provincial Government of Batangas to ensure the safety of the residents, including their evacuation. We advise the public to continue to remain vigilant," Panelo added. Celerina Monte, Ella Dionisio/DMS