[Watch] Level 4 Volcano Alert for Days, Thousands in Distress

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Philippines authorities warn that a “hazardous eruption” is possible “within days”, reports BBC News. 

Lava began seeping out 

A volcano in the Philippines has begun spewing lava, as authorities warn that a “hazardous eruption” is possible within days.

In the early hours of Monday, a weak flow of lava began seeping out of Taal volcano – located some 70km (45 miles) south of the capital Manila.

Second most active volcano

Taal the second most active volcano in the Philippines had earlier emitted a huge plume of ash, triggering the mass evacuation of 8,000 people from the area. 

Situated on an island in the middle of a lake, it is one of the world’s smallest volcanoes and has recorded at least 34 eruptions in the past 450 years.

State of calamity declared

Authorities in the surrounding province, Batangas, have declared a “state of calamity”, signifying major disruption.

On Sunday, the volcano emitted a giant plume of ash, with rumbling sounds and tremors also reported.

The situation on monday

A total of 75 earthquakes have occurred in the Taal region, with 32 of these earthquakes ranking 2 and higher on the earthquake intensity scale, said Phivolcs.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said, “Taal volcano entered a period of intense unrest… that progressed into magmatic eruption at 02:49 to 04:28… this is characterised by weak lava fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning.”

Alert level raised to 4

But Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said that signs of a hazardous eruption, including “flows of ashes, rocks, gas at speeds of more than 60km/h horizontally had not yet occurred.”

Phivolcs has now raised the alert level from 3 to 4, out of a maximum of 5.

Volcanic tsunami warning 

Authorities have also warned of a possible “volcanic tsunami”, which can be trigged by falling debris after an eruption, pushing the water and generating waves.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that more than 450,000 people are estimated to live within the 14km danger zone of the Taal volcano.

Warning and advice for the residents 

Ash fell on several areas nearby with residents advised to wear masks. One resident in metro Manila said shops had begun to run out of masks.

The government has warned retailers not to hike mask prices amid the surging demand.

 

Earthquakes and volcanic activity are not uncommon in the Philippines, which lies along the Ring of Fire – a zone of major seismic activity, which has one of the world’s most active fault lines.

Nine days after Taal Volcano erupted and forced more than 150,000 people to evacuate their homes, some of the displaced residents want life to return to normal and are venting their ire on the country’s scientists.

Recent Updates

‘Erupt already so we can get it over with’: Taal Volcano evacuees want to return home, reports SCMP.com

Phivolcs wrong?

But on Monday, Talisay vice-mayor Charlie Natanuan urged people to return to town, saying that in his opinion, “what Phivolcs said is wrong.”

Speaking in Tagalog, he said, “Now this eruption, it’s like venting off, it didn’t produce lava, this means pressure is low.”

Doubts about the institute’s warning

He said he based his views on his many years of living near the volcano, and was going to ask Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to “somewhat change Phivolcs’ opinion because they’ve made things worse in the news.”

The vice-mayor expressed doubts about the institute’s eruption warning, saying “no scientist has ever been able to predict an eruption.”

Researchers view

  • The scientists say that the volcano’s activity has eased since it began spewing steam and ash more than a week ago, but the threat of a large-scale eruption remains. 
  • In addition to the immediate risk to life, such an event could 
    • contaminate water supplies,
    • disrupt power generation for millions of people, and 
    • halt ground and air travel.

Volcanologist Mariton Bornas 

The volcano’s activity has stalled, but this does not mean the worst is over, says volcanologist Mariton Bornas, who heads the division responsible for monitoring and predicting eruptions at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), a government agency in Quezon City, just north of Manila.

The ongoing seismic activity suggests that magma is continuing to rise to the volcano’s surface from deep within the Earth, says Bornas.

Volcanologist Perla Reyes

Since the sixteenth century, Taal has erupted about 30 times, including four major events. Increased seismic activity, like that seen since 12 January, preceded most of those eruptions, says Perla Reyes, a volcanologist at PHIVOLCS. But she says not all cases of increased seismic activity have resulted in a major eruption.

The current lull has given many locals a false sense of security, says Reyes, and some of the more than 6,000 people living on Taal Volcano Island have returned to their homes and animals. 

She said, “Unfortunately, people tend to return in quiet times and this is very unsafe.”

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Source:  BBC, SCMP.com