New cracks, more volcanic quakes: Taal still under alert ‘level 4’

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    Uncovering greenery. A boy waters seedlings covered with ash spewed by Taal Volcano, exposing greenery that is a welcome sight from the drab and dull surroundings that is now the norm in Tagaytay. PHOTO BY RHOY COBILLA
    Uncovering greenery. A boy waters seedlings covered with ash spewed by Taal Volcano, exposing greenery that is a welcome sight from the drab and dull surroundings that is now the norm in Tagaytay. PHOTO BY RHOY COBILLA

    NEW fissures or cracks were observed yesterday in areas near Taal Volcano in Batangas as the volcano exhibited more frequent seismic activities, indicating a hazardous eruption is possible within hours or days.

    Taal remains under alert “level 4” which means a “dangerous explosive eruption remains a possibility within days or hours” and no person should stay within the 14-km radius danger zone, said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

    “We cannot say the exact time or day (of the hazardous eruption). This depends on the speed on the rise of magma …The possibility is there, that’s why we raised alert level No. 4,” he said.

    The highest alert is “level 5” which means a hazardous eruption is ongoing.

    Solidum said Phivolcs recorded 212 volcanic earthquakes from 8 a.m. on Monday to 2 a.m. yesterday, 61 of which were felt in Tagaytay City at Intensity 1 to 5.

    Forty-nine more volcanic quakes were recorded from 2 to 10 a.m. yesterday, Phivolcs said in a bulletin issued at 1 p.m.

    “The intense seismic activity, coupled with fissuring on the caldera region, likely signifies continuous magma intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity,” Phivolcs said.

    Solidum said, “The intense seismic activity (of the volcano) is probably telling us that magma intrusion beneath Taal Volcano is continuous and this intrusion may lead to further eruptive activity.”

    Solidum, in a briefing in Malacañang earlier yesterday, said the alert will be raised to “level 5” only if there is an actual “dangerous explosive eruption.”

    Taal started spewing ash and steam last Sunday after a phreatic explosion.

    Phivolcs said new fissures or cracks were observed in Lemery, Agoncillo, Talisay, and San Nicolas towns. “A fissure was also documented across the road connecting Agoncillo to Laurel, Batangas,” it said.

    Paolo Reniba, resident volcanologist at the Taal Lake Observatory, said the volcanic quakes recorded in the past 24-hour monitoring period is “higher compared to the previous day.”

    “But they are weaker compared to the tremors felt on Sunday and early morning Monday,” he also said.

    An earlier Phivolcs bulletin said the agency recorded 75 volcanic quakes from Sunday up to 5 a.m. Monday.

    In yesterday’s bulletin, Phivolcs said Taal’s eruption has been characterized by “continuous magmatic and hydrovolcanic activity.”

    “Lava fountains generated 800-meter-tall dark gray steam-laden plumes that drifted to the general southwest,” it also said.

    EVACUATION

    The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said some 9,500 families or about 40,700 persons have been evacuated from the 14-km radius danger zone as of noon yesterday.

    Brig. Gen. Kit Teofilo, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Taal, said they have evacuated most of the people inside the danger zone.

    “But you know the typical Filipino, if they are not sensing danger, they are not going to leave (their homes). Some of them went back, which we are preventing so their lives will not be endangered,” Teofilo said.

    As to the number of people they are aiming to evacuate, Teofilo said: “We have no specific target …The instruction of the OCD (Office of Civil Defense) is to evacuate all those inside the 14-km danger zone,” he said.

    Generally, Teofilo said. they are not facing any problem with the evacuation efforts.

    “They are cooperating, including the LGUs (local government units) and the support coming from the different sectors is overwhelming. So far there is no problem, everyone is cooperative,” said Teofilo.

    HEALTH

    Health Assistant Secretary Maria Laxamana, during the “Laging handa” briefing in Malacañang, said the people living near the volcano are the ones who should wear N95 masks due to the ashfall while people in Metro Manila and northern provinces may use the regular surgical masks.

    She also said weather predictions showed the wind may bring ash to Laguna and Quezon in the next few days.

    The Department of Health said inhaling ash could lead to cough, difficulty in breathing and eye irritation.

    Laxamana said those who cannot buy N95 face masks may improvise and resort to “creative” ways like using diapers and undergarments like bras and panties to cover their nose and mouth. She said diapers that would be used should be damp to avid suffocation.

    Laxamana also advised the public against eating fish from Taal Lake may suffer from stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

    The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said at least 6,000 fish cages, some containing tawilis and tilapia, may be damaged due to the high sulfur content in the lake following the eruption.

    Taal has erupted at least 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1965 killed hundreds and that in 1911 killed 1,500 persons. – With Jocelyn Montemayor