SCHOOLS and businesses shut down across Manila and other parts of the metropolis yesterday as Taal Volcano in Batangas spewed ash for a second day from its crater in the middle of a lake.
Streets in Manila that would normally be snarled with some of the world’s worst traffic were largely empty in the city of 13 million people.
Flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport partially resumed, authorities said, after at least 240 flights were delayed or cancelled on Sunday.
Schools and government offices were closed on official orders. The stock exchange suspended trading and many private businesses shut for the day too.
Power distribution firm Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said ashfall affected circuits in Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna, causing power interruptions and outages in some parts of the provinces.
Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said power has been restored in some parts of Sta. Rosa, Cabuyao, and Calamba in Laguna, and the company is working to restore power in all the areas as soon as possible.
Other affected areas are parts of Bacoor, Silang, Amadeo, Indang, Naic, Trece Martirez City, Alfonso, Cavite City, Dasmariñas City, in Cavite; parts of Cabuyao and Calamba in Laguna; parts of Talisay in Batangas; and all circuits of Tagaytay City.
The Department of Energy said oil refineries are operating normally as Taal’s activities resulted only in the temporary closure of retail stations in cities and municipalities near the volcano to assure the safety of personnel.
The Manila International Airport Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines
announced the partial resumption of flight operations at NAIA after a joint inspection of runways.
The partial resumption for the arrivals started at about 10 a.m. while the departure was around noon.
MIAA began clearing the runways, taxiways, and ramps of ashfall at 4 a.m. yesterday.
Some tourists ignored danger and traveled to towns closest to Taal volcano to get a better look.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us,” Israeli tourist Benny Borenstein told Reuters as he snapped photos of Taal from a vantage point in Tagaytay City, about 32 km away.
In nearby Talisay Batangas, Vice Gov. Mark Leviste said rain had turned ash to mud and trucks were needed to evacuate more people from remote communities.
“There is no power. Even water was cut, so we are in need of potable water,” he said. “We are in need of face masks.”
In Manila, masks sold out quickly after residents were advised to wear them if they had to go out. Some wore handkerchiefs across their faces as they breathed air tainted by the smell of sulfur.
Classes in all levels, public and private, remain suspended today in Muntinlupa City; Batangas; Biñan, Cabuyao, and Sta. Rosa in Laguna; and Antipolo City, Morong, Montalban, Pililia and San Mateo in Rizal.
Malacañang on Sunday night announced the suspension of work in government and classes at all levels Monday in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and southern Luzon, on the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The Supreme Court also suspended work Monday in all courts in the National Capital Region while it gave executive judges of courts outside of Metro Manila affected by Taal Volcano’s phreatic eruption the discretion to suspend work in their respective areas.
One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted at least 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.
The island has been showing signs of restiveness since early last year.
The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes. – Jed Macapagal, Rod Lagusad, Ashzel Hachero, Jocelyn Montemayor, and Reuters