TAAL Volcano in Batangas yesterday started spewing lava, prompting officials to place the province under a state of calamity amid the threat of an eruption “within days” and efforts to complete the evacuation of thousands of residents.
The alert status remained at “level 4,” which means a “hazardous eruption is imminent.”
The highest alert is “level 5” which means a hazardous eruption is ongoing.
Taal, the country’s second most active volcano, spewed ash and steam on Sunday, when the alert level was raised twice in just a matter of hours. The ash column, accompanied by rumblings and tremors, affected Metro Manila and nearby areas.
Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said the worst-case scenario is volcanic debris crossing the lake and going to the mainland.
He said this would happen if Taal would spew a huge amount of magma.
“’Yung worst case scenario ay ang pagkakaroon ng pyroclastic density current (pyroclastic flow)…gumagapang horizontally na abo at bato na pwedeng umabot sa mainland (The worst-case scenario is there will be pyroclastic density current [pyroclastic flow] … ash and rocks creeping horizontally, which can reach the mainland),” he added.
Citing Taal’s eruption in 1754, Solidum said pyroclastic flow reached areas 14 kilometers from the volcano, meaning the coastal towns around Taal Volcano.
On alert level 4, Solidum said it means there is the danger of eruption “within days.”
“Kapag nasa alert level 4, nandiyan yung possibility ng mga panganib na eruption within days na kung saan makikita po natin na posibleng magkaroon ng pyroclastic density current o pagtapon ng mga abo at bato horizontally na pwedeng gumapang above water at umabot sa mainland kaya nagkaroon tayo ng increased evacuation distance na 14 kilometers from the main crater,” said Solidum.
Solidum said the activity of Taal slowed down a bit but the ash eruption was continuing.
Weak lava flow was observed early yesterday as Sunday’s phreatic or steam-driven activities progressed to “magmatic eruption,” according to Phivolcs.
In a 4 p.m. bulletin, the agency said magmatic eruption, observed from 2:49 a.m. to 4:28 am, was “characterized by weak lava fountaining” accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning.”
The lava fountaining stopped but later resumed “with weak sporadic lava fountaining and hydrovolcanic activity at the main crater that generated steam-laden plumes approximately two kilometers tall,” it also said.
“New lateral vents were observed to have opened up on the northern flank where short 500 m lava fountains emanate,” it added.
Phivolcs also said the Philippine Seismic Network has recorded 144 volcanic earthquakes in the Taal region since 1 p.m. on Sunday
Phivolcs said such intense seismic activity “probably signifies continuous magma intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, concurrent chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said he fears Taal’s activities will end up into a Mt. Pinatubo-like eruption.
“The worst-case scenario is the volcano will blow up like Pinatubo,” he said Lorenzana, referring to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, which left over 700 people dead and 200,000 people homeless.
Lorenzana said he hopes the worst case scenario would not happen “but we can never predict the actions of these volcanoes.”
“The speed of escalation of Taal’s volcanic activity caught us by surprise,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at Phivolcs.
“We have detected magma. It’s still deep, it hasn’t reached the surface. We still can expect a hazardous eruption any time.”
Authorities warned that an eruption could send a tsunami surging across the lake.
NDRRMC spokesman Mark Timbal said there is no truth to reports that alert level 5 has been already declared.
“There’s fake news about alert level 5. Please ignore that. May we ask our media friends to inform our citizens to rely on official releases of NDRRMC and Phivolcs,” said Timbal.
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said alert level 5 will be declared if there is already a hazardous eruption.
“Alert level 5 is a statement of fact. Pag sinabi nating alert level 5, sasabihin lang natin ganito ang nangyayari sa volcano, nangyari na yung mapanganib na eruption. Pag hindi mangyayari yun, hindi tayo magsasabi ng alert level 5.”
“Ang alert level 4 ang pinakamataas na alert level kaya nag-e-evacuate na tayo ng mas marami bago mangyari yung mas delikadong eruption. Hindi pwedeng mangyari muna yung nakakatakot na eruption bago magpa-evacuate, hindi tama yun,” added Solidum.
NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad said they are aiming to complete the evacuation of residents in the 14-km danger zone by today.
As of noon yesterday, the NDRRMC said over 24,000 people have been already evacuated. Jalad said the figure already increased as of 6 p.m. but could not immediately give figures.
Jalad said they expanded the evacuation to the 14-km radius area “so that we will be safe if we’re already at alert level 5 … we’re no longer if there will be violent explosion.” – With Reuters