‘Weaker’ activities at Taal but eruption still possible

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    TAAL Volcano showed “generally weaker” activities yesterday but the danger of a hazardous eruption remains, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

    There were 159 volcanic earthquakes recorded from 5 a.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. yesterday, way less than the number in the previous monitoring period. From 8 a.m. on Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Phivolcs recorded 261 volcanic earthquakes. Since Sunday afternoon when Taal started acting up, 466 quakes have been recorded.

    “Over the past 24 hours, the eruption of Taal Volcano at the main crater continued but it’s generally weaker compared to the previous days,” Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said in a press briefing.

    “What we are saying is it’s generally weaker compared to the previous days … but it’s (eruption) continuing … It’s hard to say its going away. It’s just generally weaker compared to the previous days,” he said.

    Phivolcs, in a bulletin issued at 8 a.m., said Taal’s activity in the past 24 hours was characterized by “continuous but generally weaker eruption of the main crater due to magmatic and hydrovolcanic processes.”

    “This ongoing eruption generated dark gray, steam-laden plumes that reached approximately 1,000 meters high and dispersed ash to the southwest of the main crater,” it also said.

    Alert “level 4” remains in effect over Taal Volcano, which means “a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”

    Phivolcs science research specialist Princess Cosalan said danger remains. “The worst-case scenario is there is a possibility of explosive eruption. Another possibility, is it won’t (erupt).”

    On which is more likely, Cosalan said: “We can’t say.”

    Solidum said though Taal’s activity is now weaker, there were new fissures reported in Lemery, Agoncillo, and San Nicolos towns.

    Solidum and Cosalan said the fissuring is principally the result of the earthquakes and intrusion of magma beneath the volcano.

    Solidum, in a briefing in Malacañang, was asked about the possibility of a major eruption.

    “We are seeing the same fissures and recording large earthquake events,” he said.

    He added that if a major eruption happens, the extent of the impact on Metro Manila and nearby areas would be more in terms of ashfalls, and it would depend on the how tall the eruption column would be the and direction that the wind will blow.

    He said the public should brace for heavy and prolonged ashfall events in case Taal’s major eruption would be similar to that in 1754 which took about seven months for the volcanic activities to end completely. He said the explosions did not happen every day as there were gaps between the minor and major explosions.

    Phivolcs, in a 5 p.m. update, said Taal’s eruption “has been characterized by continuous magmatic and hydrovolcanic activity that generated 700-meter-tall dark gray steam-laden plumes that drifted to the general southwest.”

    It said there was drying up of portions of Pansipit River where fissures were also observed.
    “Furthermore, newly acquired satellite images would show that the main crater lake has been drained and new vent craters have been formed inside the main crater and on the north flank of the volcano.

    Phivolcs also said it recorded 53 volcanic quakes from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. yesterday, signifying continuous magmatic intrusion that may lead to “further eruptive activity.”

    The Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said 18,646 families or 82,068 persons have been evacuated from the 14-kilometer danger zone.

    Brig. Gen. Marciliano Teofilo, commander of the AFP’s Joint Task Group Taal, said less than a thousand people are still inside the danger zone.

    “There are still people inside. You know the typical (Filipinos),” said Teofilo. “Maybe, there are less than a thousand (still inside the danger zone). Some of them were already evacuated but sneaked back in,” he said.

    On the evacuation of livestock and pets, Teofilo said they are also being evacuated but rescuers are giving priority to people.

    Teofilo said there were reports of looting inside the 14-kilometer danger zone but could not immediately give details.

    “Our problem is the looting … Just like in previous disasters, that’s our concern,” he said adding the PNP is conducting patrols.

    PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said the regional police office has not received any report of looting and other forms of criminal activities in affected areas.

    The Department of Education said at least 7,000 families are using 148 classrooms in the Calabarzon (Region IV-A) as evacuation centers.

    DepEd said of the 148 schools, 132 are in Batangas, 14 in Cavite, and two in Laguna.

    The Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said two people died in relation to Taal’s activities.

    It identified the fatalities as Anatlia Perez Dionisio, 65, of Talisay, Batangas and Danilo Toledo, 27, of Taal, also in Batangas, who both died of cardiac arrest on Monday and Tuesday.

    It said it also monitored two deaths due to a vehicular accident in San Jose, Batangas yesterday but did not say if it was directly related to the eruption.

    Police named the two fatalities as Rio John Abel, a student of the Dela Salle University in Lipa City, and Maximo Alcantara. The fatalities’ companion, Darwin Lahara, was injured in the car crash. Reports said Lahara died yesterday morning.

    Police said the victims just delivered relief to victims of the eruption when they figured in the accident in Barangay Banay-banay at around 1:30 a.m.

    Police said the victims’ car was traversing a national road in the barangay when it the rear part of an Isuzu truck loaded with sacks of corn. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Raymond Africa