Coping with Taal eruption

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    WITHOUT previous warning and deteriorating with considerable speed after it started, Taal Volcano in Batangas spewed white smoke initially at noon Sunday, then followed it up with fire and molten rocks called lava past midnight and into the early morning hours of Monday. Phivolcs authorities called it a phreatic or steam-driven activity in several points near the crater, which usually precedes a magmatic eruption.

    The next day, lava fountain or a spray of hot rocks and gases, was observed in the main crater of Taal Volcano, even as the initial rain of ashes and sand particles continued to cover towns and provinces near the volcano, reaching as far as Pampanga in Luzon.

    Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) director Renato Solidum Jr. said lava continued to flow from the main crater of Taal the whole of Monday, which is a sign of ongoing movement of magma from beneath the volcano. These lava flows had been characteristic of previous eruptions of Taal, and were not exactly unexpected. He said that the magmatic eruption now being observed is characterized by weak lava fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning.

    Alert level 4 has been raised by Phivolcs over Taal Volcano since Sunday evening, meaning a “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days,” prompting authorities to evacuate at least 7,700 residents in nearby areas. This order has rendered the town of Agoncillo in Batangas a virtual ghost town, and other towns such as Taal and Lemery wanting of food, drinking water, electricity and communication lines.

    Already, dangerous driving in ash-covered roads made more dangerous by the rain had claimed the life of a cargo truck driver in Calamba, Laguna. The accident also injured several people, including his helper. The damage to people’s health, properties, etc. was also felt in Tanauan, Tagaytay, Sta. Rosa, Dasmarinas, Bacoor, Silang, and as far as Metro Manila, Malolos, San Jose del Monte, Meycauayan in Bulacan and Antipolo City in Rizal.
    Commercial aviation and other transportation needs, educational institutions, water utilities and other sectors reeled under the effects of the eruption. On the advice of Phivolcs, civil aviation authorities ordered all aircraft to avoid the air space around Taal because of the thick ash column.

    Government officials, especially from the LGUs, were again caught unprepared by the volcanic eruption. It is good that we have the likes of Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino, a former mayor of Tagaytay City, who called an Inter-Agency Coordination Meeting on Monday morning to coordinate all government efforts to cope with the disaster. Tolentino is no stranger to this yeoman’s job because he was President Duterte’s pointman in many man-made disasters that hit the country before. Present at the meeting were all agencies involved in the disaster mitigation effort — AFP, DSWD , DOH, DPWH, NDRRMC, local government units of Batangas and Cavite, Phivolcs, etc.

    The Taal Volcano eruption underscored the need to process and pass various Senate and House bills concerning the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience, of which Sen. Tolentino is one of the most serious supporters.