A small volcano near the Philippines capital Manila has erupted, prompting authorities to raise the alert level and urge thousands of residents to evacuate from high-risk villages.
- The Philippines volcanology institute raised the alarm at the Taal to level three, out of five
- The institute said it is not yet clear if the situation will escalate or settle down
- Residents of five lakeside villages were urged to evacuate
The 311-meter Taal volcano, located in a scenic lake in Batangas province, belched a white plume of steam and ash 1.5 kilometers into the sky in a brief explosion on Saturday.
Magma came into contact with water in the main crater, setting off the steam-driven blast that was accompanied by volcanic earthquakes, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.
The institute raised the alarm at Taal to the third level in a five-step warning system, meaning “there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions”.
Residents of five lakeside villages in the Batangas towns of Agoncillo and Laurel were warned of possible hazards, including fast-moving gas and molten materials and “volcanic tsunami” in the volcanic lake, and were urged to evacuate to safer areas.
Laurel Mayor Joan Amo said about 8,000 residents in high-risk villages in her town were ready to be moved to safety if the volcanic unrest continues.
“It was a powerful burst but now the volcano has calmed down,” she said.
Renato Solidum of the government’s volcanology institute said it was not yet clear if there would be further activity at the volcano, or if it would settle down.
He said if there was no escalation or the trend was downward after two weeks of close monitoring, the institute may decide to lower the alert level.
Taal erupted in January 2020, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and sending clouds of ash to Manila, about 65 kilometers to the north, where the main airport was temporarily shut down. Since then, the volcano has sporadically shown signs of restiveness.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, blew its top north of Manila in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.