Taal Volcano thousands flee after Philippines eruption

(ORDO NEWS) — Thousands of people fled their homes near the Philippine volcano after the eruption sent ash and steam hundreds of meters into the sky.

Taal Volcano, located in a picturesque lake south of Manila, exploded in a “brief” eruption at 7:22 am on Saturday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a statement.

The institute has warned of the possibility of new eruptions, which it says could cause dangerous, fast-moving volcanic flows of gas, ash and debris, as well as tsunamis.

Residents of five fishing and farming communities around the lake were ordered to leave their homes, the third mass evacuation in many years around one of the country’s most active volcanoes.

“It was raining mud,” said Cornelia Pesigan, 25, who sought refuge in a school outside the 7 km (4.3 miles) “danger zone”. “It smelled very strong and I had difficulty breathing,” she added.

The first eruption was followed by “almost continuous phreatomagmatic activity” that lifted plumes up to 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) into the air, the seismological agency said, raising the alert level from two to three on a scale of zero to five.

A phreatomagmatic eruption occurs when molten rock comes into contact with groundwater or surface water, said Princess Kosalan, an agency scientist, comparing it to pouring “water into a hot pan.”

Kosalan told AFP that ash and steam emissions subsided within hours of the first eruption, but said the institute’s sensors on site continue to pick up volcanic earthquakes and “possibly” another eruption.

Agency head Renato Solidum said activity was weaker than in January 2020, when Taal threw ash to a height of 15 kilometers and spewed hot lava, destroying dozens of houses, killing livestock and sending tens of thousands of people to shelters.

“There is no threat outside… the five villages,” Solidum said. More than 12,000 people live in the most vulnerable communities, according to the latest official figures.

Police have been deployed to stop people entering high-risk areas, and aviation authorities have warned airlines and pilots of the potential danger from volcanic ash in the atmosphere.

The Philippines periodically suffers from eruptions and earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – a zone of high seismic activity.

Access to the volcano island, which was once home to a community of thousands, has been banned since the 2020 eruption. Last July, the seismological agency raised the alert level to three after Taal began to bubble up again.

It emitted sulfur dioxide for several days, creating a thick haze over the capital and nearby provinces. Before Saturday’s eruption, the alert level was again lowered to two.

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