By Genshen L. Espedido and
Gillian M. Cortez, Reporter
ASH from Taal Volcano in Batangas province covered large parts of Southern Luzon and cities near the capital on Monday, forcing financial markets to suspend trading and the Manila airport to close.
The volcano spewed lava on Monday, a day after it blew ash and steam into the air, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Director Renato U. Solidum said at a briefing. He warned that a “hazardous” eruption could happen in days as the agency raised the alert status to level 4, the second-highest in a 5-step scale.
In an advisory, the Health department said inhaling ash could lead to cough and difficulty of breathing and could also irritate the eyes.
The local disaster agency said more than 302 domestic and 237 international flights were canceled.
The Philippines lies in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes strike.
Taal Volcano on the Philippines’ main Luzon island is the country’s second most active volcano. All of its eruptions are concentrated on Volcano Island, an island near the middle of Taal Lake.
Tourists often go to Tagaytay City, which is a two-hour drive from Manila, to get a glimpse of the picturesque Taal Volcano and Taal Lake below.
Taal volcano continued erupting “with weak sporadic lava fountaining and hydrovolcanic activity at the Main Crater that generated steam-laden plumes approximately 2 kilometers tall,” according to the local volcanic agency’s 4 p.m. update on Monday.
“New lateral vents were observed to have opened up on the northern flank where short 500-meter lava fountains emanate,” it said.
The agency has recorded 144 volcanic earthquakes in the Taal region since Sunday afternoon, 44 of which were felt with intensities ranging from 1 to 4 in Tagaytay City, Alitagtag, Lemery, Santo Tomas, and Talisay, Batangas.
These earthquakes signified “continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice” that could lead to further eruptions, it said.
Ma. Antonia V. Bornas, a division chief at the volcanic agency, told reporters the progression of Taal Volcano’s activities has been faster than in past events, including the 1911 eruption that killed 1,500 people. The volcano’s last reported eruption was in 1977.
More than 5,000 families were taking temporary shelter at 75 evacuation centers in Batangas province, according to the disaster agency’s 12 p.m. report.
The volcanic agency reiterated that people within a 14 kilometer radius from Taal Volcano’s Main Crater must be evacuated.
The Social Welfare department said it would send 5,000 food packs and sleeping kits to evacuees after local government leaders in Batangas complained against the lack of relief goods.
Police would deploy eight rescue vehicles and 30 pick-up trucks to help in the evacuation, according to Colonel Marlon Santos of Cavite.
Seven cities and municipalities in the provinces of in Batangas and Cavite experienced power failures, including Amadeo, Tagaytay, Lipa, Tanuan, Laurel, Talisay and Lemery.
The Batangas provincial government declared a state of calamity, which would allow the local government to use emergency funds and freeze the prices of basic goods.
Meanwhile, the local weather bureau said on its website Taal Volcano’s eruptions had caused “cloudy skies with isolated rains and thunderstorms” over the areas of Batangas, Cavite and Laguna provinces.
This could cut visibility and create mud flows during ashfall, as well as light to moderate rains, it said.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said he had activated assistance teams and placed Red Cross chapters in Metro Manila and Calabarzon region on alert.
“Those who are living in the danger areas should evacuate to safer grounds immediately,” he said in a statement. “Bring animals and livestock to designated evacuation areas. Follow any evacuation orders issued by authorities and put your emergency plan into action.”
Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III warned shops against overcharging consumers for basic goods, which he said is illegal.
“We should not allow anybody to take advantage of the current difficult situation brought about by the Taal Volcano eruption by increasing the prices of needed goods and materials like face masks,” he said in a statement. — with Charmaine A. Tadalan