A volcano in the city of Taal near the Philippine capital Manila spewed a massive cloud of ash into the sky on Sunday, 12 January, forcing the precautionary evacuation of thousands of residents, authorities said. All the flights to and from Manila have been suspended.
Government seismologists recorded magma moving towards the crater of Taal, one of the country’s most active volcanoes located 65km (40 miles) south of Manila. That increases the chances of an eruption that could happen “within days to weeks” if such activity continues, Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told the media.
On another matter, the government also suspended all flights in and out of Manila due to the volcanic incident. Taal’s last eruption was in 1977, he added.
A kilometre-high column of ash was visible and several volcanic tremors were felt within the vicinity of the volcano, which is popular among tourists for its scenic view.
The local disaster office said it had evacuated 5,000 residents living on the volcanic island, which lies inside a bigger lake formed by previous volcanic activity. However, the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said over 200,000 individuals are currently affected by the imminent threat of a hazardous eruption of the Taal Volcano.
Solidum said officials will also order the evacuation of people living on another island nearby if the situation worsens. There are 12 municipalities and two cities within the 10-kilometre radius from the main crater of Taal Volcano which is under mandatory evacuation.
All flights to and from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been suspended until further notice upon the order the Department of Transportation.
NAIA initially announced that flights at the country’s main gateway would have to be suspended until 11 p.m. due to the eruption of Taal Volcano Sunday afternoon.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade directed aviation authorities to go beyond the initially scheduled re-opening of the airport after a briefing by Manila International Airport Authority chief Ed Monreal and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Jim Sydiongco. Authorities will discuss again on Monday morning to evaluate the situation. According to Ed Monreal, runways and ramps of the airport have accumulated ash as of Sunday evening.
Earthquakes and volcanic activity are not uncommon in the Philippines due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth’s surface. In January 2018, Mount Mayon displaced tens of thousands of people after spewing millions of tonnes of ash, rocks, and lava in the central Bicol region.
(Sources: Agence France Presse and local newspapers)