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‘Explosive’ Taal eruption still possible, as authorities warn public to stay away from the restive volcano

By Charm Magpali and Lorenzo Santos Published Jul 02, 2021 4:42 pm

Evacuations are now underway in Batangas as state volcanologists warn that a major eruption from Taal Volcano similar to January last year might still be possible, posing safety and health risks to the public.

As of 8 am today, July 2, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has recorded 29 volcanic earthquakes from Taal Volcano. These earthquakes include one explosion-type earthquake, 22 low frequency volcanic earthquakes and two volcanic tremor events lasting three minutes.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office of Agoncillo, Batangas said that forced evacuation has been implemented in the barangays within the seven-kilometer danger zone.

'De-gassed, de-pressurized'
In a Laging Handa press briefing today, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said that they are still monitoring the status of Taal Volcano. But Solidum said that after the eruption last January 2020, the magma sitting on the volcano has been de-gassed and de-pressurized, which is preventing Taal volcano from having explosive eruptions for now.

“Hindi po namin inaasahan na kasing lakas nung last year na mabilis umakyat ang magma na maraming gas, kaya malakas ang pagsabog,” Solidum said.

The agency raised the alert status of Taal from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3 or Magmatic Unrest on Thursday, July 1, after a five-minute "phreatomagmatic eruption" occurred that generated a one-kilometer plume. An Alert Level 3 means a “high level of volcanic unrest,” as magma is near or at the surface of the volcano and “activity could lead to hazardous eruption in weeks.”

Phreatomagmatic eruptions occur when hot magma and cold water interact explosively.

Solidum said that there is also a possibility that Taal volcano will start calming down or simply produce lava flow, which is why the agency is conducting stand-down procedures and observing the Taal volcano’s activity within two weeks to see if the alert level will decrease.

“Mayroon rin namang mga scenario na pag merong bagong supply ng magma galing sa mas malalim na parte na tulad nung last year papunta dun sa ilalim ng buwan, merong possibility parin na mas malakas na pagsabog kumpara sa kahapon,” he added. "Sana hindi matuloy ang mas malalakas pang pagsabog, pero nandiyan parin yung banta na ipinapakita ng Taal kasi marami pang gas na inilalabas."

Health risks

The Department of Health (DOH) has also warned the public of the health risks of the sulfur dioxide emission and ashfall, both of which could have adverse health effects when inhaled or when it lands on the skin. Because of the health risks, the DOH advised the public to steer clear from the vicinity of Taal Volcano as much as possible.

DOH said that those living in nearby communities should avoid going outdoors as much as possible, close the windows and doors of one’s house, and to always wear a face mask and skin protection.

In January 2020, The Taal volcano showed increasing steam activity with frequent explosions reaching 10 to 15 kilometers high, displacing over 200,000 individuals.

Solidum said residents, especially from high-risk barangays such as Agoncillo and Laurel, should observe minimum health standards during evacuation, while also protecting themselves from volcanic hazards such as airborne ash and vog.

The entire Taal Volcano Island is a Permanent Danger Zone, and entry into the island as well as into the high-risk barangays is prohibited. All activities on Taal Lake are also prohibited.