Experts have warned the people of the Philippines that a ‘massive eruption’ is imminent as huge plumes of ash are seen pouring out of the Taal Volcano Philippines.
The sudden eruption has seen ash, smoke and lava pouring out of the volcano forcing thousands to flee. The main airport in Manila, offices and schools have all been closed.
So far, there have been no casualties or any major damage reported after the eruption that started on Sunday 12th January.
Where is the Taal Volcano and Who is Affected?
The Taal Volcano Philippines is located 60km south of the capital Manila on the island of Luzon. Witnesses have said they have seen the ash from Manila. The Taal Volcano is one of the country’s smallest but most active volcanoes. Ash was spewed up to 14km into the air following the initial eruption on Sunday.
That ash has moved quickly towards the capital of Manila where authorities have been forced to close the main airport. Photos taken at the scene in Luzon captured streams of lava pouring out of the volcano and scientists from The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) are saying a huge eruption is imminent on the island.
The Taal volcano is not actually considered to be that big but it is a huge threat due to the number of people living within a close radius. Those people are now being currently evacuated in the thousands to areas where they will be safe away from the island.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), nearly half a million people live within a zone considered dangerous in the event of a volcano eruption. These people all live within a 14km radius around the volcano leaving them vulnerable. A further 930,000 people live within a 17km radius and are also in danger.
What the Philippines officials have said
PHIVOLCS has requested that all people living within a 17km radius must evacuate immediately to safe zones. This means a whopping 1.53m people need to be evacuated away from the Taal volcano.
The Philippines federal authorities are now involved in offering their support for response and evacuation procedures. 20 military vehicles have been sent from the army plus 120 personnel to help any affected residents in the immediate area of the volcano.
The mayor of Balete town, Wilson Maralit, has told DZMM radio.“We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows, we’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again any time and hit them.”
Maralit has urged authorities to provide more support to the surrounding areas to help people evacuate quicker and stop anyone trying to sneak back to their homes to save their possessions.
The defence secretary has also come out to urge local residents to leave their homes and flea the area as quickly as possible. Red Cross is already in the area with vehicles and supplies helping to support evacuees.
The Taal volcano Philippines has seen eruptions on the island more than 30 times in the last 500 years, according to BBC News. The last time was in 1977.
What next for the Philippines?
It’s thought the lava spewing out of the Taal volcano is now a serious threat to locals spilling into nearby towns, destroying homes and poisoning rivers. However, volcanic ash is the most dangerous threat to local people.
"The ash is what will kill you, not the lava, the ash flow from an exploding volcano can travel hundreds of kilometres an hour," said Joseph Michalski, director of the Earth and Planetary Science division at the University of Hong Kong told CNN.
Should the volcano erupt again it could send dangerous ash as far as 100 kilometres threatening the lives and health of over 25 million Filipinos living within its radius.
No one yet knows how large the next eruption will be, authorities are trying to evacuate people as quickly as possible to avoid any casualties. The government has now raised the warning level to level 4 meaning a large eruption is due any moment. A level 5 would indicate that the volcano eruption is already in process.
Photos from the eruption on Sunday show entire streets, houses, cars and other buildings covered with volcanic ash. The ash is heavier than snow leaving a thick blanket in the surrounding areas. Locals have been seen shovelling piles of ash from their homes.
The damage of this eruption and the potentially devastating effects of an imminent eruption could cause severe havoc for the island of Luzon and it’s surrounding people. People’s livelihoods could be lost, farms destroyed, livestock killed and it would put a serious hold up in tourism in the area. Tourism is currently the biggest source of income for local people in the region.
Many public institutions have now been closed in the area and in Manila including government buildings, schools and offices. Authorities are concerned about the health risk of falling volcanic ash.
The Philippines and local residents can now only wait for a further and possibly much bigger eruption over the next coming days. Residents will continue to be evacuated while the country braces itself for a further devastating natural disaster. This follows the recent 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the Philippines only a few weeks ago.
Taal Volcano Video
Help communities affected by Taal Volcano eruption