Philippine volcano close to capital emits gas and ash

MANILA (Philippines) — In a short but strong explosion, a small volcano located in the picturesque lake of Manila emitted a plume of steam 1.5 km (1 mile) from the earth. Authorities raised the alert and evacuated hundreds of people living in high-risk areas.

Magma came into contact with water in the main crater of Taal volcano in Batangas province, setting off the steam-driven blast that was followed by smaller emissions and accompanied by volcanic earthquakes, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The institute raised the alarm at the 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, to the third level in a five-step warning system, meaning “there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions.” Alert level 5 means a life-threatening eruption that could destroy communities is underway.

Residents of five lakeside villages within a 7-kilometer (4-mile) danger zone from the crater in the Batangas towns of Agoncillo and Laurel were warned of possible hazards, including fast-moving gas and molten materials and “volcanic tsunami” in Taal lake, and began evacuating to safety.

More than 1,200 villagers had moved into emergency shelters by noon, the government’s disaster-response said.

“It was a powerful burst but now the volcano has calmed down,” Laurel Mayor Joan Amo told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that up to 8,000 residents in high-risk villages in her town would need to be moved to safety if the volcanic unrest continues.

A video showed a white column of steam and ash billowing from the low-slung volcano into the blue sky. A villager witnessing the explosion amid the scorching summer heat can be heard in the background saying, “The volcano is exploding again, one blast after another, due to the intense heat.”

Renato Solidum of the government’s volcanology institute said it remains to be seen if Taal would suddenly grow more restive or eventually settle down.

” If we observe that there has been no escalation, or that the trend is down, then the institute might lower its alert level. Solidum explained to The Associated Press.

Authorities temporarily prohibited fishing in the area around the volcano to prevent any ashfalls and also asked for assistance from nearby residents. Because of the potential danger from volcanic explosions and super-hot volcanic gases, aircraft were advised to avoid the volcano.

Taal erupted in January 2020, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and sending clouds of ash to Manila, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the north, where the main airport was temporarily shut down. The volcano showed occasional signs of restlessness since then. The Philippines is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region that is susceptible to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, blew its top north of Manila in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.

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Associated Press journalists Kiko Rosario and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

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