Taal eruption grips Manila

Source:AFP Published: 2020/1/13 17:43:40

Volcanic activity grounded 240 flights as 10,000 evacuated

A youth living at the foot of Taal volcano rides an outrigger canoe while the volcano spews ash as seen from Tanauan town in Batangas province, south of Manila, on Monday. Photo: AFP

Lava and broad columns of ash illuminated by lightning shot from an erupting volcano south of the Philippine capital on Monday, grounding hundreds of flights amid an alert for a possible "explosive eruption."

Fine grit coated homes and streets across the region surrounding the Taal volcano, which burst to life on Sunday accompanied by a series of earthquakes, forcing at least 10,000 people to seek refuge in evacuation centers.

"You could not sleep anymore, because every time you closed your eyes the house would shake," restaurant owner Lia Monteverde told AFP, saying the quakes came minutes apart.

"All of us didn't sleep at all. We just prepared to leave." 

Taal sits in a picturesque lake and is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation where earthquakes and eruptions are a frightening and destructive part of life.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth's surface.

Schools in the region around Taal, government offices and the Philippine Stock Exchange were closed as a precaution on Monday.  

Dust masks sold out in stores as authorities warned locals that the ash could cause respiratory problems particularly in the very young and those with pre-existing lung conditions.

Limited flight operations resumed mid-Monday at Manila's main international airport, nearly a day after authorities halted them due to the safety risk volcanic ash poses to planes.

However, travelers booked on over 240 cancelled flights still faced delays at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The eruption began with an explosion of superheated steam and rock, but by early Monday "fountains" of lava had been spotted on Taal, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

Authorities raised the alert level to its second-highest level on Sunday, saying an "explosive eruption" could happen in "hours to days."

Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told AFP the lava was evidence of fresh movement in the volcano, but said it was unclear if Taal would "sustain its activity."

Government seismologists recorded magma moving towards the crater of Taal, which is located 65 kilometers south of Manila.

Apart from the ash, some particles up to 6.4 centimeters in diameter had reportedly fallen in areas around the lake, Phivolcs said.

Taal's last eruption was in 1977, Solidum said.

Two years ago, Mount Mayon displaced tens of thousands of people after spewing millions of tons of ash, rocks and lava in the central Bicol region.

The most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.



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