Tagaytay, Philippines — a little volcano south of the Philippine capital that pulls many tourists for its picturesque setting during a lake erupted with a huge plume of ash and steam Sunday, prompting thousands of individuals to escape and officials to shut Manila’s international airport.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano in Batangas province south of Manila blasted steam, ash, and pebbles up to six to 9 miles into the sky during a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year.
The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal three notches on Sunday to level 4, indicating “a hazardous eruption may happen within hours or days,” said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcanology institute. Level 5, the very best, means a hazardous eruption is underway and will affect a bigger area.
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There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but authorities scrambled to evacuate quite 6,000 villagers from an island within the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, and tens of thousands more from nearby coastal towns, officials said. About 300,000 people were targeted to be moved to safety in Batangas overnight and within the next few days.
“We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now before a possible hazardous eruption,” Solidum said.
Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife who was among thousands of residents who fled from Batangas province’s Laurel town, said she hitched a ride to safety from her home together with her two children, including a 4-month-old baby after Taal erupted and therefore the ground shook mildly.
“We hurriedly evacuated when the air turned muddy due to the ashfall and it began to smell like gunpowder,” Bautista said by phone.
Fallen ash covered the runways at Manila’s international airport Sunday night. All departing and arriving international and domestic flights were suspended “due to volcanic ash within the vicinity of the airport” and nearby air routes, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.
Taal lies quite 37 miles south of Manila.
Norwegian Tonny Roger, who had flown to the Philippines to go to his wife, said he wasn’t happy that his flight back to Norway was canceled, but he thought of the brilliant side. “Well, I can see her more. I will be able to return to her now,” he told The Associated Press at the airport.
Authorities said they were considering diverting flights to unaffected airports outside Manila.
The volcanology institute reminded the general public that the tiny island where the volcano lies may be a “permanent zone,” although fishing villages have existed there for years. It asked nearby coastal communities “to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances associated with the continued unrest.”
Heavy to light ashfall was reported in towns and cities several miles from the volcano, and officials advised residents to remain indoors and don masks and goggles for safety. Motorists were hampered by poor visibility, which was worsened by rainy weather.
Hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants line an upland road along a ridge overlooking the lake and therefore the volcano in Tagaytay city, a key tourism area that would be suffering from a serious eruption.
LOOK: The 10-15 kilometer steam-laden tephra column billows from Taal Volcano in Batangas, Sunday afternoon, January 12. Phivolcs raised the eruption to Alert Level 4 at 7:30 pm, warning that a 'hazardous' eruption is 'imminent'. 📷 Jerome Pedro
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Authorities recorded a swarm of earthquakes, a number of them felt with rumbling sounds, and small inflation of portions of the 1,020-foot volcano before Sunday’s steam-driven explosion, officials said.
Classes during a wide swath of towns and cities were suspended Monday, including in Manila, to avoid health risks posed by the ashfall.
One of the world’s smallest volcanoes, Taal is among twenty-four active volcanoes within the Philippines, which lies along the so-called Pacific “Ring of fireside,” a seismically active region that’s susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
About 20 typhoons and other major storms annually also lash the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific and therefore the South China Sea, making it one among the world’s most disaster-prone countries.