The Philippine seismological agency on Thursday urged the evacuation of thousands of people in the vicinity of a volcano south of Manila after it erupted.
The Taal volcano, located in the middle of a picturesque lake, has been expelling sulfur dioxide for days, creating a thick mist over the capital and several surrounding provinces, which led to health warnings from the authorities.
The last eruption dates back to January 2020. At that time, the volcano expelled ash that reached 15 km in height and the lava it spewed devastated a large multitude of homes, forcing more than 135,000 people to move to shelters.
The Taal came to life on Thursday afternoon, with a fleeting dark phreatomagmatic plume that rose up to nearly a kilometer, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a statement.
It was then followed by four short phreatomagmatic bursts that produced plumes 200 meters high over the main crater lake, the institute said in a later update.
The agency warned of possible successive eruptions and increased the alert level from two to three, recommending the evacuation of the island and the towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, located in a “high risk” area.
“We are raising the alert because something is happening and this could lead to increased activity,” said the agency’s director, Renato Solidum.
Mariton Bornas, who heads the agency’s section dedicated to monitoring volcanoes, said they don’t expect the same thing to happen as in last year’s eruption.
A spokesman for the national disaster management agency said his local agents called an emergency meeting with government officials and emergency services. According to him, some 15,000 people live in the most vulnerable areas.
Agoncillo Disaster Officer Junfrance De Villa said preparations were being made in the event of an evacuation of the lakeside community. “Some have already taken refuge with relatives,” De Villa said.
The Philippine Red Cross tweeted late Thursday that its volunteers led some residents of an area of Laurel to an elementary school that is being used as a shelter.
Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in the country, regularly hit by eruptions and earthquakes, being located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of intense seismic activity.