Taal Volcano could have a prolonged, hazardous eruption that would look like an atomic bomb blast and trigger a volcanic tsunami that would inundate surrounding areas, state volcanologists warned Monday.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Monday said the volcano’s eruption resumed with weak sporadic lava fountaining and hydrovolcanic activity at the main crater that generated steam-laden plumes about two kilometers high.
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New lateral vents were observed to have opened up on the volcano’s northern flank where 500-meter lava fountains emanated.
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said a total evacuation of the island and high-risk areas within the 14-kilometer radius from the Taal main crater must be enforced.
Ma. Antonia Bornas, Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring Division chief, said should a hazardous eruption occur, it could look like an atomic bomb explosion.
The eruption could generate base surges with rings of a turbulent mix of fragments and gas at the base of explosion columns.
“There would be a towering eruption column with a ring on its base,” she said.
“The so-called base surge would cross the lake and could affect the surrounding towns. The base surge is the main hazard,” she added.
She also raised concerns about widespread ashfall, and liquefaction, landslides, and tsunamis.
A volcano can “displace a great volume of water and generate extremely destructive tsunami waves in the immediate source area,” according to the International Tsunami Information Center.
“Waves will impact the coastline,” said Solidum. “Sometimes, if there are boats or structures there, these can be destroyed.”
Solidum also said a series of earthquakes of less than magnitude 4 would prevail in areas near Taal Volcano due to the movement of magma.
Bornas, in a radio interview, said Taal could erupt several times over a span of months or even years, as established in the past.
On Monday morning, the volcano’s crater spewed out a lava fountain.
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Air quality in several parts of Metro Manila reached an “unhealthy” level for persons afflicted with respiratory illnesses amid the ash fall from Taal Volcano.
The cities of Malabon and San Juan’s air quality remained “good,” while that of the cities of Makati, Pasig, and Parañaque were still “moderate or fair.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s Environmental Management Bureau said the air quality in the cities of Las Piñas, Mandaluyong and Taguig reached a level considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups” due to the significant presence of particulates with diameters of 10 microns or less (PM10).
Environment Secretary Benny Antiporda said the rains in the three localities had helped lower the PM10 concentration yesterday afternoon.
Dr. Gerry Bagtasa of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology said the National Capital Region was “safe from the hazards of ash plumes” as of Monday morning since these are already being blown toward southern Japan.
“Should there be an explosion, the winds would push the ash plumes toward the east off to the sea today (Tuesday) until a day tomorrow (Wednesday),” he said.
Major airlines cancelled more flights despite the partial opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) following its temporary closure due to the effects of volcanic activity from Taal.
As of 12 noon Monday, a total of 516 flights—283 arrival and 233 departure—and more than 25,000 passengers were affected by flight cancellations at four NAIA terminals.
Following a joint inspection of the NAIA runways, officials of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announced the partial resumption of operations beginning 10 a.m. for departures, and arrivals by noon Monday.
“This, however, will be subject to terminal capacity of the four NAIA terminals and airline consent,” said MIAA general manager Eddie Monreal in a press briefing.
“Priority will be given to departure flights, so that the NAIA ramps may be cleared of planes parked there since last night. Second priority will be given to regular scheduled flights for today. This arrangement will also give both MIAA and CAAP better capability to allocate slots,” said Monreal.
CAAP Director General Jim Sydiongco cautioned airlines to take into consideration the possible presence of ash clouds as monitored by the Volcanic Advisory of Japan.
Monreal, on the other hand, informed airline operators that there are still traces of ashfall on the NAIA ramps.
Philippine Airlines decided to cancel several domestic flights and delayed the departure of a number of international flights scheduled Monday.
Among those cancelled were flights to and from Bacolod, Cotabato, Dumaguete, Kalibo, Tagbilaran, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro.
International flights affected were those departing to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, Incheon, Fukuoka, Riyadh, Toronto, Dubai, and Sydney.
Cebu Pacific Air (CEB), on the other hand, said passengers scheduled to fly Monday to and from Manila may opt to forego traveling, free of charge.
“Even if your flight has not been cancelled, for those flying to and from Manila, if you can or your feel like not flying today, you can most certainly manage your booking—refund, travel fund or rebook—free of charge,” said CEB spokesperson Charo Logarta-Lagamon.
Ashfall caused President Rodrigo Duterte from flying to Manila Sunday night.
He landed safely at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Monday morning—his aircraft the first to land in the airport, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters.
Batangas declared a state of calamity on Monday after volcanic activity forced the cancellation of classes and sent thousands to evacuation centers.
Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste said the provincial council approved the declaration, which will allow the local government to use emergency funds and freeze prices of basic goods.
With Alert Level 4 over Taal Volcano, Senator Richard Gordon renewed his call to residents in the danger zone to move to safer areas.
“Those who are living in the danger areas should evacuate to safer grounds immediately. Bring animals and livestock to designated evacuation areas. Follow any evacuation orders issued by authorities and put your emergency plan into action. It is also very important to monitor what is happening by listening to a local station on a portable, battery-operated radio or television for updated emergency information and instructions,” he said.
Gordon, also chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), activated PRC assistance teams, deploying staff and volunteers as well as response equipment and vehicles to Batangas and Cavite.
He also placed on alert all PRC chapters in the Calabarzon as well as in the National Capital Region.
To ensure the health and safety of workers as a result of Taal Volcano’s eruption, Senator Joel Villanueva called on the Department of Labor and Employment to issue an advisory on work in the areas of Region 4-A, especially in Batangas.
The senator also encouraged employers and designated safety officers to assess whether there is imminent danger in their workplace and give priority to safeguarding the health and safety of their workers.