The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday warned that a stronger eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas is likely due to a new supply of magma rising and a buildup of gases.
Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said the volcano continued to spew smoke caused by gas and water vapor moving up toward its crater.
Residents of 13 barangays near the volcano numbering more than 1,300 people were evacuated, disaster officials said. Health officials urged residents in the area to wear face masks to protect against sulfur dioxide and ash.
“We just hope that there will be no stronger explosions. But the threat is still there since Taal is still emitting more gases,” Solidum said.
The volcano erupted at 3:16 p.m. Thursday, prompting Phivolcs to place it under Alert Level 3 from its Alert Level 2 status.
“This means that there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions,” Phivolcs said in a statement.
Volcanic sulfur dioxide from Taal had already reached the National Capital Region, other parts of Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales.
Taal’s last eruption was in January 2020, when the volcano emitted ash 15 kilometers high and spewed red hot lava that destroyed some residential areas, killed livestock and sent 35,000 people fleeing to evacuation sites.
In the past 24-hour period, the Taal Volcano Network recorded 29 volcanic earthquakes, including one explosion-type quake, 22 low-frequency volcanic quakes and two volcanic tremor events having durations of three minutes, and low-level background tremors that has persisted since April 8.
Solidum advised the public to stay away from the entire Taal Volcano Island, a permanent danger zone, and that the high-risk barangays of Agoncillo and Laurel must be prohibited due to the hazards of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami should strong eruptions occur.
“All activities on Taal Lake should not be allowed at this time. Communities around the Taal Lake shores are advised to remain vigilant, take precautionary measures against possible airborne ash and calmly prepare for possible evacuation should unrest intensify,” Phivolcs said.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) deputy spokesman Mark Cashean Timbal said the evacuees are housed in 11 evacuation centers or sheltering with relatives.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Friday ordered the deployment of personnel and vehicles to help in the evacuation.
Police commanders were told to coordinate with the local disaster risk reduction and management councils to assist in assessing the needs of residents and ensure their health and safety in evacuation centers.
Phivolcs had recommended complete evacuation of some parts of Agoncillo and Laurel as Alert Level 3 (magmatic unrest) was raised Thursday afternoon.
The Palace on Friday assured the public that it is closely monitoring the situation in Taal, adding that concerned government agencies are already prepared to extend assistance to displaced residents.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Calabarzon is already on heightened alert with food packs worth P1.4 million and non-food items worth P11 million already on standby.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Philippine Coast Guard already deployed personnel to help in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” the Palace official said.
“We ask residents in the areas surrounding the volcano lake to remain vigilant, take precautionary measures, and cooperate with their local authorities should the need for evacuation arise,” Roque said..
Roque said local government units (LGUs) are already leading efforts on the ground through their Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices and other government agencies.
President Duterte on Thursday directed all concerned government agencies to be on alert.
Military personnel, vehicles and equipment have been deployed to assist in several Batangas towns affected by Taal Volcano’s unrest, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.
AFP spokesperson Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said two military trucks coming from the 2nd Infantry Division and a towable fuel and forward were deployed to the Philippine Air Force’s 730th Combat Group in Nasugbu town.
“We have placed more personnel on alert and ready for immediate deployment. Communications equipment were also deployed,” Arevalo said.
Other units of the Southern Luzon Command are on standby and ready to assist anytime, he added.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday has advised people living near the Taal Volcano to wear proper protective equipment against the sulfur dioxide being emitted by the volcano.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, during an online briefing, said N95 masks, goggles and other eye protection equipment should be worn especially by people who have asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
“The sulfur dioxide that the volcano is spewing or if the volcano would emit ash would be harmful to anyone who would inhale it,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire also said those living near Taal volcano should stay indoors while the volcano continues to spew thick smog.
“We are reminding everyone living near the volcano… to be careful and wait for the instructions of the LGU,” she said. “Keep doors and windows closed while there is still threat from the volcano.”
The DOH in Calabarzon and other government agencies went on full alert after the alert status in Taal was raised to Level 3.
OIC-Regional Director Paula Paz M. Sydiongco said all health facilities in Batangas province are ready to provide emergency care in case of mass casualties or emergencies.
“We will be providing N95 masks and jerry cans to residents in high-risk areas in preparation for evacuation,” Sydiongco said.
She said the Batangas DOH-Provincial Health Team Office is now mobilized and prepared to provide preventive health measures that may be caused by volcanic eruption including burns, suffocation, skin diseases, and respiratory problems.
The National Electrification Administration, meanwhile, directed electric cooperatives in Luzon, especially those in Region IV-A, to make the necessary preparations following the eruption of Taal Volcano.
The NEA through its Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (DRRMD) issued an advisory on Thursday, July 1, calling on all Luzon electric cooperatives to take the appropriate contingency measures to mitigate the possible impact on their power distribution systems.