MANILA: Thousands of people are being evacuated from a southwestern province in the Philippines after a volcano began spewing ash plumes as high as 100 meters.
As of Sunday afternoon Taal Volcano had escalated its eruptive activity generating an eruption plume one-kilometer high accompanied by volcanic tremor and felt earthquakes in Volcano Island and villages of Agoncillo, Batangas, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), which raised the alert level to three, indicating a high level of volcanic unrest.
The maximum alert level is five, which is a hazardous eruption in progress.
The institute said ashfall was being showered on the southwest sector of Taal and that the volcano had shown increased steaming activity in at least five spots inside the main crater.
The largest activity was a steam-driven eruption that generated a plume approximately 100 meters high.
The institute recommended that residents and tourists should be evacuated from Taal Island, Agoncillo and Laurel due to the possible threat of searing hot flows of ash, gas and rocks that whoosh down the sides of a volcano during an eruption, and a volcanic tsunami.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Mark Timbal said residents from nine towns near the volcano were being moved to safer grounds.
Parts of the province are already experiencing a power outage, but no casualties have been reported so far.
Taal is the second most active volcano in the Philippines, with 33 recorded eruptions. The last major eruption happened on Oct. 3, 1977.
It is also considered one of the most dangerous in the world. In 1911, Taal caused one of the worst volcano disasters in history when it erupted and killed 1,334 people.
Phivolcs Officer-in-charge Renato Soldium said that Taal was inside a bigger crater or basin or bowl, which is why people would have to evacuate horizontally and away from the crater.
“There is water that would be hindering the rapid evacuation and that is why people need to get out of the island as soon as possible,” he added.
Communities around the shore of Taal Lake have been advised to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lakewater disturbances related to the ongoing seismic unrest.
Phivolcs said that the volcano had maintained a moderate to high level of seismic activity since last March. Some of these earthquakes were felt with intensity levels ranging from one, scarcely perceptible, to three, weak shaking, in the surrounding villages.
These earthquakes were often accompanied by rumbling sounds, it added. Three earthquakes were recorded on Sunday and a seismic swarm was ongoing.
Phivolcs said that raising the alert level from two to three meant there was a “magmatic intrusion” that was likely driving the current activity. Alert level three also meant that eruption was possible within weeks.
It reminded the public that the entire island was a permanent danger zone and that entry onto the island, as well as nearby villages, was prohibited.