Sunday, January 12, was the beginning of a bad dream for residents of the province of Batangas, as well as the rest of Region IV-B Calabarzon and parts of Metro Manila itself. Taal Volcano, a complex volcano system in the middle of Taal Lake and also the second most-active volcanic system in the Philippines, began to spew steam and ash in a powerful eruption that has not been seen in decades. The surrounding areas have been blanketed in ash, which has also caused health hazards and even shut down flights in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. But the crisis in Taal has only just begun.
CNN Philippines reports that the eruption phase of Taal Volcano that began at the start of this week is not yet on the verge of calming down. Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said in a statement this Tuesday, January 14, that the ash eruptions continue unabated and are even causing volcanic earthquakes around Taal Lake. Thus far, the Alert Level 4 (intense unrest) status raised by the national seismology agency remains in effect in anticipation of a large explosive eruption at any time. Already Taal has experienced a “Strombolian” eruption complete with lava fountain early Monday, January 13.
PHIVOLCS so far has recorded some 212 individual seismological earthquakes in the Taal area since Sunday, with 81 of them being strong enough to be felt without instrumentation, and reaching up to Intensity 5 which indicates “strong shaking.” Meanwhile, the ashes and steam being spewed by the volcano into the atmosphere has created its own weather conditions over Calabarzon. A report from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) says the steam has generated clouds capable of causing rains with plumes to pour.
According to PAGASA forecaster Aldczar Aurelio, the rains resulting from Taal Volcano’s steam eruption will further compound the low-visibility conditions being brought about by the ongoing ash-fall. It will be enough to wash away ash deposits from affected areas that have been covered with volcanic matter, but they might also lead to mudflows as the ash-fall deposits are carried off. So far, only Batangas province has declared a state of calamity in the wake of the Taal eruption. But Cavite, Laguna, and Metro Manila have already been visited by volcanic ash carried by the wind. PHIVOLCS is reckoning that the Taal Volcano eruption period could last for as short as a few days to as long as a few months.
Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News