The COVID-19 pandemic was not the only disaster that struck the Philippines last year; it was merely the one that lasted longer. On January 12 of 2020, one of the most scenic natural locations in the country gave a stern reminder that it was also deadly ground. Taal Volcano erupted from that day and lasted until the 22nd of the month, causing ash-fall in surrounding communities of Taal Lake as well as the evacuation of residents from the permanent danger zone of Volcano Island. A year and four days after the start of that eruption, authorities have again spurred people living on Volcano Island to evacuate, as a precautionary measure.
CNN Philippines reports that not long after the first anniversary of the 2020 Taal Volcano eruption, the plucky residents choosing to live on the Taal Volcano Island have been evacuated this past Tuesday, February 16. This was in response to a recent alert from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) regarding renewed volcanic activity, recording 98 tremors on the volcanic isle, lasting 5-12 minutes starting from 8 AM that day. They also detected emissions of white steam plumes rising to five meters high.
On these grounds, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) decided to issue a precautionary evacuation of the communities on Volcano Island, including two sitios that are part of the municipality of Talisay on the northern shore of Taal Lake. They do not think an actual eruption is imminent however, and thus the volcano remains at Alert Level 1, which still entails minor ash-fall and toxic gas emissions in the immediate vicinity. And that means PHIVOLCS is again insisting on not returning to the main island with its permanent danger zone, or at least not to venture to the main crater and the fissure known as Daang Kastila.
The evacuated residents were taken off Volcano Island by means of five boats from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) based on Taal Lake. It is almost certain that they would return there once things calm down, even if their homes were damaged. As Batangas’ Vice Gov. Mark Leviste puts it, many of the Volcano Island residents were actually born and lived most of their lives there, heedless of the permanent danger zone. Responsibility for preventing settlement on Taal Volcano island falls on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) according to Leviste, with the provincial LGU only assisting supplementary.
Residents around Taal Lake have been notified to observe volcanic signs such as ground displacement, while the local Civil Aviation Authorities have passed advisories for aircraft to avoid the airspace above and around Taal Volcano.
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