Threat of volcano eruption in the Philippines forces thousands to evacuate

A small volcano near the Philippine capital belched a dark plume of steam and ash into the sky in a brief explosion Thursday, prompting officials to start evacuating thousands of villagers from high-risk areas. The danger level of the Taal Volcano is rising and further eruptions are possible. See more details here.

Threat of volcano eruption in the Philippines forces thousands to evacuate

Taal erupted in January 2020, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and sending clouds of ash to Manila, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the north, where the main airport was temporarily shut down.

Despite the name, the Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines, is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes at only 1,020 feet tall, reports The Associated Press. Taal’s small size does not make it harmless, though, especially since it is located only 45 miles south of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

  • Last January, Taal erupted, sending a column of ash and steam 10 miles into the sky, shutting down the Manila airport and displacing hundreds of thousands of people, reports NBC News.
  • Thursday, the volcano spewed gas and steam about 0.62 miles into the sky, says Al Jazeera.

Local officials have begun mass evacuations of vulnerable communities, reports NBC News. The current situation remains uncertain and could potentially be more hazardous than last year’s eruption.

What’s happening with the Taal Volcano?

The recent gas and steam eruption of the Taal Volcano is referred to as a phreatomagmatic eruption. Water on the surface of the volcano’s main crater came into contact with magma inside the crater, resulting in gas and vapor, says NBC News.

  • “Phreatomagmatic is more dangerous because there’s already an interaction with magma,” according to Maria Antonia Bormas, chief of the Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division, per NBC News.

At least three steam-driven emissions occurred Thursday, says the AP.

  • The volcano was upgraded to a level three danger. This means that “magma is near or at the surface, and activity could lead to a hazardous eruption in weeks,” per the AP.
  • Level five is the highest danger level, meaning that a life-threatening explosion is underway, the AP reports.

So far, no volcanic earthquakes or volcanic sulfur have been detected, says the AP.

How many people are being forced to evacuate?

Five high-risk villages near the Taal Volcano were evacuated. About 15,000 people are evacuating the area, taking their belongings in cars or on motorcycles, says NBC News.

  • Evacuation centers have been set up and prepared with food and face masks, says the AP.
  • With rising COVID-19 outbreaks, there are rising concerns that crowded evacuation centers will lead to further spread of the virus, the AP reports.

Will the volcano erupt again?

“We’re just raising the alert because something is happening and it can lead to a higher activity,” said Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, per Al Jazeera.

  • “It’s just one explosive event; it’s too early to tell,” Solidum said, per the AP.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, says the AP.

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