A small volcano near the Philippines capital Manila has erupted, leading authorities to raise the alert level and urge thousands of nearby residents to evacuate from villages. The 311-metre Taal volcano, located in a scenic lake in Batangas province, belched a white plume of steam and ash 1.5 kilometres into the sky after a brief explosion on Saturday. Magma came into contact with water in the main crater, setting off the steam-driven blast, along with volcanic earthquakes, as declared by Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
The institute raised the alarm at Taal to the third level in a five-step warning system, meaning “there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions”. Residents of five lakeside villages in the Batangas towns of Agoncillo and Laurel were warned to evacuate the area in the light of the danger of gas and molten materials, as well the potential for a “volcanic tsunami” in the volcanic lake. Laurel Mayor Joan Amo said about 8,000 residents in her town were ready to move in case the volcanic unrest escalates. “It was a powerful burst but now the volcano has calmed down,” she said. Renato Solidum of the volcanology institute said he was not sure about the likelihood of more activity at the volcano, or if it would settle down. He said if there was no further significant activity or escalation after 2 weeks of close attention the institute may begin to lower the alert level.
Previously, Taal erupted in January 2020, causing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate and sending clouds of ash to Manila, about 65 kilometres to the north, where the main airport was temporarily shut down. Since then, the volcano has occasionally shown signs of restiveness. The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a region accustomed to many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, near Manila, blew its top in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, resulting in the death of hundreds of people.