Philippines: Volcano spews lava as eruption risk looms | News | DW | 13.01.2020
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Philippines: Volcano spews lava as eruption risk looms

Red-hot lava has started gushing from a volcano near the Philippine capital of Manila. Authorities have made plans to evacuate hundreds of thousands, warning of a potential "hazardous explosive eruption" still to come.

The Taal Volcano in the Philippines began spewing lava on Monday as authorities warned of "further eruptive activity" to come.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to be affected. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recorded at least 144 volcanic earthquakes since Sunday caused by the volcano in Batangas province, 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the Philippine capital, Manila.

On Monday, a man died in Calamba City, just south of Manila, after a truck he was driving overturned in zero-visibility conditions caused by heavy volcanic ash, said police. Three passengers were also injured in the accident, which happened after the driver lost control of the car while negotiating a sharp curve. 

DW's Ana Santos in nearby Tagaytay said the clouds of ash had turned from "white to gray to black. The volcano is like a pressure cooker that can explode at any time."


Tens of thousands forced to evacuate

More than 24,000 people were evacuated from the volcanic island and the area immediately around it. Face masks to protect people from the ash sold out across the Manila after people were advised to wear them while going outside.

Operations at the city's international airport partially resumed, authorities said, after over 500 flights were cancelled on Sunday due to poor visibility caused by the ash.

Officials have estimated that at least 200,000 residents could be forced to flee if the situation worsens, and said it was possible there could still be a "hazardous explosive eruption" within hours or days.

At least 8,000 people were also evacuated from high-risk areas south of Manila on Sunday as the volcano began to send clouds of ash and stone into the sky. Most residents of small villages and farms went to special evacuation centers.  

"We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows," Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio. "We're trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them."

Map of Taal Volcano

How has the Philippines prepared for the possible eruption?

Ash has covered much of the surrounding area and has reportedly reached as far as the province of Cavite, directly south of Manila.

The ash plume reached a height of 10 to 15 kilometers (6 to 9 miles) into the atmosphere on Sunday evening, and aviation officials have ordered a suspension of all flights in and out of Manila's international airport. Fallen ash also covered the runways.

Read more: Ring of Fire: Five facts about the most earthquake prone region in the world

"Do whatever is necessary in the interest of public safety," Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade told aviation officials.

Regional government officials cancelled school classes for Monday and warned residents to stay indoors.

PHIVOLCS warned citizens and tourists to be alert to the possibility of a volcanic tsunami and volcanic matter that could hit areas around Taal Lake. The area is considered a popular weekend getaway.

What threat does the volcano pose?

Taal is one of the country's most active volcanoes, although it has not had a major eruption since 1977. A catastrophic eruption in 1911 claimed 1,335 lives.

Read more: Volcanic eruptions can cool the planet

"Taal is a very small volcano, but a dangerous volcano," Renato Solidum, head of PHIVOLCS, told Reuters news agency. "It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano."

The volcano is one of around two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries. A typhoon over Christmas caused widespread damage and several deaths.

Watch video 00:49

Philippines volcano prompts mass evacuation

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rs, lc, ed/ng (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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