Editorial: Get the picture

DESPITE the steady feed of media images, it may be hard for some of us, well entrenched in routine away from Batangas province, to fully appreciate the magnitude of the crisis.

But this was what the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported yesterday: “The intense seismic activity coupled with fissuring on the caldera region likely signifies continuous magma intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity.”

There are indications that the volcano is far from over with its violent eruptions. The Phivolcs pegged the warning at Alert Level 4, which means more eruptions are coming within hours to days. That the Taal volcano is right in the middle of a body of water makes it more dangerous, its explosions more violent, says experts. The interaction of magma and water makes any eruption far more dangerous.

The Philippine Seismic Network, reports say, recorded 49 volcanic earthquakes yesterday, seven felt with intensities ranging from Intensity II to IV in Tagaytay City.

Phivolcs characterizes Taal’s eruption as continuously “magmatic and hydrovolcanic,” its “lava fountains generated 800-meter tall dark gray steam-laden plumes that drifted to the general southwest.”

With damp ash settling heavily on houses and agricultural lands, its toll on the economy is largely devastating. Initial reports from the Department of Agriculture pegged the damage to agriculture at P74.55 million; with coffee bearing the brunt, accounting for 99 percent of the total damage.

Talk about health. It should be noted that volcanic ash falls are not your ordinary ash from burnt materials. They contain microscopic shards of glass, its dimensions smaller than a strand of hair, which means they could easily be in the air you breathe in. The series of Taal eruptions can potentially create ash plumes traveling around a hundred kilometers. Within that perimeter around the volcano are close to 25 million residents, reports say.

Each volcanic eruption is a theme by itself, says experts, and therefore disaster managers may not have a fixed model from preceding events. While we may have the lessons from Mt. Pinatubo, Taal certainly poses unique challenges.

While we pray and hope that the extent of damage won’t proceed to unimaginable proportions, we also expect for the worst, especially that scientists have pointed out more red signs.

What we, who are out of harm’s way, can do is pray and start practical efforts to help our brothers and sisters in affected areas.