Alert level 4 up for Taal Volcano; thousands evacuated from Batangas towns

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

THE Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised the alert status of Taal Volcano from alert level 3 to alert level 4 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 12, 2020.

This means that hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.

Phivolcs noted eruptive activity at Taal Volcano main crater has intensified. Volcanic tremor was recorded continuously since 11 a.m.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) targets to evacuate at least 300,000 individuals due to the ash explosion of Taal Volcano in Batangas Sunday.

NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal said based on the report of the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, 6,346 individuals from the nearby towns of Taal were immediately evacuated for safety.

NDRRMC earlier said that residents in the municipalities of San Nicolas, Balete and Talisay were being evacuated.

Earlier, Phivolcs raised Taal Volcano’s alert status to level 3 after it spewed ash starting around 2:30 p.m.

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said the Taal Volcano spews ashes in phreatic eruption at its main crater around 2 p.m.

At 2:04 p.m. the main crater of Taal Volcano has escalated its eruptive activity, generating an eruption plume one kilometer-high accompanied by volcanic tremor.

Meanwhile, classes in all levels in the towns of Talisay, Balete, Mataas na Kahoy, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Sta. Teresita, San Nicolas, Agoncillo and Laurel, Cavite and Tanuan, Batangas are suspended on Monday, January 13, 2020.

Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno has likewise ordered suspension in all levels of public and private schools on Monday.

The Manila International Airport Authority has announced that all flights to and from Ninoy Aquino International Airport are on hold as of 6:27 p.m. Sunday.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has raised its security alert status over Batangas, especially in the nearby areas of Taal Volcano to ensure the peace and order and the safety of the residents amid the ongoing evacuation.

“PNP has raised its security alert status over Batangas, specifically, Taal Volcano Island and other high risk areas of Agoncillo and Laurel, Batangas, ready to implement evacuation in coordination with local government officials due to possible hazards of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami, as warned by Phivolcs in its bulletin,” said PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac.

“Likewise, local police units around the Taal lake shore are also directed to coordinate with their respective LGUs for immediate action due to possible lakewater disturbances,” he added.

He said the entry of people into the island as well as in the areas of Agoncillo and Laurel were prohibited.

Banac said PNP officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa has ordered the directors of the Police Regional Office Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Mimaropa, Bicol Region and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to immediately activate their respective Disaster Incident Management Task Group, Regional Reactionary Standby Force, and Search and Rescue assets for possible deployment.

Phivolcs has advised those living near Taal Volcano against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall.

Taal, one of the world's smallest volcanoes, is among about two dozen active volcanoes in the country, which lies on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.(CLC/SunStar Philippines)