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Taal volcano erupts; no casualties reported

13 January 2020

The initial stage of Taal's eruption is caught on camera by Mary Ann Reyes-Mandap, from the Tagaytay Highlands Resort and Residences, before she and her family were advised to leave for safety. 

The long-simmering Taal Volcano has begun spewing ash and rocks up to 14  kilometers high on Jan 12, and blanketing neighboring towns in Batangas with a thick layer of sand, before briefly spouting lava overnight.

Philippine authorities have ordered the evacuation of around half a million people in surrounding areas, and warned of a possible explosive eruption in the next few days.

The unexpected eruption was accompanied by more than 140 volcanic earthquakes that rocked Batangas and Laguna towns at magnitude 2 to 5. “Such intense seismic activity probably signifies continuous magma intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity, “the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported at 3pm  on Jan. 13.
No casualties have been reported. Phivolcs officials attributed this to the close monitoring of Taal since March last year, when increased activity was noted and officials of the three barangays on the volcano island were advised to be alert for warnings.

A spectacular shot of the eruption taken by lawyer Dante Pamintuan from his house in Sta Rosa, Laguna

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So when steam started exploding out of the main crater at about 11 am on Jan 12, which resulted after ground water fed by the lake within the island’s main crater touched the upwelling magma underground, the residents were evacuating within an hour, Phivolcs said.
The initial eruption resulted in thick ash clouds that crept north, causing ashfall that made roads hazardous and caused power interruptions in Batangas, Laguna and Cavite.
Phivolcs reported heavy ashfall in Tanauan, Batangas; Escala, Tagaytay; Sta. Rosa, Laguna; Dasmarinas, Bacon, and Silang, Cavite; Malolos, San Jose del Monte, and Meycauayan, Bulacan; Antipolo, Rizal, Quezon City and the cities of  Muntinlupa, Las Pinas,  Marikina,  Paranaque, Pasig,  Mandaluyong, San Juan, Manila, Makati and Taguig City in Meto Manila.

Thick ash from the erupting volcano covers the ground in Agoncillo, Batangas (photo from DWC)

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The Manila International Airport was closed when a three-inch layer of ash and sand coated its runways and visibility was reduced to zero. Flights resumed the next morning after cleanup operations. Among those unable to fly in on the first day of eruption was President Rodrigo Duterte; he landed in Manila the next morning.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center, said more than 100 military vehicles from the Army, Navy ad the Marines have been sent to evacuate affected residents and clear the roads of volcanic matter. At least 10,000 people have been moved so far with the help of local government units, he added.
Aside from doing relief operations, government agencies have been warning the population to stay indoors and use protective gear to avoid inhaling the smoggy air. The Department of Labor and Employment advised employers to be lenient with employees who are absent because of the ashfall.
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While the ashfall has been reduced, Phivolcs maintained its Alert Level 4 which means “intense unrest, continuing seismic swarms, including harmonic tremor and/or ‘low frequency earthquakes’ which are usually felt, profuse steaming along existing and perhaps new vents and fissures.”  
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