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Thousands of residents have been evacuating their homes near the Filipino capital, Manila, after the country’s second most active volcano started to erupt on Sunday, January 12.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), at least 6,000 people were already removed from the danger zone by Sunday evening. Officials started moving residents after a 15-km (9-mile) ash plume shot into the sky and the earth shook with tremors.
In response, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered schools and government buildings to close in Manila and neighboring towns. Manila’s airport has also suspended activity.
The Philippines lies within the ‘Ring of Fire’, which means its location near moving tectonic plates below the Earth’s crust makes it susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic activity. It is estimated that 75% of Earth’s volcanoes lie within the Ring of Fire.
Warnings of extreme conditions
So far, there have been no reports of injuries or damage linked to the eruption. With that said, the Philippines is still bracing for the worst.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has classified the threat posed by Taal a four out of five, with five being the most destructive. This indicates that a hazardous eruption is imminent. Furthermore, the institute has warned that a larger eruption could create a “volcanic tsunami.”
This is partly due to the location of the volcano. Taal is situated in the middle of a volcanic lake. According to Renato Solidum, head of Phivolcs, this helps make Taal a distinct threat. “Taal is a very small volcano but a dangerous volcano. It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano,” he said.
History of deadly eruptions
Despite recording volcanic activity in 2011, 2012 and 2014, Taal’s last eruption occurred in 1977. Its most deadly eruption took place in 1911, when the main crater violently burst, spewing rocks and rock fragments into the sky. Some 1,500 people were reported killed in that blast.
The volcano has also been known for its prolonged eruptions. According to historical reports, lava and volcanic gas were continuously emitted from Taal for nearly eight months in 1754. Officials recently claiming that the next eruption could take place “within hours to days” have now been proven right.