The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has recommended complete evacuation in some parts of Agoncillo and Laurel, Batangas, as Alert Level 3 (magmatic unrest) for Taal Volcano was raised Thursday afternoon.
And while no forced evacuations have been imposed, some residents living in towns near the volcano have started leaving on their own.
In a press briefing, Phivolcs chief of volcano monitoring division Maria Antonia Bornas said evacuation was recommended in the Taal Volcano Island (TVI), Taal Lake, Agoncillo, Batangas (Banyaga, Bilibinwang), and Laurel, Batangas (Gulod, Boso-Boso, Lakeshore Bugaan East).
Evacuation was recommended due to possible hazards of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami.
Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said the province is ready for the evacuation, and that he already sent transportation for the people.
Phivolcs said at 3:16 p.m. of Thursday, the Taal Volcano main crater generated a short-lived dark phreatomagmatic plume 1 kilometer-high with no accompanying volcanic earthquake.
“This means that there is magmatic intrusion at the Main Crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions,” it said in an advisory.
The agency likewise said entry into the TVI, as well as high-risk barangays of Agoncillo and Laurel, is prohibited.
Communities around the Taal Lake shore are advised to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lakewater disturbances related to the unrest.
Bornas said they anticipated the unrest because of the high sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission observed on June 28 and 29. On June 28, the SO2 emission averaged 14,326 tonnes/day – the highest ever recorded in Taal.
“Because of the high SO2 emission, a smog was seen over the Taal Caldera,” she said.
Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum Jr. said if the current unrest continues, they may raise the alert level to 4.
He, however, noted, that the level can also be downgraded should the volcanic activities subside.
Bornas said if the volcanic activity would continuously decrease within two weeks, they could lower the Taal Volcano’s alert status.
Meanwhile, Solidum advised residents nearby to stay indoors and protect themselves against the ill effects of SO2.
“There is a continuous upwelling of gas, so Taal (Volcano) could generate SO2,” he said.
He, meanwhile, allayed fears that the SO2 emission could reach Tagaytay, since the SO2’s direction is southwest.
Prolonged exposure to SO2 may cause sore throat and difficulty in breathing, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The DOH advises residents to avoid unnecessary going out of homes; and to close the doors and windows.
The use of face mask is also recommended by the DOH.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMMC), meanwhile, said it is closely monitoring the situation at the Taal Volcano.
“The NDRRMC is closely monitoring the situation in coordination with all relevant agencies. Currently, the RDRRMC Calabarzon has called an emergency meeting with the Cavite and Batangas LGUs/PDRRMOs as well as with the uniformed services for the coordination of actions (including evacuation),” NDRRMC deputy spokesperson Mark Cashean Timbal said.
He added that a contingency plan for this type of emergency is in place which guides the actions of the country’s disaster managers.