People watch as the Taal volcano spews ash and smoke during an eruption in Tagaytay, Cavite province south of Manila, Philippines on Sunday. Jan. 12, 2020. A tiny volcano near the Philippine capital that draws many tourists for its picturesque setting in a lake belched steam, ash and rocks in a huge plume Sunday, prompting thousands of residents to flee and officials to temporarily suspend flights. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Volcano erupts near Manila; villagers flee, airports shut

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage

A small volcano near the Philippine capital that draws tourists for its picturesque setting in a lake erupted with a massive plume of ash and steam Sunday, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and forcing Manila’s international airport to shut down.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano in Batangas province south of Manila blasted steam, ash and pebbles up to 10 to 15 kilometres (6 to 9 miles) into the sky in a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year.

The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal three notches on Sunday to level 4, indicating “a hazardous eruption may happen within hours or days,” said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcanology institute. Level 5, the highest, means a hazardous eruption is underway and could affect a larger area.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but authorities scrambled to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, and tens of thousands more from nearby coastal towns, officials said. About 300,000 people were targeted to be moved to safety in Batangas overnight and in the next few days.

“We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now ahead of a possible hazardous eruption,” Solidum said.

Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife who was among thousands of residents who fled from Batangas province’s Laurel town, said she hitched a ride to safety from her home with her two children, including a 4-month-old baby, after Taal erupted and the ground shook mildly.

“We hurriedly evacuated when the air turned muddy because of the ashfall and it started to smell like gunpowder,” Bautista said by phone.

Fallen ash covered the runways at Manila’s international airport Sunday night. All departing and arriving international and domestic flights were suspended “due to volcanic ash in the vicinity of the airport” and nearby air routes, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

Taal lies around 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of Manila.

Aviation officials also ordered the closure of Clark International Airport north of the capital after ash fell in the area. Authorities said they were considering diverting flights to unaffected airports outside Manila.

Norwegian Tonny Roger, who had flown to the Philippines to visit his wife, said he wasn’t happy that his flight back to Norway was cancelled, but he thought of the bright side.

“Well, I can see her more. I will go back to her now,” he told The Associated Press at Manila’s international airport.

The volcanology institute reminded the public that the small island where the volcano lies is a “permanent danger zone,” although fishing villages have existed there for years. It asked nearby coastal communities “to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest.”

Heavy to light ashfall was reported in towns and cities several kilometres (miles) from the volcano, and officials advised residents to stay indoors and don masks and goggles for safety. Motorists were hampered by poor visibility, which was worsened by rainy weather.

Hotels, shopping malls and restaurants line an upland road along a ridge overlooking the lake and the volcano in Tagaytay city, a key tourism area that could be affected by a major eruption.

Authorities recorded a swarm of earthquakes, some of them felt with rumbling sounds, and a slight inflation of portions of the 1,020-foot (311-meter) volcano ahead of Sunday’s steam-driven explosion, officials said.

Classes in a wide swath of towns and cities were suspended Monday, including in Manila, to avoid health risks posed by the ashfall.

One of the world’s smallest volcanoes, Taal is among two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

About 20 typhoons and other major storms each year also lash the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific and the South China Sea, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

___

Gomez reported from Manila. Associated Press journalists Francisco Rosario and Bogie Calupitan contributed to this report.

Aaron Favila And Jim Gomez, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cranbrook and Kimberley Councils support initiative calling on BC Gov. to cover prescription contraception

On September 14, 2020, Cranbrook City Council unanimously passed a motion calling… Continue reading

Former MP Wayne Stetski running for BC NDP in Kootenay East

Former federal MP Wayne Stetski is running as the BC NDP candidate… Continue reading

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Local wakesurfers hit the podium, will compete at world championship

Local wakesurfers hit the podium during a national competition at Lake Okanagan… Continue reading

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

B.C. marriage annulled because husband was unable to have sex with wife

Husband did not disclose any sexual health concerns to his wife prior to marriage

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted with Black Lives Matter slogan

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

B.C. VOTES 2020: B.C. Liberals vow to eliminate sales tax for a year

From 7% to zero, then back in at 3% to stimulate economy

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Most Read