Phivolcs: Alert level 4 remains despite a quieter Taal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — State volcanologists said they would observe if the downtrend in Taal's activity continues for at least two weeks before deciding whether to lower the alert level over the volcano.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Alert Level 4 remains, indicating a potential hazardous eruption, despite Taal's reduced activity on Thursday.

Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division Chief Mariton Bornas said they are now studying the data for the sake of evacuees who are uncomfortable leaving their homes and staying in evacuation centers.

"Kung maging matagal ang lull, pwedeng babaan ang alert level," she said in a briefing.

[Translation: If the lull lasts, we can lower the alert level.]

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said in a press briefing later in the day that volcanologists would usually observe for two weeks to see if there is a downtrend in volcanic activity before deciding whether to lower the alert level.

Bornas said it's typical for a volcano to enter a lull during a prolonged eruption, adding it doesn't mean a hazardous eruption is no longer possible. Alert Level 4 remains pending Phivolcs' decision, she added.

"Hindi namin sinasabi na ibababa na … May nasusukat pa tayong mataas na sulfur dioxide, mayroon pa tayong earthquakes, may fissures tayo na na-develop at namaga 'yung bulkan. So nandiyan pa rin 'yung potential for an explosive eruption," she said.

[Translation: We're not saying that we will lower it ... We're still measuring high levels of sulfur dioxide, we're still having earthquakes, new fissures are developing and the volcano is swollen. So the potential for an explosive eruption is still there.]

Despite the volcano's calmer exterior, the Phivolcs official warned there is potentially dangerous activity underneath Taal. She said there are fewer volcanic earthquakes but its intensities remain strong. The volcano also continues to emit high amounts of sulfur dioxide. These signal there is movement of magma or molten rocks underneath.

Taal is the country's second most active volcano and one of the smallest in the world.

Bornas advised residents to avoid going back to their homes located in the "danger zone" or within a 14-kilometer radius of the volcano’s crater as the threat of a hazardous eruption remains.

"Kami po ang magsasabi kung maaari na pong ibaba ang ating guard. Status quo muna dahil ganoon pa rin ang kalagayan," she said.

Authorities on Thursday gave residents of Talisay, Batangas a few hours to check their homes and valuables amid an order to evacuate the town. Talisay is a low lying area, making it vulnerable to dangerous volcanic explosion.