Phivolcs: Powerful Taal eruption still possible as magma keeps rising

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Taal Volcano on January 18

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — The exterior activity of Taal Volcano continues to simmer down, but a hazardous explosion is still possible, especially with the amount of magma moving closer to the surface, state volcanologists said on Tuesday.

Phivolcs' Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division Chief Mariton Bornas said there were only five recorded volcanic earthquakes in the past 24 hours that are generally weaker in magnitude. Despite the decreasing tremors caused by the earthquakes, she said it's not yet time to be complacent.

"May seeming na paghina ng activity, but it doesn't mean the danger is over," she said.

[Translation: There seems to be a decrease in activity, but it doesn't mean the danger is over.]

Bornas said the volcano continues to swell. When a volcano is inflated and continues to bulge further, it suggests magma is making its way up.

She added Taal is emitting fluctuating amounts of sulfur dioxide, saying this may be because the groundwater is interacting with the magma.

"Definitely it means ang magma is at the shallow level of the volcano... Nandoon na po ang magma, handa na siyang iputok (magma is there, ready to explode)," Bornas said.

Once a volcano erupts, magma turns into hazardous lava.

Alert Level 4 stays

Despite the lesser explosions, Alert Level 4 remains hoisted over Taal, which means a hazardous eruption is possible within hours or days.

Bornas said Phivolcs started the two-week observation period on January 13 to determine if it will downgrade the alert level as the volcano enters a lull.

"If we see an escalation or kahit na significant activity lang (or even just significant activity), the two-week period is off," she said.