Alert level 3 raised over Taal Volcano after phreatomagmatic eruption

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1)— The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Thursday raised the status of Taal Volcano to Alert Level 3 following a phreatomagmatic eruption.

The eruption was recorded at 3:16 p.m. and lasted until 3:21 p.m., Phivolcs said in an advisory. The crater at the time generated a “short-lived dark phreatomagmatic plume” that was one kilometer high.

There were two smaller phreatomagmatic eruptions later recorded at 6:26 p.m. and 7:21 p.m. that lasted two minutes and produced plumes as high as 200 meters.

A phreatomagmatic eruption is one that involves both magma and water, Phivolcs explained.

Ang magma po at ang tubig na siya pong nasa lawa ng main crater ay nagdampi, nagkaroon na po ng contact. Kaya po ang tubig, bigla po siyang naco-convert sa gas in the form of water vapor,” Phivolcs volcano monitoring chief Mariton Bornas said in a briefing.

[Translation: The magma and water in the lake of the main crater came into contact. That’s why the water was converted to gas in the form of water vapor.]

Ito po ang pagkakaiba ng phreatomagmatic sa phreatic. ‘Yung phreatic po ay steam-driven, pero ang phreatomagmatic ay meron na pong kasamang magma,” she added.

[Translation: This is the difference between phreatomagmatic and phreatic. Phreatic is steam-driven, but phreatomagmatic involves magma.]

Evacuation underway

Phivolcs also recommended evacuation on Taal Volcano Island, as well as the high-risk barangays of Agoncillo and Laurel in Batangas due to possible hazards.

The institute also reminded the public that the volcano island is a Permanent Danger Zone, and entry into the vicinity is prohibited.

Authorities in Agoncillo and Laurel have started their evacuation activities as of Thursday afternoon, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported.

Officials estimated that evacuation will affect around 3,523 families or 14,495 individuals. Batangas City will be accepting the evacuees, the NDRRMC said.

Agoncillo Mayor Daniel Reyes earlier told CNN Philippines evacuees are either staying in evacuation centers or with their relatives. The town's high-risk barangays include Banyaga, Dibuang, Sitio Manalo, and Subic Ilaya, he added. Reyes said authorities are preparing relief goods and will be seeking assistance from the national and provincial governments.

"Ang kailangan namin ay transportation para mai-transport namin in case na sasama ang sitwasyon, madali naming madadala sa mga evacuation center 'yung mga tao po," Reyes told News.PH.

[Translation: What we need is transportation so we can easily move people to evacuation centers in case the situation worsens.]

Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas earlier said the provincial government will provide trucks to transport residents.

‘Not the same scenario'

Meanwhile, Phivolcs said it is not expecting the same scenario as last year’s Taal eruption, which forced thousands of Batangas residents to flee their homes.

"'Yung January 2020, sa maliit na explosion lumaki nang lumaki kasi nga may pressure... Ngayon ay nagde-degas nga po," Phivolcs director Renato Solidum explained, adding that the latest eruption was not as explosive as last year's activity.

[Translation: In January 2020, the small explosion became bigger because there is pressure… Now, it’s degassing.]

The agency noted it will continuously monitor the situation and parameters along Taal, with the alert level subject to change at this point.

Phivolcs has a 5-step alert level for Taal, with Alert Level 5 being the highest and indicating that a hazardous eruption is in progress.

Don’t hoard N95 masks

Amid concerns on social media, Solidum advised residents to refrain from hoarding N95 masks and other protective gear, especially if they live far from the vicinity.

Ipaubaya po natin ang paggamit ng N95, lalo na doon sa naapektuhang lugar at mga nagreresponde sa eruption (Let’s leave the use of N95 for the affected communities as well as those responding to the eruption),” the official said.

In the past few days, Metro Manila and nearby provinces experienced hazy skies due to the sulfur dioxide from Taal Volcano. State volcanologists previously blamed human-made pollution as the cause of the haze.

This is a developing story.