Rumbling volcano raises alarm, prompts evacuations in Philippines

A small volcano to the south of the Philippine capital of Manila that rumbled to life early this weekend continued to eject plumes of ash and steam Monday as volcanic earthquakes rumbled to life once again. The volcano, which is one of the world's smallest, is located in the Batangas province and is the country's second most active volcano.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the alert level of the Taal volcano from a level 2 to a level 3 after the initial eruption on Saturday, local time, which the agency said meant "there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions."

The agency kept this heightened alert level in effect as of Tuesday. PHIVOLCS uses a 5-level scale to communicate "the state of an active volcano, the current level of threat it poses and the steps that are needed to be taken to ensure public safety."

The Taal volcano is located in a lake about 56 miles (90 km) south of Manila.

Video footage of the initial eruption showed a cloud of ash and steam being emitted from the crater and billowing high into the atmosphere on an otherwise crystal clear day. The plume towered nearly 2 miles (3 km) above the Earth's surface, according to PHIVOLCS. Two smaller plumes were ejected on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Monday saw the ejection of three additional smaller plumes, ranging in height from 0.25 miles to 0.50 miles (400 to 800 meters) above the surface.

Officials stated that there were more than a dozen earthquakes around Taal in the 24 hours following the initial eruption, Reuters reported. While volcanic-driven earthquakes dropped drastically on Sunday at least eight additional quakes were recorded on Monday, according to PHIVOLCS.

As of Sunday, nearly 2,900 residents living in villages surrounding the lake have been evacuated to emergency shelters, according to a news release from President Rodrigo Duterte's office. Sulfur-smelling ashfall was reported on the lakeshore communities of Banyaga and Agoncillo.

"It was a powerful burst but now the volcano has calmed down," Joan Amo, mayor of a village neighboring the volcano, told The Associated Press, adding that any further eruptions could prompt the evacuation of up to 8,000 additional residents in her town of Laurel.

Taal Volcano spews white steam and ash as seen from Balete, Batangas province, south of Manila, Philippines on Saturday March 26, 2022. A small Philippine volcano in a scenic lake near the capital belched a white plume of steam and ash 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) into the sky in a brief explosion Saturday, prompting authorities to raise an alert level and urge thousands of residents to protectively evacuate from high-risk villages. (AP Photo/Reynante Olitan De Villa)

Aircrafts have been warned to stay away from the eruption zone, and temporary bans have been put on recreational activities on the lake, such as fishing, due to the potential for additional eruptions and hazardous ashfall.

Authorities say it is too early to tell whether these rumblings will precede a larger eruption, but early indications point toward these volcanic rumblings being far less explosive than what occurred in January 2020.

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During that month, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced as the Taal volcano spewed ash into metro Manila, forcing the temporary closure of the capital's main airport. Road and school closures, as well as power outages, were also reported as a result of the volcanic activity.

The Philippines lie within the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a portion of the globe frequented by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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