Mother nature greets Philippines for the new year
Emmanuel Son, Staff Writer
The new decade in the Philippines started with the volcanic eruption of Taal, about 39 miles south from the nation’s capital Manila on the island of Luzon. The eruption was classified as a level four alert by the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). A chain of events began when ash started to spread on Sunday, Jan. 12. Despite being one of the smallest volcanoes in the world, it is the Philippines second most active volcano, and has had 34 eruptions in the past 450 years. This is the volcano’s first eruption since 1977.
As reported by Rappler, the ash that had started to spread was caused by a phreatic eruption, which happens when water beneath the ground or on the surface comes in contact with the hot magma. On Jan. 13, lava fountains had started to form, caused by magmatic eruptions which occurs when gas within magma is decompressed, propelling the magma forward. Around this time ashfall had started to hit Quezon City (the nation’s largest city), Manila, Makati, and several other towns in the area. Large rock particles had been reported as well in surrounding areas. Death was caused by a car accident blamed on low visibility due to ashfall, according to local police. On Jan. 14 volcanic earthquakes continued to shake the area. Fountains of lava had continued to flow, reaching up to 800 meters high (2,624 feet). On Jan. 15, large dark clouds of ash and magma generated up to 1000 meters (3,280 feet). Cracks were spotted in different areas near the eruption site. Three evacuees from the province of Batangas had died during these events due to cardiac arrest. Reports from Jan. 16 showed that magma was still heavily rising with tremors still persisting. The PHIVOLCS reports that there were small explosions happening from 9 a.m.to 5 p.m., a total of 595 earthquakes had been recorded. In the latest news of the eruption, the volcano has almost dried up an entire crater lake on the island. Tremors and steam explosions are a little bit weaker now, but magma is still moving beneath, according to Maria Antonia Bornas of the institute of volcanology and seismology.
Evacuations have been ordered for residents of villages 17 kilometers (10 miles) from the volcano. About 25,000 residents sought shelter in temporary evacuation centers, in which the Army sent in 20 military vehicles and 120 personnel to assist, according to CNN. However, on Jan. 16, evacuees of municipalities Talisay, San Nicolas, Agoncillo, Balete, and Lemery were allowed to “clean their ash covered properties, fetch valuables, check on pets, and tend their farms,” Philippines National Police Director Edwin Quilates told CNN Philippines. The number of those who can go back are very limited, and residents that are allowed back are only allowed to stay a maximum of two hours a day. Rather than lava, ash is what has been the main concern among towns and villages in the area. Residents could be affected by toxic gasses caused by the eruption, as well as mud flows. Moving currents of hot gas could potentially create a volcanic tsunami. CNN reported a woman’s roof collapsing due to a thick layer of ash gathering on the roof. An image of a pineapple field covered in volcanic ash turning the pineapples gray is trending all over social media. Because many animals had been left behind, animal rights activists have taken to social media to organize operations for abandoned animals. Some residents chose to stay rather than evacuate for the safety of their farm animals or pets. Effects on tourism for the area have been another large concern. Ninoy Aquino airport had been closed with over 240 flights cancelled in total. However, according to Business Traveler, operations have partially resumed. More than 162,000 people are in temporary evacuation centers. Due to the damage of pineapple farms, coffee plantations, and agriculture, cost of repairs could be as high as $62.2 million, according to Bloomberg.