Skip to main content

Residents catch fish as the Taal volcano erupts in Tanauan town, Batangas province, on Jan. 14, 2020.

TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

A volcano near the Philippine capital spewed lava into the sky and trembled constantly on Tuesday, possibly portending a bigger and more dangerous eruption, as tens of thousands of people fled villages darkened and blanketed by heavy ash.

Government work was suspended and schools were closed in a number of towns and cities, including Manila, because of health risks from the ash. Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

The restiveness of the Taal volcano and several new fissures in the ground nearby likely mean magma is rising and may lead to further eruptive activity, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

Story continues below advertisement

The volcano was spurting fountains of red-hot lava 800 metres into the sky, and the massive column of ash and volcanic debris at times lit up with streaks of lightning.

The alert level since the eruption began Sunday has been 4, indicating a hazardous eruption is possible in hours to days. Level 5, the highest, means such an eruption is under way.

The Philippine institute said about 50 volcanic earthquakes were detected over eight hours on Tuesday, indicating rising magma. It also warned that heavy and prolonged ash fall was possible in nearby villages.

“The speed in the rise of magma is important [in determining] when the volcano will have a strong eruption and if it will slow down and freeze,” said Renato Solidum, who heads the institute. “As of now, we don’t see activities slowing down and the earthquakes still continue.”

More than 38,000 people have been relocated so far to more than 200 evacuation centres, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in New York.

He said UN teams are visiting evacuation centres and supporting authorities, who have asked the United Nations for help getting face masks.

The picturesque volcano in the middle of a lake in Batangas province south of Manila rumbled to life Sunday in a powerful explosion that blasted a 15-kilometre column of ash, steam and rock into the sky. Clouds of volcanic ash blowing over Manila, 65 kilometres to the north, closed the country’s main airport Sunday and part of Monday until the ash fall eased.

Story continues below advertisement

More than 500 international and domestic flights were cancelled or delayed because of the overnight airport closing, affecting about 80,000 passengers, airport manager Ed Monreal told The Associated Press.

“Hopefully the wind direction does not change. As long as the ash fall does not reach us, then we can be back to normalcy,” Mr. Monreal said.

The disaster-response agency counted more than 40,000 evacuees in Batangas and nearby Cavite provinces who took shelter in nearly 200 evacuation centres. Officials expected the number to swell.

Mr. Solidum warned residents from returning to high-risk villages based on perceptions that the eruption was easing. He warned of pyroclastic flows, superheated material from the volcano that can travel at great speed and incinerate anything in their path.

Mr. Solidum said it would take time for Taal’s restiveness to ease and the lives of affected villagers to return to normal, but added it’s difficult to predict the volcano’s behaviour with certainty.

“We have to make sure that people understand and, of course, government, that this is not an activity that will just be a short while,” Mr. Solidum told a news conference.

Story continues below advertisement

President Rodrigo Duterte visited hard-hit Batangas, which has been declared a calamity zone for faster disbursement of emergency funds. Accompanied by top disaster-response officials and Cabinet members, he promised the national government would help with the cleanup and reconstruction of the devastated province once the eruption ends.

The government disaster-response agency has not provided details of damage, but journalists saw dozens of houses ruined by heavy ash and frequent quakes in two Batangas areas.

At least six people have been taken to a hospital in the city of Tagaytay in Cavite because of respiratory ailments caused by the ash, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

The eruption has not directly caused deaths or major damage. The death of a driver in a crash on an ash-covered road was linked to slippery conditions.

The small island where the 311-metre volcano lies has long been designated a “permanent danger zone,” although fishing villages have long existed there. Those villages were all evacuated, although volcanology officials have called for a total evacuation of endangered communities within a 14-km radius of Taal.

Taal’s last disastrous eruption, in 1965, killed hundreds of people. It is the second-most restive of about two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where much of the world’s seismic activity occurs.

Story continues below advertisement

A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, blew its top north of Manila in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies