A cloud of smoke is seen from Anilao, Mabini town, Batangas as Taal volcano erupts Sunday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Danny Ocampo
A cloud of smoke can be seen blanketing Taal Volcano on Sunday. Courtesy of Thelma Dumpit
MANILA (6th UPDATE)— The state seismology bureau raised alert level 4 over Taal Volcano on Sunday night after the volcanic island spewed a giant column of steam and ash.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), eruptive activity at Taal Volcano intensified as of 5:30 p.m.
"Eruptive activity at Taal Volcano Main Crater intensified as continuous eruption generated a tall 10-15 kilometer steam-laden tephra column with frequent volcanic lightning that rained wet ashfall on the general north as far as Quezon City," Phivolcs said in its latest bulletin.
Alert level 4 means a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days, Phivolcs also said.
The agency also advised total evacuation of residents in the Taal Volcano island and areas within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater.
"Areas in the general north of Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise aircraft to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft," the agency said.
The Manila International Airport Authority has put all flights on hold following Taal volcano's ash explosion.
A volcanic tsunami may occur in caldera lakes, like Taal Lake, when water is displaced by deformation of the lake floor due to rising magma, the agency said on its website.
It may also be caused by pyroclastic materials flowing down from the volcano into the lake, or landslides caused by volcanic activity.
Several earthquakes were also recorded related to the ash and steam explosion.
The bureau reminded the public that the volcano's main crater is "strictly off-limits" due to sudden steam explosions and the possible release of high concentrations of lethal volcanic gases.
"The northern portion of the main crater rim, in the vicinity of Daang Kastila Trail, can also become hazardous when fumarolic or degassing activity along existing fissures suddenly increases," PHIVOLCS said.
The entire volcano island is a permanent danger zone so permanent settlements on the island should be strongly discouraged, it said.
Residents of towns near Taal Volcano are being taken to safer grounds amid increasing volcanic activity on Sunday, a disaster-mitigation official said.
The municipalities of Balete, San Nicolas and Talisay in Batangas have undertaken precautionary evacuation, said Mark Timbal, spokesman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Taal Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines.