Stay away from toxic Taal: Volcano vlog alarms Phivolcs

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2020 12:04 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2020 12:57 PM

Photo shows aerial view of Taal crater taken on January 17, 2020 by the Joint Task Group (JTG) Taal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. JTG Taal-AFP

MANILA - The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday warned people against visiting Taal Volcano Island after a man “vlogged” about his experience.

The resident could be seen wearing only flip-flops and walking around the volcano island as he pointed to steam-emitting fissures and eruption pits stained with sulfur. 

“He was wearing slippers when the ground is very hot,” Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division head Mariton Bornas pointed out.

She said the man did not reach the main crater and was instead on the mountain trail called Daang Kastila.

Asked what the dangers were if others did something similar, Bornas said an explosion can happen.

“The large fissure that he saw, there’s an explosion pit there and there can be an eruption anytime,” she said. 

“There are also high levels of sulfur near it. It is very dangerous if we inhale (sulfur dioxide) in high concentrations. That’s toxic gas,” she added.

The presence of sulfur dioxide is meant to signal that magma is nearing the surface. According to the US Geological Survey, exposure to volcanic gases like sulfur dioxide can damage the respiratory system and, in extreme cases, lead to death.

Bornas said the man could have died if the volcano suddenly erupted, especially since it is not something you can outrun. 

“There is also a possibility of carbon dioxide being emitted. Carbon dioxide does not have any smell or color and it can cause asphyxiation."

While Taal Volcano’s ash plumes seem to have weakened, Phivolcs has continued to monitor earthquakes, which are linked to movement of magma. On Friday morning, increased steaming was also observed.

Bornas said that while the possibility has gone down, there is still significant probability that Taal Volcano will have a devastating explosive eruption. An eruption similar to that in 1754 or 1911 would result in volcanic tsunamis and deadly base surges or blasts of hot gas, ash and volcanic debris.