Taal evacuees start returning to ash-coated homes as danger remains

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2020 01:04 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2020 01:25 PM

Residents clean their houses in Agoncillo, Batangas, Jan. 26, 2020, the same day that seismologists said an explosive eruption of Taal volcano no longer appears imminent. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A thick carpet of ash over homes and roads on Tuesday welcomed back residents who returned from evacuation centers following the eruption of Taal Volcano as it remained restive despite a downgraded alert level, authorities said.

Seismological agency Phivolcs lowered on Sunday the alert status of Taal to 3 from 4 to indicate a "decreased tendency towards hazardous explosive eruption."

However, the volcano that sits in a lake south of the capital belched "voluminous" steam early Tuesday, an indication that magma or molten rocks are heating up water there, said Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum. 

"Kung iyan (magma) po ay mabara, puwede pong magkaroon ng explosion," he told DZMM. 

(If that is blocked, an explosion might occur.) 

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Taal burst to life 2 weeks ago with plumes of ash and lava, forcing over 135,000 people into shelters over fears a massive blast was coming.

Authorities recommend that only able-bodied evacuees return to towns ringing the volcano so they can flee easily, said Joint Task Force Taal chief Brig. Gen. Marcelino Teofilo. 

Residents need donations of sacks where they could pack the volcanic ash blanketing their homes, so this could be turned into bricks instead of mixing with rainwater and turning roads muddy, he said. 

"Noong nakita nila iyong status ng bahay nila, mga ari-arian nila, talagang nakakalumo po dahil sa kapal ng mga alikabok," Teofilo said in a separate DZMM interview. 

(When they saw the status of their houses and belongings, they were devastated because the ash 

"Kung may mga sobra silang sako d'yan, aside from mga relief goods, isama na rin nila," he told donors. 

(If they have extra sacks, aside from relief goods, please send these, too.) 

Locals walk through thick ash to check damaged structures along the Taal lakeshore in Agoncillo, Batangas on Jan. 27, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Only 6 villages nearest the volcano were still off-limits in Agoncillo and Laurel towns, home to roughly 80,000 people, said Teofilo.

Scientists reiterated that access to the volcano island, which was once home to a community of thousands, and the lake around it "must be strictly prohibited."

Taal, located just 60 kilometers from the capital Manila, is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. 

Its last eruption was in 1977, but it has a long history of activity. In 1965, a Taal eruption killed some 200 people. With a report from Agence France-Presse