MANILA (5th UPDATE) — A phreatic or steam-driven eruption was reported at the Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon province, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Sunday.
"This is to notify the public and concerned authorities of an ongoing phreatic eruption at Bulusan Volcano," Phivolcs said in a Facebook post shortly past 11 a.m.
According to the state agency, the volcano erupted at 10:37 a.m. and lasted for about 17 minutes.
"The event was poorly visible through cloud cover over the edifice although a steam-rich grey plume at least 1 kilometer tall was observed from Juban, Sorsogon and was subsequently observed to drift west," Phivolcs said in an advisory.
It noted that ashfall incidents were recorded in the towns of Juban and Casiguran in Sorsogon.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also reported one ashfall incident at Barangay Cogon in the town of Irosin.
Local disaster authorities said that Juban was most affected by the ashfall, while three other barangays in Irosin were also hit.
Residents in the ashfall-hit areas have been advised to wear face masks and evacuate their homes, Irosin Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) chief Fritzie Michelena told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Phivolcs officer-in-charge Renato Solidum advised residents also to refrain from going outdoors as the air quality is unhealthy following the eruption.
He said that more steam-driven explosions are possible in the coming hours.
Before the eruption, about 77 volcanic earthquakes were observed in the past 24 hours, with Bulusan's edifice having been inflated since February 2021, Phivolcs said.
The volcano is now under Alert Level 1, which means that it is "in an abnormal condition" or that there is "low-level unrest".
Under Alert Level 1, the public is prohibited from entering Bulusan's 4-kilometer permanent danger zone.
Vigilance should also be exercised in the 2-kilometer extended danger zone due to " increased possibilities of sudden and hazardous phreatic eruptions", NDRRMC said, adding it has already communicated with the regional disaster management council.
Local government units, especially high-risk barangays, are likewise expected to disseminate advisories regarding ashfall and other volcanic hazards to the residents.
As of writing, Bulusan has already calmed down but short plumes of smoke can still be observed, Juban MDRRMO head Arvee Lodronio said.
Following the eruption, around 25 families or 101 individuals from Barangay Puting Sapa in Juban town have been evacuated, according to Lodronio.
Among those evacuated are children, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory illnesses like asthma. They were brought to the town's COVID-19 isolation facility, which is currently empty.
Barangay Puting Sapa is among the barangays severely affected by the ashfall. Other affected barangays are Barangay Buraburan, Añog, Catanosan, Calmayan and Guroyan.
TOURIST DESTINATIONS CLOSED
Following the eruption, Irosin Mayor Alfredo Cielo Jr. ordered the indefinite closure of all tourist destinations in the town "to ensure public welfare and safety."
He advised all local disaster authorities and concerned agencies "to take all disaster protocols under advisement."
MALACAÑANG MONITORING SITUATION
In a statement, acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said President Rodrigo Duterte is "closely monitoring the condition of Bulusan Volcano."
After Phivolcs placed Bulusan under Alert Level 1, all concerned agencies were ordered to be on standby 24/7, said Andanar.
"We remind the public, particularly the residents of surrounding areas, to be vigilant, monitor any development regarding the volcano’s condition and cooperate with local authorities," he said.
Vice President Leni Robredo, for her part, said her office is preparing to conduct relief operations for people affected by the calamity.
PNP: SITUATION 'MANAGEABLE'
Patrolman Enrique Rocha of the Juban police said the situation in their town was "manageable" in the afternoon a few hours after the ashfall.
He also noted that despite the ashfall, all the roads in the town are passable for all types of vehicles.
Engr. Raden Dimaano of the Sorsogon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office also said that as of writing, authorities see no imminent threats following Bulusan's initial eruption.
No vehicular accidents or any emergencies related to the eruption were reported so far, Dimaano said.
"Based sa mga insidente ng Bulusan before, hindi naman masyadong threatening. Hopefully patuloy na maayos ang sitwasyon," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(The previous eruptions of Bulusan weren't too threatening. We hope the situation continues to improve.)
Courtesy of Ryan Cariño Lagunilla
This is the first reported eruption of Bulusan since 2017.
Prior to its eruption on Sunday, Phivolcs placed Bulusan under Alert Level 0 (normal) since August 2021.
Mt. Bulusan is the southernmost volcano in Luzon, located about 600 kilometers southeast of Manila.
It is one of the active volcanoes that Phivolcs constantly monitors, along with the Mayon, Taal, and Kanlaon volcanoes.
—with reports from Aireen Perol and Jose Carretero, ABS-CBN News
The Phivolcs reported a phreatic eruption at Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon on June 5, 2022. Video courtesy of Mr. Bongbong (via Jose Carretero).