7,742 people evacuated as Philippines volcano spews lava

MANILA, JAN 13 : At least 7,742 people were evacuated on Monday as the Taal volcano in the Philippines started spewing lava, while the ash fall has reached the capital Manila, some 70 km away.

The people were taken to 38 evacuation centres authorized by the authorities in the most affected municipalities of San Nicolas, Balete, Talisay, Lipa (Batangas province) and Tagaytay (Cavite), according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the threat level from 1 to 4 on a scale of 5 after an increase in activity within Taal’s crater resulted in the billowing of a huge plume of smoke that reached heights of around 1 km, reports Efe news.

An alert level of 4 implies that a dangerous eruption could be imminent and that there is a risk of volcanic tsunami, as Taal – one of the smallest volcanoes in the world – is located in the middle of a lake.

In the last 24 hours, up to 75 earthquakes of volcanic origin have been recorded, 32 of them of noticeable intensity, including one of magnitude-3.8 early Monday morning.

Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport, about 90 km north of the capital, remain closed due to lack of visibility, and at least 109 international and 87 domestic flights have so far been cancelled.

Educational institutions and government offices in Manila and Calabarzon region, where the provinces of Batangas and Cavite are located, have been suspended.

The areas surrounding the volcano have been covered by a thick layer of ash and toxic smoke, prompting the health department to recommend against going outdoors or using masks and glasses.

The department also discouraged people from driving, as visibility was limited and the ground has become slippery because of ash.

Teams from the Philippine Red Cross have moved to the area to assist in evacuation efforts, while the Philippine Armed Forces have been put on alert and sent five trucks to move evacuees.

The volcano, which has erupted 33 times since 1572, killed some 1,300 people in an eruption in 1911 and 200 in 1965.

Taal volcano is an island within the lake of the same name, located within a caldera formed by a previous eruption and is part of a volcanic chain that extends through the western region of the island of Luzon.

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