On 12 January, alert level-4 (hazardous eruption imminent) was raised over Taal Volcano located in the CALABARZON region 70 km south of the capital Manila. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the alert level a few hours after it raised the alert to level-3 on the evening of 12 January. According to PHIVOLCS, Taal Volcano entered a period of unrest beginning with phreatic or steam-driven activity in several points inside the main crater that then progressed into a magmatic eruption at 2:49 a.m. local time on 13 January. This magmatic eruption is characterized by weak lava fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Seismic activity was also recorded in Tagaytay City, Cabuyao, Laguna, Talisay, Alitagtag, Lemery and Bauan, Batangas, with over 75 volcanic earthquakes felt at an intensity ranging from II to V as of 5 a,m. this morning. These developments signify likely continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the volcano, which may lead to further eruptive activity.
More than 300 domestic and 230 international flights were cancelled as the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport was closed overnight. As of early afternoon today the airport has since partially reopened to allow some departing flights. Roads in the affected areas are slippery with mud and visibility is hazy due to the ash fall. According to the Philippine Red Cross, roads from Talisay to Lemery and Agoncillo are impassable. Most business establishments, fuel stations and tourist spots in the area have temporarily closed, with reports that electricity and water services are intermittent.
Metro Manila, 70 km north east of Taal, is affected as well with all classes canceled for today and public services closed. The ashfall had caused outages of power lines in several provinces in the region. The province of Batangas declared a state of calamity on 13 January, enabling them to tap locally budgeted emergency funding.
National authorities have evacuated areas at risk within a 14 km radius of the main crater of the volcano. Local authorities and communities to the north of Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. As of 13 January, more than 24,500 people are taking shelter in 75 evacuation centres in Region IV-A (CALABARZON), with a majority in the Batangas province. It is estimated that the total population within the radius of the 14 km danger zone is nearly 460,000 people.
Government response and humanitarian coordination
National authorities are leading the response, assisted by the Philippine Red Cross, and have deployed rescue teams for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. An incident command post has been stood up at the air force base in Lipa City, Batangas. The national government’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is on red alert and all residents of the Taal Volcano Island have been evacuated, according to the Office of Civil Defense in the CALABARZON region. Evacuation is underway in areas within a 14-km radius of the volcano’s crater.
Initial priority needs reported in affected areas are the rapid procurement of suitable face masks, nonfood items including hygiene/dignity kits, and portalets for evacuation centres. Health authorities also warned the public to take precautions due to the health effects of exposure to volcanic ash and gases.
The United Nations is in contact with the authorities, though no request for international assistance is expected at this time from the national government. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has conveyed readiness of the Humanitarian Country Team to provide support if needed.
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