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Philippines: Taal Volcano - Jan 2020

Disaster types

On 12 January around 21:00 UTC, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded increased volcanic activities generating an eruption plume one kilometre-high accompanied by volcanic tremor and felt earthquakes in Volcano Island and barangays of Agoncillo, in the province of Batangas. The government raised the alert status to Level 3 after the volcano spewed ash in a phreatic eruption. Residents from at least three municipalities of the province of Batangas were evacuated. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila put on hold all departing and arriving flights due to ash fall. (ECHO, 12 Jan 2020)

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. that morning. These developments signify likely continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the volcano, which may lead to further eruptive activity. (OCHA, 13 Jan 2020)

As of 15 January, a total of 423 volcanic earthquakes were recorded in Taal region. Of which, 137 were felt, ranging from Magnitude 1.2 - 4.1 and Intensity of I - V. About 44,000 people have been affected, of which at least 40,000 are taking temporary shelter in 189 evacuation centers. If the eruption column remains at 3 km or below, the ash plumes will be drifted to the municipalities southwest of Taal Volcano. However, if a major eruption occurs and the column exceeds 3 km, ash plumes will be drifted over south-eastern portion of Batangas and some municipalities of Quezon, Mindoro, and Marinduque. (Govt. of the Philippines, 15 Jan 2020)

Over the past 24 hours, Taal volcano erupted an ash plume up to 800 meters high. The ash dispersed southwest of the Main Crater but the activity is slightly weakening. A total of 566 volcanic earthquakes have been registered since 12 January. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), more than 53,000 people have been sheltered in 244 evacuation centres located in the Provinces of Cavite and Batangas and more than 65,000 have been affected. The alert Level 4 remains in effect as well as the mandatory evacuation order for people living in a radius of 14 km from the Main Crater. (ECHO, 16 Jan 2020)

The Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOCS) warned that another eruption may take place within the next few days, especially as there have been more than 30 volcanic earthquakes in the last 24 hours. The Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management office (PDRRMO) has now put almost 15 areas in lockdown status. More than 10 municipalities are in total lockdown, affecting an estimated total of over 502,500 people. The Department of Education (DepEd) reports that an estimated 73,000 school age children have been displaced and almost 80 schools have been abandoned. Aside from a growing need for food, water, fresh clothes, and sleeping mats, the IDPs are also starting to suffer from anxiety and depression. (ECHO, 18 Jan 2020).

As of 20 January, about 259,000 people were affected by the Taal Volcano phreatic eruption. Of which 146,992 were taking temporary shelter in 489 evacuation centers and 70,216 persons stayed with their relatives and/or friends or in open spaces. (Govt. of the Philippines, 20 Jan 2020)

Figures continue to climb as official warnings states that another hazardous eruption is possible within the next few days. Around 271,000 have been affected by the Taal Volcano eruption, with approximately 148,500 people staying in throughout almost 500 evacuation centres. An estimated 63 million USD worth of damage has accrued against Filopino agriculture due to the eruption. (OCHA, 21 Jan 2020).