Philippines evacuates thousands after Taal volcano eruption

The Philippines ordered the evacuation of thousands of people and raised alert levels as volcano Taal near the capital belched a dark plume of steam and ash into the sky in a brief explosion Thursday.

Government experts said magmatic materials came into contact with water in the main crater of Taal Volcano in Batangas province, setting off the steam-driven blast with no accompanying volcanic earthquake. They said it is unclear if the volcanic unrest could lead to a full-blown eruption.

"It’s just one explosive event; it’s too early to tell,” Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said at a news conference, adding similar steam-driven explosions may occur.

The agency raised the alarm of the 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, to the third of a five-step warning system, meaning "magma is near or at the surface, and activity could lead to a hazardous eruption in weeks.”

Up to 14,000 residents may have to be moved temporarily away from the restive volcano, he said.

Officials reminded people to stay away from a small island in a scenic lake where Taal is located and is considered a permanent danger zone along with a number of nearby lakeside villages.

(c) Daily Sabah


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