The alert level for Taal Volcano in the Philippines was lowered to Level 3 on Sunday, two weeks after it started spewing ash and lava forcing thousands to evacuate over threats of a ‘hazardous explosive eruption.’
‘This serves as a notice for the lowering of Taal Volcano's status from Alert Level 4 or hazardous eruption imminent to Alert Level 3, decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption,’ the Philippine Institue of Volcanology and Seismoloygy (Phivolcs) announced at a press conference in Batangas province where the volcano is located.
Phivolcs, however, said that this does not mean that ‘unrest has ceased or that the threat of hazardous eruption has disappeared.’ Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said entry into any area within a seven-kilometre radius is strictly prohibited.
Residents of towns under lockdown may return to their residences, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said. This does not include Agoncillo and Laurel, which are within the 7-kilometer radius.
‘It is still possible that Taal Volcano may still erupt. Therefore, all returning residents must be constantly alert, vigilant and ready to evacuate within one hour,’ he said.
At Alert Level 3, ‘sudden steam-driven and even weak phreatomagmatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall and lethal volcanic gas expulsions can occur,’ Phivolcs explained.
More than 376,000 people from towns within a danger zone with a radius of 14 kilometre radius have been forced to leave their homes, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported.
The eruption on January 12 blanketed area towns with thick ash. Earthquakes triggered by volcanic activities destroyed several houses.
Phivolcs, in monitoring the volcanic activities for the past two weeks, said it observed a lower number of volcanic earthquakes, decelerated ground deformation and weak steam gas emissions from the main crater.
‘Local government units are advised to assess areas outside the seven-kilometre radius for damages and road accessibilities and to strengthen preparedness, contingency and communication measures in case of renewed unrest,’ Solidum said.
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