ILOILO City – The erupting Taal Volcano in Batangas province may be hundreds of kilometers away but Ilonggos should still be concerned. Volcanic ash can reach distant locations.
“How many people are being affected by this eruption? I ask everybody to pray that Taal’s eruption won’t last long and won’t affect so many of our people,” said Mayor Jerry Treñas yesterday.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the alert level at Taal Volcano to four yesterday, meaning an “explosive eruption” could happen in the coming hours or days.
As of this writing yesterday, Western Visayas remained free from Taal’s volcanic ash, according to the Environment Monitoring and Enforcement Division of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Region 6.
No area in the region has so far reported ash fall, said Atty. Ramar Niel Pascua, chief of the Legal Section of EMB Region 6.
The distance between this city and Batangas is approximately 376 kilometers, and by the nautical highway (via roll on, roll off ship), it is 552 kilometers. This is a considerable distance but ash from exploding volcanoes such as Taal could travel for hundreds of kilometers.
Ash from the volcano – which carries microscopic shards of glass – could potentially be carried 100 kilometers or more, contaminating the air and water supplies in distant locations, according to Joseph Michalski, director of the Earth and Planetary Science division at the University of Hong Kong, in an interview with the Cable News Network (CNN).
“(The shards of glass) are hazardous to the lungs,” Michalski said. “You don’t want stuff like that in your lungs. It can get lodged in there and make you quite ill.”
Toxic gases emitted from the eruption are another threat, Michalski added.
According to Mayor Treñas, he has friends in Tagaytay City overlooking the Taal Volcano and in Metro Manila who reported experiencing ash fall from the eruption.
Father Edcel Alcayaga of Iloilo City’s Parish of San Jose de Placer appealed for prayers, too.
“Let us pray that we will be spared from both man-made and natural calamities,” said Alcayaga.
Government agencies have urged a “total evacuation” of nearly half a million peoplenear Manila after Taal spewed ash up to 14 kilometers into the air on Sunday, prompting warnings of a possible “explosive eruption.”
The Taal Volcano, about 60 kilometers south of Manila, is one of the country’s most active and dangerous, owing to the number of people that live in its immediate vicinity.
PHIVOLCS requested a “total evacuation” of everyone within a 17-kilometer radius around the volcano. This area, considered a volcanic danger zone, is home to more than 450,000 residents, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
As of yesterday, more than 16,400 people had sought shelter in temporary evacuation centers set up by the authorities. The total number of evacuees is likely to be higher, however, with many people choosing to stay with family members and relatives in other parts of the country. (With a report from CNN/PN)