Taal volcano news – live: Cracks spotted in earth and more quakes spark fear of huge explosion as police extend blockade
Written by Ricardo Waddell Lewis on 16/01/2020
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A volcano in the Philippines has been shuddering continuously with earthquakes and opening cracks in nearby roads as police blockaded at-risk towns over fears of a bigger eruption.
More than 53,000 residents have fled their homes in the vicinity of the Taal volcano to take shelter in evacuation centres, though thousands more have refused to leave or have returned to check on their animals and possessions.
Many houses and farms have been damaged by volcanic ash since Taal, one of the country’s most active and deadliest volcanoes, began spewing lava and ash on Sunday.
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In a firsthand account of escaping from the Taal volcano, John Dan Ramos describes the ground shaking “every 20 to 30 minutes” and says “the air was thick with ashes” that “smelt like a mix of sulfur and gunpowder”.
One horse owner urged authorities to allow the rescue of as many animals as possible, taking advantage of what appeared to be a lull in volcano activity, but was rebuffed by the coast guard patrolling the lake.
Horses were among the more than 70 animals brought to safety since Wednesday by another group of rescuers, led by a police maritime unit, but it has since been told to halt its activities, because of the eruption threat.
Many of the horses that had made it out looked exhausted and hungry, with at least one barely able to stand.
Many islanders depend on the survival of their animals, which often form the sole means of their livelihood.
“We won’t have food on our tables if not for them,” Jun Despededa, 21, who used water from the lake to scrub volcanic ash from his horse’s white coat, told Reuters. “I don’t know what I would do now after what happened.”
About 1,000 horses, as well as cows, goats and pigs were among the animals left behind by residents scurrying to safer areas for fear of a bigger eruption.
Several local residents have returned to the danger zone around the Taal volcano to rescue the animals they had left behind.
Manolito Malaluan set out on a motorboat with a band of rescuers to ferry to safety two horses to safety on Tuesday.
“Both of them were neighing when they saw me,” Mr Malaluan, 23, told Reuters, after reaching safer ground with his horses, named Cristina and Bakasan. “They were happy because I came back.”
The horses were among 3,000 living on the island, most earning money for their owners by carrying tourists to the rim of the volcano crater.
There is an “urgent need” for clean water, latrines and access to basic healthcare among the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the volcano, said Jerome Balinton, humanitarian manager for Save the Children Philippines.
Mr Balinton said: “At least 300,000 people have been evacuated or displaced by the Taal volcano since Sunday, nearly half of them children, and we expect that number to rise. Entire towns and villages within the ‘danger zone’ have been abandoned and covered in hazardous volcanic ash. With the volcano island now declared a ‘no-man’s land’ by president Rodrigo Duterte, some 1,000 people who call it home may never be able to return.
“The sudden displacement of so many people is putting enormous strain on host communities. Many families are staying with friends or relatives while others are seeking refuge in cramped and unsanitary evacuation centres where the risk of disease is high, especially among children. There is urgent need for clean water, latrines and access to basic healthcare.
“Meanwhile, the volcano continues to erupt with scientists warning that the biggest eruption may be yet to come. Entire communities, many of whom rely on tourism, have already been devastated, forced from their homes and now robbed of their livelihoods.
“The children we’ve spoken to tell us that missing out on school is one of their biggest concerns. Save the Children is setting up two Child-Friendly Spaces in the affected areas staffed by childcare professionals, where children can learn and play while receiving emotional support to help them cope with their distress. We will also begin distributing sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and other vital household items to displaced families.”
A farmer has described the scene of devastation after ash from the Taal volcano blanketed his pineapple field.
“We just have to accept that we will incur a loss,” Jack Imperial, 49, who had never seen such a sight in 17 years of farming, told Reuters. “Even if we are able to harvest some pineapples, if customers are scared to come because of the eruption, the pineapples would just end up rotting.”
Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes at only 311m high, its eruptions have been deadly.
One eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.
Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, with the most recent in 1977.
“Activity in the past 24 hours has generally waned to weak emission of steam-laden plumes,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has said.
But the region remained just a notch down from the highest level of alert the agency could issue if the volcano erupts more violently.
Among those displaced were about 5,000 people who live on the island where the Taal volcano lies.
Some villagers have slipped past checkpoints to retrieve some of the hundreds of cows and horses they left behind, prompting the coast guard and police to intensify a security cordon.
The aftermath of the Taal volcano eruption could have a devastating effect on its victims’ mental health, Talya Meyers writes:
A 65-year-old woman has died of a heart attack while being moved out of Taal town in Batangas province.
Officials said she had been ill and may have been stressed by the calamity.
“We’ve lost everything, our house got damaged, but I need to retrieve my pots and cooking wares and other things. They should not be very, very strict,” 59-year-old Erlinda Landicho told the Associated Press.
Ms Landicho, who fled with her son from Lemery municipality as the volcano erupted, was among a throng of villagers stopped by police from reentering the ash-blanketed town after a firetruck blocked a key access road and police set up checkpoints.
More than 121,000 people have fled their homes just in Batangas province, which has declared a state of calamity to allow faster releases of emergency funds.
At least 373 evacuation sites were crammed with displaced villagers and needed more ash masks, portable toilets, bottled water and sleeping mats, according to a provincial disaster-response office.
The government’s main-disaster agency reported a little more than 65,000 people were displaced by the eruption in Batangas and Cavite province. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.
A couple got married under a gigantic cloud of ash and smoke from the Taal volcano on Sunday, which made for some dramatic photos, Sabrina Barr reports:
“We are analysing what this seeming calm of the volcano means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said.
The lake inside Taal has dried up, Ms Bornas said, which was to be expected since it began spewing lava fountains a day after it shot giant clouds of ash miles into the air on Sunday.
Phivolcs said volcanic activity had “generally waned to weak emission of steam-laden plumes”.
Even so, it had recorded more than 100 tremors since Wednesday, meaning magma was still rising.
Many houses and farms have been damaged by volcanic ash since Taal started erupting on Sunday.
At least 53,000 people have been evacuated and are taking shelter in evacuation centres. No deaths or major injuries have been reported so far.
A crater lake and nearby river have dried up amid warnings of an imminent eruption.
Soldiers and police have blocked villagers from sneaking back by boats to the volcanic island and nearby towns to check on their animals and possessions.
A volcano in the Philippines has been shuddering continuously with earthquakes and opening cracks in nearby roads, with seismologists warning the danger of an eruption remains high.
Police have blockaded at least four at-risk towns over fears of a bigger eruption and warned evacuees not to return to their homes.