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Warnings of ‘volcanic tsunami’ after eruption in the Philippines

Lightning struck as a column of ash surrounded the crater of Taal Volcano as it erupted on Sunday seen from Tagaytay city, Cavite province, Philippines.
Lightning struck as a column of ash surrounded the crater of Taal Volcano as it erupted on Sunday seen from Tagaytay city, Cavite province, Philippines. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

MANILA — A dramatic explosion of the Philippines’ second-most active volcano Sunday prompted warnings of a possible “volcanic tsunami” as villagers were evacuated and nearby communities were advised to take precautions against any lake water surges.

The explosion, which sent a plume of ash half a mile into the air, came months after the volcano — Taal, about 40 miles south of Manila — began exhibiting a state of unrest. Tremors were felt on the volcano’s island and in villages around the nearby town of Agoncillo in Batangas province, and booming noises from the volcano raised fears among residents.

“The earthquakes were strong, and it felt like there was a monster coming out” as in the movies, said Cookie Siscar, who had left the area and was relaying a report from her husband, Emer Siscar, a poultry farmer, who was in their home in Batangas, which overlooks the volcano island.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised its alert level for Taal Volcano to 4 out of 5, indicating that a “hazardous eruption” was imminent.

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The institute warned that the eruption could cause a “volcanic tsunami” and advised nearby communities to take precautions against possible surges from the lake that surrounds the volcano. About 6,000 people live on the island, and boats took residents to safety in Batangas early Sunday.

Tens of thousands of people were ordered evacuated from the surrounding area, the Associated Press reported, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Manila’s international airport also said on Twitter that flights to and from it were suspended because of the eruption. Volcanic ash was seen “in the vicinity of the a

Residents stood near a lakeside as Taal Volcano erupted.
Residents stood near a lakeside as Taal Volcano erupted.Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

irport” and nearby air routes, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

The volcano island has been showing signs of activity since last March, and about three dozen eruptions have been recorded in recent history. Sitting on a lake that partly fills a caldera formed thousands of years ago, it is a popular attraction for tourists, who view it from a ridge in the Cavite province to the north.

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Salvador Panelo, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said the government was “closely monitoring the situation of Taal Volcano.”

“Concerned agencies of the national government are now working closely with the provincial government of Batangas to ensure the safety of the residents, including their evacuation,” Panelo said. “We advise the public to continue to remain vigilant.”

Residents who fled Taal Volcano's eruption occupy an evacuation center on Monday.
Residents who fled Taal Volcano's eruption occupy an evacuation center on Monday.Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

Rea Torres, who is from the town of Dita in Batangas, said that when she went to check on the family residence, she felt tremors twice: “I felt as if the whole floor moved.

“It is very scary,” she said, describing “ominous clouds above us” and thunder and lightning.

Last January, an eruption at the most active volcano in the island nation — the Mayon, in the Albay province, about 200 miles east of the Taal — prompted an alert level of 4 as it generated up to 1,600 feet of lava fountains and ash fell on two nearby villages.

A youth living at the foot of Taal volcano rode an outrigger canoe while the volcano spews ash as seen from Tanauan town in Batangas province, south of Manila on Monday.
A youth living at the foot of Taal volcano rode an outrigger canoe while the volcano spews ash as seen from Tanauan town in Batangas province, south of Manila on Monday.TED ALJIBE
A worker walkeds past plants covered with mud and ash after Taal volcano erupted.
A worker walkeds past plants covered with mud and ash after Taal volcano erupted.TED ALJIBE
A family rode their motorcycle through clouds of ash as they evacuate to safer grounds.)
A family rode their motorcycle through clouds of ash as they evacuate to safer grounds.)Aaron Favila)/Associated Press
Residents prepared their boats to evacuate while the Taal Volcano erupted in Talisay, Philippines on Monday.
Residents prepared their boats to evacuate while the Taal Volcano erupted in Talisay, Philippines on Monday. Jes Aznar