Thousands evacuate as Taal Volcano spews ash

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Thousands of residents living in towns near the Taal Volcano evacuated on Sunday, January 12, as the volcano started spewing ash.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, citing figures from Batangas provincial authorities, said at least 6,000 people have fled their homes.

Evacuations began in the towns of Talisay, Balete, and San Nicolas, all in Batangas province, on Sunday afternoon.

By Sunday evening, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) had raised Alert Level 4 for the Taal Volcano.

Alert Level 4 means a "hazardous" eruption may occur "within hours to days."

As a result, Phivolcs recommended evacuations in Taal Volcano Island and in high-risk areas around it.

There are 12 municipalities and 2 cities within the 10-kilometer radius under mandatory evacuation. These are:

 

"Ang critical ngayon ay the towns of Agoncillo, Laurel, and Talisay pero 'yung mga kalapit-bayan nila na Taal at Tanauan City ay handa to accommodate them," said Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) head Lito Castro.

(What's critical right now are the towns of Agoncillo, Laurel, and Talisay, but the neighboring areas of Taal and Tanauan City are ready to accommodate them.)

The Batangas PDRRMC estimated that up to 200,000 people could be affected in the event of a major eruption.

"Pero ngayon 'yung sa 10-kilometer radius, we are still assessing kasi nagkaroon na ng movement. 'Yung iba pumunta na sa mga relatives nila, ang iba, according to reports, umaakyat na ng Tagaytay," Castro said.

(But now within the 10-kilometer radius, we are still assessing because there have been movements. Some have sought shelter with their relatives, while others, according to reports, are going to Tagaytay.)

Castro said 100,000 pieces of face masks would be distributed by Sunday evening, while food and non-food items will follow on Monday, January 13.

"Nananawagan kami, una, panalangin para maligtasan ito. Pangalawa, 'yung mga residente na apektado, patience, ito ay pinaghandaan natin," he said.

(We're appealing, first of all, for prayers to surpass this. Second, to the affected residents, patience, we made preparations for this situation.)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte "has already given instructions to undertake measures necessary to place the people within the perimeter of Taal out of the danger zone."

"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," added Panelo in a statement on Sunday.

Prior to raising Alert Level 4 at 7:30 pm on Sunday, Phivolcs declared Alert Level 2 at 2:30 pm and Alert Level 3 at 4 pm. – Michael Bueza/Rappler.com