MANILA, 14 January 2020: Columns of ash and lava erupting from Taal volcano, a popular tourist attraction 60 km south of Manila, forced airlines to cancel flights to the capital’s airport on Monday.
It is now likely that flights will be cancelled on Tuesday as officials warned a major eruption could be just hours or days away. The alert level has been raised from category three to four.
Manila and surrounding areas were on alert Monday following an “explosive eruptions”, local media reported. Airlines issued updates cancelling flights as the government warned that more eruptions were imminent.
A “hazardous explosive eruption is now possible within hours to just days”, the nation’s seismological agency warned.
Flight disruptions at the capital’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport occurred once the ash cloud reached 15 km into the atmosphere.
Singapore Airlines announced that several flights between Singapore and Manila on Sunday and Monday were rescheduled to a later time. Similar announcements were made by Thai Airways International.
AirAsia cancelled domestic and international flights to Manila out of Bangkok, Shanghai, Taipei, Osaka and Seoul.
“Taal is a very small volcano, but a dangerous volcano,” Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told Reuters. “It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano.”
The institute raised the danger level posed by the volcano to 4 out of a possible 5 – meaning “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days”.
One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.
About 8,000 residents of the volcano island and other high-risk towns were evacuated on Monday.
Volcano alert levels
0 – Quiet
1 – Some disturbance but no eruption soon
2 – Low to moderate seismicity – could eventually lead to an eruption
3 – Relative high unrest – eruption possible within days or weeks, or it could die down
4 – Intense unrest – hazardous eruption possible within days
5 – Hazardous eruption – lava flowing or fountaining, ashfall, dangers to nearby communities