Volcano Erupts in the Philippines

Volcano Erupts in the Philippines

Oliver Jamias, Contributor

On January 12, during the dawn of the new decade, disaster erupted in the Philippines.  Taal Volcano, which had been classified as an active volcano for a while, erupted near Manilla, the capital city of the Philippines.

The volcano, located only 40 miles south from the capital, forced as many as 200,000 people to evacuate from their property.  After the initial eruptions, the clouds of smoke that were produced were accompanied by earthquakes in the ground.  These clouds also contained sulfur dioxide, making them even more toxic for humans.  As a result, the immediate area surrounding the eruption was considered uninhabitable, as the ash and fog from the volcano made breathing and seeing difficult.  The volcano eruption was also rated a 4 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, with the highest level being a 5

Areas far away from the immediate disaster area of the volcano have also been affected.  The day after the initial eruption, the ash clouds traveled more than 62 miles north of Taal volcano.  Schools and government offices in the Manila province have all been shut down due to fears concerning volcanic downpour.  Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the main airport in the Metro Manila area, cancelled all of its flights after the runways became blocked with ash.

Public reaction to how the volcano was handled has been mixed.  One such example is how Charlie Natanauan, vice mayor of the town of Talisay, criticized the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology’s predictions about the nature of Taal Volcano.  According to the PIVS, the volcano’s constant smoke emissions signified the arrival of a much larger eruption.  Natanauan defended his opinion by referencing a previous eruption of Taal Volcano that killed 200 people in 1965.  According to the PIVS, the ash meant that the volcano was in the process of recharging for an even larger eruption.  However, Natanauan did not believe the information that the PIVS released, saying that the presence of ash instead of lava meant that the volcano was simply cooling down.

Another reason why people were unhappy with how the situation was handled was because many people were left without a home or with much property.  According to the officials who managed the evacuation, over 170,000 people have been evacuated from their homes into disaster centers, with over half of them having to stay outside due to their not being enough space.  In the city of Santo Tomas, only 500 evacuees were granted sanctuary with the other 14,500 being denied food and shelter.  6000 families must now search for a new permanent home, since the area surrounding Taal Volcano has now been declared “No Man’s Land”.

Taal Volcano is still active with no signs of stopping as of January 23, more than one week after its initial eruption.  Many people who formerly lived near the volcano are still without shelter.  The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology still categorizes the volcano’s potential danger level as 4 out of 5, meaning that the danger of an even larger eruption happening soon is a large possibility.