Taal Volcano has emitted less steam and sulfur dioxide over the past 24 hours but a powerful eruption still remains a possibility, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said today.
According to a PHIVOLCS bulletin released this morning, the volcano emitted ash plumes measuring 500 to 600 meters in height, while sulfur dioxide emissions measured at an average of 344 tons per day, well below the previously recorded average of 4,353 tons per day, GMA News reports. For the past 24 hours, there have been 448 volcanic earthquakes, including 17 low-frequency ones.
Despite the diminished emissions, however, other developments suggest there is still cause for concern. The surfaces of the volcano and its surrounding areas are still rising, which is caused by rising magma, PHIVOLCS head Renato Solidum told The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“There is another magma body, and it is rising towards Taal Volcano. This is the one that could recharge or supply magma under the volcano. And while magma is rising up from the southwest, this makes the land of the southern edge of the lake swollen. This swelling also causes quakes and fissures,” Solidum said. “The latest data that we have on the volcano and its surroundings, it’s inflated, meaning there’s pressure from the magma moving up.”
Solidum said that the swelling of the volcano and the brewing magma underneath is the reason that an Alert Level 4 remains in effect, meaning an explosive eruption can occur anytime within the next few hours or days. They have recommended the total evacuation of areas within a 14-kilometer radius from Taal’s main crater. Civil aviation authorities have also been told to prevent aircraft from flying near Taal.
Despite PHIVOLCS’ warnings, businesses in Tagaytay City, a tourist spot which overlooks the volcano, have reopened. In an interview with radio station DZMM, Congressman Abraham Tolentino of Tagaytay said that the decision to re-open businesses still lies within the jurisdiction of the city mayor — who happens to be his wife, Agnes Delgado-Tolentino. He also downplayed the PHIVOLCS’ Alert Level 4, saying it would severely impact businesses.
“That Alert Level 4 is [just] an alert… How can we recover if we close all restaurants, hotels, and we are included in the forced evacuation?” he insisted.
When asked if Tagaytay City was safe, however, Congressman Tolentino was more coy, saying it was the choice of business owners and their employees if they wished to stay in the line of fire.
“They can come back voluntarily. If they don’t want to, that’s their decision,” he said.
The Department of Interior and Local Government has said that only eight villages in Tagaytay City have to be evacuated, and that businesses in other areas can re-open.