At 2:30 p.m. local time on January 12, the Taar volcano on an island about 60 kilometers south of its capital Manila spewed lava and ash up to 15 kilometers high, and spread northwards to the city of Quezon, about 70 kilometres away, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people living on the island of Taar and nearby provinces.
Scientists say activity has eased since the Ta’al volcano began spewing smoke and ash more than a week ago, but people still face the threat of a large eruption, according to nature. Researchers are closely monitoring the Ta’al volcano for clues about its potential for a major eruption.
Known as nature’s “anger”, the eruption is so powerful that, in addition to its immediate threat to life, large-scale eruptions can also contaminate water sources, affect power supplies for millions of people, and cause land and air traffic to stop.
Mariton Bornas, a volcanologist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismati (PHIVOLCS), who heads the department responsible for monitoring and predicting volcanic eruptions, said the current suspension of activity at the Ta’ar does not mean that the worst is over.
The volcano’s danger level remains at Level 4 , the second most dangerous for the country’s volcanic alert system, meaning a very dangerous eruption can occur at any time for hours or days. In the past 24 hours, PHIVOLCS has reported about 450 volcanic earthquakes, accompanied by ground cracks and water levels in surrounding lakes.
Bornas said the continued seismic activity suggests that magma continues to rise from the depths of the earth to the volcanic surface.
In fact, Mount Taar is a “repeat offender” whose threat to the locals never stops. Since the 16th century, the Ta’al volcano has erupted about 30 times, including four major eruptions.
PhIVOLCS volcanologists Perla Reyes and Bornas, among others, recently published an assessment of the eruption of the Ta’al volcano. In Reyes’s view, frequent geological movements before the eruption were a precursor, but not all of the increase in seismic activity could accurately predict a major eruption.
Reyes et al.’s research also reconstructed a massive volcanic eruption in 1754 and mapped the extent of the damage. The researchers found that the ash from the eruption had spread to Manila.
Bornas said a repeat of the 1754 eruption of the Ta’al volcano would be the worst-case scenario that could be predicted.
The massive eruption activity lasted nearly seven months: the volcano cycled from low-frequency volcanic activity to a highly explosive eruption, and then the activity gradually stopped before repeating the process.
Bornas said the eruption, which has lasted so long, would have a devastating effect on locals forced to relocate if it were placed today. You know, within 35 kilometers of the Taar volcano, there are about 2 million people living.
Jacques Zlotnicki, a geophysicist at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, says the crisis will not ease any time soon. “This Atal eruption could last for months or more. “
Zlotnicki’s research suggests that the volcano could have a major eruption. “With the wind, 10 to 15 kilometers or more of ash can reach Manila in a matter of hours,” he said. “
Reyes said the current suspension of activity at the Ta’ar has given many locals the illusion that they are “safe.” Some of the more than 6,000 people who live on the island of Ta’al have returned home to receive goods, feed livestock, etc.
“People tend to think that the volcano calms down and can come back, which is actually not safe. Reyes said.
PhIVOLCS has issued a warning to evacuees not to return to any place within 14 km of the Taar volcano or crater for the time being.