'Steady' emission, cracks widen as Taal Volcano stays under Alert Level 4
MANILA, Philippines – Taal Volcano in the province of Batangas could still have a hazardous eruption any moment, warned state volcanologists on Friday, January 17.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Taal remains under Alert Level 4, which means a potentially deadly and destructive eruption is "imminent." (READ: Taal Volcano's 2020 eruption: What we know so far)
"Activity in the main crater in the past 24 hours has been characterized by steady steam emission and infrequent weak explosions that generated dark gray ash plumes 100 to 800 meters tall and dispersed ash southwest to west of the main crater," Phivolcs said in its 8 am bulletin on Friday.
The agency also observed that existing fissures or cracks in barangays located in the towns of Lemery, Agoncillo, Talisay, and San Nicolas have widened by a few centimeters.
Phivolcs earlier explained that fissures indicate magma is rising at Taal, causing ground deformation.
"A steaming fissure has been newly observed on the northern slopes of Taal Volcano Island," added Phivolcs on Friday.
Volcanic earthquakes also persist.
Data from the Philippine Seismic Network show there have been 634 volcanic earthquakes since 1 pm last Sunday, January 12, when Taal's eruption began. Of these, 174 were magnitudes 1.2 to 4.1 and were felt at Intensities I to V.
Just from 5 am on Thursday, January 16, until 5 am on Friday – or a 24-hour period – there were 65 volcanic earthquakes. Two of those were magnitudes 1.3 to 3.1 and were both felt at Intensity I.
Meanwhile, the Taal Volcano Network recorded 944 volcanic earthquakes, including 29 low-frequency earthquakes.
"Such intense seismic activity likely signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity," Phivolcs said.
If a hazardous eruption occurs, Alert Level 5 – the highest – would be raised. This may or may not happen. (READ: TIMELINE: Taal Volcano eruptions since 1572)
Since the threat persists, Phivolcs reiterated that there must be "total evacuation" of Taal Volcano Island as well as high-risk areas within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater and "along the Pansipit River Valley where fissuring has been observed." (WATCH: Fishermen risk lives for catch around restive Taal Volcano)
At least 11 towns in Batangas are under complete lockdown to prevent residents from returning to their homes.
Thousands of families remain in evacuation centers. (WATCH: Life inside an evacuation center amid Taal Volcano’s unrest)