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PHIVOLCS: Taal main crater may still erupt after zero quakes since Sunday

Taal Volcano's main crater may still erupt even after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded no earthquake in the area for 24 hours since Sunday, PHIVOLCS director Undersecretary Renato Solidum Jr. has said.

In an interview on Balitanghali, Solidum said the sudden decrease in sulfur dioxide emission on Sunday to 1,140 tonnes  might be the result of a block in the main crater.

“Posible pang magkaroon ng mga pagsabog diyan sa Taal Volcano, lalong-lalo na sa main crater kasi ‘yung magma ay nandiyan sa mababaw na parte at ang interaksyon ng magma at tubig ang sanhi ng pagpapasabog,” Solidum said.

(It is still possible to have eruptions there in Taal Volcano, especially in the main crater, because the magma there is in the shallow part and the interaction of magma and water is the cause of the eruption.)

“Kung mapapansin din natin, bumaba nang bigla ang sulfur dioxide gas kahapon, mahigit 1,000 lamang at posibleng nagkaron ng pagbara sa daanan ng gas kaya nagkakaron pa rin ng pressurization,” he added.

(If you could notice, the sulfur dioxide gas decreased suddenly yesterday to just over 1,000 and it is possible that there was a blockage in the passage that’s why there is still pressurization.)

PHIVOLCS reported on Monday that there were no volcanic earthquakes recorded at Taal Volcano in the past 24 hours, but Alert Level 3 remains in effect.

The hot volcanic fluids however continued upwelling the main crater in the past 24 hours, generating plumes 1,000 meters tall before drifting southwest.

Asked until when will the Taal Volcano remain under Alert Level 3, Solidum said, “Ang pagtaas ng alert level ay walang time window. Kapag nakakita tayo ng parametro na nagsasabing posibleng magkakaroon ng mas malalakas na pagsabog, pwede tayo magtaas kaagad.”

(The increasing of the alert level has no time window. When we see a parameter that says there is likely to be a stronger explosion, we can raise it immediately.)

“‘Yung pagbaba ng alert level, for example, from 3 to 2, ay kailangan natin ng dalawang linggo na makita natin na talagang tuluyang humuhupa at bumaba ang mga parametro na ating nasusukat diyan sa Taal Volcano,” he added.

(For the easing of the alert level, for example, from 3 to 2, we need two weeks to see that the parameters that we have measured at Taal Volcano are really decreasing.)

PHIVOLCS on Saturday raised the alert status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 2 (increasing unrest) to Alert Level 3 (magmatic unrest) after its main crater "generated a short-lived phreatomagmatic burst.”

This was "followed by nearly continuous phreatomagmatic activity that generated plumes 1500 m accompanied by volcanic earthquake and infrasound signals," PHIVOLCS added.

On its website, PHIVOLCS noted that Alert Level 3 means "magma is near or at the surface, and activity could lead to hazardous eruption in weeks. Danger zones may be expanded up to eight kilometers from the active crater.”

Despite this, Solidum assured that they are not yet seeing any similar parameters between Taal Volcano’s recent activities and its last eruption in January 2020.

“Ang kailangan nating bantayan ay kung ma-trap ang mga gas o ‘di kaya ay merong bagong magma na galing pa sa ilalim na nakita natin ay mga five kilometers down the surface at bigla itong umakyat. ‘Yun po ang dapat nating tignan na mauuwi siguro na kapag namaga ang bulkan at dahil nga may pressure,” he said.

“Sa ngayon, hindi pa masyadong namamaga ang bulkan imbes ay naka-impis ito o naka-deflate,” he added.

(What we need to watch out for is whether the gasses are trapped or if there is new magma that we have seen about five kilometers down the surface which suddenly rises. That’s what we should look for when the volcano swells because of pressure. So far, the volcano has not become too swollen but has deflated.)

The PHIVOLCS chief then underscored that no one should go to the volcano island and fishermen in the area are only allowed to fish for a limited time only.

“‘Yung mga pinamakalapit na barangays sa Agoncillo at Laurel na nirekomenda natin for evacuation ay mananatili na nasa sa evacuation area. Gumamit ng mga masks, mas maganda kung N95 para hindi malanghap ang mga asupre o ‘di kaya ay merong abo na bumabagsak,” he said.

(The nearest barangays in Agoncillo and Laurel which we recommended for evacuation will remain as evacuation areas. People in the area should wear masks, preferably N95, so as not to inhale sulfur or the falling ashes.)

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) noted on Monday that a some 3,850 people or 1,060 families were affected by the recent activities of the Taal Volcano.

Of this number, 2,443 individuals were from Agoncillo, while 1,407 were from Laurel. A total of 14 barangays were affected.

A total of 3,460 individuals or 956 families were also staying inside 16 evacuation centers, while 201 persons or 54 families were staying in other places, according to the NDRRMC. —Giselle Ombay/NB, GMA News