Thou­sands flee vol­cano near Manila

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Joeal Calupitan and Jim Gomez

Clouds of ash from the Taal vol­cano reach the cap­i­tal Mon­day, shut­ting down the Philip­pines’ main air­port.

TA­GAY­TAY, Philip­pines — Red-hot lava spewed from a vol­cano near the Philippine cap­i­tal of Manila on Mon­day as tens of thou­sands of peo­ple fled through heavy ash and fright­en­ing tremors, and au­thor­i­ties made plans to evac­u­ate hun­dreds of thou­sands more for fear of a big­ger erup­tion.

Clouds of ash from the Taal vol­cano reached Manila, 40 miles to the north, on Sun­day, forc­ing the shut­down of the coun­try’s main air­port, with more than 500 flights can­celed. The air­port par­tially re­opened Mon­day af­ter the ash fall eased.

There were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of any deaths or ma­jor dam­age di­rectly blamed on the erup­tion. A truck, how­ever, skid­ded out of con­trol on an ash-blan­keted road, killing the driver and in­jur­ing three com­pan­ions in La­guna prov­ince in an ac­ci­dent po­lice said may have been linked to slip­pery con­di­tions.

The gov­ern­ment’s dis­as­ter-re­sponse agency and other of­fi­cials re­ported more than 30,000 vil­lagers fled their homes in the hard-hit prov­ince of Batan­gas and nearby Cavite prov­ince. Of­fi­cials ex­pected the num­ber to swell.

Some res­i­dents could not im­me­di­ately flee their ash­blan­keted vil­lages be­cause of a lack of trans­porta­tion and poor vis­i­bil­ity. Oth­ers re­fused to leave their homes and farms.

“We have a prob­lem — our peo­ple are pan­ick­ing due to the vol­cano be­cause they want to save their liveli­hood, their pigs and herds of cows,” Mayor Wil­son Mar­alit of the town of Balete told DZMM ra­dio. “We’re try­ing to stop them from re­turn­ing and warn­ing that the vol­cano can ex­plode again any time and hit them.”

Mar­alit, whose town lies along the shore­line of Taal Lake, which sur­rounds the erupt­ing vol­cano, ap­pealed for troops and more po­lice to stop peo­ple from sneak­ing back to their vil­lages.

Af­ter a cleanup and a shift of ash-laden winds away from Manila, of­fi­cials par­tially re­opened the main air­port and al­lowed planes to take off. Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s air­craft was able to land in Manila on Mon­day from his home­town of Davao, his spokesman said, adding he saw the ex­tent of the dis­as­ter from the plane.

Taal sud­denly rum­bled back to life Sun­day, blast­ing steam, ash and peb­bles to 6 to 9 miles into the sky, ac­cord­ing to the Philippine In­sti­tute of Vol­canol­ogy and Seis­mol­ogy.

On Mon­day, the ash and steam col­umn reached a height of about a mile, with lava foun­tains spurt­ing less than half that height be­fore fall­ing into the lake wa­ters sur­round­ing the main crater. Lava also spurted from an­other vent north of the main crater, said Re­nato Solidum, who heads the in­sti­tute.

Fre­quent tremors and a buildup of pres­sure of the 1,020-foot vol­cano, one of the world’s smallest, how­ever, in­di­cated a ma­jor and much more dan­ger­ous erup­tion could still hap­pen, he said.

GER­RARD CARREON/AP

Res­i­dents are evac­u­ated as heavy ash and de­bris from the Taal vol­cano erup­tion con­tin­ues to fall Mon­day on their town in Tal­isay, Batan­gas, south­ern Philip­pines.

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