Taal volcano: 104 377 people still in evacuation shelters, intense seismicity continues, Alert Level 4


More than 200 000 people have been affected since the Taal volcano started erupting on January 12, 2020. The Alert Level 4 remains in effect – hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.

The eruption affected a total of 203 763 people in Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, and Cavite from January 12 to 19, 2020. 104 377 people or 26 767 families are still taking temporary shelter in 408 evacuation centers while 68 755 people or 17 391 families are served outside evacuation centers.

Since midnight UTC on January 19, the activity at the volcano has been generally characterized by weak emission of steam-laden plumes 300 to 500 m (984 – 1 640 feet) high from the Main Crater that drifted to the general southwest.

From 05:00 UTC on January 12 to 10:00 UTC on January 19, the Philippine Seismic Network plotted a total of 701 volcanic earthquakes. 

176 of these were felt with intensities ranging from Intensity I to V.

In 24 hours to 00:00 UTC on January 19, the Taal Volcano Network recorded 787 volcanic earthquakes including 15 low-frequency earthquakes. 

Such intense seismic activity likely signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further activity.

On January 17, PHIVOLCS reported that existing fissures in Lemery, Agoncillo, Talisay, and San Nicolas have been observed to widen by a few centimeters.

Alert Level 4 remains in effect over Taal Volcano. This means that hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days. 

DOST-PHIVOLCS strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in the hazard maps within the 14-km (8.7 miles) radius from Taal Main Crater and along the Pansipit River Valley where fissuring has been observed.

Based on PAGASA wind forecast, if the eruption plume remains below 5 km (3.1 miles), ash will be drifted to south and southwest of the Main Crater; however, if a major eruption occurs during the day and eruption column exceeds 5 km, ash will also be drifted to the eastern and northeastern sectors and may fall on portions of Batangas, Laguna and Quezon.

Residents around the volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall.

Geological summary

Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines and has produced some of its most powerful historical eruptions. Though not topographically prominent, its prehistorical eruptions have greatly changed the topography of SW Luzon. The 15 x 20 km (9 x 12 feet) Talisay (Taal) caldera is largely filled by Lake Taal, whose 267 km2 (103 mi2) surface lies only 3 m (9.8 feet) above sea level.

The maximum depth of the lake is 160 m (525 feet), and several eruptive centers lie submerged beneath the lake. The 5-km-wide (3.1 miles) Volcano Island in north-central Lake Taal is the location of all historical eruptions. The island is composed of coalescing small stratovolcanoes, tuff rings, and scoria cones that have grown about 25% in the area during historical time. Powerful pyroclastic flows and surges from historical eruptions have caused many fatalities. (GVP)

Featured image credit: Joint Task Group Taal

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