Philippines keeps guard on deadly volcano eruption amid quakes

The current alert level for Taal Volcano indicates another hazardous eruption is possible within hours or days. (AP pic)

MANILA: The Philippines maintained its second-highest alert for Taal as the deadly volcano continued to generate weak explosions and earthquakes a week after it started emitting ash and steam.

More than 162,000 people have fled their homes and are staying in 475 evacuation centres, according to the disaster risk management office of Batangas province, where Taal is located.

Activity at the volcano, 65km south of the capital Manila, escalated on Jan 12 and its current alert level indicates a hazardous eruption is possible within hours or days.

Farm damage has reached 3.17 billion pesos as the eruption damaged coffee and pineapple plantations, and caused mass fish deaths on the lake around the volcano, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“Activity in the main crater in the past 24 hours has been characterised by steady steam emission and infrequent weak explosions that generated white to dirty white ash plumes 500 to 1,000m tall,’ the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in its 8am report.

The agency registered 175 earthquakes in the 24 hours to 5am Sunday, and “such intense seismic activity likely signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity,” it said.

Taal, which consists of multiple craters, last erupted in 1977 and has recorded 34 eruptions since 1572. Its violent history was said to have drastically changed the landscape of Batangas province and caused the relocation of some towns.

Taal Volcano is a top tourist attraction for the Philippines, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Battered by about 20 typhoons annually, the country also sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.