Safety First: Flights Canceled, Two Taal Roads Closed Due to Volcano Eruption

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Following Taal Volcano’s phreatic eruption, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) canceled flight operations since Sunday, January 12, 2020. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) lifted the number coding scheme today, January 13.

Before 9PM yesterday, there were 172 flights canceled already, according to Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal, as cited in CNN Philippines. The latest count, as of 5AM this morning, is 286. Clark International Airport is expected to shut down operations as well to ensure public safety.

Monreal said that there won’t be any movements during this time, given the danger from the ashfall and smoke from the volcano. 

According to Ariel Carabeo from the Manila Area Control Center, the ash clouds can seriously affect aircraft performance. He explained that airborne equipment isn’t built to detect ash clouds. When they get inside the engine, it could stop, and therefore make the plane unable to fly.

Prioritizing aircraft safety, the authorities also said they would have to clean the ash on the runway before normal operations resume. 

Monreal discouraged passengers from going to the airport until they release more information. The MIAA, Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) disclosed in a joint statement that the cancellation of flights would be in place until further notice.

Road Closures and Coding Updates on January 13

Meanwhile, regarding land transportation, the MMDA suspended the number coding scheme, as reported in GMA Network. Vehicles with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 can pass by EDSA and other major roads in Metro Manila.

Over at the Taal region, two national roads, namely Tagaytay-Talisay Road and Tagaytay Taal Lake Road were temporarily closed, according to Philstar. The Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said that the agency sent out manpower and equipment to help in the rescue and evacuation initiatives in various towns in Batangas.

Explainer on Taal’s Volcanic Eruption

Taal Volcano erupted in the afternoon of January 12. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) categorized it as ‘phreatic.’ This kind of eruption produces steam, which results from magma or molten rock heating cold groundwater, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The volcano spews fragments of pre-existing solid rock from its pit, instead of new magma. This is not the first time the Philippines saw a phreatic eruption. In 2018, the Mayon Volcano exhibited such, as Manila Bulletin reported.

As of writing, Taal is put under Alert 4. This means a hazardous eruption is possible within the next few days. This classification is characterized by intense unrest and continuing seismic movements, including tremors and low-frequency earthquakes. 

According to another CNN Philippines report, PHIVOLCS recorded a total of 75 volcanic earthquakes in the Taal area since it showed activity yesterday. Experts explain that it indicates continued movement of a huge volume of magma. As hot rocks move up the volcano, earthquakes are expected to persist in areas near it. 

If volcanic activity escalates and enters the fifth level, a volcanic tsunami may happen. This is because the falling debris following an eruption would cause a large volume of water to rise towards the shoreline. Although experts say that this isn’t as high as the typical earthquake tsunami, it can affect communities that are near the shore nonetheless. They then urge people living within the 14-kilometer radius of the volcano’s crater to comply with the government’s evacuation orders.

State of the Region

Thousands of people evacuated from the Taal area to seek safer places. The local government of Talisay, for one, transferred its residents this morning to Nasugbu, Tanauan, and Sto. Tomas, Batangas, as GMA Network reported. 

In a separate report, there were over 7,000 people evacuated from San Nicolas, Tanauan, Mataas na Kahoy, Lipa, Laurel, Balete, and the mentioned municipality above. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), these individuals came from 966 families, housed in 38 evacuation centers. Evacuation was a little difficult because of the slippery, muddy roads, which resulted from the thick layer of volcanic ash mixed with the puddles of water from rains that poured on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, in Tagaytay and Cavite, tourists are urged to leave the areas and return to their hometowns to ensure safety, Business Mirror cited. The Department of Tourism reassured that no tourists so far were affected by the volcanic eruption, but they will continue to monitor the areas.

Towns and cities in other CALABARZON provinces saw ash fall as well. This includes Sta. Rosa in Laguna, Malolos, San Jose, and Meycauayan in Bulacan, Angono, Antipolo, and Taytay in Rizal. Cities in Metro Manila, including Pasig, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Manila, Makati, Taguig, Las Piñas, and Parañaque experienced the same, as reported in DWIZ.

Sources:  CNN Philippines, GMA Network, Philstar, U.S. Geological Survey, Manila Bulletin, GMA Network, Business Mirror, DWIZ

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