MANILA, Philippines, January 12, 2020 (ENS) – Mount Taal, a volcano 40 miles south of Manila on the island of Luzon, blew rocks, ash, and steam more than six miles into the air Sunday. People living within 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) of the volcano were ordered to evacuate immediately. More than 8,000 people received the order, and thousands fled the area.

Ash fell on parts of the Manila metro area, the country’s capital and largest city some 40 miles to the north, grounding all flights to and from Manila’s international airport.

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A commercial pilot captured an image of Mt. Taal erupting, Jan. 12, 2020 (Photo courtesy Filipino Times)

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Mark Timbal told the “Manila Bulletin” the affected residents were from the municipalities of San Nicolas, Balete and Talisay, which are areas surrounding Mt. Taal.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised its alert to the second-highest level because activity from the volcano is intensifying and warned that a “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”

The agency said a plume of steam and ash had shot six to nine miles into the sky and that volcanic ash had fallen as far north as Quezon City, a part of the Metro Manila area. The eruption was accompanied by frequent volcanic lightning.

The Institute warned of potential devastating pyroclastic flows and a “volcanic tsunami” for the volcano, which is located in the middle of the Taal Lake. Eruptions there over the years have created an island called Volcano Island.

One of the world’s smallest volcanoes, with an elevation of just 600 meters (2,000 ft), Taal volcano is the country’s second most active volcano. It lies within Batangas province, one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations.

Today’s eruption has set off earthquakes as well. “Volcanic tremor was recorded continuously since 11 am and two volcanic earthquakes of magnitudes M2.5 and M3.9 were felt in Tagatay City and Alitagtag,” said the Institute. These cities are near Metro Manila – Tagatay City in Cavite province, and Alitagtag in Batangas province.

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has urged private companies to suspend Monday work in the National Capital Region, Calabarzon and Region 3 as Taal Volcano is now at Alert Level 4.

The midnight announcement came after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued an advisory that imminent hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.

“The private sector is highly encouraged to suspend work for the safety of their employees,” the administration said in an advisory. The Palace has also advised companies to ensure the safety of their employees. Schools were closed across the greater Metro Manila.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III announced on Sunday that work in the upper chamber would be suspended on Monday due to ash falling on Metro Manila. Asked how long the suspension would last, Sotto said it will be in effect until “the ashfall will stop.”

The House of Representatives is ready to respond to the people’s needs due to the eruption of Taal Volcano, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement Sunday night.

With assurances that the House will provide “support and assistance” Cayetano said, “Together, let us pray for the safety and protection of our people especially those within the danger areas near the Taal volcano.”

Cayetano said the occurrence of unpredictable natural disasters makes it even more urgent for Congress to pass a proposed bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience. Once established it would be in charge of providing emergency response to natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and volcanic eruptions.

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