February 29, 2024

Mayon, Taal showing signs of unrest

By Jun Talusan

MAYON Volcano in the province of Albay in  Bicol and Taal Volcano in Batangas are both showing signs of unrest.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported increased rockfall in Mayon Volcano while increased degassing activity was observed in Taal Volcano.

Phivolcs yesterday raised Mayon Volcano’s alert level from Level 1 (abnormal) to Level 2 (increased unrest) due to increased rockfall.

In an advisory, Phivolcs said that from an average of five rockfall events per day, the frequency has increased to 49 from 5 a.m. of June 4 to 5 a.m. the next day.

A total of 318 rockfall events and 26 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded since April 1, Phivolcs said.

The lava dome has increased in volume by approximately 83,000 cubic meters since Feb. 23, and a total of nearly 164,000 cubic meters since Aug. 20, 2022.

The highest sulfur dioxide emission was 576 tons last April 29, and the last measurement averaged 162 tons last May 23.

“These low-level volcanic earthquakes, ground deformation, and volcanic gas parameters are overshadowed by recent steep increases in rockfall events which may possibly lead to further dome activity,” the advisory read.

Under Alert Level 2, the current unrest driven by shallow magmatic processes could lead to phreatic eruptions or precede hazardous magmatic eruption.

The public is advised to be vigilant and refrain from entering the 6-km radius permanent danger zone to minimize risks from sudden explosions, rockfall and landslides.

In case of ash fall that may affect communities downwind of Mayon’s crater, people should cover their nose and mouth with a damp, clean cloth or dust mask.

Meanwhile, Phivolcs has monitored an increased degassing activity from Taal volcano since Saturday night in the form of visible upwelling of volcanic fluids.

In an advisory on Sunday, Phivolcs said the “fluids in the main crater lake produced voluminous steam-rich plumes that rose to 3,000 meters above Taal Volcano Island (TVI).”

As a result, volcanic smog or “vog” was visibly seen over the caldera of Taal, which was reported by the residents of the municipalities encircling the lake, including Balete, Laurel, and Agoncillo.

Acid rain is also expected over areas where the plume disperses, which is also expected to damage crops and affect metal roofs of houses and buildings.

According to Phivolcs, there was likewise an increase in volcanic sulfur dioxide gas emission from the main crater of the volcano as recorded on June 1, totaling 5,831 tons/day, which was higher than last month with just an average of 3,356 tons/day.

Phivolcs reminded communities vulnerable to the vog’s effects to be mindful, especially the elderly, pregnant, children, and those people with health conditions such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease.

The people in the affected areas are encouraged to stay indoors and shut doors and windows to block out vog.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) issued Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) due to Taal Volcano’s and Mayon Volcano’s unrest, said CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio.

With Mayon Volcano now on Alert Level 2 and Taal Volcano on Alert Level 1, flights have been prohibited to operate 10,000 feet from the surface and advised to avoid flying close to the volcanos’ summit as ash from the sudden phreatic eruption can be hazardous to aircraft.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has started preparing food packs and funds to be distributed to the families amid Taal’s and Mayon’s unrest.

DSWD Sec. Rex Gatchalian has ordered field offices in Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions to prepare for the ongoing volcanic activities.