Authorities in the Philippines have warned on Sunday, January 12th of an imminent "explosive eruption" of a volcano south of Manila a few hours after it had shot a massive column of ash skyward, forcing the cancellation of flights and closure of schools and government offices until further notice, AFP reported.
Thousands of people living near the Taal volcano, known for being a popular tourist attraction set in the centre of a picturesque lake, were evacuated from the area near their homes as it ejected ash and steam into the sky and rumbled with earthquakes as lightning exploded above its crest.
The warning came after the ash cloud reached 50,000 feet (15,000 metres) into the atmosphere. Aviation officials ordered a suspension of flights to and from the capital's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Authorities had initially stopped all operations at NAIA for a few hours, but later on Sunday announced that flights would be suspended "until further notice."
Among speculation whether to flee the area or not, the nation's seismological agency has warned that a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days."
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade has demanded aviation officials to "do whatever is necessary for the interest of public safety," according to a joint statement from air and transport authorities.
In his statement to Reuters, Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said that “Taal is a very small volcano, but a dangerous volcano.”
“It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano,” he added.
Eduardo Carino, who works at a hotel near the volcano, said he was scared the volcano would erupt but added, “I'll leave it to fate. I just have to pray.”
Taal is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines and has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977. An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people, and another in 1754 lasted for a few months.
According to Fox News, there have so far not been any reports of injuries or damage, but authorities have resolved to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from an island in the middle of the lake where the volcano lies. In the wake of the warning, about 300,000 people were targeted to be moved to safety in Batangas overnight and in the next few days, official sources reported.