PHIVOLCS Records Eruption Accompanied by Elevated Sulfur Dioxide Emissions
A phreatomagmatic eruption was observed from Taal Volcano earlier this afternoon, Thursday, July 1, 2021. This is the latest in a week-long period of intensifying unrest, prompting PHIVOLCS (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) to raise Taal Volcano to Alert Level 3 (Magmatic Unrest).
PHIVOLCS reports that as of 3:16 pm, Taal Volcano’s main crater "generated a short-lived dark phreatomagmatic plume 1 kilometer-high with no accompanying volcanic earthquake."
Plumes of sulfuric gas emissions accompanied the eruption and are expected to spread to the southwest of the Taal area. PHIVOLCS warns residents around the immediate vicinity of Taal Lake to move to evacuation sites and warns nearby towns and provinces to expect thicker volcanic smog (aka, vog) in the next few hours or days.
The eruption this afternoon was small, short-lived, and concentrated to the immediate vicinity of the island and the lake. However, the eruption column was characterized by black smoke which indicates magma may have risen, causing the unrest. As of this writing, PHIVOLCS recommends total evacuation of the immediate areas surrounding the volcano. While the eruption may have been small, this does not mean no more eruptions are expected. The agency will continue to monitor Taal's activity as it continues to spew large amounts of sulfur dioxide.
Volcanic Smog Reach and Its Health Effects
Dr. Renato Solidum, Jr., Undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Officer-in-Charge of PHIVOLCS, notes that these sulphuric emissions may be a good thing; it relieves the pressures within the volcano, allowing pressures to dissipate rather than build up and intensify into full-blown volcanic eruptions.
However, he also said the sulfur dioxide emission levels are worryingly high and will continue to be monitored. The volcanic smog emitted in the past few days has affected Metro Manila and nearby provinces, prompting warnings for persons with weak respiratory systems to take extra precautions. The vog is expected to move southwest of Taal in the next few days.
What Is “Vog” and How Does It Pose a Health Hazard?
"Vog" or volcanic smog, is a type of air pollution that is caused by volcanic eruptions. Volcanic gases like sulfur dioxide (SO2) are emitted into the air and mix with the moisture in the atmosphere to spread as very fine droplets. Sulfur dioxide is acidic and can cause irritation of the eyes, throat, and respiratory tract.
In low levels (and in short spans of exposure), it can cause breathing discomfort and eye irritations. In higher levels (and longer exposure), it can be potentially damaging or life-threatening to those with pre-existing respiratory problems and health conditions such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease. PHIVOLCS warns that the elderly, pregnant women, and young children are sensitive to vog.
Symptoms of Vog Exposure may include, but not limited to:
- Asthma-like symptoms
- (Difficulty in breathing, etc.)
- Flu-like symptoms
- Susceptibility to respiratory ailments
- Watery eyes
- (Eyes and area around them may also be itchy)
- Sore throat
This has heightened concerns especially in this time of the pandemic. PHIVOLCS advises people to stay indoors, use N95 masks, drink lots of water, and to get medical attention if they have any of these symptoms.
What Is the Status of Taal Volcano as of Now?
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Monday advised residents surrounding Taal Lake to take necessary precautions should the presence of volcanic smog (vog) over Taal Volcano's caldera continues.
PHIVOLCS recommends evacuation for residents in the barangays around Taal Lake, particularly in the following areas:
- Taal Volcano Island
- (Permanent Danger Zone, or PDZ)
- Taal Lake
- Agoncillo, Batangas
- Laurel, Batangas
- Lakeshore Bigaan East
For areas and barangays outside the immediate vicinity, PHIVOLCS advises caution and to take the necessary measures in anticipation of stronger and larger eruptions.
If things get worse, residents are expected to follow local disaster management protocols like relocating to designated evacuation centers. The next two weeks will determine whether Alert Level 3 will remain, or be downgraded to Alert Level 2.
In the meantime, to avoid Vog Exposure:
- Stay indoors, especially children and pets
- Cover all assets that are outside or are in the open, under heavy sheets
- Keep your cars under cover; keep them indoors, under heavy covers, or better, in sturdy shelters
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