Potential explosive eruption warning

Top News | AFP and staff reporter 14 Jan 2020

Lava and fresh columns of ash illuminated by lightning spewed from a volcano south of the Philippine capital yesterday as authorities warned of a possible "explosive eruption."

Fine grit weighed down trees and turned roads into muddy messes across the region of the Taal volcano, which burst into life on Sunday and forced over 20,000 people to seek refuge.

Geologists said the volcano remained active, spurting red-hot lava some 500 meters into the air as accompanying earthquakes rattled.

"We are really scared of what might happen to us" said Bienvenido Musa, 56.

Taal is a tourist attraction in a picturesque lake, yet it is also one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth's surface.

The Philippine Stock Exchange, as well as some schools and government offices, were closed as authorities issued warnings against breathing the ash. Stores also quickly sold out of dust masks.

Limited flight operations resumed yesterday at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport but travelers booked on over 240 canceled flights still faced delays.

"I'm disappointed because this [delay] means additional expense for me and it's tiring," said stranded traveler Joan Diocaras. "But there's nothing we can do."

The eruption began with an explosion of superheated steam and rock that turned into "fountains" of lava, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

Lightning shows have also played out above the volcano in a little-understood phenomenon.

Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said the lava was evidence of fresh movement in the volcano but it was unclear if Taal would "sustain its activity."

Airport Authority Hong Kong said five arriving flights and five departures were canceled yesterday due to the eruption, advising passengers to check the latest flight information before heading to the airport.

Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, Travel Industry Council executive director, said at least four diving groups with around 35 travelers will be departing for Manila toward the end of this month and travel agents will decide later whether to cancel the tours.

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