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Over 7,000 evacuated after Taal eruption; hundreds of thousands more await rescue

The sudden “phreatic explosion” of Taal Volcano on Sunday forced the evacuation of at least 966 families or 7,742 individuals in Batangas and Cavite provinces, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported on Monday.

As of 6 a.m. January 13, NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad said the displaced residents were sheltered in 38 evacuation centers across the Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) Region (Region 4A).

The displaced residents were from San Nicolas, Talisay, Tanauan City, Mataas na Kahoy, Balete, Lipa City, and Laurel in Batangas; and Tagaytay City in Cavite.

On Sunday night, NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal said that around 300,000 individuals have been brought to safety but he later clarified that this was the target number of persons that would have to be evacuated in Batangas and Cavite.

Timbal also said that the NDRRMC Operations Center in Manila has raised “red alert” status which means that all agencies under it and its offices in affected areas must report to their headquarters 24/7.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed search, rescue, and retrieval teams (SRR) and various military assets for the on-going humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations in Batangas.

The military’s Luzon-based units were also placed on red alert status effective 6 p.m. Sunday on the orders of AFP Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr.

The declaration ensured that all military personnel will be ready to act on emergency situations and thwart all possible threats that may arise, Santos said.

“We enjoin our kababayans in the disaster-affected areas to exercise necessary caution and voluntarily evacuate to safer areas. They should heed the warnings and safety instructions from their local government and AFP officials,” said Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman.

Santos directed the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to provide two helicopters for aerial survey and inspection of Taal Volcano.

Troops from the Army’s Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) and 525th Engineer Combat Battalion (525ECBn) of the 51st Engineer Brigade (51EBde) were deployed for HADR missions.

At least 20 trucks from the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) and Army Support Command were initially provided to evacuate the affected individuals.

SRR teams from the Navy and Air Force were also placed on standby for possible deployment.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Alert Level 4 over Taal Volcano on Sunday night.

It means that a hazardous explosive eruption is imminent within hours to days, Phivolcs said.

Taal spewed ashes in a phreatic explosion and seismic swarm was felt in Batangas and other nearby areas on Sunday afternoon.

Phreatic explosion, according to the US Geological Survey, occurs when water beneath the ground or on surface is heated by a volcanic activity.

Seismic swarm, on the other hand, is a series of minor earthquakes that happen at the same area and time.




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