At least 2,000 people were forced to leave their houses after the Taal volcano in the Philippines started spewing steam, filling the air with toxic gas and prompting health warnings.
Sitting on a scenic lake, Taal has been belching sulphur dioxide for several days, creating a thick haze over Manila and several surrounding provinces.
At least 2,400 people have so far fled since the government called for evacuations of hamlets on the lake’s shores, provincial disaster official Joselito Castro told AFP news agency.
“We expect more residents to evacuate over the coming days,” he said, adding that they were seeking refuge either in schools closed by the coronavirus pandemic or in the homes of relatives.
Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation hit periodically by eruptions and earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – a zone of intense seismic activity.
It lies just 50km south of Manila and for much of the past week has discharged volcanic smog that has blotted out the sun in the capital.
Civil defence officials have warned that upwards of 317,000 people could be vulnerable to toxic gas emissions from the volcano under the current eruption’s worst-case scenario.
In January last year, Taal’s previous eruption, shot ash 15km high and spewed red-hot lava, crushing scores of homes, killing livestock and sending more than 135,000 people into shelters.
— Deo (@deotectonics) July 1, 2021