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Be ready to leave, Taal villagers told

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:21:00 04/12/2011

Filed Under: Volcanic activity, Evacuation(General), Warnings

MANILA, Philippines?Authorities Monday warned residents to prepare to evacuate at a moment?s notice as restive Taal Volcano continued to generate quakes and toxic gases.

Around 100 families have left the area, but the rest of the 7,000 residents have ignored warnings issued during the weekend by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

?We recommended to them to prepare for evacuation and to monitor the growing unrest of Taal Volcano,? volcanologist July Sabit said in a phone interview Monday.

Phivolcs placed Taal Volcano, a major tourist destination in Batangas province, on Alert Level 2 after recording increased carbon dioxide emissions and several dozen tremors. The alert means that magma is rising to the surface, Sabit said.

He noted that there had been no sign of intensified volcanic activities just yet to upgrade to Alert Level 3, which means an eruption is possible within days.

Despite that, Phivolcs described the volcano?s status as ?alarming? and said communities surrounding Taal should always be prepared.

Tremors continue

Phivolcs said tourists and residents should avoid Volcano Island because of sudden explosions and emissions of toxic gases. In the past 24 hours, the agency recorded seven tremors in the area, up from six on Sunday and 21 over the weekend.

Phivolcs also said the ground in the crater area had grown slightly, another indication that the volcano had increased magmatic activity.

Its advisory Monday said a survey conducted around Volcano Island on April 5-11 showed the Taal edifice was ?slightly inflated? compared with a survey done on Feb. 2-9.

Water temperature surrounding Volcano Island also went up to 30.5 degrees Celsius from 30 degrees. During the 1965 eruption, the water in the crater lake heated up to 40 degrees, Sabit said.

Carbon dioxide emissions was at 4,670 tons per day as of March, up from 1,875 tons per day in February.

Sabit said the agency would again measure emissions later this month. He noted that it was difficult and dangerous to take the carbon dioxide values as it entailed Phivolcs scientists going up and around the Taal crater.

Evacuation centers

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo Monday directed local officials of Talisay town, Batangas, and other towns near Taal Volcano to prepare for the possible evacuation of residents.

?It?s important for our local government units to be vigilant and prepared to ensure the safety of the residents,? Robredo said in a statement.

He also reminded tourists and residents to avoid the volcano?s main crater, the Daang Kastila Trail and Mt. Tabaro.

He said the local disaster risk reduction management councils should determine public schools and town plazas that could be used as temporary relocation sites for evacuees.

Tagaytay city in Cavite province, located 18 kilometers from Volcano Island, is preparing evacuation sites for up to 5,000 Taal residents in case of a major eruption, said Clyde Yayong, chief of the local disaster council. They include Sungay Elementary School, the Tolentino sports complex and the city gymnasium.

?We also have on standby five dump trucks that could ferry the evacuees who live closest to Tagaytay City to our evacuation sites,? he said. With reports from Marlon Ramos and Maricar Cinco and Marrah Erika Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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