Lava and broad columns of ash illuminated by lightning spewed from Taal Volcano in Batangas yesterday, grounding hundreds of flights for most of the day as authorities continued to warm of a possible "explosive eruption".
In Negros Occidental Acting Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon and San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called for prayers for the safety of residents evacuating from their homes near the volcano.
Ferrer also called for prayers that a similar situation does not happen in Negros Occidental that also has an active volcano.
He said close monitoring and disaster preparedness measures have been put in place in areas surrounding Kanlaon Volcano that straddles Negros Occidental and Oriental. Local government units in the area have crisis management teams, he said, stressing the importance of always being prepared.
Ferrer said he will leave it to Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, on his return from his vacation in the United States, to decide on what assistance the Negros Occidental provincial government will give the areas affected by the Taal eruption.
Buzon said “in times of calamities let us be one with those affected”.
He called on the faithful of the Diocese of Bacolod to pray and extend help to those affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.
Fr. Roy Gesulgon, Diocese of Bacolod chancellor, said donations to the Taal Volcano victims may be sent to Diocese of Bacolod Social Action Center at the Bishop’s House in Bacolod City.
Buzon has called on the priests to include a petition in the recitation of the Prayers of the Faithful during masses for the safety and protection of the people in the affected areas of the Taal volcano explosion, Gesulgon said.
The bishop also directed the priests to organize special collections for the victims of this calamity, Gesulgon added.
Alminaza said he is praying for the victims of the Taal eruption and also calling for help.
The San Carlos bishop also said he is “hoping we all learn and stop denying we are in a climate emergency. I call on all those who have power to shut down all the heaviest producers of carbon emission: coal-fired power plants and not allow new ones where renewable energy sources are available and sustainable.”
For most of yesterday, Manila-Bacolod-Manila flights were cancelled, with only a few flying in after 3 p.m., Bacolod Silay Airport records show.
Only one Air Asia and two Cebu Pacific planes had flown from Manila to Bacolod and back as of press time last night. Flights to Cebu and Clark in Pampanga continued.
Fine grit weighed down trees and turned roads into muddy messes across the region surrounding the Taal volcano, which burst to life Sunday and has forced over 20,000 people to seek refuge in evacuation centers.
Geologists said the volcano remained active, spurting red-hot lava some 1,600 feet into the air from new cracks that have opened in its northern flank, as accompanying earthquakes rattled the area.
"We are really scared of what might happen to us... that our house might collapse in a strong earthquake and that we'll all be killed by falling debris," said Bienvenido Musa, aged 56.
"Who wouldn't be scared? That's why I decided to send my family to an evacuation center."
Taal is a tourist attraction that sits in a picturesque lake, yet is also one of the most active volcanoes in a nation where earthquakes and eruptions are a frightening and destructive part of life.
The Philippines sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth's surface.
Schools in the region around Taal, some government offices in Manila and the Philippine Stock Exchange were closed as authorities issued warnings against breathing the ash.
Stores quickly sold out of dust masks, which health officials said could help protect against potentially harmful effects of the powder-like soot.
"I'll just stay at home and tie a handkerchief around my face. I think that's OK," Manila resident MenchieClaveria said, after attempting to buy a mask.
Limited flight operations resumed yesterday afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, nearly a day after authorities halted them due to the safety risk volcanic ash poses to planes.
However, travellers booked on over 240 cancelled flights still faced delays at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
"I'm disappointed because this (delay) means additional expense for me and it's tiring to wait," said stranded traveller Joan Diocaras, a 28-year-old Filipino who works in Taiwan.
"But there's nothing we can do."
The eruption began with an explosion of superheated steam and rock, but by early yesterday "fountains" of lava had been spotted on Taal, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.
Stunning lightning shows have periodically played out above the volcano in a little-understood phenomenon that has been attributed to static electricity.
Authorities raised the volcano alert level to its second-highest on Sunday, saying an "explosive eruption" could happen in "hours to days".
Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said the lava was evidence of fresh movement in the volcano, but said it was unclear if Taal would "sustain its activity".
Apart from the ash, some particles up to 6.4 centimeters (2.5 inches) in diameter, larger than a golf ball, had reportedly fallen in areas around the lake, Phivolcs said.
Taal's last eruption was in 1977, Solidum said.*
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