Playing the waiting game at Taal

Philippine officials are already preparing for an eruption of Taal after the volcano continues to show signs of unrest.

A partially-eroded scoria cone in the Taal volcano caldera.

As I mentioned earlier this week, PHIVOLCS has raised the Alert Status at Taal in the Philippines to 2 (out of 5) after increasing tremors and gas emissions from the volcano's crater lakes. Now, the Philippine government is taking this threat very serious, sending divers, helicopters, rescue equipment and medical teams to the area near the volcano in case an eruption occurs. Provincial officials in Batangas have asked 5,000 people living near Taal to voluntarily evacuate - however, as with many evacuations, people are reluctantly to leave their homes and animals. In fact, a member of the Batangas Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council thinks that many people won't leave until Taal is on Alert Level 4, citing that few people evacuated during that last threat of eruption in 1991. Schools have no closed, either, in the area near the volcano.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard did venture to Volcano Island - the current main vent area for Taal - and noted discolored water, the smell of sulfur and area of hot water in the lake. These would all seem to be signs that something is brewing under the lakes in Taal's magmatic system - however, passive degassing underneath the lakes occurs all the time (video) in the form of carbon dioxide seeps. PHIVOLCS has not issued a new status update for the volcano on their website, however, Director of PHIVOLCS Renato Solidum Jr. says that the main crater area on Volcano Island is off-limits due to the threat of steam explosions and toxic volcanic gases. The Red Cross is also reminding people of what to do if the volcano were to erupt - in all, it sounds like officials in the Philippines are getting ready in case Taal does spring back to life.

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