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People told stay alert as Taal erupts

State volcanologists on Friday said Taal Volcano’s next eruption could be stronger after it spewed steam and rocks hundreds of meters into the sky the day earlier, prompting thousands to flee.

Taal continues to emit smoke, which is caused by gas and water vapor moving up toward its crater, said Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“We hope there won’t be stronger eruptions but that’s the threat from Taal because it continues to emit gases,” he told a televised news briefing in Filipino.

Taal has been belching sulphur dioxide for days, creating a thick haze over Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.

The Department of Health (DoH) advised people to take precautionary measures against toxic gas emissions from Taal Volcano’s eruption.

In an advisory issued late Thursday, the agency said short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide, a colorless toxic gas emitted by the volcano, could harm the respiratory system and make breathing difficult.

“People with asthma, particularly children are sensitive to these effects,” DoH said. “Prolonged exposure or high concentrations of this gas can cause inflammation and irritation of the respiratory system.”

Other symptoms of exposure to sulfur dioxide include skin and eye irritation, mucus secretion, coughing and asthma. It may also aggravate bronchitis and increase the risk of respiratory tract infection.

DoH said people should stay indoors, close the doors and windows especially if they are near the volcano and wear face masks.

Volcanologists on Thursday raised the alert status of Taal from Alert Level 2 or increasing unrest to Alert Level 3 or magmatic unrest.

“This means that there is magmatic intrusion at the main crater that may further drive succeeding eruptions,” it said in a bulletin. It said people living in Agoncillo and Laurel in Batangas province should be evacuated.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. on Friday said the palace was monitoring the situation in Taal, adding evacuation of people there were ongoing.

“We ask residents in the areas surrounding the volcano lake to remain vigilant, take precautionary measures, cooperate with their local authorities should the need for evacuation arise,” he said in a statement.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Calabarzon has stockpiles of relief support including food packs worth P1.4 million and nonfood items worth P11 million.

Meanwhile, the National Electrification Administration ordered electric cooperatives in Luzon especially in the Calabarzon region to take contingency measures to mitigate the effects of the Taal volcano eruption on their power distribution systems. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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