The Philippines have been on edge for days as the country's most active volcano has been spewing ash, foreshadowing what experts warn could be an “explosive eruption” as nearly 1 million residents around the area have been urged to evacuate.
Taal Volcano, less than 40 miles south of Manila, began billowing plumes of ash Sunday evening, blacking out the skies and covering the lush green and bright colors of the island with jetblack ash. Those eruptions were accompanied by lightning, thunder, and even earthquakes. Flights in and out of Manila (MNL) were temporarily halted over the weekend.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has issued a level four alert – just shy of the highest alert level of five – warning that an explosive eruption could come within hours or days, according to CNN.
Taal is a relatively small volcano but it's widely considered one of the most dangerous in the world due to its proximity to the capital city. More than 16,000 residents have already been evacuated, and PHIVOLCS is urging nearly 1 million residents around the volcano to leave the area.
How Eruptions Are Affecting Travel
The U.S. State Department has issued a natural disaster alert for the Philippines.
When the Taal Volcano first erupted on Sunday, it spread ash as far north as Manila and beyond, causing low visibility that halted flights. Another eruption is expected to spew dangerous ash as far as 60 miles, potentially affecting more cities.
Areas most affected are those within the evacuation radius and surrounding areas affected by ashfall. Unfortunately, the volcano and surrounding lake are popular tourist destinations, including the resort town of Tagaytay. However, areas and islands further from the ashfall reach have remained largely unaffected.
What You Need to Know for Upcoming Travel
The State Department recommends U.S. citizens in the Philippines to exercise caution if contemplating travel around the volcano and surrounding areas. Because the expected date and time of the pending second eruption is not yet known, this warning applies to travelers planning to visit the surrounding areas as well.
After Sunday's initial eruptions disrupted flights in and out of Manila, it's possible that another eruption could halt flights again. Several airlines, including Philippine Airlines and Air Asia, have issued travel waivers.
Travelers visiting areas north of Taal Volcano, including the capital city of Manila, are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. The U.S. State Department encourages travelers planning to visit any area near the Taal volcano region to monitor conditions via local media and the PHIVOLCS website for up-to-date information.
Finally, enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program will notify the local U.S. Embassy of your location and help you stay safe traveling. You will also be contacted with up to date emergency and safety information from the embassy.
Don't rule out travel to the Philippines. Just as with any natural disaster, they need our tourism support more than ever.
The news of Taal Volcano's eruption shakes us from far away. Our thoughts are with the residents and travelers currently in the area.