MANILA, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Schools and businesses shut across the Philippine capital on Monday as a volcano belched clouds of ash across the city and seismologists warned an eruption could happen at any time, potentially triggering a tsunami.
Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes around Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, which spewed ash for a second day from its crater in the middle of a lake about 70 km (45 miles) south of central Manila.
“The speed of escalation of Taal’s volcanic activity caught us by surprise,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told reporters.
“We have detected magma. It’s still deep, it hasn’t reached the surface. We still can expect a hazardous eruption any time.”
Authorities warned that an eruption could send a tsunami surging across the lake.
More than 24,000 people have been evacuated from the volcanic island and the area immediately around it – normally a popular tourist spot.
“We got scared of what could happen to us, we thought the volcano was going to erupt already,” said Marilou Baldonado, 53, who left the town of Laurel with only two sets of clothes after she saw the huge ash cloud build.
Some tourists ignored the dangers and travelled to towns close to the volcano to get a better look.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience for us,” Israeli tourist Benny Borenstein told Reuters as he snapped photos of Taal from a vantage point in Tagaytay City, about 32 km away.
To the southwest of the volcano, the towns of Agoncillo and Lemery were coated by a thick layer of ash, making roads impassable.
Agoncillo’s mayor, Daniel Reyes, told DZMM radio some homes and part of a building had collapsed under the weight of the fallen ash.