MANILA (Reuters): Schools and businesses shut across the Philippine capital yesterday 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. Some tourists ignored the dangers and travelled to towns close to the volcano to get a better look.
In Manila, masks sold out quickly after residents were advised to wear them if they had to go out. Some wore handkerchiefs across their faces as they breathed air tainted by the smell of sulphur.
Streets that would normally be snarled with some of the world’s worst traffic were largely empty in the city of 13 million people.
Schools and Government offices were closed on official orders. The stock exchange suspended trading and many private businesses shut for the day too.
Classes in some cities in the capital will remain suspended today, officials said.
Flight operations at Manila’s international airport partially resumed, authorities said, after more than 500 flights were delayed or cancelled on Sunday.