Surrounding towns warned of possible ‘base surge’ in Taal Volcano

Marje Pelayo   •   January 13, 2020   •   930

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) noted a possible ‘base surge’ that may affect surrounding towns as a result of the Taal volcano’s continuous eruption.

Using the agency’s hazard map, PHIVOLCS OIC Renato Solidum explained that areas shaded in orange are the ones facing the possibility of a base surge.

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According to PHIVOLCS, ‘base surge’ is a type of pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) or mixture of fragmented volcanic particles (pyroclastics), hot gases and ash that rush down the volcanic slopes at high speeds.

“Para pong impact ng speeding car (It is similar to a speeding car),” described Ma. Antonia Bornas, Chief of PHIVOLCS’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division (VMEPD).

“Hindi ko lang alam kung sa lake, may mga bahay doon, ay sapat na ang lakas para mapatumba niya, but definitely, mada-damage. Kayang patumbahin ang mga puno. Kayang ma-damage ang mga bahay (I’m not sure if the impact [of the base surge] can bring down houses near the lake but definitely, they will be damaged. [Base surge] can uproot trees and damage houses),” she added, describing what happened in Taal during similar phenomenon in 1911.

Base surge forms when the steam-saturated eruption column collapses and travel outward along the ground surface.

PDCs such as base surge, according to PHIVOLCS, are “the most lethal of all volcanic hazards as it can cause “incineration, asphyxiation, abrasion, dynamic pressure impact and burial in hot volcanic material.”

In the case of Taal, the most recent base surge happened in 1977.

At present, the permanent danger zone on the volcano island stretches up to 14 kilometers away from Taal Volcano.

In case a base surge happens, it will most likely affect towns north of the volcano which include Talisay, San Nicolas, Tanauan, Talisay, Laurel, Agoncillo, Santa Teresita, Alitagtag, Cuenca, Lipa, Balete and Mataas Na Kahoy.

“Kaya nga tayo nagtaas ng alert level (kasi) iyong 1965 eruption ay mas maliit kaysa 1754 (kung saan) tumawid ang deposito papunta sa Laurel, Agoncillo area at maraming namatay, mahigit 200 (That’s the reason why we raised our alert level because the eruption in 1965 was smaller than that in 1754 where deposits reached the towns of Laurel, Agoncillo and killed more than 200 individuals),” explained Solidum.

Aside from base surge, volcanic eruptions may also generate a tsunami but in the case of Taal, it may happen in certain conditions.

“Ang volcanic tsunami ay maidudulot lamang kung may significant volcanic deposit na nai-displace ang tubig para magkaroon ng alon. So wala pang umaabot sa ganun (A volcanic tsunami may generate only when significant volcanic deposits displace water in the lake and form waves. So far, nothing like that has happened at this time),” Solidum said.

PHIVOLCS assured to issue updates on alert levels to forewarn the public regarding the activities of the volcano.

Solidum clarified, however, that Taal Volcano has been placed under Alert Level 1 since March 2019 which means phreatic explosions are expected.

Such happened on Sunday (January 12) which prompted PHIVOLCS to immediately raise alert levels to 2, then 3, after Taal produced ash column of up to 15 kilometers high.

On Monday (January 13), the agency further raised Alert Level over Taal volcano to 4 prompting mandatory evacuations.

At this point, Solidum said, they may raise the alert level to 5 should major eruptions occur.

“Kapag sinabi nating Alert Level 5, sasabihin lang natin na nangyayari na ang mapanganib na eruption (When we say alert level 5, it means a hazardous eruption already occurred),” Solidum said adding that unless eruptions intensify, alert level will remain as it is.

As of this writing, Taal volcano has already started magmatic eruptions and PHIVOLCS assured it will continue its monitoring in order to provide the public the latest updates on volcanic activities in Taal, Batangas. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Phivolcs sees geohazard, flooding risks in Bulacan Airport

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 25, 2020

The project site of the proposed New Manila International Airport in Bulacan has geohazard risks, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The multi-billion airport is sitting on soft ground and its location is prone to frequent flooding, according to Phivolcs Usec. Renato Solidum.

“Just to be very specific on the facts is that it is far away from the fault. But since it’s underlain by sand with a shallow water table, it’s prone to strong ground shaking and liquefaction,” he said.

Solidum said they conducted an assessment to ensure the safety of the community as well as to protect investments. He recommended making buildings and infrastructure resilient to hazards.

“Dapat iyong building mo ay maayos ang disenyo na maging stable siya habang lumilindol at hindi siya tumagilid. Or pwede mo ring patibayan ang lupa. Bawasan mo iyong tubig, palitan mo iyong lupa, (The building should have a proper design for it to be stable during earthquakes. The ground can also be strengthen by reducing its water content or replacing the soil),” he added.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMC) said they have been taking into account the risks in designing the P740 billion domestic and international airport in Bulacan. The SMC also assured they have studied the project, including its feasibility, and all possible risks.

“The airport’s design fully takes this into account and we have actually started implementing sustainable measures to address flooding in Bulacan that has existed for several decades and has been made worse by clogged waterways and drainages,” according to SMC.

The corporation also tapped three major global airport construction firms to ensure the airport is resilient, sustainable, and will provide the best benefits for all Filipinos. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Magnitude 6.4 rocks Davao Occidental

Maris Federez   •   September 7, 2020

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook Davao Occidental at around 11:23 in the evening of Sunday, Sept. 6.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the tremor was located east of Don Marcelino in Davao Occidental with a depth of 149 kilometers.

The quake was tectonic in origin.

Phivolcs is yet to report initial damage, although it warned of aftershocks in the affected areas. —/mbmf

PHIVOLCS reminds public to prepare for potential hazards amid COVID-19 pandemic

Marje Pelayo   •   July 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Earthquake drills have been suspended since the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) occupied the government in the past months. 

The National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) acknowledges the risk of COVID-19 transmission if people engage in drills.

“Delikado pa kasi iyan ngayong may pandemya pa, (That is risky given that we are in the midst of a pandemic),” explained the agency’s spokesperson Mark Timbal.

Timbal said they can still resume as soon as a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered.

“I believe that we will resume the drills once both an effective treatment program as well as an immunization/vaccine is already available,” he added.

Despite the suspension of the drills, the agency said the public gets the information it needs through the local government units through constant information campaigns about disasters and diseases, specifically health protocols in evacuation centers, wearing face mask, using personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing.

The NDRRMC also conducts online training for that matter. 

But for the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), it is still important to always prepare for potential disasters like earthquakes, typhoons and serious floodings even in the midst of a pandemic.

Science and Technology Undersecretary and PHIVOLCS OIC Renator Solidum assured that the agency is constantly conducting online seminars among LGUs and assessing the possible impact of disasters like earthquakes in their respective areas.

PHIVOLCS encourages every member of the family to discuss preparations amongst themselves as to what they will do in case of a serious earthquake like where they could possibly go to be safe. 

Each family also needs to have an emergency kit in place complete with face masks, alcohol or sanitizer.

In the past many large scale disasters minsan merong mga natataong mga pandemic. Mahirap iyon kung hindi handa sa pareho, [In the past, there were large scale disasters that happened along with a pandemic. It’s difficult to be in both situations unprepared,]” Solidum explained.

“We should prepared for both, not only for COVID-19 but also other possible large-scale hazards,” he added.

PHIVOLCS has created applications which can be checked for potential hazards in a specific area and these applications can be accessed through the Georisk Philippines website. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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