#TaalEruption2020: Know the harmful effects of volcanic ash
Marje Pelayo • January 15, 2020 • 327
Volcanic ash can be so fine that it can damage one’s vision and can penetrate the body’s respiratory system.
Depending on wind direction and eruption style, volcanic ash may remain suspended in the air for days, months or even years.
Larger and heavier rock fragments from the volcano easily fall back to the ground whereas lighter and smaller fragments are blown farther from the volcano by wind.
However, the smallest particle which is the volcanic ash can travel even thousands of kilometers depending of wind speed.
“Kung masyadong pino ang ash fall, like less than 100 microns ang size, iyong ash kaya niyang lumutang sa hangin for a period of 3 days bago sya completely mag settle out (If volcanic ash measures less that 100 microns in size, that’s so fine that it can float in the air for a period of three days before it settles out),” explained Ma. Antonia Bornas, chief of Volcano Monitoring Division at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) further explained that even if the ash settles on the ground, it can still be inhaled by humans.
“Kapag dinaanan ng sasakyan o naibuga ng hangin iyan balik na naman sa air iyan, so iyon ang problema natin ( When vehicles run over the ash or is swept by the wind, it is blown back into the air. That is the problem), ” noted DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.
Volcanic ash can be mistaken for ordinary dust particles.
Try to put a small amount of oil on a small platter and leave it outdoors for about 20 minutes.
Small particles stick to the oil but it is difficult to determine which is volcanic ash because they are microscopic in size.
“Less than 100 microns ang volcanic ash, mas maliit pa (Volcanic ash is usually less than 100 microns, so even smaller than ordinary dust particles),” Bornas said.
Volcanic ash is made up of tiny particles composed of varying proportions of volcanic glass, minerals or crystals, and other rock fragments that range from sand-size to powder-size.
The Department of Health (DOH) explained possible conditions which may be experienced after exposure to volcanic ash.
These include nose and throat irritation, breathing discomfort, eye irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness and minor skin problems.
“If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Also, international health experts warned that exposure to volcanic ash can be deadly not only to humans but to animals and plants as smoke coming from a volcano is poisonous.
Dangerous particles and gases are carried by a single blow of volcanic ash.
These include aerosols, sulfates (sulfur dioxide), carbon dioxide, hydrochloric acid and hydroflouric acid that may cause different but serious effects on human health, animals and the environment in general.
According to Dr. Gerry Bagtasa of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, there are volcanic eruptions in the Philippines that caused prolonged air pollution not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well like the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 when volcanic ash remain suspended in the atmosphere for two years.
“So imbes na pumapasok yung ilaw ng araw na nagpapainit sa lupa, nagrereflect siya palayo, (So instead of penetrating and warming the earth, the light of the sun was reflected away from the earth),” explained Bagtasa.
“Kaya lumamig ang buong mundo for around two years after the eruption, (That’s the reason why the world became cooler for two years after the eruption),” he added.
PHIVOLCS, meanwhile, noted that there are records of volcanic eruptions that have affected other countries of farther distance from the eruption site, but they have not observed such in the history of Taal Volcano.
The location of Taal Volcano is a major concern for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as dangerous levels of sulfur from the rumbling volcano could affect marine life.
“Inaasahan natin na posibleng magkaroon ng fishkill dahil sa mataas na konsentrasyon ng sulfur sa tubig (We are expecting a fish kill because of the high concentration of sulfur in the water),” noted Nazario Briguera, BFAR’s Chief of Information and Fisherfolks Coordination Unit.
“Nakakalason ito sa isda once na ma-ingest (This is poisonous to fish once ingested),” he confirmed.
MANILA, Philippines – A magnitude 5.4 earthquake rattled parts of Davao Occidental on Thursday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported.
In its bulletin, Phivolcs said the epicenter of the quake that struck around 5:54 p.m. was traced 35 kilometers southeast of Jose Abad Santos in Davao Occidental.
It had a depth of 190 kilometers and tectonic in origin.
The tremor was felt at intensity III in General Santos City, Tupi and Polomolok in South Cotabato, and Alabel, Saranggani; intensity II in Maasin and Malapatan, Sarangani, and Davao City, while intensity I was felt in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Phivolcs said there was no reported damage but aftershocks should be expected.
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday downgraded Taal Volcano’s status from alert level 3 to alert level 2 following indications of decreased unrest in the recent weeks.
In its bulletin, Phivolcs said it lowered the alert level status of Taal Volcano after three weeks due to less frequent volcanic activity, stabilizing ground deformation of the Taal Caldera and Taal Volcano Island edifices, and weak steam or gas emissions at the Main crater.
“DOST-PHIVOLCS is lowering the alert status of Taal Volcano from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 to reflect the overall decreasing trend in the level of monitoring parameters,” it said.
Alert Level 2 means there is decreased unrest, but State volcanologists said this should not be interpreted that unrest has ceased or that the threat of an eruption has disappeared.
The agency also reminds the public that at alert level 2, sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ashfall and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within the volcano island and its coast.
It also advised that entry to the Taal Volcano Island – a permanent danger zone – shall remain prohibited.
“Local government units are advised to additionally assess previously evacuated areas within the seven-kilometer radius for damages and road accessibilities and to strengthen preparedness, contingency and communication measures in case of renewed unrest,” Phivolcs said.
“People are also advised to observe precautions due to ground displacement across fissures, frequent ashfall, and minor earthquakes. Communities beside active river channels particularly where ash from the main eruption phase has been thickly deposited should increase vigilance when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall since the ash can be washed away and form lahars along the channels,” it added.
Civil aviation authorities are also advised to direct pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from sudden explosions and wind-remobilized ash may pose hazards to aircraft.
Phivolcs said alert level 3 may be raised again should an uptrend or pronounced change in monitored parameters forewarn a potential eruption.
On January 12, Taal Volcano spewed kilometers-high ash plumes which prompted state volcanologists to raise its status to alert level 4. Thousands of residents within the 14-kilometer radius from the main crater were ordered to flee their homes due to a possible hazardous eruption.
Two weeks later, Phivolcs downgraded Taal’s status to alert level 3, which allowed displaced residents outside the seven-kilometer danger zone to return to their homes.
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has observed the waning volcanic activities in Taal Volcano.
Although volcanic earthquakes can still be felt around Taal, they are less frequent and less intense according to DOST Undersecretary and PHIVOLCS-OIC, Renato Solidum.
Sulfur dioxide level has also been low in the past days, Solidum said.
“Sa 101 earthquakes, may 4 na low frequency earthquake events. Ito yung paggalaw ng magma o hindi kaya ay pagkilos ng gas, (Of the 101 earthquakes, only four were low frequency earthquake events. These could be the movement of magma or emissions of gases),” he said,
“Ito ay nangangahulugang mayroon pang magma activity sa paligid ng Taal volcano (This means there is still magma activity around Taal Volcano),” he added.
PHIVOLCS, likewise, is considering the trend of ground deformation or “swelling” of the volcano in its decision to downgrade alert level over Taal which remained at Alert Level 3 since January 26.
“Ang aming alam ay nagsa-subside na siya kung ito ay magpatuloy ay baka mai-consider na natin na magbaba tayo ng alert level, (Based on what we observed, (activities) have subsided and if this development continues, we may consider lowering our alert level),” Solidum said.
Solidum clarified, however, that Taal Volcano Island will remain a permanent danger zone even after they downgrade the danger status to Alert Level 2.
To date, residents are still barred from returning to houses within the 7-km radius as risk of explosion remains high.
Meanwhile, those who were allowed to return home are advised to check their structures and do the necessary repairs as occasional ground shaking poses threat of collapse or more serious damage. – MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
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