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 16,000 people were evacuated from the volcanic island and the area immediately around it – normally a popular tourist spot. Dozens of tremors set residents on edge.
Some tourists ignored the dangers and travelled to towns closest 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 kms away.
In nearby Talisay Batangas, Vice Governor Mark Leviste said rain had turned ash to mud and trucks were needed to evacuate more people from remote communities.
“There is no power. Even water was cut, so we are in need of potable water,” he said. “We are in need of face masks.”