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Philippines: Thousands displaced in Taal volcano eruption

Philippine’s Taal volcano erupted over the weekend spewing ash in around its vicinity and affecting neighboring provinces. The abrupt eruption has forced tens of thousands of evacuees from their homes. It has also prompted authorities to close down Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International airport grounding 500 flights.

The volcano released red-hot lava on Monday as it pumped out ash that blew 62 miles to the country’s capital. Experts have warned the public that the eruption is expected to worsen. Officials in the country planned to carry out the evacuation of hundreds of thousands.

No casualties or major damage has been reported since Sunday’s eruption but evacuations affected thousands of residents who were transferred to safety from the volcano’s vicinity. On Monday, Philippine government officials told NBC News that an estimate of 22,000 people has been evacuated.

According to the country’s disaster management agency, some residents could not be evacuated from ash-blanketed areas due to lack of transportation and poor visibility. Others have refused to heed the government’s call for an evacuation and chose to stay behind with their farms and homes.

Taal — a town located nine miles southwest of the active volcano — has a recorded population of around 60,000. Town mayor Fulgencio Mercado told NBC on Monday that streets are engulfed in ash. He says tens of thousands have left the town by private vehicles, public transport, and the municipal government’s arranged transportation.

Despite the call for a forced evacuation Mercado estimates that 10 percent of the town’s population is reluctant to leave their possessions, animals, and houses.

“They should all leave,” he said. “It’s a mandatory evacuation.”