Taal volcano has been belching sulfur dioxide for several days, creating thick fog and causing health warnings.
More than 2,000 people have been forced to flee their homes after the Taal volcano in the Philippines began emitting steam, filling the air with toxic gas and causing health warnings.
Sitting on a picturesque lake, Taal has been belching sulfur dioxide for several days, creating thick fog over Manila and several surrounding provinces.
So far, at least 2,400 people have fled since the government called for the evacuation of lakeside hamlets, provincial disaster manager Joselito Castro told AFP news agency.
“We expect more residents to be evacuated over the next few days,” he said, adding that they were seeking refuge in schools closed by the coronavirus pandemic or at relatives ’homes.
Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation periodically affected by eruptions and earthquakes due to its location in the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an area of intense seismic activity.
It is located just 50 km (30 miles) south of Manila and for much of last week has discharged volcanic smog that has blown the sun out of the capital.
Civil defense officials have warned that more than 317,000 people could be vulnerable to volcanic toxic gas emissions in the worst case of the current eruption.
“We don’t feel safe”
In Agoncillo, a town about 120 km (75 miles) south of Manila, police officers who had megaphones went from house to house asking people to leave.
Residents have only a few hours to secure their belongings and move to a safer area, once again. In January last year, the previous eruption of Taal, fired ash 15 km high and threw burning lava, crushing dozens of houses, killing livestock and sending more than 135,000 people to shelters.
Some families were now reluctant to leave their homes, worried about possible outbreaks of COVID-19 in crowded spaces.
“We also don’t feel too safe in evacuation centers, so we’ll stay with our relatives,” Agoncillo resident Ramon Anete told An Jazeera.
In downtown Laurel, evacuee Imelda Reyes said it was too painful to see her children suffer.
“I don’t know what to say anymore,” he told Al Jazeera, struggling to hold back tears. “I just pray. It’s a really difficult situation. “
On the other side of the lobby, another evacuee, Imelda Calapatiya, was also distressed.
“Is it the volcano, is it getting sick, is it coveted?” she asked. “It is very difficult to have so many children. I can’t sleep just thinking about it. “