Taal eruption: Portions of Tagaytay not ‘high-risk’ areas, Phivolcs says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17)— Despite its proximity to Taal, some parts of Tagaytay won’t likely face the direct hazards of a possible volcanic eruption, the state seismology agency said Friday.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum said the Tagaytay Ridge, despite being inside the 14-kilometer danger zone, is not considered a “high-risk” area due to its elevation. Authorities earlier ordered an evacuation of the 14-kilometer radius of Taal's crater, where nearly half a million people live.

“If we look at Tagaytay ridge, where most of the hotels are, they are within the 14-kilometer radius, but they are not part of areas identified as high-risk — what we call base surges of pyroclastic density current, because they're somewhat elevated,” Solidum told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“In that case, they are not in danger of the pyroclastic density current,” he added.

A popular tourist attraction just outside Metro Manila, the Tagaytay ridge offers a bird’s eye view of Taal — one of the world's smallest volcanoes — and the lake that surrounds it. The 610-meter ridge was once part of a volcanic caldera, and is currently home to several hotels and developments.

Phivolcs, however, reminded residents and visitors to still practice caution—as other volcanic hazards like ashfall can affect the area.

“When there is a strong explosion and the wind would blow the ash towards that direction, there can be ashfall,” Solidum added.

Tagaytay— along with other parts of Calabarzon and Metro Manila— experienced heavy ashfall following Taal’s steam-driven eruption on Sunday. Residents of neighboring cities and municipalities in Batangas province have evacuated, after volcanologists warned of a possible “hazardous explosive eruption" soon of the country's second most active volcano.

Tagaytay businesses to reopen, but…

Hotels and establishments in Tagaytay were meanwhile given the go signal to reopen their doors to the public on Friday. However, businesses will be required to comply with the sanitary standards set by the local government.

“They should consider ‘yung cleanliness, ‘yung maayos na at presentable ang kanilang mga establishments,” Tagaytay City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) officer-in-charge Clyde Yayong told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Ngayon.

[Translation: They should consider the cleanliness, if their establishments are presentable.]

Some business owners, however, have yet to respond to the order as authorities continue to conduct cleaning operations in the ashfall-laden city. Several parts of Tagaytay have also reported power and water outages.

The Tagaytay government said the move was done to aid employees of the city—especially in the tourism sector, which has been majorly affected by the eruption. However, officials still advised visitors to limit their trips amid the continued activity of Taal.

Pagka nag alert level 5, we will immediately tell these establishments to close. Still I'm telling, kung wala namang gagawing importante sa Tagaytay, ay manatili po muna sa kanilang lugar,” Yayong said.

[Translation: If we’re on alert level 5, we will immediately tell these establishments to close. Still I’m telling, if you’re not doing anything important in Tagaytay, then just stay in your home area.]

Despite Taal's reduced activity, state scientists said they will still have to observe the downtrend— before deciding whether to lower the alert level over the volcano.

Phivolcs meanwhile attributed Taal’s apparent “calm appearance” to less surface activity—but said magma movement may still be taking place beneath the volcano, as indicated by the presence of volcanic earthquakes and fissures in the area.

“In the past, Taal volcano has exhibited eruption episodes where there were some times of waning activity. But explosive eruptions would follow,” Solidum said. “We need to consider what is happening below — because that is the threat that we need to consider.”

A total of 634 volcanic tremors have been plotted around Taal area since Sunday, Phivolcs said in its latest advisory. Exisiting cracks in the streets of Lemery, Agoncillo, Talisay, and San Nicolas in Batangas also widened, the agency added.