Taal volcano has been spewing sulfur dioxide for several days, causing dense fog and triggering health warnings.
More than 2,000 people were forced to leave their homes after Taal Volcano in the Philippines began to emit steam, the air was full of toxic gases and health warnings were issued.
Sitting on the scenic lake, Thar has been spraying sulfur dioxide for several days, causing dense fog in Manila and several surrounding provinces.
Provincial disaster official Jose Castro Jr. told AFP that at least 2,400 people have fled so far since the government called for the evacuation of small villages on the shore of the lake.
“We expect more residents to evacuate in the next few days,” he said, adding that they are seeking asylum in schools or relatives’ homes that have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Taal Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in a country. Because it is located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire”-an area of intense seismic activity, it is regularly hit by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
It is located only 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Manila, and for most of the past week, it has released volcanic smoke, obscuring the capital from the sun.
Civil defense officials warned that in the worst case of the current eruption, more than 317,000 people may be vulnerable to the toxic emissions of the volcano.
‘We feel unsafe’
In the city of Agoncillo, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Manila, police officers carried loudspeakers from door to door asking people to leave.
Residents only have a few hours to protect their belongings and move to a safer area again. In January last year, the last eruption of Taal Volcano spewed 15 kilometers (9 miles) high of ash and hot lava, destroyed dozens of houses, killed livestock, and sent more than 135,000 people into shelters.
Some families are now reluctant to leave their homes, fearing that COVID-19 might break out in crowded spaces.
“We also don’t feel safe in the evacuation center, so we will stay with our relatives,” Agoncillo resident Ramon Anete told Al Jazeera.
In a center in Laurel Town, Imelda Reyes, who was evacuated, said it was too hurt to see her child suffer.
“I really don’t know what to say,” she told Al Jazeera, trying to hold back her tears. “I’m just praying. This is a very difficult situation.”
Across the hall, another evacuee, Imelda Calapatiya, also felt distressed.
“Is it a volcano? Is it sick and infected with the new crown virus?” she asked. “It’s really hard for me to have so many children. I can’t sleep just thinking about it.”