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WATCH: Volcanic Ash Column Emits Lightning Over Famed Geological Site

By  Eric Quintanar
BALETE, PHILIPPINES - JANUARY 13: Taal Volcano erupts on January 13, 2020 as seen from Balete, Batangas province, Philippines. The Philippine Institute of of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level to four out of five, warning that a hazardous eruption could take place anytime, as Manila's international airport suspended flights and authorities began evacuating tens of thousands of people from the area.
Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

An eruption at Taal Volcano 40 miles north of Manilla, Philippines, the country’s capital city and home to more than 1.5 million people, momentarily disrupted air travel on Sunday but has since caused tens of thousands of people near the eruption to evacuate the area. 

Renato Solidum, director of the Phillipine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told the Associated Press (AP) that the ash column above Taal Volcano was over one mile high, and that lava was spewing from the crater and a secondary exit point. Ash columns consist of finely ground rock, minerals, and glass that erupt from magma chambers beneath the Earth’s surface. 

The institute has also issued an emergency bulletin stating that people within nine miles of the Taal crater should evacuate, but also states that people outside the perimeter should remain cautious of dangerous ash falling from the sky. 

“Population in areas in the southwest are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall,” according to a bulletin published by the institute. “Civil aviation authorities must advise aircraft to avoid airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft.”

Wilson Maralit, the mayor of Balete, a town that hugs Taal Lake and has over 20,000 people, has been warning residents to flee, reports the AP. 

“We have a problem our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows,” Maralit told DZMM radio, reports the AP. “We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again any time and hit them.”

Angelica Sinfuego, a 32-year-old woman who is pregnant and lives near the site of the eruption, told The New York Times that she left her home on foot with her children: “It was like the end of the world. I was praying, ‘Please protect the baby, please protect the baby,’ as we negotiated the darkness.”

The Telegraph put together a video montage of the eruption, which shows lightning ripping through a roiling column of volcanic ash. According to the Telegraph, lightning inside the column occurs when volcanic ash particles strike each other at high speeds, producing static electricity. 

According to the Times, Taal Volcano “has been showing signs of activity since last March, and about three dozen eruptions have been recorded in recent history. Sitting on a lake that partly fills a caldera formed thousands of years ago, it is a popular attraction for tourists.”

The volcanic island, which resides in Taal Volcano National Park, is also home to a famed geological phenomenon: The largest lake on an island in a lake on an island in the world. The lake also contains a smaller geological feature, Vulcan Point, which is considered by some to be an even smaller island. 

According to the department of geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Vulcan Point “is the world’s largest island within a lake (Main Crater Lake) that is situated on an island (Volcano Island, a.k.a Taal Island) located in a lake (Lake Taal) within an island (Luzon).”

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