World

Tens of thousands flee homes, experts warn Taal eruption could worsen

Experts warn Taal eruption near Manila could get worse as plans made to evacuate more

TAGAYTAY, THE PHILIPPINES: Red-hot lava gushed out of a volcano near the Philippine capital of Manila yesterday, as tens of thousands fled the area through heavy ash and frightening tremors.

Experts warned that the eruption could get worse and plans were being made to evacuate hundreds of thousands more.

Clouds of ash blew more than 100km north of the Taal volcano on Sunday, reaching Manila and forcing the shutdown of the country's main airport, with more than 500 flights cancelled.

AIRPORT PARTIALLY REOPENS

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport was partially reopened yesterday after the ashfall eased, AP reported.

The government's disaster response agency and other officials reported that more than 30,000 villagers have fled their homes in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province, but officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more moving out of harm's way.

Some residents could not move out of ash-blanketed villages over a lack of transport and poor visibility. Others refused to leave, AP reported.

"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," Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio. "We are trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again any time."

Officials allowed stranded planes to take off yesterday. Airport manager Ed Monreal said incoming flights can be accommodated once parking bays are freed up but warned that the airport may be closed again if danger returns.

At least 10 flights between Singapore and Manila were cancelled or rescheduled yesterday, The Straits Times reported.

Affected airlines included Singapore Airlines, Scoot, Jetstar Airways and Philippine Airlines, a check with Changi Airport's website showed.

Jetstar Airways cancelled scheduled flights between Singapore and Manila, as well as between Singapore and Clark.

"We have contacted all impacted customers via e-mail and SMS and provided them with alternatives including changing their date of travel or opting to receive a refund in the form of a flight voucher."

Scoot also confirmed that several of its flights were affected. For instance, TR391 from Manila to Singapore, scheduled to depart on Sunday, was grounded due to the closure of the airport.

It was since re-timed to leave Manila yesterday, a Scoot spokesman told ST.

"Customers are encouraged to check their e-mails registered with us, as well as Scoot's website," said the spokesman.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry advised those heading to the affected areas to defer travel.

It said those already in the Philippines who have yet to register with the ministry should do so at eregister.mfa.gov.sg

WORLD