From January 27 to February 10 in 1911, one of the worst volcanic eruptions in history took place. With 25 to 80 centimeters of ashfall, acid rain, cracking and sinking of land, and shock waves, the 1911 Taal Volcano eruption indeed left a mark in Philippine History.
On this historical date, let’s look back at one of the deadliest parts of our history and its repercussions on the modern-day Philippines.
A Closer Look At Taal Volcano
Taal is a ‘very small but dangerous volcano’ according to Renato Solidum, the head of PHIVOLCS (Philippines’ Institute of Volcanology and Seismology).
It’s the country’s second-most active volcano and has produced over a recorded 34 historical eruptions. It is a caldera system that has a lake with an island called Volcano Island. This Talisay or Taal Caldera system spans 15×20 km while the lake, commonly known as the Lake Taal, is about 267km2. It is only 3 m above sea level, and its maximum depth is around 160 m. Underneath the lake are several eruptive centers.
All historic eruptions happen at the 5-km wide Volcanic Island, located at the north-central of the lake. It comprises 47 craters, four maars (a volcanic crater formed when magma is in contact with groundwater, producing a steam explosion), coalescing small stratovolcanoes, and scoria cones and tuff rings.
The 1911 Eruption
On January 27, 1911, a strong earthquake awakened the residents near Taal. However, since quakes were common in the area, there was no official notice to evacuate, and many also decided to stay in place. Then, three days later, the volcano erupted, audible enough to reach an area of over 360 kilometers in diameter. It spewed burning muds as high as four kilometers, sulfur, carbon dioxide, and iron salts for one whole week. A volcanic tsunami reached about 762 meters inland, dragging people, homes, and animals as it returned to the lake bed. This destructive and deadly volcanic eruption claimed 1300 lives.
The 2020 Eruption
The most recent Taal eruption took place last year, 2020, on Sunday, January 12. In light of the COVID-19 situation at the beginning of the year, this eruption shook Taal residents and the whole country.
On that Sunday afternoon, Taal Volcano began spewing ash, which made the PHIVOLCS raise its alert status to Level 2 by 2:30 pm. Following the phreatic eruption (steam-driven explosions), the ash column reached one kilometer high at 4 pm, raising the alert status higher to Level 3 (magmatic unrest). Alert Level 4 (hazardous eruption imminent) was raised by 7:30 pm when the rock and ash fragments column was as high as 10-15 kilometers. Nearby individuals heavily recorded its frequent volcanic lightning. From January 17 to 25, the alert status stayed at Level 4, and it was not only until March 19 that PHIVOLCS declared that Taal Volcano is back to Alert Level 1.
Thirty-nine (39) people died during the volcanic eruption, with one reported to be directly caused by the eruption on January 12. These cases are those that did not heed the evacuation orders, decided to return to their homes, or died of heart attacks caused by anxiety.
The 1911 eruption did not leave many records other than bits of relevant information. What we know during that devastation was through stories passed to their children and so on. However, with the recent Taal volcano eruption during this digital age, it is without a doubt that the majority has seen the real devastation a ‘very small but dangerous’ volcano can do. It was also especially challenging for the people and the government since it happened at the peak of the pandemic.
2020 was indeed a challenging year for the Philippines. But from the health crisis to the economic crisis, we endured and continue to endure, for we are a resilient nation.