Surreal photos of the Philippines’ Taal Volcano are now all over social media after it erupted Sunday afternoon and continues to spew ash and lava. Located in the middle of a lake just south of Metro Manila, many parts of the capital and nearby provinces are now experiencing ash fall, blanketing cars with gray particles and turning usually colorful touristic vistas black.
It started letting out smoke at around 1 p.m. yesterday, creating an ash column that was about 10 to 15 kilometers [six to nine miles] high. On Facebook, user John Ray Ebora shared a photo of Taal’s towering ash column taken at around 4:15 p.m. yesterday.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said that as of this morning, the volcano is still under Alert Level 4, which means a hazardous eruption is imminent or may occur within hours to days. Now experiencing a magmatic eruption, it has started spewing out lava fountains and causing thunder and flashes of lightning.
The Taal Volcano is the Philippines’ second most active volcano. The last time it erupted was in 1977, 43 years ago.
Alert levels 2, 3, and then 4 were swiftly raised yesterday, forcing thousands of people living in towns near the volcano to flee their homes.
The nearby resort town Tagaytay City, known for its scenic views of the volcano and a go-to for weddings and special occasions, is one of the most affected. Tourists are currently stranded in their hotels where roads are muddied, making them difficult to navigate.
This couple didn’t let the eruption get in the way of their special day. Pictures shared by photographer Randolph Evan shows them kissing and going on with their outdoor wedding ceremony despite the visible smoke in the sky.
Photos online show exhausted families covered in ash from head to toe as they evacuate their homes close to the volcano.
The scene in People’s Park, a famous landmark in Tagaytay frequented by tourists, looks almost post-apocalyptic.
Meanwhile, ash fall has spread all over Metro Manila and Central Luzon, prompting netizens to warn their friends and share tips on how to stay safe from the harmful effects of coming into contact with the ash.
The Department of Health (DOH) has warned the public that exposure to volcanic ash can lead to throat irritation, coughing, a bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation, and minor skin problems. It advises those who experience these to seek immediate medical help.
The World Health Organization advised everyone to wear a mask and protective eye gear, and make sure their food and water are safe to consume.
There is now a shortage of face masks and some vendors in the city have hiked up their prices due to the increase in demand. Twitter user @Jaollibee shared a photo of a long line of people buying face masks at a drugstore.
Classes and work in government offices were suspended for the day and flights to and from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were halted after the explosion left ash on the runways and ramps, ABS-CBN reported. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the NAIA shut down can extend depending on Taal Volcano's activity.
"Civil aviation authorities must advise aircraft to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” the Phivolcs warned.
On Facebook, user Howie Layug de Ocampo, shared his view of the volcano from his aircraft’s window.
According to the Phivolcs, there have been a total of 75 volcanic earthquakes in the areas surrounding the Taal Volcano. Thirty-two were felt with intensities ranging from Intensity II to V in Tagaytay City, as well as other towns in the provinces of Batangas and Laguna.
"Such intense seismic activity probably signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity," Phivolcs said.
Located along the typhoon belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions. According to the latest Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines is the second country most affected by climate-related disasters.
This article originally appeared on VICE Asia.