Taal volcano eruption: Desolate images show horses and cows buried in ash

Ignoring the government's warnings to keep away, a number of residents who lived at the foot of the volcano have returned to treat or save their animals.
The stark images show pigs, horses, cows and birds – their hair, fur and feathers covered with thick ash – being transported in relative safety, while Taal volcano, the second most active in the Philippines, lies in the background .
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said Wednesday morning that the volcano remains at alarm level four out of five possible, which means that "an explosive eruption is possible in a few hours or days."

The volcano, about 60 miles (60 kilometers) south of the capital Manila, on the island of Luzon, began to explode on Sunday, sending as much as nine miles (14 kilometers) of ash into the air and causing large-scale evacuations.

Mirra Lipaopao, 27, said she hadn't heard the rumble of the volcano, but around 5:00 pm. I have seen mud and coal-like matter rain.

"I panicked," he told CNN from a gymnasium that has been turned into an evacuation center in Tanauan. "I grabbed my partner and my baby to leave the house and we ran away as far as possible."

Lipaopao said they returned to their home on Monday and found that it was covered in ash and mud. They began to clean but the subsequent tremors shook the ground and returned to the refuge.

Three days after the start of the eruption, volcanic activity around Taal is underway. The lava fountains generate dark gray plumes full of steam up to 1 kilometer high. Cracks or cracks have opened in several areas and 466 earthquakes have been recorded since Sunday. Volcanologists warn that further eruptions are possible.

"These new strong and ongoing earthquakes we are now experiencing are due to cracking, which means that there is indeed magma that is still coming out of Taal," said Mariton Bornas, head of volcano monitoring and ; eruption of PHIVOLCS.
Houses near the crater of the Taal volcano have been buried in the volcanic eruption.

Those still in or returning to the immediate danger zone within a radius of 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) around the volcano risk tremors, cracks and the threat of a sudden pyroclastic flow.

"As soon as lava erupts into the system, it only takes a little water to infiltrate to create an explosive system. Or for the next magma to be more loaded with gas than it is currently," said David Phillips, head of the school of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Other dangers include potential landslides caused by rain washing unconsolidated ash piles and the threat of volcano slopes crashing into the lake, which could cause a tsunami.

"There are any number of dangers associated with volcanoes. The risk of any of these could be quite low but it has shown significant activity lately – so it's time to be cautious," said Phillips.

A resident carries a rooster covered in volcanic ash from the eruption of the Taal volcano in Laurel, Batangas province.

Nearly half a million people live within the 14km (8.7 mile) danger zone and PHIVOLCS has requested a "total evacuation" of everyone in this area and issued warning notices for those in a wider area than 17 kilometers (10.6 miles).

About 44,000 people from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite have sought refuge in 217 temporary evacuation centers set up by the authorities. The total number of IDPs could be higher, with some choosing to be with family members and relatives in other parts of the country.

Some cities, such as Talisay on the shores of Lake Taal, have been locked up by the police and fire services, and evacuations have been applied, according to National Council for Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) spokesman Mark Timbal.

"The advice to people who are trying to return is to follow the call from the government and agencies, and to avoid returning," said Timbal.

A major concern for those in the vicinity are the potential health risks of breathing toxic volcanic ash – which carries microscopic glass fragments – which has covered everything in sight.

"(Glass fragments) are dangerous to the lungs," said Joseph Michalski, director of the Earth and Planetary Science division of the University of Hong Kong. "You don't want things like that in your lungs. It can stay in there and make you sick."

Houses near the crater of the Taal volcano are seen buried in the volcanic ash on the volcanic island of Taal.

The international help group Save the Children said in a statement that young children in evacuation centers suffered from respiratory diseases such as colds and coughs.

In the city of Tanauan, around 730 people are staying in a gym that has been converted into an evacuation center. Families live in tight conditions and sleep on hard floors.

The sudden eruption on Sunday took people by surprise and many families fled wearing the clothes they were in and carrying little or nothing.

Due to the continuing threat of another, bigger eruption, nobody knows when they will be able to go home or what they will find when they get there.

Many of their livelihoods have been destroyed.

Timbal said that the activity had been recorded on the volcano as early as March of last year and that residents and local government units were aware that "a state of preparedness was underway". But "the speed of the escalation was unexpected," he said.

Some locals living on or near the volcano, many of them poor workers or farmers, made money by offering horseback rides to tourists. Others built their livelihoods by cultivating the fertile soils that are associated with many volcanoes or fishing tawilis or "live sardines" found only in the province of Batangas.

The volcano is surrounded by a lake, which is a popular attraction and many of the nearby towns are tourism hot spots. There are several amusement parks, lakeside resorts and yacht clubs nearby.

The resort town of Tagaytay, which is located near the sea, is a popular destination for Manila residents who often take boats on the lake and hike the volcano.

"Many of these landscapes are very beautiful and people want to visit them," said Phillips. "It's beautiful but it's also potentially deadly – it's that fatal attraction."

CNN's Yasmin Coles contributed to the report from Manila, Philippines.

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