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Taal volcano in the Philippines still life-threatening despite a ‘seeming lull’

Click to play video 'Taal volcano continues spewing dangerous smoke, ash, after Sunday’s eruption' Taal volcano continues spewing dangerous smoke, ash, after Sunday’s eruption
WATCH: (From Jan. 16, 2020) Taal volcano continues spewing dangerous smoke, ash, after Sunday's eruption

An erupting Philippine volcano remains life-threatening despite weaker emissions and fewer tremors, an official said Friday and advised thousands of displaced villagers not to return to the danger zone.

The Taal volcano emitted weaker ash and steam explosions Thursday and Friday, the sixth day of its eruption. But despite the seeming lull, continuing volcanic quakes, the drying of the crater lake and other signs indicate magma is moving beneath, said Maria Antonia Bornas, an official with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

READ MORE: People flee after Philippine volcano quakes, cracking roads in nearby towns

“When there is an explosion, that will be life-threatening, especially if people get very near, like on Volcano Island,” Renato Solidum, head of the institute, told The Associated Press.

The volcano since Sunday has remained at alert level 4, the second-highest warning, indicating a hazardous explosive eruption is possible in hours or days. Solidum said assessing whether the volcano’s restiveness has eased may take up to two weeks.

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Click to play video 'Video captures rare volcanic lightning sprawl upwards from Philippines volcano' Video captures rare volcanic lightning sprawl upwards from Philippines volcano
Video captures rare volcanic lightning sprawl upwards from Philippines volcano

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from areas now under a security lockdown, and soldiers and police have been stopping desperate villagers from returning to retrieve belongings and save their poultry and cattle. Police have allowed batches of residents to check their homes for a few hours during the day in some high-risk villages.

Jerick Oco, a 21-year-old who worked as a tourist guide on Volcano Island, which sits in the middle of Taal Lake south of Manila, was relieved to hear that the volcano was calming down but said poor villagers like him face more daunting problems, like finding new homes and jobs.

“They should help people retrieve belongings from their homes instead of blocking them. They should help them restart (their lives) again,” Oco said.

READ MORE: What’s causing lightning during the Philippines eruption? Experts explain the phenomenon

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Many houses and farms are damaged by ash, though no deaths or major injuries directly caused by the eruption have been reported. Authorities have reported one traffic fatality on an ash-covered road and an evacuee dying from a heart attack.

About 125,000 people fled their homes in hardest-hit Batangas province, more than 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Manila. At least 373 evacuation sites were crammed with the displaced and needed more face masks, portable toilets, bottled water and sleeping mats, according to a provincial disaster-response office.

READ MORE: Taal volcano: Ash blankets roads, rooftops in the Philippines

The government’s main disaster agency reported a little more than 77,000 people were displaced in Batangas and the nearby provinces of Cavite and Laguna. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

Among those displaced were about 5,000 people who live on Volcano Island. It is a popular tourist destination renowned for its stunning view of the volcano’s crater lake and lush hills teeming with trees and birds. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has recommended that villagers should not be allowed back.

The 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal is the second-most restive of about two dozen volcanoes across the Philippines. The archipelago lies in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the string of faults around the ocean basin where much of the world’s seismic activity occurs.

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Click to play video 'Timelapse captures eruptions inside Taal volcano’s main crater in Philippines' Timelapse captures eruptions inside Taal volcano’s main crater in Philippines
Timelapse captures eruptions inside Taal volcano’s main crater in Philippines