Philippine volcano still threatening massive eruption, forcing residents to flee

Taal volcano eruption could be imminent

Tagatay, Philippines — Thousands of people in the Philippines were being warned to stay away from their homes on Wednesday as experts said a massive eruption of the Taal volcano could be imminent. Taal spewed ash and hot lava high into the sky on Tuesday, darkening skies and causing the ground to tremble.

CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio and his team were forced from their hotel in Tagatay on Wednesday, just a couple of miles north of the active volcano and inside what officials are calling "no man's land" — the mandatory evacuation zone.

The local government has shuttered businesses, and scientists weren't even going as close to the volcano as Inocencio and his team were, fearing Taal was too close to what could be a more dangerous and more explosive eruption than the initial blast over the weekend.

That explosion and the continuing belching of ash and steam afterword has left entire towns and farmland blanketed in the heavy grey volcanic ash and caked roads in slippery mud.

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A dog trails its motorcycle-riding owners along a volcanic ash-covered road in Agoncillo town, Batangas province, south of Manila, Philipppines on January 15, 2020. TED ALJIBE/GETTY

Close to 40,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and take shelter in evacuation centers. Some even fled with their livestock. But the United Nations has said as many as 500,000 residents are still at risk.

Taal volcano continues to belch ash and steam, and almost 500 earthquakes have rocked the region since Sunday — all signs, according to officials, that another eruption could be imminent.

Winchelle Sevilla, a senior scientist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told CBS News it would be critical to closely observe the volcano for the next few days. He said Taal's current, relatively tranquil appearance could be deceiving.

Philippines volcano threatens to erupt after causing devastation earlier in the week

"Our instruments are telling us that significant volcanic activities are still undergoing," he told Inocencio. "The high number of volcanic earthquakes, the fissuring that we're observing around the volcanoes... Taal volcano is telling us that the magma is still coming out towards the surface."

"The threat's still there," stressed Sevilla.

No casualties have been reported so far, and the Philippine government is trying to make sure it stays that way by implementing lock-downs in some towns surrounding the volcano.