Tourists take pictures of Taal Volcano as it started spewing ashes into the air during its initial stage of eruption on Jan. 12. (Photo by Joe Torres)
A Catholic bishop in a diocese south of the Philippine capital Manila has appealed for help amid a volcanic eruption that has displaced thousands of residents since Jan. 12.Archbishop Gilbert Garcera of Lipa said that aside from prayers, his diocese needs financial help and donations for people who fled their homes."Pray for us. Hopefully, with God's help, Taal volcano will stop spewing ash," said the prelate.As of Jan. 13, an estimated 3,000 people, mostly elderly, pregnant women, and children were being assisted by Manila Archdiocese, which opened its churches to evacuees.Church leaders earlier issued prayers, asking God to calm the erupting volcano and protect people from harm. "Protect us from danger especially the poor, the sick, the children, the elderly and those who are alone," read a prayer from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila."Strengthen our desire to help and care for one another and the environment," he added.Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga prayed that the "calmness" of the volcano be restored."We know nothing is impossible to you and you are always in control. May the boiling lava subside and molten rocks cool down," read the prelate's prayer."Instill your compassionate presence in us so we may calm our fears. Continue to keep us all safe under your divine protection," he added.A Catholic seminary in the city of Tagaytay, which is near the erupting volcano, has opened its doors for those who need shelter."The [Divine Word] seminary in Tagaytay City is open for shelter and evacuation," read a message from the seminary rector Father Randolf Cariño Flores.Taal Volcano in the province of Batangas started spewing ashes into the air as high as 10 kilometers on Jan. 12 followed by what experts described as "magmatic eruption."At least 6,000 people in areas surrounding the volcano, which last erupted in 1977, were immediately evacuated to safer grounds.About 300,000 people were targeted to be moved to safety in the next few days.The eruption was characterized by "lava fountaining" accompanied by at least 75 volcano-tectonic earthquakes as of Jan. 13.Authorities warned that "ballistic impacts of volcanic bombs and pyroclastic flows and tsunamis could affect an area of about 14 km distance around the main crater."People as far as the Philippine capital Manila, about 60 kilometers from the volcano, woke up on Tuesday to a thick blanket of ash that covered houses, trees, cars, and roads.The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology warned that a "volcanic tsunami" was possible if the volcano alert level is raised to 5.Alert Level 5 would come with an eruption column of up to 15 kilometers high and could bring a base surge, which experts described as thick smoke and ash.On Jan. 13, the restive volcano remained at Alert Level 4, which means that a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days."Schools and offices in affected areas, including the capital Manila, were closed while the international airport was closed overnight to avoid health risks posed by ash.Authorities advised residents to stay indoors and wear masks and goggles for safety.Taal is among two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.