Plumes of ash and steam from a volcano in the Batangas province some seventy kilometers south of Manila has forced the closure of Ninoy Aquino International Airport overnight. Last night and throughout this morning, scores of flights have been canceled, disrupting the travel plans of thousands.
A small but dangerous volcano
Singaporean website, The Newspaper, is reporting that the Taal volcano is generating an ash plume one kilometer high and there are signs of increasing volcanic activity. The volcano is in a lake and thousands of people who live on the lake’s islands have been evacuated.
The volcano is described as small but dangerous. Reuters is reporting the head of The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Renato Solidum, as saying;
“Taal is a very small volcano, but a dangerous volcano. It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano … hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”
The airport suspended flights Sunday evening
Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport suspended flights late yesterday, posting online;
“Due to the eruption of the Taal Volcano, all flights, both arrival and departures are now on hold. Passengers are advised to coordinate with their respective airlines for flight updates.”
A series of posts on Twitter reaffirmed this and advised passengers to contact their respective airlines for further information. It does appear flights were suspended on the orders of the Philippines Department of Transportation Secretary, Arthur Tugade.
JOINT DOTr-MIAA-CAAP PRESS RELEASEAs of 2130H12 January 2019, Pasay City – Upon orders of Department of…
The advice last evening was that the suspension would be ongoing but subject to continual assessment. Philippine Airlines had posted that they expected the airport to be open early this morning but the online arrivals and departures board at Ninoy Aquino International Airport reveals this not to be the case.
Airlines reschedule and cancel flights
In addition to diverting a handful of flights to Clark Airport (PR721 from London, PR 421 from Haneda, and PR331 from Xiamen) Philippine Airlines has canceled all flights scheduled to arrive in Manila as of 18:30 (Manila time) Sunday, 12 January 2020. Philippines Airlines calls the closure a developing situation and further changes are expected.
Likewise, Cebu Pacific Air has canceled all of its international and domestic services in and out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
International carriers with a big presence at the airport such as Singapore Airlines have rescheduled their flights until later on today. A Malaysia Airlines flight en route to Ninoy Aquino International Airport turned back to Kuala Lumpur mid-flight last evening. A series of ANA flights have either been canceled or rescheduled.
The Philippines busiest airport handles over 45 million passengers a year and is served by some 60 airlines. Getting traffic moving through the airport is a priority but as all the official notices state, safety is the primary priority. At the time of writing the airport is currently closed but if that changes over the next few hours, we’ll update this story accordingly.