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Taal Volcano In The Philippines, Already Spewing Ash, Threatens Major Eruption


Some 22,000 people in the Philippines have fled their homes after a volcano erupted yesterday. The eruption temporarily shut down Manila's international airport and its schools. Scientists are warning that the situation could get worse. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from the evacuation zone.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Taal Volcano is described as small but dangerous. Its sudden escalation devastated those who live along the shore of Taal Lake, the deep water in which the volcano sits. Sixty-four year old Christina Fornelia (ph) stands in a sea of evacuees inside a cavernous gymnasium and begins to cry.

CHRISTINA FORNELIA: (Non-English language spoken).

MCCARTHY: "I was cooking rice, and ashes were falling on my house, and part of it collapsed," she says. "I was alone and thought I'd faint from the tension." With no money or amenities, Fornelia found her way to this temporary shelter. She grabs the shirt she's wearing and says, these clothes were given to me. She looks forlornly at her feet. Someone else's shoes cover her ash-encrusted feet. The world here has taken on a beige-gray tone. Palm trees sag under the weight of ashes. Cars, roads, houses are blanketed in ashfall. Most everyone wears a mask. A video posted on Facebook depicts one of the sadder scenes.


JAN BALBA: (Non-English language spoken).

MCCARTHY: Jan Balba (ph) followed his neighbor, a farmer named Dodie (ph), as he returned to his destroyed land. Trudging through ankle-deep ashfall, he mutters again and again, we lost our house. The farmer lives near a village that hugs the shores of Taal Lake. If his land looks ruined by the fury of the volcano, his animals are heartrending.


BALBA: (Non-English language spoken).

MCCARTHY: Horses encased in wet ash that has hardened over their frames. The farmer gasps. They look as if they have been petrified.

Back at the evacuation center, Christina Fornelia is all about hope. Taal Volcano may still be simmering and the population on edge, but Fornelia dreams of going home and buying a new roof to start, she says, my life again.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Manila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.
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