The Main Crater Lake (MCL) of Taal volcano has dried up, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported on Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve seen that the Main Crater Lake has vaporised and is no longer there,” said Maria Antonia Bornas, chief of Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division.

Satellite images showed that the MCL is now covered with ash and new cone-like vents have appeared.

The vaporisation of the lake inside Taal’s main crater can be attributed to several things, Phivolcs said.

One possible reason is the continuous intense volcanic quakes indicative of magma rising beneath the Taal edifice.

From 5am to 4pm on Wednesday, 53 volcanic quakes were recorded, 12 of which were considered intense.

Also, as a result of the “uplifting of the Taal region”, water from the lake has receded and portions of the Pansipit River have dried up as well.

Another possible reason for the vaporisation, Phivolcs said, is the continuous appearance of new fissures. In their 5pm bulletin, Phivolcs reported new cracks in Sambal Ibaba in Lemery town.

“There’s also a possibility of underwater fissures on the floor or at the bottom of the Taal Lake, causing the water to sink,” explained Bornas.

Generally, she said, these scenarios are related to ground deformation.

In addition, new vents where ash was expelled were observed on the main crater floor and on the northern part of the Taal volcano.

Bornas said fissuring on Taal Island is a normal characteristic of the volcano based on historical accounts. It is also along the fissures that new vents usually emerge, she noted.

Taal’s eruption continued to be generally weaker, expelling 700m tall plumes that drifted southwest, Phivolcs said on Wednesday.

Taal volcano remains at Alert Level 4.

“If we look at our monitoring record, there’s a big chance that we’ll see an explosive eruption,” warned Bornas.

Seven local chief executives from different parts of the country have bonded together to help Taal volcano eruption victims.

Mayor Webster Letargo from Gumaca town in Quezon province said their group has decided to help the throng of evacuees from several affected towns of Batangas province now being attended by the municipal government of Alfonso, Cavite.

He said Alfonso Mayor Randy Salamat belongs to their group of municipal and city mayors who became friends during the seminar training course at the University of the Philippines’ National College for Public Administration and Governance before they assumed office after their election last year.

He said that aside from Letargo and Salamat, the other group members are Mayors Arth Bryan Celeste of Alaminos City, Pangasinan; Nerivie Santos Martinez of Talavera, Nueva Ecija; Trina Andres of Rizal, Nueva Ecija; Sancho Fernando “Ando” Oaminal of Ozamiz City; and Carla Galvez-Tan of San Ildefonso, Bulacan.

“When we learned that Mayor Salamat was taking care of evacuees, the group members immediately contacted each other and mapped out plans to also help the refugees,” Letargo said.

The group tagged their project as “Operation Taal” (Tulong, Agapay, Aksyon, Lingap).

Letargo said each member of the group pledged to bring face masks, bottled water, blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits, ready-to-eat food (canned goods), milk, and diapers.

“We also intend to bring toys for the kids to help them forget the tragedy,” he said.

Letargo went to Alfonso on Wednesday to bring the donations from the local government and people of Gumaca.

He said the group members would also bring the donations from their respective constituents.