Batangas gov't: More than 160,000 evacuees as Taal Volcano still rumbles

BATANGAS CITY, Philippines – More than 160,000 evacuees from affected areas in Batangas have been distributed in evacuation centers in Batangas, Cavite, and Quezon provinces nearly a week since Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12, the Batangas provincial government said on Saturday, January 18.  

Based on the latest record of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), 37,355 families or 162,728 individuals were staying in various evacuation centers. This excluded those who decided to stay with their relatives and friends.   

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported only 22,472 families of 96,061 individuals as evacuees due to Taal Volcano's eruption.

The number of affected families ballooned after the implementation of a lockdown in the municipalities of Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Laurel, Lemery, Malvar, San Nicolas, Sta Teresita, Taal, Talisay, and parts of Lipa City, Mataasnakahoy and Tanauan City. 

Meanwhile, all hands were on deck at the Incident Command Post in Batangas City, where all concerns are received from various municipalities in need of assistance. 

“We have an Incident Command System which is an effective tool for the management of all resources for effective and efficient response," said Incident Commander Fe Fernandez.

"'Yung ating mga resources na kailangan for the management of incidents ay pinagsasama sama natin para organized ang operations, para hindi watak watak ang human ang material resources (We gathered the resources we need for the management of incidents so that operations are organized, so that our human and material resources are not scattered),” she added. 

However, Fernandez was quick to admit that they faced different challenges every day.

“Hindi naman perfect pero napaghandaan naman talaga namin ito ng ilang taon, may manual rin tayo so kailangan lang talaga sundin. The challenge is in overall coordination because maraming offices and agencies ang involved, but as long as we follow the incident command system okay kami,” she said.

(We are not perfect but we have been preparing for this for years, we also have a manual so we just need to really follow it. The challenge is in overall coordination because many offices and agencies are involved, but as long as we follow the incident command system, we're okay.)  

Alert Level 4 remained in effect over Taal Volcano. This means that a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The government is enforcing total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps within the 14-kilometer radius from the volcano's main crater. 

The receding of Taal Lake water was observed in Talisay, Laurel, Alitagtag and Lemery towns. Pansipit River also subsided and silted while fissuring was observed in Lemery, Agoncillo, Talisay, and San Nicolas. 

On January 13, Batangas was placed under a state of calamity. – Rappler.com