MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – At least 24,508 people have fled their homes in Batangas and Cavite provinces as of 12 noon on Monday, January 13, as Taal Volcano continues to spew ash, and with a “hazardous eruption” imminent, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported.
The figure is up from the 7,742 evacuees the agency reported at 6 am on Monday.
The evacuees comprise 5,458 families who have since taken shelter at 75 evacuation centers.
They hail from the following cities or municipalities:
The NDRRMC reported no casualties thus far, though one man died and 3 others were injured in a road crash in Calamba, Laguna, on Monday, which police said might hav been caused by the ashfall in the area.
Food, transportation, medical care
In a media briefing on Monday afternoon, NDRRMC chairperson Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the most pressing needs of people in affected areas were mass transportation, food, and medical care for the sick.
“Because many of them want to evacuate immediately, our resources are overwhelmed,” Lorenzana said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development began distributing food among evacuees, and there are “enough provisions prepositioned” because it’s only the beginning of the year, the defense chief added.
Stocks from different parts of Luzon may be used to replenish those in Batanagas and other affected areas in case they run out, Lorenzana said,
The government urged people living within the volcano’s 14-kilometer “danger zone” radius to evacuate, especially residents of the 3 barangays on the volcano island itself.
Taal Volcano began emitting steam around noon on Sunday, which quickly escalated to ash plumes in the afternoon with lava visibly spewing from the crater by evening. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has since raised Alert Level 4 over communities surrounding the volcano, which means a hazardous eruption may happen in a matter of hours or days.s
Because the volcano’s activity began and escalated quickly, Lorenzana said there was no way residents could have been evacuated preemptively.
Ashfall and sludge have made evacuation difficult, as roads became slippery, and visibility was hampered in the areas surrounding Taal Lake.
The Philippine Army has deployed 37 large trucks along with more than 400 troops to evacuate people from danger zones, 2nd Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Jayrald Ternio told reporters.
The Philippine Air Force deployed helicopters for a “rapid assessment” of the situation around the volcano.
The Philippine Navy said it was ready to deploy personnel and assets to assist evacuation and relief efforts. The Philippine Coast Guard said it had deployed rescue teams.
Electricity was cut in 7 cities and municipalities due to ash, sludge, and even rocks affecting power transmission lines. Those places are Amadeo and Tagaytay City in Cavite; and Lipa City, Tanauan City, Laurel, Talisay, and Lemery in Batangas.
Power was restored in Lipa City, the NDRRMC said.
Classes in 178 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila and Calabarzon, and Central Luzon were suspended. All government offices in those areas called off work on Monday, too.
A total of 302 domestic and 237 international flights were canceled because of the ashfall from the volcano. Lorenzana said the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila partially reopened and would prioritize departures to decongest terminal bays.
The situation could be handled by the national and local governments, added Lorenzana, saying he did not yet see the need for foreign aid. The provincial government of Batangas, however, which declared a state of calamity, appealed for help from nongovernment organizations and foreign governments, in view of the needs of thousands of evacuees affected by the disaster. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.