Mayon evacuees need water drums, water lorry

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – With water distribution a major problem in Albay evacuation centers, the provincial government says they need water containers to meet the water needs of its evacuees.

The Albay Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) says while there is enough water for the more than 50,200 evacuees, the water cannot be distributed properly because of the lack of water containers. 

"The problem in the evacuation centers is that when the fire trucks get there, they only have pails as containers. So it is really too small for their water needs. So when the fire truck gets there, the water tank isn't even emptied. It has to go back because, anyway, there are no containers for the water," said BFP chief Arturo Alaba during an October 8 press conference.

The BFP sources water from local water districts, shallow wells, and running water all over the province and uses 26 fire trucks to deliver them to more than 30 evacuation centers.

Since September, they have delivered 185 truckloads of water using fire trucks of different sizes, he added.

Despite efforts, evacuees in some evacuation centers say they have a difficult time accessing water. Some endure long lines and hours of waiting before being able to fill up their pails.

Others decide to go back to their houses within the 6-kilometer danger zone to take a bath or get their washing done.

The proper water containers are essential for the BFP's water distribution operations.

"When we arrive at the site, we advise if they can ready all their water containers, drums, whatever they can use to store water, because the fire trucks cannot stay in one evacuation center for too long. We have to supply many other evacuation centers," explained Alaba. 

Water drums, water lorry needed

To ensure water access for evacuees, all evacuation centers should have water containers with a minimum capacity of 20 liters, he said.  

They should ideally be drums which are better for water storage than the pails or plastic bottles being used by many evacuees.

"We've been requesting that from all the local chief executives that they should be the ones to put water containers because we do not have the capability to put a water tank and drums," he said.

At the moment, water drums and water lorries are what the Albay provincial government really need.

"The bigger the containers, the better. We need containers and water lorry more than we need water purifying machines because we can get drinking water from the local water districts," said Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) head Cedric Daep.

He said the ideal size for water containers is 5 gallons, which are easy to carry. 

Evacuees have been told not to drink water delivered by the BFP, said Alaba.

Though the water comes from the local water districts, the water tanks in the fire trucks used to transport them are already rusted, he explained. Thus, the water from the BFP fire trucks is only meant for washing, flushing toilets, and bathing. 

Another factor that could affect access to water is the fact that the BFP relies on local government officials to know when and where to deliver water, and have to wait for requests from the local government or BFP local station commander before any delivery.

"If there are no requests, it means to say they still have water. We depend on the camp commanders because they know when the containers are empty. If there's no place to put the water, the trip is wasted," said Alaba. 

As of October 8, evacuees have been in evacuation centers for 24 days since Alert Level 3 was hoisted over Mayon Volcano. The warning means that Mayon is restive and may erupt in weeks. 

Based on past eruptions, the provincial government estimates that it will take roughly 70 more days before the volcano goes on Alert Level 4 which points to a hazardous eruption in a matter of hours or days.

The provincial government says they need around P118 (US$2.6 million*) million every month to maintain evacuation centers until evacuees can go home. – Rappler.com

Interested donors may contact APSEMO head Cedric Daep at 0927-698-7445 or 0928-239-7990.

*$1 = P44.7

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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