Sunday, November 15, 2009

Families get ready to evacuate Mount Mayon's region as volcanic activity increases

The province of Albay started preparing food packs and emergency equipment, including standby vehicles, on Wednesday, for possible evacuation of some 26,178 families from areas near the Mayon volcano due to the increasing probability of an eruption.

Mayon Volcano had two ash explosions early Wednesday and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said it could recommend raising the alert status on Mayon Volcano to level 3, because of persistent ash explosions that might lead to a hazardous type of eruption.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda has instructed the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office to continue repacking food items for possible preemptive evacuation that could last between one month (as in the case of the August-September 2006 event) to three months (as seen in prior eruptions).

For evacuation are 7,946 families at Alert 3 and 26,178 families at Alert 4.

"I have requested the Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police Task Force Mayon to continually and strictly enforce checkpoints at strategic areas around the volcano to deter residents, particularly orchid gatherers and vegetable farmers, from entering the danger zones."

Cedric Daep, the department head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) said the municipal, city and barangay (village) disaster coordinating councils concerned were immediately reactivated and instructed to convene in order to review their contingency plans and master lists of population exposed to risks; conduct sustained social mobilization and community preparedness though barangay assemblies or neighborhood meetings; and to coordinate with the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) through the safety and emergency management office to collect additional early warning and communication equipment."

Daep said he was awaiting word on the preemptive evacuation in Barangay BaƱadero in Daraga town, especially those who had been relocated but had returned to the area for their crops.

"The said barangay is about eight kilometers away from the crater but a certain portion of the village is found within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone with around 20 households. The evacuation center in Daraga is ready to accommodate these residents but we are awaiting the report from the Daraga MDCC," Daep said.

The public safety and emergency management office has started distributing 1,000 wireless

public address systems for use by barangay (village) officials in mobilizing neighborhoods for evacuation.

A PDCC advisory issued Wednesday noon instructed the residents, motorists and schoolchildren in the ashfall-affected areas (traditionally southwest areas like Camalig, Guinobatan, Daraga, Legazpi and Sto. Domingo and the newly affected north-northwest areas--including Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon) to protect themselves by covering their noses with damp cloth or handkerchief.

Dr. Luis Mendoza, provincial health officer, told residents to use wet towels as protection from the ash or use masks, especially those with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Aside from the ash explosions at 1:58 a.m. and 7:02 a.m. on Wednesday, a visible plume spawned by a sudden ash ejection was reported by motorists traveling along the Malabog-Salvacion Junction in Daraga, Albay at around 12:20 p.m.

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