Philippine officials brace for long crisis with simmering volcano

Support us and go ad-free

Philippine officials are bracing for a long crisis whether the Taal volcano erupts more disastrously or simmers precariously in the coming weeks and months, as massive numbers of displaced villagers fled to emergency shelters.

Health secretary Francisco Duque III said more than 900 villagers who fell ill have been treated, mostly for exposure to volcanic ash, in evacuation sites since the volcano in Batangas province erupted last weekend.

About 125,000 people fled from ash-blanketed villages and crammed into hundreds of emergency centres in Batangas alone and many others took shelter in relatives’ homes, disaster response officials said, appealing for masks, bottled water, portable toilets, food and sleeping mats.

Philippines Volcano
Evacuees gather to receive relief goods at an evacuation centre (Aaron Favila/AP)

“It’s really massive because you’re talking of more or less 100,000 evacuees in evacuation centres, so the infrastructure and services needed are really huge,” Duque said. “This is not going to be for the short term, but for the medium if not long term.”

After belching a massive plume of ash and steam more than nine miles into the sky when it rumbled back to life last Sunday, Taal has been spewing smaller emissions and shuddering with fewer earthquakes in recent days.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But despite a perceived waning of its restlessness, continuing volcanic quakes, the drying of Taal’s crater lake and other signs indicate magma is moving underneath, said Renato Solidum, who heads the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“We have this perception now that it’s waning, versus underground sub-surface activity, which indicates otherwise,” Solidum said at a news conference, adding that experts “have not seen a definite trend that it’s weakening”.

The 1,020ft-high Taal is one of the world’s smallest but the second-most restive of about two dozen active Philippine volcanoes. It has remained at alert level 4, the second-highest warning, indicating a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days.

Philippines Volcano
Blankets of ash have forced tens of thousands to flee (Aaron Favila/AP)

Duque said hundreds of villagers have been treated for respiratory infections, hypertension, diarrhoea, skin lesions, flu and coughs in evacuation centres. About 300,000 masks have been sent to affected areas.

The government’s main disaster-response agency will hold a meeting next week to discuss concerns, including hygiene in evacuation camps, Duque said. He has sought the help of the military to build toilets in emergency shelters, mostly school buildings.

In the hard-hit town of Agoncillo, mayor Daniel Reyes said all 42,000 residents abandoned their homes, including 8,000 who are now in evacuation centres and need food, water and aid. “They rushed out of their homes without bringing anything, so they will really be dependent on our help,” Reyes said.

Agoncillo still has about two weeks of food, water and aid packs but will need help from the provincial and national governments when supplies are depleted, he said.

While tending to the thousands of displaced residents, Reyes said he and other officials are preparing contingency plans in case Taal erupts violently.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us