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Defiant folks smoked out

I was frightened, so I ran away from our place, along with others.

Kristina Maralit

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White steam emits from Taal volcano crater as seen from a Philippine airforce helicopter during an aerial survey on January 21, 2020. - Philippine authorities ordered a crackdown on January 20 on evacuees' daily visits to homes in the danger zone around Taal volcano, amid a warning it could be "recharging" for a more powerful explosion. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

Resistive residents were literally “smoked out” of the danger zone on Friday after Taal Volcano spewed a tall column of thick, white steam signifying the intensifying activities underneath its crater.
Some residents admitted being thrown in panic after white smoke spewed out of Taal at around 5:15 a.m. yesterday — days after the volcano’s relative lull.

In a broadcast interview, Joseph Cabrera said he ran for safety after feeling at least two strong earthquakes which was followed by thick white smoke coming out of the restive volcano.
“I was frightened, so I ran away from our place, along with others. The smoke that came out was so thick and different from the previous one. It was really scary,” Cabrera shared in an interview by radio station DzBB.

He said there were others who went with him while some remained within the locked down areas.

Despite a total lockdown imposed on 199 barangays classified as high-risk areas, defiant residents still sneaked into the danger zone to tend to their livestock and check on their properties.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), however, assured the thick steam-laden plumes exhibited by Taal Volcano should not trigger panic for now.

Mariton Bornas, the Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division head, said the thicker cloud-formed smoke coming out of the volcano was steam that resulted from magma rising underneath, which heated up the ground water.

“We noticed that the steam slightly subsided in recent days. It’s possible that the vents were just blocked. Now that the steam is more intense, the blockage might have been removed,” Bornas explained during a press briefing.

She added that the plumes changing in color were only the steam mixing with the old ash from the volcano.

More volcanic earthquakes were also listed, with the Taal Volcano Network registering 486 volcanic earthquakes including four low-frequency events in the past 24 hours.

Bornas said this is an indication of magma continuing to rise.

Elevated sulfur dioxide emissions were also detected, now at an average of 224 tons per day from the previously recorded 141 tons.

Taal Volcano remains under Alert Level 4 with the 14-kilometer danger zone still in effect.

“Phivolcs strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in the hazard maps within the 14-km radius from Taal Main Crater and along the Pansipit River Valley where fissuring has been observed,” Phivolcs said in its latest advisory.

Housing assistance assured

Meanwhile, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) vowed that it is ready to provide housing assistance to residents displaced by the ongoing eruption of Taal Volcano.

In a press conference during the 16th founding anniversary of the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), DHSUD Secretary Eduardo del Rosario stressed President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to provide housing to those in need, especially disaster-stricken families.

Del Rosario said that DHSUD, through the National Housing Authority (NHA), could extend full housing grant to the displaced families in close partnership with the concerned local government units (LGU).

“For disaster-stricken families, the President is always open to give them full grant. So, it’s either the LGU will purchase the land and the national government undertakes the site development or the actual construction of houses,” Del Rosario explained.

This early, Del Rosario said that the DHSUD has already coordinated with the provincial government of Batangas in case permanent resettlement sites will be needed.

“We are preparing for the worst-case scenario and the government is ready for this eventuality,” Del Rosario said.

Affected residents rise

As of Friday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that the number of families displaced by the restive Taal Volcano has climbed to 88,842 composed of 346,244 persons.

The affected families are from Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Quezon.

Families staying in 488 evacuation centers are placed at 37,311, or the equivalent of 137,538 individuals while the remainder are being aided outside of the centers.

“In all these situations, the main problem is the available lots for residential development. The participation of the LGU to provide the lots is key so that the national government can undertake the intervention of site development and actual construction,” Del Rosario said.

INC response

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), through the Felix Y. Manalo (FYM) Foundation, also continuously provide relief assistance to those affected by the eruption.
Members of the INC’s Society of Communicators and Networkers International or SCAN were among the first responders when Taal Volcano erupted last 12 January.

with Alvin Murcia @tribunephl_alvi

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