More cops sent to Taal as residents try to return

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Police officers guard a road nearby the errupting Taal Volcano in Talisay. -- REUTERS

MORE policemen will be deployed in Batangas province to maintain order, as some residents reportedly tried to return to their houses to save their livestock amid Taal Volcano’s continued restlessness, the country’s local government chief said on Tuesday.

“We will add more personnel where it is lacking,” Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said in a Viber message.

He issued the order Año in response to the appeal of some local chief executives for additional security forces on the ground to prevent residents from returning to their homes.

Ash from Taal Volcano in Batangas province covered large parts of Southern Luzon and cities near the capital on Monday, forcing financial markets to suspend trading and the Manila airport to close.

The volcano spewed lava on Monday, a day after it blew ash and steam into the air. Authorities warned that a “hazardous” eruption could happen in days as they raised the alert status to level 4, the second-highest in a 5-step scale.


Residents living in the danger zone around the volcano should stay away until authorities advise them to return home, Renato Solidum, the country’s chief seismologist, said.

Mr. Solidum noted that while Taal Volcano’s eruptions might seem to have slowed, this was not a sign of fewer volcanic activities.

This gives some residents “a false sense of security” so they go back to their homes, Mr. Solidum told reporters. The alert status remained at level 4.

The Philippines lies in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes strike.

Taal Volcano on the Philippines’ main Luzon island is the country’s second most active volcano. All of its eruptions are concentrated on Volcano Island, an island near the middle of Taal Lake.

Thousands of people have fled their homes and were now staying at evacuation centers in Batangas.

Almost half-a-million people live within the 14-kilometer danger zone near Taal Volcano and about 24,500 people had been displaced, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.

Taal Volcano continued erupting at the Main Crater “due to magmatic and hydrovolcanic activity,” according to an 8 a.m. report from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Tuesday.

New fissures were recorded on Tuesday afternoon, according to the agency, which recorded 212 volcanic earthquakes in the Taal region as of yesterday, 81 of which were felt with intensities ranging from 1 to 5 in Tagaytay

These earthquakes signified “continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice” that could lead to further eruptions, it said.

Meanwhile, the Health department and Office of Civil Defense said more help was coming to affected residents.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Francia M. Laxamana told a briefing more health workers would be sent to Batangas, together with more medicines and face masks. Health advisories on the risks of ashfall were also being issued.

Civil Defense Assistant Secretary Casiano C. Monilla said at the same briefing there were enough relief supplies for victims.

The Pharmaceutical and Health care Association of the Philippines in a statement said it would send 16,500 face masks and medicines to evacuees.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were also in Taal to help rescue animals left behind by their owners.

These earthquakes signified “continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice” that could lead to further eruptions, it said.

More than 5,000 families were taking temporary shelter at 75 evacuation centers in Batangas province, according to the disaster agency’s 12 p.m. report.

The volcanic agency reiterated that people within a 14 kilometer radius from Taal Volcano’s Main Crater must be evacuated.

The Social Welfare department said it would send 5,000 food packs and sleeping kits to evacuees after local government leaders in Batangas complained against the lack of relief goods.

Police would deploy eight rescue vehicles and 30 pick-up trucks to help in the evacuated, according to Colonel Marlon Santos of Cavite.

Seven cities and municipalities in the provinces of in Batangas and Cavite experienced power failures, including Amadeo, Tagaytay, Lipa, Tanuan, Laurel, Talisay and Lemery.

The Batangas provincial government declared a state of calamity, which would allow the local government to use emergency funds and freeze the prices of basic goods.

Meanwhile, the local weather bureau said on its website Taal Volcano’s eruptions had caused “cloudy skies with isolated rains and thunderstorms” over the areas of Batangas, Cavite and Laguna provinces.

This could cut visibility and create mud flows during ashfall, as well as light to moderate rains, it said. — Genshen L. Espedido, Gillian M. Cortez and Emmanuel Tupas, Philippine Star