A man inspects a roof that collapsed from the weight of volcanic ash in Laurel, Batangas yesterday.
Forced evacuation set in 12 towns, 2 cities
Arnell Ozaeta, Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents of two cities and 12 municipalities in Batangas as a potentially massive and dangerous eruption of Taal Volcano looms.

In a memorandum, the DILG-Calabarzon directed concerned local government units (LGUs) to organize the mandatory evacuation of areas in the likely path of deadly projectiles, base surges and volcanic tsunami that may be triggered by the eruption of Taal Volcano. The memorandum was signed by DILG regional officer-in-charge Abigail Andres.

Covered by the mandatory evacuation order are the towns of Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Laurel, Lemery, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, San Nicolas, Sta. Teresita, Taal and Talisay and the cities of Lipa and Tanauan.

At least four towns in the list – Taal, Agoncillo, Talisay and Laurel – are now implementing a total lockdown, as confirmed by S/Sgt. Armstrong de Castro of the Regional Incident Management Team. The towns have a total combined population of almost 200,000 individuals.

Batangas police Provincial Director Edwin Quilates said the lockdown was aimed at preventing people from sneaking into danger zones.

As Taal Volcano continues to expel hazardous ash and smoke, the number of people at different evacuation centers has ballooned to almost 44,000.

Reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) have shown a continuing increase in the number of internally displaced persons since last Sunday.

As of yesterday, 217 different evacuation centers in various cities and municipalities in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna are providing temporary shelter to the evacuees.

The NDRRMC said about 10,000 families had to leave their homes and stay out of harm’s way.

Estimated damage to agriculture including corn, coffee and livestock like chicken and carabaos remained at P74.539 million.

The NDRRMC said light to strong winds coming from the northeast are likely to prevail in the vicinity of Taal Volcano.

If the eruption column remains at three kilometers or below, the report said the ash plumes may drift to the municipalities located in the southwest.

However, the NDRRMC said if a major eruption occurs within the wind forecast period and the column exceeds three kilometers, ash plumes will reach the southeastern portion of Batangas and some municipalities in Quezon, Mindoro and Marinduque.

Earlier, the DILG ordered the police to stop residents  of Taal Volcano island in Batangas from returning to their homes to retrieve their belongings and livestock after President Duterte had declared the island a “no man’s land.”

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stop people from entering the island to prevent casualties following the volcano’s eruption last Sunday.

Año said the island, within the 14-kilometer danger zone, is strictly off limits as the volcano remains under alert level 4, meaning a hazardous explosive eruption could occur within hours or days.

“It is simply too dangerous for anyone to go back to the island. Human lives must be our first priority,” DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.

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