Taal deaths hit 15; sulfur dioxide emissions increase
According to DOH regional director for Calabarzon Eduardo Janairo, the latest fatality is a 57-year-old man with chronic obstructive lung disease who died last Jan. 21.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Taal deaths hit 15; sulfur dioxide emissions increase

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Since the eruption of Taal Volcano last Jan. 12, fifteen evacuees in Batangas province have died in separate incidents due to various circumstances, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

According to DOH regional director for Calabarzon Eduardo Janairo, the latest fatality is a 57-year-old man with chronic obstructive lung disease who died last Jan. 21.

“Majority of those who died had pre-existing conditions like respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. The ashfall exacerbated their conditions,” he said.

Among those who died was a five-year-old boy when their house burned at the height of the volcanic eruption.

Janairo noted that medical teams have been on standby at evacuation centers to closely monitor the health and welfare of the displaced residents.

“It’s actually an inter-regional response already because even medical teams from other regional offices of DOH are here. There are also volunteers from the private sector,” he added.

There are medical tents at the evacuation centers to ensure that health services are immediately provided when needed by the evacuees.

The official said there is clustering of cases but they have been controlled by the medical teams before becoming an outbreak.

DOH data show that from Jan. 14 to 24, a total of 6,789 evacuees have sought consultations.  

Most of them were due to acute respiratory infection (4,355); followed by hypertension (955), influenza-like illness (500), injuries (347), skin diseases (244), acute watery diarrhea (224), eye irritation (103), diabetes (53), burn (13) and measles (4).

Janairo assured the evacuees that even those who have chronic conditions are being provided with their maintenance medicines.

However, he admitted that the biggest challenge to the government is to reach out to those displaced individuals who are staying outside of the evacuation centers.

He added there are evacuees who are staying with relatives and friends while others have sought shelter in government facilties like barangay centers.

There are also those who are currenttly renting houses.

“We also want to look after them but we cannot do this  if they will not register. So I am encouraging them to come forward and register,” Janairo said. 

Taal emission

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) yesterday said there was an increase in Taal Volcano’s sulfur dioxide emission.

In a bulletin released yesterday morning, Phivolcs said the emission recorded in the past 24 hours was at an average of 409 tons per day, higher than Friday’s average of 224 tons per day.

“Activity in the main crater in the past 24 hours has been characterized by weak to moderate emission of white steam-laden plumes 100 to 800 meters high that drifted southwest,” Phivolcs said.

Six volcanic earthquakes, registered at magnitudes between 1.5 to 2.3, were recorded 

between 5 a.m. on Friday and 5 a.m. yesterday.

Rey Lumbang of the Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division said Alert Level 4 remains in effect over Taal Volcano. This means that a “hazardous eruption may occur within hours or days.”

“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 should be strictly enforced,” Lumbang said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said further studies should still be done as the government is considering a permanent ban on residents at the 14-kilometer radius surrounding Taal Volcano.

While it expressed support for the proposal, the DILG said the move will still have to be discussed with different national agencies and local government units.

DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the permanent ban should be discussed with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Phivolcs, as well as the affected communities.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said he agrees to the proposal of other Cabinet members for a permanent ban to ensure the safety of residents living around Taal Volcano.

Currently only the volcano island has been deemed as a permanent danger zone that requires the permanent relocation of its residents.

Two barangays situated in the volcano island, which has been deemed not fit for human habitation, will have to be permanently relocated to a safer area in the mainland.

The cost for building permanent relocation sites for nearly 200,000 displaced families could reach P60 billion. 

President Duterte has conceded that he could not fight nature as the possibility of the destructive eruption of Taal Volcano looms over Batangas and nearby provinces.

Duterte made the statement during an interview with Russian government-funded Russia Today (RT) aired last Friday.

“That is one aspect of life, which we cannot really fight in the sense that when Mother Nature blows, it blows,” Duterte said.

During his first visit to Batangas after the eruption, Duterte declared Taal Volcano Island as “no man’s land” to ensure the safety of local residents. -With Christina Mendez, Romina Cabrera, Rhodina Villanueva, Jaime Laude


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