Kanlaon eruption: 2 areas under state of calamity

Gilbert Bayoran - The Philippine Star
Kanlaon eruption: 2 areas under state of calamity
A man walks on volcanic mud along a road in Barangay Biak na Bato in La Castellana, Negros Occidental two days after the phreatic explosion of Kanlaon Volcano.
Image from Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park Office

MANILA, Philippines — The city of Canlaon in Negros Oriental and the municipality of La Castellana in Negros Occidental declared a state of calamity on Tuesday, a day after being hit with ashfall and sulphuric fumes as a result of Kanlaon Volcano’s phreatic eruption.

La Castellana Mayor Alme Rhumyla Mangilimutan confirmed yesterday the flow of lahar in Barangay Biak na Bato, with roads no longer passable in the aftermath of rains.

Mangilimutan called on residents to remain calm and avoid the path of lahar flows, which carried debris including trees and rocks.

She also ordered the forced evacuation of residents in the affected barangay, in anticipation of more lahar flow in the evening. Heavy equipment has been dispatched to clear barangay roads.

Farmlands in six barangays of La Castellana at the foot of the volcano were almost covered by ashfall, which reached three more barangays.

A total of 232 affected families are staying in different evacuation centers of La Castellana and being fed by the municipal government, aside from the food packs being distributed to them by the local and provincial government and other agencies.

Mangilimutan earlier declared the “suspension of work in all government offices and agencies except those with functions that involve the delivery of basic services, disaster preparedness and response and other vital services.”

Following the declaration of state of calamity, Mangilimutan said prices of basic commodities have been controlled, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry, after she noted an increase in the price of face masks.

More than 1,500 residents in three cities and three municipalities of central Negros fled from their homes shortly after the eruption on Monday evening.

Canlaon City Mayor Jose Chubasco Cardenas also declared the suspension of work in government and private offices on Tuesday. While the situation in the city is back to normal and volcanic activity has simmered down, Cardenas emphasized that restriction within the permanent four-kilometer danger zone should be strictly observed.

Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, who visited La Castellana on Wednesday, said “all those moved to evacuation centers have been told to remain until Alert Level 2 will be downgraded.”

Displaced residents of three barangays in neighboring La Carlota reported that 200 families are either staying at evacuation centers or with relatives, according to the city disaster risk reduction and management office.

Lahar warning

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned of possible lahar flows following the eruption earlier this week coupled with rains in the area.

Phivolcs monitored mudflows in several areas surrounding the volcano.

Visual reports were also sent to Phivolcs in the vicinity of Brgy. Biak na Bato, La Castellana town yesterday. State volcanologists said the current mudflow could progress into lahar if heavy rains continue.

Meanwhile, sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano reached the second highest ever a day following the eruption.

SO2 emissions reached 4,113 tons per day on Tuesday, as voluminous emissions reached 2,000 meters and drifted to the southwest and northwest.

There were also 53 volcanic earthquakes recorded.

OCD assistance

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and its regional counterparts in Western and Central Visayas are working with concerned agencies and local authorities amid Kanlaon’s restiveness, Civil Defense Administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno said on Wednesday.

“There are established preparedness and response protocols that serve as guides to address this emergency. Our regional counterparts are there, on alert, to directly assist the local DRRMOs,” he said.

“The anticipated needs are also being tackled in the series of coordination to ensure that needed support will be extended immediately. We need to be ready. OCD is ramping up its efforts in collaboration with concerned agencies and local authorities for possible prolonged emergency,” he added.

OCD and several members of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council convened on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation and preparedness for possible future explosions of Kanlaon.

Science Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. during the meeting reiterated a warning to avoid the four-kilometer permanent danger zone around Kanlaon.

Agricultural damage

The Department of Agriculture on Wednesday began assessing the damage wrought by the eruption of Kanlaon Volcano to the agriculture sector, a ranking DA official said.

“We have yet to determine the damage as it is not the priority right now, although we are already coordinating with our regional field office. They are reporting to us but they cannot give us yet (an assessment),” Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesman Arnel de Mesa said.

De Mesa also assured farmers affected by the ashfall of assistance, noting that the DA can tap the P1-billion Quick Response Fund.

“Once they (farmers) are ready to plant and want alternative livelihood, we will give them the support,” he said.

For his part, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources spokesman Nasser Briguera said that BFAR is determining if there are fishponds affected by the eruption of Mount Kanlaon.

“Right now, we have alerted our provincial fishery officers. We are yet to receive the actual report from the ground. But just the same, we already alerted our office. They are ready to respond to the affected fishermen.”

The Sugar Regulatory Administration said it is closely monitoring the situation of about 23,000 hectares of sugarcane farms that could have been affected by the eruption of Kanlaon.

Red Cross ops

The Philippine Red Cross has mobilized its resources and personnel as it provided humanitarian assistance to affected families in Negros following the eruption of Mt. Kanlaon.

“We already have people in Negros, we have already prepositioned one tanker, we have four ambulances, we have two food trucks in the area and we have about 200 volunteers working in the evacuation centers,” PRC chairman Richard Gordon said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.

Gordon said if there are more areas affected, they would be deploying more volunteers. PRC chapters near Negros Occidental have been on high alert and are closely monitoring the situation.

The humanitarian organization has established first aid stations to provide medical attention and psychological first aid, distribute face masks and conduct welfare tracing.

In La Carlota, PRC teams are assisting evacuees at the New La Carlota Evacuation Center.

Aerial survey

Utilizing two of its helicopters, the Philippine Air Force conducted an aerial assessment of areas affected by Mount Kanlaon’s increased volcanic activity in Negros on Tuesday.

With the DSWD in Central Visayas and the OCD in Western Visayas, the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing led a rapid damage assessment in Moises Padilla, La Carlota, La Castellana, Bago City and Canlaon City.

PAF public affairs office chief Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said the aerial inspection was done as part of a swift response effort to determine what help needs to be provided to affected areas.- Romina Cabrera, Michael Punongbayan, Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas, Rudy Santos, Ghio Ong, Bella Cariaso, Mark Ernest Villeza

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