Text message sends Taal residents into panic

by Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog

Posted at Jun 15 2010 07:12 PM | Updated as of Jun 16 2010 08:41 AM

BATANGAS, Philippines -- Residents in the vicinity of Taal Volcano island scampered to safety Monday evening after receiving a text message that the volcano was about to erupt. The text message turned out to be a hoax.

Lt. Commander Troy Cornelio, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Batangas chief, said that around 200 people arrived at their command post at Talisay town and another 67 at San Nicolas town after the text message circulated on Monday evening.

Cornelio said the bad weather further pushed the residents into panic.

“Bigla kasing kumulog at kumidlat sa may bulkan kaya akala ng mga tao pumutok na ang Taal kaya sila nag-panic,” Cornelio said.

Nevertheless, the PCG has sent additional rubber boats at their command post in Talisay for any eventuality.

Allan Loza, resident volcanologist in Talisay, said they also heard about the text messages that created panic among the residents of Taal island.

“Buong magdamag nga noong Lunes ay nakakatanggap kami ng text messages sa mga residente at itinatanong kung totoo ‘yong natatanggap nilang impormasyon na mariin naming pinabulaanan,” Loza said.

Loza said Taal Volcano on Monday evening was a bit “peaceful” since they only recorded 7 volcanic earthquakes from 6 a.m. up until 6 p.m..

“Remain calm, huwag sana maniwala ang mga tao sa mga unconfirmed reports tulad ng mga text messages, tanging ang Phivolcs [Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology] lang ang may authority para magpalabas ng bulletin tungkol sa bulkan,” Loza added

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Phivolcs Talisay recorded 9 volcanic earthquakes with a temperature at the mouth of the volcano recorded at 34 degrees Centigrade.

Phivolcs maintains alert level 2 over Taal Volcano.

Schools’ opening postponed

Earlier, the Batangas office of the Department of Education has suspended the opening of classes in Pulo Elementary School in the town of Talisay and Kalawit Elementary in the town of Balete. Both schools are located in Volcano Island near the crater of Taal Volcano.

According to Edmon Pampulan, officer-in-charge of Pulo Elementary School, they were advised to postpone the opening of classes while the volcano’s alert status remains in level 2.

Pulo Elementary School has 7 classrooms for its 300 grade school students.

Pampulan said they will incorporate Saturday classes to the school's calendar to make up for the school’s late opening.