Taal survivors haggle to check homes in volcano's danger zone

Gabriel Agcaoili, Jeff Canoy and Dennis Datu ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2020 09:33 AM

Authorities bar people from entering Agoncillo, Batangas amid the continuous ashfall caused by Taal Volcano. Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

AGONCILLO, Batangas -- Those living within Taal's expanded danger zone on Tuesday sought to briefly return to their homes and survey damage from heavy ashfall, with the volcano still under watch for a possible "hazardous" eruption.

On an ash-covered highway here, an elderly woman carrying a sack of animal feed pleaded with police to be allowed to check her pig pen. A police cordon barred her from returning to her home.

The town's police chief, Capt. Danilo Manalo, said Agoncillo was off limits due to ash and frequent earthquakes. Some 39,000 people have been evacuated, he told ABS-CBN News.

In neighboring San Nicolas town, Mayor Lester de Sagun pleaded with residents wanting to return to leave as soon as they check their belongings.

"Mga kasama, pagkakuha ng mga gamit, Level 4 pa din, kailangan tayo'y magsilikas pa din," he said, referring to the volcano warning that remains in force.

(After we get fetch our belongings, we need to evacuate again. We're still at Level 4.)

Taal spewed a giant ash column on Sunday, shutting markets and offices on Monday and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights. At one step below the highest alert level, state vulcanologists said a "hazardous" eruption was still possible.

Batangas was placed under a state of calamity on Monday, which will enable the local government to tap emergency funds and freeze prices of basic goods as needed.

President Rodrigo Duterte said late Monday that he would visit areas affected by the volcano on Tuesday.

"Mag-ikot nga ako then I will see how the...'di ibigay ko sa sundalo pati pulis. In times of crisis talaga, all I can... to manage the situation is the military and the police. Nandoon naman sila," Duterte said.