MANILA — Around 376 families have so far been evacuated in Batangas after the fleeting eruption of the Taal volcano on Thursday, with more evacuations underway, the state disaster response agency said on Friday.
In a public briefing, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the figure accounts for 1,495 individuals. A total of 46 families, meanwhile, are staying with their relatives nearby.
Evacuations are still being conducted in 3 barangays in the municipality of Agoncillo, and 2 in the municipality of Laurel, Office of Civil Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad said. He described the situation as “challenging” due to the low rate of evacuees.
The said barangays are considered high risk for the volcano’s activity.
This was why they sought the help of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units, since Taal’s alert Level 3 status means mandatory evacuation for the residents nearby, he said.
“On the status of evacuations, the local government unit of Batangas will implement their protocols on evacuation and nabanggit na rin iyan kanina, iyong low evacuation rate… Ang protocol ay, at alert level 3 dapat mandatory evacuation,” Jalad explained.
“Ating pang kinukuha kung ano ang percentage of evacuation ng Agoncillo at Laurel in respect to the total number of populations from the identified barangays, so wala pa sa atin,” he added.
The evacuees can go back to their homes if Phivolcs downgrades Taal’s alert status to Level 2.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) office in Calabarzon also prepositioned P1.4 million worth of family food packs and P11 million worth of non-food items, NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal said.
Timbal also noted that the agency would go to the affected residents to provide assistance.
Jalad also assured the public that they are doing what they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in evacuation centers by setting up antigen testing booths.
Distribution of N-95 masks will also be prioritized, he said.
The NDRRMC, he added, will release guidelines for the management of evacuation centers regarding health protocol implementation.
Meanwhile, PAGASA is monitoring the presence of 2 low pressure areas that may affect the wind direction near the volcano that may bring ashfall to other areas.
Malacañang is "closely monitoring the situation," said its spokesman Harry Roque earlier in the day.
On Thursday, the volcano that sits in a picturesque lake roared to life with a "short-lived dark phreatomagmatic plume" that rose a kilometer into the air.
That was followed by 4 "short phreatomagmatic bursts" that produced 200-meter-high plumes above the main crater lake, Phivolcs said in a later update.
Taal's last eruption in January 2020 shot ash 15 kilometers high and spewed red-hot lava, crushing scores of homes, killing livestock and sending over 135,000 people into shelters.
— Reports from Joyce Balancio and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News