MANILA (UPDATE) - Some 15,000 residents of Batangas have fled their homes following Taal Volcano's phreatomagmatic eruptions, its governor said Sunday.
"Sinusubaybayan natin ang ating evacuees, may social distancing at may mask. Kung wala, binibigyan natin. 'Yung dikit dikit, alam natin hindi maiiwasan. Binibigyan natin ng pagkain. Kaya hinahanda natin ang mga vaccine," said Governor Hermilando Mandanas.
(We're monitoring the evacuees. There's social distancing and they're wearing masks. We give them masks if they have none. We know we can't avoid them being close to each other. We give them food. So we're also preparing vaccines.)
"Lahat priority, pagpunta ng evacuees doon, pati yung nakapaligid sa kanila exposed na rin kung COVID ang pag-uusapan, dahil madaling makahawa, at may problema ngayon tayo sa social distancing."
(Everyone is a priority. When they arrive there, everyone around them is also exposed because COVID can get easily transmitted and right now we have a problem in observing social distancing.)
Family tents are being utilized in some isolation facilities and schools which now temporarily serve as evacuation centers.
The evacuated residents include those from five villages inside the 7-kilometer danger zone which have been placed under lockdown, said Batangas Police director Glicerio Cansilao.
These are Barangays Bilibinwang and Banyaga in Agoncillo town, and Barangays Bugaan East, Buso-buso and Gulod in Laurel town.
Authorities have issued travel passes for residents who would like to return to their homes to feed their livestock. They are allowed until 4 p.m. to do so, according to officials.
Checkpoints are in place while 50 more policemen have been deployed to conduct monitoring, Cansilao said.
Local government officials conduct health checks in their areas to determine the presence of sulfur dioxide as evidenced by volcanic smog, said Phivolcs officer-in-charge Renato Solidum.
Common symptoms of inhalation include, cough and difficulty of breathing, he said.
"Kailangan pag-ingatan - volcano and virus. Importante mabakunahan ang mga taong puwedeng mae-evacuate sakaling tumindi pa ang kondisyon ng Taal Volcano,” Solidum said.
(We need to be vigilant of the volcano and the virus. It's important that the people who need to evacuate are vaccinated in the event that the situation of Taal Volcano worsens.)
The province has received more than 8,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Metro Manila mayors for the evacuees, Mandanas said. The health department also assured it would send additional COVID-19 vaccines and test kits.
Local officials are setting up additional inoculation sites for Taal evacuees in Laurel and Agoncillo, he added.
On Thursday, Taal Volcano had a "short-lived dark phreatomagmatic plume" that rose a kilometer into the air, prompting Phivolcs to raise its alert level to 3 and authorities to evacuate residents in the danger zone.
It 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.
--With reports from Dennis Datu, ABS-CBN News