Trauma from past Taal eruptions prompts residents to evacuate voluntarily

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 05 2021 06:26 PM | Updated as of Jul 07 2021 12:24 PM

Laurel town starts vaccination of Taal evacuees, responders

Renier Noche and Senen Tenorio learned their lesson from the eruption of Taal Volcano in January last year.

This is why they immediately evacuated on Thursday afternoon after Taal's short phreatomagmatic eruption, even without the prodding of concerned government agencies.

“Takot po, sobrang takot. May mga anak kami, kaya umalis kami agad-agad. Automatic takbo agad kami,” Tenorio said. 

(We were really scared. We have children so we evacuated immediately. We took off automatically.)

Noche said they're more prepared now than before, ready to leave at moment's notice. But it's still hard for them.

“Napakahirap po. Ang hanapbuhay namin, 'di namin maasikaso nang maayos. Ang pangkabuhayan namin, nasa malayo,” he added.

(It's so hard. We can't attend to our livelihood properly. It's far from us now.)

Noche and Tenorio, both from Brgy. Bugaan East in Laurel town, are among evacuees at the San Gregorio Integrated School (SGIS) who received their first dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Last Saturday, the Department of Health delivered 3,500 doses of the vaccine to Batangas for residents staying in evacuation centers.

Laurel Municipal Health Officer Dr. Benbenato Garcia said around 50 evacuees will be vaccinated on Monday at the SGIS evacuation center. They were chosen based on the prioritization framework, meaning, residents who are over 60 or with comorbidities.

“One by one, hindi pwedeng siksikan. May entry sila and exit. Ang mga matuturukan lang, ang tagarito lang na evacuees. Hindi kami pwede magturok ng walk-ins,” Garcia said.

(Crowding is not allowed. They have separate entry and exit. We will only vaccinate evacuees. Walk-ins are not allowed.)

He said they already have a list of those who want to get their COVID-19 shots, including senior citizens, those with comorbidities and health workers.

Responders, including teachers who oversee the operations at the evacuation center, were also inoculated.

Garcia said the vaccination of evacuees will be expanded to other vaccination sites in the town in the coming days.

The DOH Region IV-A and Provincial Health Office will send more health workers to help in the vaccination drive since there is lack in manpower.

Laurel Mayor Joan Amo meanwhile reported 90% of residents from Brgy. Buso-buso, Gulod and Bugaan East — all within the 7-kilometer radius danger zone — have evacuated.

The local government added four more evacuation centers in the town, bringing the total to 10.

To avoid the possible spread of diseases and to ensure minimum health protocols are observed, the packed evacuation centers are already being decongested.

Among those who transferred to the Sta. Maria Elementary School evacuation center are 18-year-old Ken Vayessa and her whole family.

Vayessa shared they have been moving from one place to another — either a friend’s house or an evacuation center — since Thursday when they were told to evacuate.

“Mahirap. Di namin alam saan kami pupunta. Mahirap dahil may mga hayop kami sa bahay, kagaya ng manok. Kailangan makauwi kaagad,” she told ABS-CBN News.

(It's hard. We don't know where to go. It's also hard since we have animals at home, like chickens. We need to go home soon.)

Vayessa said the COVID-19 pandemic made their situation even more difficult, especially for her 75-year-old grandmother.

“Uso ngayon ang sakit. Nangangamba kami kasi marami nang nagkakasakit na kapitbahay namin. Dahil nasa evacuation center na kami, nangangamba kami baka dito kami magkasakit, lalo COVID,” she said.

(It's viral, that's why we're anxious since many of our neighbors have fallen ill. Since we're in an evacuation center, we're scared of getting infected with COVID-19.)

Alert Level 3 remains over Taal Volcano.

Phivolcs earlier reported 3 short phreatomagmatic explosions and 48 volcanic earthquakes. The volcano then roared to life with a "short-lived dark phreatomagmatic plume" that rose a kilometer into the air.

On Sunday, it recorded the highest ever levels of sulfur dioxide emitting from Taal volcano at 22,628 tons a day, which it said is "anomalously high".


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