Philippine diocese appeals for families affected by volcanic eruption

The social action arm of the diocese said many residents are in need of beddings, masks, food packs, and bottled water

The Diocese of Sorsogon appealed for help for thousands of residents affected by the eruption of Bulusan volcano on Sunday, June 5.

Father George Fajardo, director of the social action arm of the diocese, told Radio Veritas that many residents are in need of beddings, masks, food packs, and bottled water.

“The immediate danger is inhaling ash,” said the priest, adding that “hopefully, rain will come so that the ashes on the roofs and roads will be washed away.”

He said those in evacuation centers, especially those from the villages in Juban and Irosin towns, also need respiratory medicines and interventions.

Father Antonio Labiao, executive director of Caritas Philippines, said the Church’s social action arm is ready to shell out as much as PhP10 million in response.

“As a matter of policy, we have an annual allocation for our standby emergency fund of 10 million pesos to be disbursed to the dioceses anytime they need assistance,” he said.

Mount Bulusan spewed a huge, dark cloud on Sunday, prompting evacuations from ash-covered towns while authorities warned of possible further eruptions.

The blast lasted about 17 minutes, sending a grey plume shooting up at least one kilometer, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

No casualties were reported, but authorities raised the alert level to one on the five-level system, indicating “low-level unrest.”

“There was a phreatic eruption of the Bulusan volcano, meaning the explosion was caused by the boiling water under the crater,” PhiVolcs head Renato Solidum told local radio DZBB.

A group of 14 hikers and four local guides were midway down the 1,565-meter tall mountain, unaware that an ash cloud was shooting up on the other side of the mountain, civil defense official Leo Ferreras of nearby Barcelona town told AFP by phone.

“All of them got down safe and sound,” he added.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management officers guide vehicles passing through the highway of Juban town, Sorsogon Province, after the sudden eruption of Bulusan Volcano on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Sharbyn Sayat / AFP)

The local government of Sorsogon, about 500 kilometers south of the capital Manila, said 10 villages in two towns were affected by the ashfall.

Images of the aftermath showed houses, roads, and trees in Juban town covered in ash, with vehicles struggling to navigate the road due to poor visibility.

Authorities deployed a fire truck to clear the area and residents helped sweep the ash off the roads.

“The evacuation is ongoing there, but our priority is senior citizens and those with asthma,” Juban disaster official Dennis Despabiladeras said.

The Manila airport authority said no flights have been affected by the eruption so far, though pilots were warned about coming near the area.

Authorities reminded residents that entry into the four-kilometer radius around the volcano is prohibited and advised those living next to it to be cautious “due to the increased possibilities of sudden and hazardous phreatic eruptions.”

Residents near the valleys and rivers were also alerted about the danger of mud and stream flows in the event of heavy rainfall.

Bulusan volcano has been active in recent years, with a dozen similar eruptions recorded in 2016 and 2017.

The Philippines is located in the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” and has over 20 active volcanoes. – with a report from CBCP News and AFP

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