By Aaron Recuenco
Legazpi City – Volcanologists and disaster management officials are strictly monitoring the weather system here for fear that heavy rains may trigger destructive lahar on communities living at the foot of Mayon Volcano.
Should that happen, more than 120,000 people are expected to be affected and must be evacuated,according to Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Friday the easterlies will continue to affect the eastern section of the country.
The Bicol region is among eight provinces –Cagayan Valley, Eastern and Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Aurora and Quezon – which will experience scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms, PAGASA said in its advisory.
PAGASA warned residents in these areas to stay alert and be prepared for possible flash floods or landslides.
“We are not talking about permanent and extended danger zones in case of lahar, those living beyond the danger zones will be affected especially those near the river systems around Mayon,” Daep told Manila Bulletin.
That is the reason why they are constantly coordinating with PAGASA.
Scatterred rainshowers have been pouring here since Thursday, the effect of the tail end of the cold front.
Ed Laguerta, resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said there are old and new deposits of ashes on top of the volcano from past and present eruptions.
If there would be torrential rains in the coming days, Laguerta said the heavy volume of water would carry the ashes down the volcano.
“It is not only the new deposit of ashes that would be carried down, old deposits of ashes from past eruptions will also come down,” said Laguerta.
But so far, Daep said they do not see immediate threat of lahar with the current weather system.
“We are monitoring especially the amount of rainfall because our decisions on evacuation depend on what PAGASA would say,” said Daep.
He said a 60mm rainfall would already induce lahar but Daep said they may even reduce the rainfall amount threshold depending on the activity of the volcano.
“If Mayon continues to emit ashes in the coming days, we may lower this threshold,” Daep added.
In 2006, more than 1,000 persons either died or went missing when lahar as a result of typhoon Reming covered the villages.
In yesterday’s press briefing, Daep said local government units have to shoulder the 10-day expense – food and other needs – of about 30,000 evacuees in temporary shelters which started Monday.
Unfortunately, however, the LGUs have reportedly not received a single centavo of their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). The IRA is supposedly released either monthly or quarterly but no fund has been downloaded yet.
Mayon started showing signs of restiveness a week ago and a state of calamity was declared in Albayon Tuesday.
“What we are spending right now are the savings from the 2017 budget, and the donations from various groups and persons,” said Daep.
To resolve the problem, Daep said they are lending funds to other government agencies like the National Food Authority (NFA) for rice ration, augmented by funds from the business sector, with the promise that the money will be paid once the IRA arrives.
Once their funds are depleted, Daep said they can ask assistance from the Red Cross and the national government.
457 evacuees sick
Meanwhile, Dr. Antonio Loduvice, acting provincial health officer of Albay Provincial Health Office said that as of January 18, they recorded about 457 evacuees have been reported sick and who were treated at the evacuation centers while others were referred to Josefina Belmonte Duran District Memorial Hospital (JBDMH) in Ligao City, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) in Legazpi City and Ziga Memorial Hospital in Tabaco City.
“The top cases remain (to be) acute respiratory infection. Cough and colds (238), headache and fever (34), dizziness (25), hypertension (24), those with injuries (17). Yung chicken pox, from Bariw evacuation camp in Camalig was identified and transported to JBDMH. The family decided to house the child in the grandparent’s house outside the evacuation camp. We have 1 case in Lacag evacuation camp in Daraga, Albay, bed ridden nayun, he was transported to JBDMH,” Loduvice said. (With reports from Chito A. Chavez and Niño N. Luces)