By Aaron Recuenco and Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
The government has recorded 39 deaths during the span of the evacuation and disaster response since Taal Volcano erupted on January 12.
Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said the eruption-related death figure in Batangas was confirmed by the Department of Health.
“While no one died nor was hospitalized during the phreatic eruption on January 12, the Department of Health has already recorded 39 deaths as of February 1,” Mandanas said.
The recorded deaths were mostly due to anxiety and negligence of the casualties.
A number of evacuees were reported to have died of heart attack during the evacuation and while staying at the evacuation centers.
There were more than 400,000 evacuees in evacuation centers at the peak of the effort to clear the 14-kilometer danger zone.
By negligence, Mandanas was referring to deaths related to hard-headed evacuees who opted to remain or return to the danger zone despite the prohibition.
After the Taal Volcano alert level was downgraded to 3 on Jan. 26, Mandanas allowed the evacuees outside the seven-kilometer danger zone to return to their homes.
“This is to reiterate that although the residents have the option to return to their houses or places of work, they are still being strongly advised not to stay within the danger zone due to real hazards and high risks to their health, life, and properties,” Mandanas said.
Only six barangays from Agoncillo and Laurel towns remain under lockdown as they are within the seven-kilometer danger zone.
Taal Volcano’s emission of steam-laden plumes has been consistently weak since the restive volcano’s alert status was lowered last week.
Based on the bulletin of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Sunday, the activity in the Taal Volcano’s main crater has been characterized by weak emission of white steam-laden plumes 50 to 100 meters tall that drifted southwest.
Meanwhile, sulfur dioxide emission was measured at an average of 97 tons per day. The presence of significant sulfur dioxide from a volcano indicates that magma is still getting closer to the surface.
The Taal Volcano network also recorded 153 volcanic earthquakes including two low-frequency events.
“These earthquakes signify magmatic activity beneath the Taal edifice that could lead to eruptive activity at the main crater,” Phivolcs said.
Alert Level 3 remains in effect over Taal Volcano, which means that sudden steam-driven and even weak phreatomagmatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, ash fall, and lethal volcanic gas expulsions can still occur and threaten areas within the Taal Volcano Island and nearby lakeshores.