160,000 evacuated in Albay due to lahar spawned by ‘Rolly’

Published November 2, 2020, 2:59 PM

by Chito Chavez

Gov. Al Francis Bichara said Monday that at least 160,000 persons have been evacuated in Albay as lahar cascaded from Mayon Volcano during the onslaught of typhoon “Rolly” Sunday.

A man pushes his bike while a worker operates an excavator to clear a road of boulders and volcanic ash washed from nearby Mayon volcano brought by heavy rains during the super Typhoon Goni after it hit the town of Malinao, Albay province, south of Manila on November 1, 2020. (Photo by Charism SAYAT / AFP)

Lahar, combined with massive flooding, submerged high-risk areas of the province during Rolly.

In the “Laging Handa” news briefing, Bichara noted 80 percent of electric posts in the province were toppled, resulting into a power outage which would last for a long period.

He explained that high areas of the province were hit by lahar in 1984 and the deposits surged down to low-lying areas.

Bichara stressed residents in affected parts of Guinobatan will be permanently relocated. He described these areas as “no man’s land.’’

He added that the damage to government properties in the province is still being assessed by district and provincial engineers.

The Albay governor said the provincial electric cooperative gave them the go signal to cut off power as they have to clear toppled electric posts on the national highway.

Bichara disclosed that power will be restored in the affected areas within 15 days as the province is awaiting electric supply from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.

He said transmission towers and transmission lines were damaged by the typhoon affecting even Sorsogon and Camarines Sur.

Bichara revealed that the mandatory evacuation imposed by the provincial government proved effective with the decreased number of casualties.

He explained that the six confirmed fatalities were individuals who left the evacuation centers either to check on their animals or repair their houses at the height of the typhoon.

Bichara said the death toll when there was still no forced evacuation reached 1,600 during typhoon “Reming’’ which hit the region in November 2006.

He pushed the redesign of schoolbuildings used as evacuation centers to ensure the safety of evacuees.

Bichara made the call as the roof of some evacuation centers were ripped off, forcing some evacuees to be transferred that made the observance of the minimum health standards difficult to maintain in the midst of COVID-19.

He reported that local government units in the region have adapted the minimum health protocol guidelines as evidenced by the low number of COVID-19 cases.