By Aaron Recuenco
BATANGAS CITY— Authorities are eyeing the evacuation of more than 200,000 people in case of a hazardous eruption of Taal Volcano, amid its continuous rumblings since Sunday.
As of Monday, Alert Level 4 is still raised over Taal Volcano, according to Joselito Castro, head of the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO). Alert Level 4 means a hazardous eruption is imminent and the order for the mandatory evacuation of residents in the danger zones will be implemented.
“The figure 200,000 is our projected number of evacuees if a major eruption occurs. These are the people living within 14-15 kilometer danger zone in Batangas,” he said in an interview.
So far, Castro said their target of evacuation is at least 50 percent of the 200,000 figure.
As of yesterday, the number of evacuees is at 23,701 people or 4,079 families. They are housed in at least 73 evacuation centers in Batangas and one in Tagaytay City where 152 families or 4,167 people from the towns of Talisay and Laurel are seeking refuge.
Most of the evacuees come from the towns of Talisay City with 3,000 evacuees, Lemery with 2,377 people, Balete with 2,174, Tanauan City with 1,680, San Nicolas with 1,087, Lipa City with 1,041, and Laurel with 1,000.
Castro said there are still hundreds of evacuees who opted to stay with their relatives in some parts of Batangas, Laguna, and Metro Manila.
“We will continue with the evacuation because the danger of major eruption is still there. As of this time (Monday morning), evacuees continue to arrive in various evacuation centers we set up,” he said.
Policemen and soldiers, with military and police vehicles, were already sent to areas declared as danger zones in order to compel the local residents to move to the evacuation centers. But despite the police and military presence, some residents would not leave their homes.
Batangas Provincial Police director Col. Edwin Quilates said they have deployed 112 search and rescue teams in the affected areas, mostly in the hardest-hit areas of Talisay, San Marcelino, and Balete.
State of calamity
Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will declare a state of calamity in order to maximize the use of funds for thousands of evacuees.
Batangas has at least P160 million that can be used for disaster response once a state of calamity is declared.
Mandanas explained that while they have been pushing to place Batangas under a state of calamity, they cannot immediately do so because at least two towns or cities have to declare a state of calamity first.
“Based on what we learned, Balete and Agoncillo are going to declare today (Monday) so we can proceed with that at the provincial level,” Mandanas said.
The impact of the Taal Volcano eruption is mostly related to the effects of the ash fall that has blanketed several areas in Batangas and reached Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
In Talisay town, for instance, authorities said the volcanic ash covering the municipality is as thick as three inches in some parts.
Meanwhile, power interruption was experienced in Talisay, Agoncillo, Laurel, and some towns of Malvar and Tanauan City.
The layers of volcanic ash, aggravated by rainfall, made some roads impassable for light vehicles. Zero visibility was also experienced due to the ash fall.