After two weeks of being barred from their homes due to worries about a volcanic eruption, residents of a northern Philippine community said yesterday that they are hesitant to head home, now that an evacuation order has been lifted.
Volcanic activity has died down, which prompted state seismologists on Sunday to downgrade the alert from Level 4 — hazardous eruption imminent — to Level 3 — decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.
Brigadier General Marciliano Teofilo, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Taal, said that, while some of the evacuees are starting to return to their homes, many are hesitant to come back.
“Many residents, specially those from Agoncillo and Laurel, don’t want to return yet since their houses, their roofs have collapsed,” he said.
Parts of those two towns remain under lockdown, even as the 14-kilometre-radius danger zone around the volcano was lifted for other communities that had been affected by the volcano, which began shooting out ash and steam on January 12.
And even parts of Agoncillo and Laurel were briefly made open to residents yesterday so they could go back and check on their homes.
But the lockdown remained in place for six subdivisions — known as villages — belonging to the two towns that are within a seven-kilometre danger zone.
Mayors allowed the brief return so people could clean and fix their homes and feed their animals, but only under the condition that they returned to the evacuation centres at night.
Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said some 22,000 houses were destroyed in the province due to heavy falls of ash, quakes and cracks brought about by volcanic activities.
Mandanas said that residents have to deal with water and electricity supply problems, since neither service has been fully restored.
He said evacuation centres are still open for evacuees who opt to stay.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)
said some 394,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes due to the restive volcano.
More than 137,000 were housed in 532 evacuation centres, while others opted to stay with relatives and friends.
Teofilo said the government’s efforts must now focus on clearing roads and structures of ash and debris, rehabilitating damaged infrastructure, and constructing houses in relocation sites.
Taal blanketed towns in thick ash when it began spewing clouds of ash and sulphur.
The eruption caused some $67mn in damage to agriculture and infrastructure, the
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