CAMALIG, Albay: Thousands of evacuees are packed in schools as they wait for Mayon volcano to stop spewing ash and lava.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo visited evacuation centers in the towns of Camalig, Guinobatan and Ligao in Albay on Wednesday and learned that as many as 28 families were crammed in small classrooms and are in dire need of basic services.
“They need more clean toilets and toiletries, sleeping mat, blankets, while others call for a permanent evacuation centers, not only because of the eruption of Mayon, but also because of the typhoons which is a normal occurrence around here,” Robredo said.
“Schools can serve as evacuation centers but it can’t serve that purpose every time since that also stalls the classes,” she added.
In Camalig, Robredo met a woman who just gave birth at the evacuation center she had been staying for the past eight days.
Edna Morota, a room leader in Camalig evacuation center, lamented that the growing number of evacuees are straining available resources provided by the local government, the GMA Kapuso Foundation and Robredo’s office.
“We are already 28 families in one room, we are too many for a room so we hope there will be more rooms that we can use. In addition, not all comfort rooms have water supply so it is really hard,” Morota told The Manila Times.
“Even power supply is being affected because the number of evacuees are increasing,” Morota added.
Dolores Murillo, 68, pleaded for blankets and sleeping mats.
“Nakapagdala po kami ng kumot saka banig, pero kulang po kasi nagmamadali kami umalis. Nakakatakot po ang bulkan eh (We brought a few blankets and sleeping mats, but those were not enough. We were in a hurry when we left. We were so scared of the volcano),” Murillo said.
Dolores is in the evacuation center in Camalig with her daughter Jovelyn and Jovelyn’s five children.
Naty Nograles echoed Dolores’ appeal for sleeping mats and blankets.
“We have been here for two weeks because our home is within the six kilometer danger zone. Nakakatakot po talaga ang Mayon, maingay, tapos po ‘yung usok mabilis bumaba, mamamatay lahat ng tao pag naabutan nun (Mayon is really fearsome. The ash it spews falls down fast, it can kill),” Nograles added.
Vilma Villarama, on the other hand, asked for nebulizers.
“We have been waiting for donors who will give us nebulizers because the babies already acquired asthma [due to ash fall],” she said.
Villarama’s child, Mark, as well as Jovelyn’s son, Matthew, were among those who are suffering from asthma.
More than 56,000 residents are now packed in schools and other buildings, two weeks after the volcano began showing signs of unrest.
Volcanologists have expanded the danger zone from six kilometers to nine kilometers, forcing local officials to order further evacuations as ash rained down on communities.
At the shelters, people sleep on the floor and each shares a single toilet with 49 other people, the Philippine Red Cross said.
“Their numbers ballooned after the danger zone was expanded,” Rose Rivero, Red Cross administrator for the region, said.
Mostly farmers and their families, the evacuees are surviving on food handouts from the government and charities, with the Red Cross pitching in with drinking water, counseling, and hygiene items, she added.
“If we go back to its (Mayon’s) history of eruption, it would take three to four months before we could send them back to their homes,” Rivero said.
The state volcanologist office said there was little chance of that happening soon.
It reported five episodes of “intense but sporadic lava fountaining from the summit crater” overnight Tuesday, along with ash plumes five kilometers high.
Lava and incandescent rocks also rolled down the volcano’s flanks, it said in a Wednesday bulletin.
The eruption is also drawing curious American, European and South Korean tourists, local hoteliers said.
“They are attracted by Mayon’s activity. They want to have a closer look,” Nics Ortonio, a receptionist at the packed four-star Oriental Hotel in Legazpi told Agence France-Presse.