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Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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200 families remain at evacuation center

About 200 families that fled lakeshore towns during Taal Volcano’s eruption are still at an evacuation center in Ibaan, Batangas.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management officer Lito Castro said in a phone interview that the evacuees have not returned to their homes because electricity and water services have not been restored.

Taal spewed steam and ash beginning January 12, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people living around the volcano.

LIFE GOES ON Fishermen in Agoncillo, Batangas retrieve a boat that sank when Taal Volcano erupted in January. PHOTO BY JOHN ORVEN VERDOTE

Volcanic activity has since subsided. The Alert Level, which had been raised to 4, has been downgraded to 2.

Authorities have lifted the lockdown in ash-stricken areas and life has returned to normal.

Not for Laurel and Agoncillo, two towns devastated by heavy ash fall. Last Saturday, The Manila Times visited the two towns and found townsfolk still trying to cope with the disaster.

Agoncillo is located on the west shore of Taal Lake, while Laurel town is an agri-eco tourism hub with fishing port access to the lake.

Thirty-seven-year-old fisherman Al Mendoza said people in Agoncillo were still staying in temporary shelters at nearby towns.

“Kami lang nandito. Ang aming pamilya ay nasa evacuation [center] pa kasi wala man kuryente at tubig pa sa Agoncillo (Only the men are here. Our families are still at evacuation centers because electricity and water here in Agoncillo are still down),” Mendoza said.

Emilinda Maristela, 61, a resident of Laurel, appealed for cash aid, saying she did not know how to start their lives again.

Maristela said although they received enough relief goods at the evacuation center, what her family needs now is money.

“Kailangan naming bumili ng ganito…mantika, halimbawa, pero wala kaming panggastos (It is hard. For example, we need to buy lard for cooking, but we do not have the money,” she added.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Regional Director Elias Fernandez Jr. said: “All in all we expect normalcy in the areas affected while we are conducting the post-disaster needs assessment or PDNA.”

Such an assessment is needed to determine the extent of damage and what needs to be prioritized in the recovery plan, he added.

Angheldo Mendoza, 67, shared that his family was uncertain when they could return to Agoncillo.

“Tingnan mo ‘yan nagiba yung bubong namin. Hindi ko man alam kung kailan maayos. Sabi bibigyan daw kami pampagawa (Look at that [pointing to damaged property], our roof was destroyed. I do not know when it will be fixed. They [local government] told us that they will give us [money] for repair),” he said.

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