Negrenses urged to wear masks, stay home after Kanlaon ash eruption

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The public here was urged to wear masks and to stay at home following the ash eruption of Mount Kanlaon in the neighboring province of Negros Oriental on Sunday, December 27.

Zeaphard Caelian, chief of the Negros Occidental Provincial Disaster Management Program Division, said that the ash fall from the volcano affected some localities here, which had caused some residents to panic.

According to an advisory issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the ash eruption from the active crater of Mount Kanlaon occurred at 1:29 pm and lasted for 5 minutes.

The Phivolcs report said that rumbling sound was heard in Barangay Cabagnaan, La Castellana town, and barangays Ara-al and Yubo in La Carlota City, all in Negros Occidental. 

The same report said that the eruption plume was observed through cloud cover, adding that traces of light ashfall were reported in La Carlota City and Pontevedra town.

According to Caelian, the wind blew southwest from the eruption site in Negros Oriental, thus bringing ash fall on to some local government units in Negros Occidental.

He said there’s no need for the public to panic as the ash eruption was just a “phreatic activity” of the volcano.

He stressed, however, that the sulphur from the ash fall is hazardous to one’s health since it is carcinogenic, meaning it can cause cancer. He added that it can also trigger asthma and pulmonary problems.

Caelian said that “the children, the elderly, and those with asthma should not be exposed,” adding that they “they have to protect themselves from the ash fall.”

He reiterated his advice to the public to wear masks and stay at home.

All health officers were directed to distribute masks in their respective localities, Caelian said.

He said that they will continue to monitor the volcano’s activity, but noted that the alert level was not raised by the Phivolcs as there’s no build-up of lava or magma.

For his part, Arnel Gareza, head of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office in Pontevedra town, said that the ash fall caused dense clouds and “darkness” in their locality, which lasted for 15 minutes.

He said that it’s not the ash fall that they first noticed but the smell of the sulfur which came with it, “because of the smell, we came out of the office and saw that it was dark outside.”

He said that the skies are clearer now but there are still two villages – Canroma and Antipolo – that are still experiencing light ash fall. He said that barangay health workers had already distributed masks to affected localities.

Meanwhile, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said that the provincial government is closely coordinating with the concerned local government units and government agencies to oversee the movement of Mount Kanlaon.

“We are reminding residents who will be directly affected to be watchful in case Kanlaon erupts; and cooperate with the authorities and listen to advisories,” Degamo urged.

Since November 23, Mount Kanlaon was placed under Alert Level 1 status – it is at an abnormal condition and is in period of current unrest.

Local government units and the public are reminded that entry into the 4-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone is strictly prohibited due to the further possibilities of sudden and hazardous steam-driven or phreatic eruptions. Civil aviation authorities should also advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit, Phivolcs said.

Phivolcs is closely monitoring the volcano’s activity, the report said. 

The Office of the Civil Defense in the Negros Island Region has prepared a comprehensive contingency plan in case there will be major eruption.

The contingency plan will serve as protocol for affected LGUs in coming up with their respective plans and measures. – Rappler.com