Kanlaon Volcano

Kanlaon lahar menace looms, yet hope also rises for natural cleanup

Erwin Delilan

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Kanlaon lahar menace looms, yet hope also rises for natural cleanup

TOGETHER Residents work together for a road clearing after a mudflow in Barangay Biak na Bato, La Castellana on Wednesday June 5, 2024

La Castellana Public Information Office

Without rain, the volcanic ashes and debris would thicken and pose more dangers later on, says DENR's director in Western Visayas

BACOLOD, Philippines – Despite lahar flows rendering roads impassable and threatening communities on Negros Island, the rain brings a silver lining, aiding in the cleanup of volcanic debris from the recent Kanlaon Volcano eruption. 

“Let’s hope for rain. It will help wash away all the ashes, sulfur, and other volcanic debris caused by the eruption on June 3 that has been deposited on plant leaves and fields,” said Livino Duran, director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Western Visayas, on Thursday, June 6.

Residents within the southern slope of Kanlaon Volcano on Negros Island were warned of lahar flows in the coming days.

MUDFLOW. Mudflow surge through the Intiguiwan River in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental. Moises Padilla MDRRMC

The state weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) forecast thunderstorms on the island from June 6 to 8, which could bring heavy rain. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said this could result in larger volumes of lahar that may threaten communities.

Duran, however, told Rappler that rain was also needed because, without it, the ashes and other debris from Kanlaon Volcano’s eruption would thicken and pose more dangers to vegetation, animals, and communities later on.

“We’re assessing now the extent of damage caused by the mudflow in some barangays in Castellana and Moises Padilla, especially on rivers or streams, on June 5,” Duran said.

The DENR sent out a team from the Negros Occidental Provincial Environmental and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) to make a damage assessment.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) in the region also sent a team to La Castellana and nearby areas to assess the damage to crops and check on farm animals.

Albert Barrogo, DA-Western Visayas director, said their team faced difficulties in reaching some areas because of mudflows, road closures, and clearing operations.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) started working closely with the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to conduct a rapid damage assessment and needs analysis in Negros Occidental, including Moises Padilla, La Carlota, La Castellana, Bago City, and Canlaon City.

Utilizing a Bell 412 and a UH-1H helicopter, the mission collected critical data to evaluate the extent of damage and prioritize the needs of the communities.

The PAF said it remains on high alert, with disaster response team units and aircraft prepared for medical evacuations and the transportation of relief supplies if needed.

INSPECT. La Castellana Mayor Alme Rhumyla Nicor Mangilimutan inspects the mudflow that covered a road in Barangay Biak na Bato on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. La Castellana Public Information Office

In Moises Padilla town, Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo cautioned residents against catching and eating fish from the Binalbagan River as they may be contaminated.

La Castellana Mayor Alme Rhumyla Nicor-Mangilimutan ordered forced evacuations in areas threatened by lahar flow, such as Biak na Bato, Calapnagan, Cabacungan, and Masulog. 

She said she issued the order because the local government was having difficulties convincing some residents to evacuate. Some people, she said, were willing to risk their lives for economic reasons, as they do not want to abandon their animals, crops, and other properties.

Phivolcs earlier called for increased vigilance and readiness for communities along rivers draining southern Kanlaon, advising local governments to continuously monitor weather conditions and take precautionary measures for their safety. – Rappler.com

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