Disaster officials are having difficulty bringing relief to about 12,000 families in 244 evacuation centers after a lockdown imposed by local governments effectively closed the roads they typically use.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief Lito Castro said they have had to seek help of the Philippine Coast Guard to transport relief goods to the evacuees.
Castro said taking sick evacuees to hospitals has also grown more difficult because health centers and hospitals in the municipalities under lockdown have been closed, including the Batangas Provincial Hospital in Lemery.
An additional problem was the lack of volunteers, paramedics and medical personnel to take care of the evacuees—despite local governments from around the country sending their disaster teams to Batangas and Cavite—and the funds needed to sustain all relief operations, he added.
Health officials, meanwhile, were looking for signs of disease and trauma among evacuees in shelters five days after Taal erupted, displacing thousands of families.READ: 40,000 people bear brunt of Taal eruption
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told ANC Headstart that many elderly residents were traumatized after the volcano spewed a giant ash cloud 55,000 feet into the air last Sunday.
Some reports also surfaced that persons with disability were left in their homes within the 14-kilometer danger zone, as their relatives and neighbors scrambled to escape the heavy ashfall from the country’s second most active volcano.
“They thought it was the end of the world... especially in the initial days of the volcanic eruption that, not only did it spew ash and pyroclastic materials, but also the thunder, the lightning that were coming out,” Duque said.
Trained psychosocial health officers are now working in with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to make services more responsive to the people in the evacuation centers, Duque said.
Health officials are also on the lookout for possible outbreaks of disease, he said.
“In the vulnerable areas where the volume of ashfall has been really massive, these are the people that we need to prioritize, those with pre-existing conditions have to be really monitored and taken care of,” he said.
Ashfall may worsen the condition of elderly people already suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and other lung conditions, he said.
Duque urged people exposed to the ashfall to wear masks at all times, as toxic chemicals such as carbon dioxide, sulfer dioxide, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, fluorine and silica are not just irritants but can damage lung tissue.
He said the department has handed out about 27,000 N95 masks and about 300,000 disposable surgical masks.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Wednesday said more than P2 million worth of assistance was given to residents affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.
The council said a total of 10,455 families or 44,065 individuals have been affected in Batangas and Cavite. Of that number, 9,508 families or 40,126 people are currently staying in 189 evacuation centers.
The NDRRMC further reported that as of Jan. 14, all national road sections in Calabarzon were already passable.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture said the damage to agriculture caused by the volcanic activity was already at P577.39 million.
Also on Thursday, Senator Imee Marcos said the government should immediately conduct health audits at evacuation centers to prevent the spread of disease.
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