Ashfall sickens many evacuees

Health woes range from respiratory infection to flu to diarrhea—DOH

Acute respiratory infections caused by the ashfall from Taal Volcano’s eruption last week are the top complaint of “between 50 and 60 percent” of evacuees consulting with the Department of Health’s workers at evacuation centers, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Sunday.

Ashfall sickens many evacuees
JAMPACKED. Evacuees from towns affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano queue to have their children examined by medical personnel at an evacuation center in Tanauan, Batangas on Jan. 14. AFP
Giving a glimpse of the burgeoning problems facing evacuees and aid workers alike, Duque said the main concerns of 2,342 evacuees who consulted with DOH doctors and volunteers were breathing problems, hypertension, diarrhea, skin infections or lesions, influenza-like illnesses, and eye irritations.

“We continue to give them the medicine that’s apt for the conditions they’re complaining of,” the secretary explained in an interview with GMA’s Balitanghali.

The DOH had enough medicines for the evacuees, Duque said, as his department had sent out over P9 million worth of supplies and aid to evacuation centers in Batangas and Cavite provinces.

Health workers from Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Central Luzon and the National Capital regions were prepared to aid over 70,000 persons from Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite taking shelter in 300 evacuation centers across the region, he added.

Meanwhile, residents of two Batangas towns hardest hit by Taal’s eruption―and which had been locked down as early as Tuesday last week―were allowed to retrieve their belongings from their homes that would ease their indefinite stays at the evacuation centers.

READ: Lockdown bugs relief operations

Residents of Tanauan were given window hours on Sunday, from 5 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., to check their possessions and feed their pets and livestock.

About 21 barangays in the town were identified as part of Taal’s 14-kilometer permanent danger zone, and susceptible to the effects of a major eruption of the volcano.

Residents of Agoncillo filled the entrance to their town on Sunday morning hoping to be allowed back in, despite Mayor Daniel Reyes’ announcement he would no longer give them a window to inspect their properties. 

Being right by the shores of Taal Lake, Agoncillo became a ghost town. Fissures could also be seen on its roads, one of which led straight to the lake.

Tension rose in Tanauan on Saturday as residents appealed to authorities to give them just a few hours to get some items from their homes and feed their pets and livestock. 

They were eventually allowed entry by Mayor Sweet Halili, as they were asked to leave their IDs at a checkpoint and claim them back on their way out. Police said this was to ensure only residents will be allowed inside the town and prevent criminals from entering.

Police Captain Danilo Manalo, chief of Agoncillo Police, said the town is a danger zone, thus the lockdown.

On Sunday morning, a convoy with a funeral hearse tried to enter the town to bury the dead, but only two vehicles―the hearse and the family vehicle―were allowed inside by police.

In other developments:

• The Tagaytay City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office in Cavite appealed for donations of cleaning supplies and reusable utensils for its evacuation centers housing evacuees, as it is trying to minimize the amount of trash collected at evacuation centers.

READ: ‘Bakwit‘: From flight to plight

The office said they would rather have the evacuees use reusable cups, plates, and utensils than paper plates, while the cleaning supplies will be used for the restrooms and the areas where evacuees stay.

As of Sunday, 5,721 evacuees remained at the city’s three evacuation centers.

Residents who were moved away from Taal’s volcano island, its lake and the connected Pansipit River, and areas around Taal’s 14-km danger radius should stay in evacuation centers, Phivolcs volcano monitoring division chief Mariton Bornas told reporters.

“Sometimes there are minor lava flows from the volcano’s crater, then there is of course strong gas expulsion. These are very dangerous,” Bornas said.

• Donors should treat the survivors of Taal’s eruption with dignity by being mindful of the clothes they would give, a disaster management group said.

Photos of evacuees wearing donated school and work uniforms, and clothes with tears have made the rounds online, drawing the ire of netizens who called for sobriety in the donations

“To those who are donating, please donate clothes that other people can still use... Let us treat the survivors with dignity,” the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center said on Facebook.

The group also urged those accepting and distributing donations to sort the clothes carefully and ensure they are appropriate for evacuees.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development discourages the donation of used clothes to disaster survivors “to safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation,” according to an administrative order.

• In Baguio City, 70 children with special needs who fled to the mountainous city after ash from Taal Volcano blanketed their homes need the help of donors to get by, their caretakers said.

The Chosen Children Foundation said it evacuated the kids, including nine toddlers, away from Silang, Cavite after Taal covered their houses there with about three inches of ash last Jan. 12.

The children were first brought to the St. Scholastica convent before being moved Thursday to a rented house in Loakan Road, the foundation said.

With some suffering colds due to Baguio’s cold climate, the children need financial aid, medicines, jackets, and diapers, said social worker Joshua Flores.

Topics: acute respiratory infections , Taal Volcano , eruption , Department of Health

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