Kanlaon eruption prompts health precautions

Photo courtesy of Ronie Nicor

By Mariela Angella Oladive

Following the June 3 eruption of Mount Kanlaon on Negros Island, the Iloilo City Health Office (CHO) has urged residents to take protective measures.

In a recent press conference, CHO head Dr. Annabelle Tang recommended wearing N-95 face masks to prevent respiratory issues if ashfall and noxious gases affect the city.

Tang also emphasized the need to protect water sources to prevent contamination and subsequent food and water-borne diseases.

Dr. Roland Jay Fortuna advised residents to close doors and windows and use wet curtains or clothes to seal gaps where ash and gases might enter. He also recommended wearing safety glasses to protect eyes from ash and dust, and advised against rubbing eyes if ash enters.

“We should not rub our eyes because if ash enters them, it will further enhance its effect and cause more irritation,” he said, cautioning against the use of contact lenses.

The CHO has prepared an emergency team and coordinated with health facilities to respond promptly if ashfall affects the city.

Meanwhile, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head Donna Magno confirmed that no ashfall has been reported in Iloilo City as per the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC).

Magno noted that ashfall direction depends on wind trajectory and weather conditions. She expressed hope that Iloilo City would be spared from significant ashfall, avoiding a repeat of the Pinatubo experience.

Magno also mentioned the need to assess air quality and announced that the CDRRMO is set to meet with the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST-PHIVOLCS) to gather more information about the eruption.

She cited that the city is ready to extend augmentation to the affected areas if needed.

“The sending of augmentation depends on the request of our RDRRMC. If there’s a need, our responders, especially the USAR, are ready, but again, it depends on the request of the LGU and RDRRMC,” she stated.

The latest report from the RDRRMC, as of 10 a.m. on June 4, confirms an explosive eruption at Mount Kanlaon’s summit vent on June 3, 2024, around 6:51 p.m.

The eruption produced a high plume reaching 5,000 meters above the vent and likely resulted in short pyroclastic density currents on the southern and southeastern slopes. The event lasted approximately six minutes and was preceded by a significant volcano-tectonic earthquake.

Possible Health Risks

Dr. Tang highlighted various risks associated with exposure to volcanic ash, including:

– Coughing

– Throat irritation

– Shortness of breath

– Bronchitis

– Eye and skin irritation

In addition to physical health risks, the eruption could have psychological effects on residents in the affected areas, including increased anxiety and stress levels.

To mitigate these health risks, the City Environment and Natural Resources Office recommends using air purifiers in homes and public buildings to maintain air quality.

The public is advised to monitor official advisories and updates on the volcanic activity.

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