State of calamity declared as Kanlaon volcano erupts

Sugarcane farmers brave the threats of Kanlaon volcano, as they continue to tend to the fields in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental on Tuesday, following its eruption on Monday night. (Photo courtesy of Donald Garsula via Canlaon City Online)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino and Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – The City of Canlaon in Negros Oriental was placed under a state of calamity on Tuesday afternoon due to the eruption of Kanlaon volcano on Monday night, which affected several residents.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) in a special session presided over by Vice Mayor Diego Santiago adopted the recommendation of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (LDRRMC).

The resolution stated that being an agricultural city, the calamity greatly affects the economic living conditions of the people, specifically the farmers. Therefore, there is a need for the local government to take necessary measures to address and cushion the impact of the volcanic eruption.

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), Kanlaon volcano erupted around 6:51 p.m. on Monday, with steam-rich plumes rising 5,000 meters high.

Phivolcs noted “increasing unrest” at Kanlaon Volcano, which is on Alert Level 2. It detected an increase in seismic activity in the last 24 hours, reporting 43 volcanic earthquakes.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Jose Chubasco Cardenas said they would wait for further notice from government agencies regarding the duration of the state of calamity.

Cardenas reported that five barangays in the city – Masulog, Malaiba, Pula, Linothangan, and Lumapao – were affected by the eruption.

Mayor Rhummyla Nicor-Mangilimutan of La Castellana, Negros Occidental, also declared a state of calamity due to the eruption. She confirmed this to reporters on Tuesday afternoon after visiting three evacuation centers where affected families are temporarily housed.

“Six barangays were affected, and hundreds are housed in the evacuation centers,” Mangilimutan said. “Children and the elderly were evacuated first because of the very strong sulfuric fumes.”

She emphasized the situation remains unpredictable, citing previous eruptions where initial calm was followed by a more significant eruption.

Evacuation

Based on data from the LDRRMC meeting on Tuesday, presided over by Cardenas and Governor Manuel Sagarbarria, 397 people or 81 families in four barangays in Canlaon City have evacuated. Of these, 155 individuals or 47 households are staying in evacuation centers, while others opted to stay with relatives.

The evacuation centers for these persons are at Jose B. Cardenas Memorial High School Annex Uptown Hall, and Kanlaon Central School.

There are 155 individuals or 47 households staying in evacuation centers, while the other affected households opted to stay with their relatives in the city.

Cardenas has ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents within three meters of downstream rivers due to risks from volcanic ash deposition and potential lava. He stressed that the safety and well-being of residents are of utmost importance.

In an executive order dated June 4, the mayor said that the rivers downstream from the volcano are at risk of flashfloods, mudflows, and other hazards due to volcanic ash deposition and potential lava.

Cardenas said that the recent volcanic eruption of the volcano has resulted in increased volcanic activity and potential hazards to surrounding areas.

The mayor stressed that the safety and well-being of the residents are of utmost importance.

Nearly 1,700 farmers in five barangays have also been affected. The city will extend assistance to rice farmers and vegetable growers, coordinating with national and provincial governments for necessary support.

Cardenas said that the city will extend assistance to the rice farmers and vegetable growers, and they wll also be plotting systems on the distribution of the assistance, as the national and provincial government also assured them of the necessary support.

In Negros Occidental, a total of 368 families composed of 1,491 persons in 14 barangays also evacuated on Monday night, due to ashfall and strong sulfur smell.

Based on the data released by the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC)-6 on Tuesday, affected were 42 families or 182 individuals in three barangays in Bago City, 14 families or 76 individuals in one barangay in La Carlota City, 203 families or 842 individuals in eight barangays in La Castellana town, five families or 20 individuals in one barangay in Moises Padilla town, and 104 families or 371 individuals in one barangay in Pontevedra town.

The evacuees were from Barangays Binubuhan, Ilijan, and Mailum in Bago City; Barangay Zamora in Pontevedra town; and Barangay Cabagna-an, Mansalanao, and Sag-ang in La Castellana town.

As of 10 a.m., Tuesday, 338 families or 1,349 persons were served inside nine evacuation centers, and 30 families or 142 persons were served outside the evacuation centers.

In his message, Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, stressed that the priority of the provincial government is the people’s safety and well-being.

Lacson said that the Provincial DRRMC Emergency Operations Center has been raised to Blue Alert. The response clusters, including Camp Coordination and Camp Management, Food and Non-Food, Logistics, Search, Rescue and Retrieval, Health, and Law and Order, have been activated to handle the emergency situation, he added.

The governor advised those in areas that might need evacuation to follow evacuation orders.

He advised all those affected to coordinate with their respective barangays and local government units (LGUs), and stay informed through the official channels.

With proper coordination and information, we will be able to manage this situation, Lacson said, as he enjoined everyone to pray for safety.

Sulfur smell, ashfall

The RDRRMC reported that small rocks falling and the smell of sulfur were highly noticed by the residents in some of the barangays of Bacolod, the towns of Pontevedra, Murcia, Valladolid, Binalbagan, La Castellana, and San Enrique, and  Bago City.

Ashfall was also reported in the towns of La Castellana, Valladolid, and Pontevedra, and the cities of La Carlota, San Carlos, and Bago.

In Bacolod, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) reported that residents in 24 out of 61 barangays here have experienced the sulfur smell on Monday night.

These barangays are Sum-ag, Taculing, Mansilingan, Villamonte, Handumanan, Felisa, Cabug, Singcang-Airport, Alijis, Bata, Punta Taytay, 11, 27, 31, 38, Estefania, Mandalagan, Tangub, Montevista, Alangilan, Pahanocoy, Vista Alegre, Banago, and Granada.

For safety, the CDRRMO advised the public to stay indoors and use dust mask, N95 mask or wet cloth to cover nose or mouth.

In a situation report released by the CDRRMO on Tuesday, Dr. Anna Maria Laarni Pornan, CDRRMO head, said that the odor was first reported in some barangays here around 11 p.m. on Monday, but no evacuation was conducted.

Following the eruption, Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez immediately met with the CDRRMO to monitor the situation. The CDRRMO activated its Emergency Operations Center and raised it to blue alert status.

The CDDRMO, all barangay DRRM committees, and other concerned agencies, as well as the health cluster are on standby in preparation for any untoward incidents. Food and non-food items here were prepositioned in case of evacuation and camp management.

Closure

Cardenas has ordered the closure of non-essential business establishments, and tourism sites, after the eruption of Kanlaon volcano which showed signs of increased activity, posing a potential threat to public safety and welfare.

In an executive order issued on Monday, Cardenas said that all non-essential business establishments within a four-kilometer radius of Kanlaon volcano were ordered to cease operations and vacate immediately until further notice, while all non-essential establishments in the city proper are mandated to close their businesses, starting June 4, 2024 at 8 p.m.

Cardenas stressed that it is imperative to take proactive measures to safeguard the well-being of residents and mitigate the impact of volcanic activity, since volcanic eruptions can result in hazardous conditions such as ashfall, pyroclastic flows, and lava, endangering the lives and health of citizens.

Cardenas said that essential services such as hospitals, pharmacies, emergency response agencies, utility providers, and other critical infrastructure services may continue operations with appropriate safety measures in place.

Citizens residing within the vicinity of Kanlaon volcano are urged to adhere to evacuation orders issued by local authorities and to follow designated evacuation routes to ensure safety, it said.

In a separate executive order, Cardenas also ordered the closure of tourism sites within two to six-kilometer radius of the volcano, as this poses imminent danger to public safety.

All access roads leading to these sites shall be closed, and entry by any means shall be strictly prohibited until further notice, as stated in the executive order.

Cardenas directed all relevant government agencies and authorities to coordinate efforts to enforce the order and provide necessary support for the safety and well-being of affected individuals.

Further, Cardenas also ordered the suspension of work in government and private offices in the city on June 4, as a precautionary and proactive measure in anticipation of any untoward incident in relation to the said volcanic activity.

He said that all LDRRMC members, the city, and barangay officials, government employees and others concerned are directed to take and observe all disaster response protocols as well as execute courses of action as may be given by LDRMMC or BDRRMC of the city.

Assistance

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian, flew to Negros Oriental yesterday to check the situation on the ground.

In a press conference, Gatchalian said that he was tasked by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to coordinate with the local officials, and to ensure an open communication line with them because anything can happen.

Gatchalian said they want to ensure that affected residents will be provided with food packs. “Food system is in place,” he added.

He said that 50,000 food packs are ready to augment the local and the provincial governments both in occidental and oriental side.

Gatchalian also mentioned that he has constant communication with the Negros Occidental governor, and the local officials in affected areas on the occidental side.

Aside from the food packs, he said that the DSWD will also be giving financial assistance, if the situation gets worst. “Let’s all hope hindi lumalala, but if it gets worst, the national government and the local government are ready to assist the people of Negros island, he said.

Six trucks carrying 10,000 boxes of family food packs were dispatched yesterday from the Visayas Disaster Resource Center (VDRC) in Mandaue City for the DSWD Dumaguete warehouse in Negros Oriental.

For DSWD-6, 6,282 family food packs and 10,113 non-food items amounting to P27,464,434.50 are available relief resources in Negros Occidental for the affected residents, while P5 million is standby funds.

The non-food items include 2,881 family kits, 2,633 sleeping kits, 471 hygiene kits, 3,565 kitchen kits, and 563 other items.

Aside from food supplies, face masks have also been given to residents affected by the eruption in Negros island.

Cardenas said that evacuees need personal hygiene kits, and clothes. He said the camp in charge will make sure that all evacuees will be address properly given the resources that they have.

“The first objective is to ensure the safety of all responders and the general public,” Cardenas said.

They are also collecting data from the affected areas to assess the situation, especially livestock and the agricultural side.

“In this trying times, we need to be united with one common goal to help the affected constituents of Canlaon,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sagarbarria said that the provincial government will be fast tracking the distribution of half sack of rice to each affected farmer, considering that Negros Oriental is under a state of calamity due to El Niño phenomenon.

Sagarbarria said that the provincial government has also provided food packs, and will provide 15,000 face masks to Canlaon City. He said that they are ready to augment and support Canlaon City in any way.

He said that they have also prepared hospitals for emergency situations.

Health

The city government of Canlaon has already activated its incident command system and has already coordinated with various hospitals in neighboring areas.

Cardenas said that as of yesterday, there was no casualties reported.

Cardenas said that neighboring hospitals, and hospitals in the province have prepared oxygen tanks in case there’s cases of asthma or respiratory illnesses from the effects of the eruption.

“We have health advisory. I instructed health personnel to visit the five barangays and see to it if the sulfur odor is still present. We will advise those with comorbidities to go down to the evacuation centers,” he said.

Cardenas said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is ready if there is a need to enforce a mandatory evacuation, adding that they have standby vehicles to be used in case there’s a need to transport residents to the evacuation centers at the city proper.

Cardenas said the stuation in the city is normal as the volcanic activity mellow down. But he emphasized that restriction within the permanent four-kilometer danger zone is strictly observed.

He has also called the attention of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the price freeze of commodities to prevent businesses from taking advantage of the situation while the city is under a state of calamity.

Troops deployed

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) has placed all its Disaster Response Task Units (DRTUs) in Negros Island on high alert status, as it prepares to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Operations (HADRO), following the recent phreatic eruption of Kanlaon volcano.

The 3ID, through its Infantry Brigades and Battalions, including all Reserve Units, in Negros, quickly transitioned to a state of heightened alert and mobilized its troops and essential assets to aid affected communities in the vicinity of Mt. Kanlaon.

The deployment includes a range of assets designed to support evacuation efforts, medical aid, and logistical needs.

Engineering units are working on clearing debris and establishing safe routes for evacuation, while medical teams have been dispatched to provide first aid and address health concerns.

In a statement, Major General Marion Sison, 3ID commander, said the troops are well-equipped and trained to manage such crisis.

“We stand ready to deliver immediate assistance to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents affected by the eruption,” he added.

The 3ID said that these proactive measures underscore their readiness to address natural disasters and provide critical support to local government units and other government agencies to ensure public safety.

Also, close coordination with LGUs and disaster response agencies aims to streamline efforts, minimize response times, and optimize resource allocation.

Sison said the synergy between the Army and local authorities is vital in effectively managing this disaster.

“By working together, we can enhance our response and provide comprehensive support to the affected communities,” he added.

As part of its ongoing efforts, the 3ID is also engaged in educating the public on safety protocols during volcanic eruptions to empower communities with the knowledge to assuage the impact of the eruption and overcome the crisis safely.

“The 3ID will continue to closely monitor the situation and willl be ready to respond, as needed, to address emerging challenges,” Sison said.

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